Social media marketing is a form of viral marketing that leverages the large audiences from various social media sites to increase visibility and spread messages. Some of the most well-known social media sites include YouTube, MySpace, Digg, Flickr and Del.icio.us.
When combined with SEO, social media becomes a very powerful tool that can dramatically affect search engine results. Whether it is the thousands of inbound links possible from a single piece of content or using these authority sites to manage your reputation, social media marketing is the one tool no SEO should be without.
There are many positive returns from social media marketing, but for this article I want to focus specifically on how you can integrate it into your search engine marketing efforts. We’ll take a look at the primary reasons you would want to use social media, as well as various ways to incorporate that use into SEO.
What Is It Good For?
Social media marketing can affect search results in various ways. First, it can be used as a link-building tactic to generate thousands of new links to your site. Second, it can be used for reputation management through ranking social media profile pages, as well as ensuring any negative comments appearing on social media sites won’t find their way to the search engine results.
Surely by now everyone has heard the term “linkbait,” which essentially means creating remarkable content that others will feel compelled to link to. This content comes in various forms, but usually contains one (or more) of the following themes – humor, controversy, breaking new stories, or revealing a great resource.
The reason linkbait has become so popular over the last couple of years is because it solves a real problem. Traditionally, link building is a very tedious task consisting of long hours begging other webmasters for links or costing a fortune to buy hundreds or thousands of links. The latter (buying links) also puts you at risk of being penalized by Google.
With linkbait, you can spend a fraction of the time and easily build twice the number of links. Linkbait campaigns that I’ve been involved in yield an average of 500-1,000 links for each content piece. Just consider how long it would take you to build 1,000 links the old-fashioned way by asking for them.
Content creation by itself is not enough, though. Unless you already have a large audience at your disposal, you need to find a way to get your content out to the masses. It is ultimately a numbers game – the more people you can get your content in front of, the more people are likely to link to it. With most popular social media sites having user bases in the millions, they are very appealing places from which to reach large audiences.
This is where it gets tough. Getting your content on the “most popular items” page of any social media property is no easy task. Unfortunately, creating remarkable content is only half the battle. There are a number of soft promotion techniques that need to be used as well.
First, let’s take a step back for a minute to talk a little about coming up with ideas that allow you to create remarkable content in the first place. The first step is becoming involved in the online communities in which you plan to spread your content. It is vital to become familiar with the type of topics and content that appeal to the users of specific communities. After becoming involved in a social media site for awhile, you will begin to notice the kind of content that appeals to the users and how this can vary from site to site.
Once you have an idea of how these communities work and what the people that use them are interested in, you need to figure out a way to tailor your content to appeal to them. Even with the most boring of topics, you can figure out a way to spin the content so that it is appealing. This is where the brainstorming begins. Get yourself a piece of paper and write down 20-30 different ideas for a good piece of content. It helps to get an outside opinion here, too.
Now that you have a good list of ideas, you need to start narrowing it down. You don’t have to narrow it down to one. Try to keep a handful of them – no one said you could only do one linkbait campaign. In fact, I would recommend keeping at least a handful of ideas because chances are that your first few linkbait attempts will fail.
Formatting the content in a certain way helps as well. Generally, people using social media sites have a rather short attention span, so the quicker they can grasp the meat from your content, the better. This is one reason why “Top 10″ lists work well in this scenario. Use headings when appropriate, and remember that pictures really do say a thousand words. Whatever you do, don’t write a novel – you will lose most people after the first paragraph and your linkbait campaign will fail.
Getting back to promoting the content, there are a few techniques to use to increase the chances of success. One is to add friends to your profile. Because these sites are (by definition) designed to be social, one’s friends are exposed to one’s submissions and votes. So the more friends you have, the more people will see your content and be able to vote on it. Don’t just add friends for the sake of increasing that number, however. Try to only add friends who are interested in the same topics as you are.
Another technique to improve your chances of success is using sensationalistic titles and descriptions for your submissions. This is an absolute must. Titles and descriptions need to be compelling enough that people will be enticed to click through to, and read, your content. Nothing will kill a submission faster than a boring title and description.
There are hundreds of different social media sites that can be used for linkbaiting campaigns. Some of the more popular ones for link campaigns include Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us, Netscape, and StumbleUpon. There are probably many that are specific to your industry as well, so do some research and find the best ones.
There are a couple of ways to use social media for reputation management. First, you can leverage the authority and trust of social media sites to rank individual profile pages on Google. Second, you need to use social media to monitor your brand and keywords relevant to it in a proactive manner. Primarily you do this to make sure that any negative content that appears on social media sites doesn’t get too popular and thus end up ranking on Google.
Just about any search you perform on Google these days has at least a couple of social media sites that will show up on the first page of search results, particularly with the arrival of universal search where videos, images, and local reviews show up.
Huge social media properties have enormous amounts of trust rank and authority with Google, which makes it very easy for them to show up ranked high in search results. Use this to your advantage by creating profile pages on the biggest properties and ranking them for your brand name. You can also rank existing social media pages that reflect positively on your company. This will help offset negative results from showing up in the future and bump any down that are up there now. Since the sites already have the authority and trust with Google, it usually only takes a small link building campaign to get these pages ranked.
The last thing you want when people Google your company name is for negative results to show up. It’s your job to make sure this doesn’t happen. Do that by proactively monitoring keywords that are relevant to your brand or products. The idea here is that you want to be alerted anytime someone mentions one of your keywords in social media.
You can do that by subscribing to RSS feeds from a buzz-monitoring tool such as Serph. This way you will be notified when one of your keywords is mentioned, and you can respond appropriately to keep the negative buzz from spreading. I recommend monitoring your company name, URL, product names, public-facing individuals in your company, and even your competitor’s brand and product names.
As you can see, social media marketing, when used properly, can be a very useful tool to have in your SEO bag of tricks. So, what are you waiting for? Get going and sign up for all those different social media sites, start learning how each works, and begin working your way up in “high society”!