I recently watched @garyvee’s keynote at Big Omaha. It’s great, and he makes a really great point in it that I’m going to pervert to the next level:

Social networking isn’t social networking, it’s business. The internet has won. TV is dead. Newspapers are really dead.  And the best way to conduct business on the internet is through social networking. (paraphrasing)

You can see it here: http://www.vimeo.com/4671951 (8:30 in)

Now, he goes on to say it’s not actually Twitter or Facebook, but more that you need to start blogging. I totally don’t disagree, but I am going to argue that you can’t ignore Twitter or Facebook.

If you are a content producer, you can’t ignore Twitter or Facebook because they are, by far, the easiest way to get positive viral metrics going for your content. Each retweet, “like” and comment you get is going to spread your content wider and wider via methods as strong or stronger than traditional “word of mouth”. And, frankly, you aren’t handcuffed to google to come back and scrape your content for keywords.

But bigger, if you have any sort of user generated content, ignoring Facebook and Twitter is practically suicide. Both services now have login solutions, which then allow you to post the activity of your users back to the services. This is great for you, since it has the ability to spread your new UGC virally, but your users may also love it because they are probably looking for some sort of recognition of their contributions to your site. If someone “shares” something on your site, they probably want to “share” it somewhere else.

There are 3 keys to doing it “right”.

First, all of your user generated content MUST have a unique url. Without a unique url, you can’t effectively share these actions.

Second, you must ask for permission. If this isn’t obvious, you must have been in a cave when Beacon-gate went down.

Finally, you must provide both primary and secondary participation. So if someone uploads something your service, you must let them share that back to facebook or twitter, and you must give the people that come back to you through the share to contribute directly to what was shared. If they, for example, “upload a video” (primary participation) and you tweet for them about it, then you have to have some way to engage the people coming to see the video (secondary participation). Whether that’s comments, or “likes” or a star rating, you have to engage your new traffic, of they will just bounce. And two thumbs up if you give them a great path to explore your site from  here.

Whether you are producing content or have a service where others produce content, you can’t ignore the social networks. But don’t think of them as competition, think of them as distribution channels for your actions or your users actions. And make sure you engage the interest you gain from them, or it will all go away.