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How to Stand Out in a Polluted Digital Space

Lately there’s been quite a bit of buzz about AOL’s plans to sell Bebo, the social networking site it acquired in 2008. AOL said:

“AOL is not in a position at this time to further fund and support Bebo in pursuing a turnaround in social networking.”

I bet AOL wouldn’t be making this decision about Bebo if it had the same amount of users Facebook does.

My point?

People are experiencing an attention crash, and brands that don’t stand out won’t make it in the digital world.

The Internet is full of spammers and brands constantly pushing messages on consumers. Not to mention the many different social networking sites, blogs and emails to keep up with. Consumers receive an overload of messages in a day and there’s not enough time keep up with them. It is inevitable that some sites will get pushed out of the social mediasphere. Unfortunately, this time Bebo is the one that's pushed out.

If the digital space is so polluted, how do marketers break through the clutter?

Social media is so commonly used by brands that it only contributes to the clutter. People have become accustomed to it, which means organizations no longer stand out by merely setting up a Facebook or Twitter account. Social media has to be used in the right way to be effective.

So how do you draw attention to your organization via social media?

• Build relationships: Use social media to have conversations with customers and brand ambassadors. Seek out the brand champions who support and promote your products and services and engage in dialogue with them. The more relationships you build, the more likely you are to gain inbound linkage and increase your visibility.

• Remember the value of listening: it gives you valid information about where your customers stand. You always should know what’s being said about your brand. Social media gives power to the customer because a person can easily damage a brand by saying something negative, especially since negative news can spread rapidly online. That being said, social media also gives you the opportunity to respond to the negative comments and defend your brand.

• Use mobile and location-based tools to connect people with your services: Location-based tools give you the opportunity to manage your presence and capabilities. This is your chance to improve customer service as location-based tools and smartphones continue to grow in popularity. You can take advantage of knowing someone’s location. For instance, if a person is near your store and you know about it (thanks to smartphones), you can set up a tool that will send the person a text inviting them to come in and shop for a discount. Similarly, you can track the people who frequently check into your location on Foursquare and send those people rewards or discounts for their customer loyalty.

I know these points might seem somewhat obvious to people who are familiar with social media marketing, but these basic ideas are the foundation for success as the digital space becomes increasingly cluttered.

So take advantage of the opportunity provided by social media to showcase your brand’s personality online. People relate to a brand they can connect with on a personal level: Hubspot recently found that "Twitter accounts with a profile picture have 10 times more followers than those without."

What’s the bottom line? Standing out in the digital world is about quality over quantity.

Organizations need to be passionate about something and provide compelling content via social media. If a brand stands for a cause, that’s what people connect with. The brands that stand for something are the ones that will continue to set themselves apart from the rest.

This post was written by Jackie Lampugnano. Jackie is a media relations intern at Walker Sands currently studying Marketing and Public Relations at Loyola University.