Social Media and the Swine Flu: The Social Web Pandemic

What does it mean that a disease has been categorized as a pandemic? Mainly the disease must spread through a population dispersed over a large geographic area; a continent or even several continents.
Consider the Swine Flu example. Lets say the Swine Flu is the recent profile page on Facebook or Twitter for example with around 400 friends or followers – those that caught it world wide. In only a couple of weeks the Swine Flu became one of the top ten topics discussed on Twitter. This is the main essence of the Social Web. What lessons can be learned from this event and applied to promoting your website, product or service via the social web?
Rule 1: Content is King
A search on Google for “Swine Flu” returns about 260 million results, that is a lot of content. From just the results on the first page we see only one result that we can categorize as the most authoritative source – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Think about this as your official website when one searches for the main topic on your website, product or service. Your website needs to rank high on the keywords that are crucial to your business.
Rule 2: Start a [INSER YOUR BLOG, PRODUCT, SERVICE NAME HERE] pandemic
Now scan through the results on the first few pages, what do you find in common? A whole lot of them are news websites and blogs – Reuters (8), BBC (9), Guardian (9), Harvard (9), CNN (10), … and then we have digg.com. Why is this interesting? For two reasons,
  • Digg.com has a page rank of 8, comparable to all these news websites. See the numbers in parenthesis above.
  • But most importantly, you can freely submit your content to Digg.com. Its much harder to get your content on the above sites.
Digg allows the most obscure blogs and websites surface by allowing their members to ‘dig’ the content and collectively determine the value of your content.
There are many online destinations such as Digg that allow you to do this: del.ici.us (8), Slashdot(9), StumbleUpon (8), Technorati(9), Reddit(8).
Then there are the social networks such as LinkedIn(8), Facebook(9), and Twitter(9) that also allow for propagating your content. Think about it, all these websites allow you to propagate your content and have the same Google PageRank as the World’s biggest news corporations.
Rule 3: Keep up with the trends
So back to our Swine Flu example. This event allowed – as much as it is unfortunate – for very creative people to promote their products and services. Their products did not include health answers to tips how to prevent getting infected but included a Swine Flu Google Maps mashup, a cartoon, and a Swine Flu iPhone application. It is very important to keep up with the trends and optimize your website accordingly in order to funnel some of these searches back to your site. 
The benefit of doing this is mainly because optimizing for keywords within your field of expertise would only result in a fraction of the potential visitors. A search for ‘Swine Flu’ does not put the rest of my life on hold – I may in fact have had a problem and by just seeing the Swine Flu Google Map a spark may go off in my head: “Hey, that is exactly the solution to my problem: I need a map that will ….”
A really good book to read on trends and how they spread like epidemics is Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” The topics he writes about in this book cannot be any more applicable to trends on the Social Web and how little things can lead to a viral promotion of your product or service allowing you to hit critical mass much quicker than traditional approaches to marketing.
Marketing and promotion on the Social Web is a new beast, so one really needs to look at it differently.
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