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When it comes to social media, traditional marketers are strangers in a strange land. Despite companies' drive to be more social, a recently released study shows that 40% of a brand's Facebook page fans "unlike" them soon after a promotional campaign ends. And even within the most "liked" fan pages, user engagement is abysmal. Of Eminem's 41.5 million fans, only 575 actively engage with the page.

So how do successful brands keep that 40% happy and coming back? Let's look first at those who go wrong.

As the cheerleaders of our brands, we're accustomed to loudly shouting our messages through TV, radio, print ads, and website banners because we see good ROI by getting as many eyeballs as possible on an ad at once. But effective social media doesn't work that way: It's a friendly conversation, not a soap box.

It's often not for lack of trying that social campaigns come up short, although we certainly can blame too much misdirected effort. As Joshua Ross of Fleishman Hillard points out, several top brands have abandoned literally dozens of failed social sites since social media came into vogue. On a recent project, he found that a client had close to 150 Facebook pages, over 65 YouTube channels, and 100 Twitter feeds. "Every executive is being asked to define their social media strategy (or just "do something") and the drumbeat is relentless," Ross said.

The go-to "something" for many brands is to offer special deals and freebies in exchange for a "Like" or follow. Although a great place to start, long term success and impressive ROI requires a broader strategy, otherwise fans will take your offerings and run (read: "unlike" or "unfollow"). Ross recommends developing a Social Media Architecture for your brand to bring "harmony, utility, and durability" to a company's online presence.

"One of the inspiring effects of the social web is that it exerts a selection pressure on organizations to return to the days of the neighborhood store, where business was founded on relationships and reputation as much as it was on advertising and brand, where the social contract was as important as the business contract," he said.

Compelling social brands begin with a sense of purpose and thrive because they have something to talk about and share with a natural community (and potential customers). Adidas has mastered this by focusing on several key communities of interest on Facebook: Running, Football, and Fashion.

Ruben Quinones of Path Interactive points to Starbucks as one of the social media marketing leaders we can learn from. At a time when sales started slipping for the first time in history back in 2008, Starbucks launched mystarbucksidea.com, a forum for customers to vent their frustrations, and submit their own ideas to improve the Starbucks experience. Whether it's on Twitter, Facebook, mobile,or their own social network, Starbucks provides the right mix of social that naturally leads to interaction and an improved experience," he said.

Quinones helps brands crack the Facebook feed by focusing on this right mix. "There is some great content out there, but not all of it is intended to be social, while others are not leveraged enough," he said. "And there are those that do a really good job of engaging, but are hurting their cause by broadcasting every single piece of content that comes out of their site along with their other updates. "

A brand's editorial team needs to determine a coherent content strategy to avoid spamming, and thus turning off, followers and fans. Frequency of content is key. "For example, if an organization created a video highlighting a branding initiative, it may not hurt to "broadcast" it via your social channels.

However, if there were 10 pieces of content about this same product launch that was hitting all your channels, then the audience might surrender to messaging fatigue. If that one piece of content was mixed in with several great pieces of content that provided some educational, entertainment, exclusive value to their audience, then that one "broadcast" piece of content would not only be more likely to be viewed, but accepted."

Another essential content consideration: Facebook's EdgeRank. The higher your page's EdgeRank, the more likely it is to show up in a fan's News Feed. Help yourself out by publishing content that encourages interaction: polls, links, photos (users tend to click to see larger versions), and videos. Make sure to update frequently, as posts can get easily lost in the stream of activity.

Quinones, Ross and dozens of other marketing thought leaders will dive deep into these issues and more at the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo New York this October 10-13. Come see them by registering now with code RWW20 to save 20% off all conference passes.