Generate ‘buzz’ about your content with Social Media
April 4, 2018 • Glenn Murray
So you’ve baited the hook (with a helpful, regularly updated, well written blog). And you’ve optimized your content. Now you have to cast the line. This is where social media optimization comes in.
Social media optimization is about getting your content noticed by people who’ll link to it. This process is typically referred to as creating ‘buzz’.
In practice, the people most likely to link to your content are other bloggers. In order to keep their network of readers coming back, most bloggers update their blogs on a daily basis, so they’re always hungry for something interesting to talk about. And when they talk about it, they naturally link to it.
The trick to social media optimization is getting your content to appear prominently in the ‘places’ bloggers go for inspiration. As social media content creators themselves, it’s not surprising that they turn to social media for ideas. So to get their eyes on your content, you need a good understanding of social media, and you need to participate.
Social media is the umbrella term given to ‘places’ on the Internet where most – if not all – of the content is created by users, not webmasters. Social media services include the likes of:
- Message boards
- Social networks
- Video sharing
- Picture sharing
- User Groups
- Virtual Worlds
Because of the un-owned, unfettered nature of social media services, millions of people worldwide use them to express themselves, connect, communicate and share. To have conversations. And because those conversations occur on what is intrinsically a broadcast platform (the World Wide Web), they are, by definition, one-to-many conversations.
This is the real power of social media. It combines the power of conversation between connected individuals with the power of broadcast.
USES OF SOCIAL MEDIA
People use social media to share in all sorts of ways, but mostly for sharing stuff they like, promoting stuff and bookmarking stuff.
SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS AND COMMUNITIES
In the sense that the people who use social media services are interconnected, they form a network. But the term ‘network’ doesn’t even begin to convey the strength of those connections, the richness of the relationships they facilitate, and the meaning attributed to the network by its members.
While ‘network’ may adequately describe what you’d see if you mapped the interactions from a distance, it doesn’t really describe what it is, at all. What it is, is a community. A naturally evolved, continuously evolving community, with its own culture, dialect, rules, agendas, leaders and prejudices.
Having said that, I use the terms almost interchangeably throughout this book. Partly because sometimes I talk about the physical interconnectedness (in which case I use ‘network’) and sometimes I talk about the entity created by that interconnectedness (in which case I use ‘community’). And I’m sure there are times when I’ve just slipped up and used the wrong term!
HOW TO LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SEO
In any human community, conversation is powerful. In social media it’s all-powerful, because it’s the foundation of the community. In social media, there’s no physical interaction, so without conversation, there’s nothing. And that’s the key to social media for SEO. If your content is viewed as trustworthy and high quality, word spreads quickly. And because the word is spread by people who are, themselves, trusted, the trust they invest in your content, and their high opinion of it, spreads simultaneously.
Of course, it’s not just a question of writing great content and hoping the right social media communities will find it. There’s way too much content on the Web for that to happen. To make it happen, you actually have to make it happen.
Following is my recommended approach for starting out in social media with a view to improving your search engine ranking. I’ve used StumbleUpon here, but you could just as easily use Facebook or Google+ (or something different) instead. The exact mechanics of the platform will be different, but the logic will be much the same.
Click the diagram (or here) to see the full-size version of this diagram, online.(p 140)
IMPORTANT: Even though social media services allow you to link back to your site (e.g. in your profile, comments & updates), those links are of limited direct value. The sharing and traffic are more important than the links themselves.
19 TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY BUILDING
Ok. So now that you know the skeletal logic of using social media for SEO, here’s some meat to put on the bones.
Social media spaces are very personal. With genuine communities. And people in those communities value them very highly, take them very seriously and are very protective of them. Entry into a social media community isn’t a right; it’s something you have to earn. Sure, you may be allowed to join, but you won’t be considered a true member until you’ve earned your stripes, until you’ve shown that you value the community as much as they do, that you take it seriously, and that you’re just as protective of it.
So, although your ultimate objective is to get people to link to your site, you have to be very careful how you go about achieving that objective. Don’t go into any social media community thinking you can treat its members like an advertising audience, or like recipients of reciprocal linking email requests. On the whole, they don’t appreciate promotion, and they won’t link to you just because you ask.
Social media culture is one of giving, not selling. If you ignore this, you’ll simply be intruding on everyone’s personal space. They’ll feel the same as you do when you get a telesales call at home during dinner.
Furthermore, most social media community members are bloggers. And they won’t link to your website without a very good reason. Their blog content – even if it’s corporate – is a lot different from corporate promotional content. It’s much, much more personal – bloggers express themselves, they don’t just try to sell. This is the key ingredient in blogging. It’s what makes blogs so powerful and what gives them such longevity. People connect with people.
When a blogger links to something, they’re telling the world that they, as a person, value that content (unless, of course, they’re criticizing the content). If they link to crap, they’ll undermine their own credibility and very quickly develop a bad reputation, and people will quickly stop reading. Without personal authenticity, a blog is nothing.
And a word of warning: if you ignore the culture of your chosen social media space, you risk a lot more than exclusion. Because social media spaces are so personal, people gossip and bitch. And because the networks are so extensive and interconnected, word travels fast. It takes just a few hours for virtually every social network in the world to learn of a serious social media misdemeanor. But it takes months – maybe even years – to live it down.
Here are some tips for avoiding the pitfalls and making an effective start in social media.
- Know what joining a network means – On some services, like Facebook and LinkedIn, you need permission to join someone’s network. That’s because as soon as you join, you’re privy to everything they share, and you can see their entire network (and vice versa). On other services, like Twitter, you don’t need permission to join anyone’s network because it’s only a one-way opt-in. You see everything they share, but they see nothing you share, unless they connect back to you. Yet others, like StumbleUpon and Delicious, allow you to see what anyone has shared without joining. Joining their network simply makes it easier for you to access their bookmarks.
- Find, join and observe the right people – Look for people who’ll be interested in what you have to say. In the beginning, it’s probably best to look for your industry’s ‘celebrities’ – the thought and opinion leaders. People with big networks already. Even if they’re your competitors. As mentioned above, social media is about giving, and, surprisingly enough, this applies equally to interactions between competitors. (Well… to some extent.) Your competitors may not share their trade secrets with you, but they certainly won’t resent you connecting with them. If nothing else, it boosts their status, and helps them keep an eye on you!By joining the networks of industry ‘celebs’, you’ll get a good idea of how they interact. They obviously know how it’s done. Also, you’ll avoid the temptation to prematurely interact with potential customers. As these are the people who’ll ultimately be buying from you, you really want to know how they expect to be treated before you start connecting.Some services like LinkedIn, Facebook and Myspace also feature member- created groups. There’s one for just about every topic imaginable. Find groups that are relevant to your business, join them and get involved in their discussions. This is a good way to find relevant people to connect with. (But don’t just go connecting with people ‘willy-nilly’. Make sure you observe them for a while, and you’re comfortable being associated with them.)
- Understand and observe local etiquette – Darren Rowse (blogger extraordinaire and social media master) advises people to treat every Social Media space like a foreign country. Learn the language, the customs, the Generate ‘buzz’ about your content with the etiquette. Perhaps even find a local guide. By doing this, you won’t unknowingly offend anyone or make a fool of yourself!
- Learn the lingo – Each social media space has its own lingo. Abbreviations, shortcuts, labels, acronyms, tags, etc. E.g. Many Twitterers call each other “tweeps” (short for Twitter peeps), say “pr0n” instead of “porn” and shorten words as per an SMS.
- Don’t be afraid to ask – Asking for advice shows you’re human. It proves you’re willing to expose your vulnerabilities. It also proves you want to learn to do things the right way. So it gets you big brownie points! So long as you don’t dominate everyone’s time and you listen to their answers.
- Listen – Although much of what you read in any social media space may seem like a time waster, most of it still has some value – especially for a newbie. Even if the content is irrelevant to you, it shows you how other people are interacting, what they’re talking about, what’s acceptable discussion, and how they’re talking. And, of course, listening’s a sign of respect, just as it is in the real world.
- Help – Every chance you get. The more you help, the more you prove yourself, the more trust you’ll get, and the more backlinks you’ll generate. In fact, whenever you’re participating in social media, you have to take off your sales/PR/SEO hat and put on your community hat. In other words, you must always put the needs of your community ahead of your own. To begin with, as a rule of thumb, make every contribution helpful (or a question). Answer questions if you know the answer. Consider writing some guest posts for other bloggers. Only start asking favors through your social media networks once you’ve earned the right to do so.
- Put your heart into it – If your heart’s not in it, people will sense it. They’ll feel that everything you do is a thinly veiled promotion.
- Be transparent – Be up-front about why you’re there. And on the odd occasion when you do actually promote yourself, don’t be sneaky about it. Be open, clear and succinct. People will respect your transparency and you won’t be wasting everyone’s time (including your own).
- Be yourself – If you spend all your time worrying whether people in your social media community are going to like what you say – or how you say it – it’s possible that you’ll develop a big following, but it won’t be a true community. You’ll only ever build a community if you’re true to yourself. In fact, that’s really what people in social media communities really want. People. They’re there to engage with you as a person, not a figure-head, not a PR practitioner, not a spin-doctor. People connect with people.
- Be human – Let your personality shine through. There are millions of people on social media platforms. But only one you. Leverage that uniqueness. Here’s a great blog post on leveraging your personality for social media success, by Brian Carter. Even if you don’t follow every suggestion to the letter, it’ll help you understand what others are familiar with and what you’re comfortable with.
- Be patient – Generating backlinks through social media takes time and a lot of hard work. Unfortunately, however, Google pretty much ignores most methods that don’t.
- Comment – Commenting on other people’s blogs and bookmarks is an excellent practice (assuming, of course, they’re relevant). It not only shows your willingness to contribute, it also boosts the search rank of the site you’re commenting on, and builds buzz around the blog post. What’s more, it extends your profile within the network. The more people see your comments, the more familiar they become with you, and the more they’ll click through to see your own content.TIP: Commenting on other blogs is a particularly useful way to establish your domain authority, without diluting the specificity of your own blog. For instance, my blog is about copywriting and SEO copywriting (with a few light writing posts thrown in for entertainment). This is what people expect from my blog. If I talk too much about straight SEO, people might be put off because they’re there to read about copywriting. So I try to comment on other blogs or write guest posts when I have something to express that’s just straight SEO. This means my visitors get what they expect, the search engines see mostly copywriting discussed on my site, and I still get to establish my credibility in straight SEO circles (among people who might otherwise not have encountered me).
- Link – Links are the ultimate currency on the Internet. Link to someone without expecting anything in return, and you earn big brownie points. In fact, many people will link back to you just because of your good will. You can link to them from within your blog post or you can set up a link to them in your blogroll (the list of your favorite blogs in the right sidebar). Note that when you link to someone else’s blog post from within the body of yours, quite often, a snippet of your post and a (nofollow) link to it will be automatically added to their comments. This is known as a ‘pingback’. The pingback link doesn’t pass on any PageRank, so it’s of no direct SEO benefit, but it’s certainly beneficial in terms of building your social media presence. It lets the original blogger know you linked to him or her, and it puts your name and link in front of that blogger’s audience.
- Be the first to share other people’s content – It won’t take you long to realize that sharing can be somewhat of a race. If you’re the first to bookmark something interesting, engaging or just incredibly newsworthy, many people who come across it will make an effort to ‘follow the trail’ back to the original bookmarker: you. Once there, there’s a good chance they’ll:
- click through to your site and have a look around. And with such good content on your site, they won’t be able to resist linking to it; and/or
- join your social network and keep a close eye on everything you share in the future. The important thing to realize here is that there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of bloggers out there who are so hungry for interesting stuff to talk about that they look really hard for inspiration. They trawl the social media services (as I advised you to do if you’re lost for something to blog about – see ‘Stuck for ideas?‘) and if they find someone who consistently gives them what they’re after, they’ll pay close attention to them.
- Go slow – Start with just a couple of social media services. Because social media participation is very time-consuming, you need to be very focused in your approach. Be aware of how much time (or how many human resources) you can throw at it, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. That means you need to choose just a couple of social media services – at least to begin with. Just choose social networks that feel right to you. Dedicate a couple of days to signing up to a few of the major / relevant services. Play with them, read about them, and get a feel for what they have to offer you. Do you like the way they work? Do you ‘get it’ (bearing in mind that each will take a little research and experimentation)? Once you’ve had your head in the space for a while, you’ll soon figure out what you like and don’t like.
- Work to US time – Even if most of your customers are from elsewhere, most social media traffic is in the US. So always consider the timing of your social media activities. For instance, if you’re making an important announcement on Twitter, or sharing a post, check the time in America first. (Rand Fishkin of Moz recommends doing these sorts of things during America’s business day and Europe’s evening.) You can get a world time addon for Firefox that makes this easy, and similar extensions for Google Chrome.
- Be thought-provoking early in the week – That’s when people are freshest and most likely to think about your content. Later in the week, they’re tired and thinking about the weekend.
- Use a photo avatar – People don’t want to see your logo or your favorite cartoon character. They want to see a photo of your face. (And not some blurry, obscured one, either.) TIPS: 1) When uploading your avatar to Twitter, use a .png file. Gifs tend to hang. And upload something bigger than the thumbnail they display by default. When people view your profile, they can enlarge your photo, and if yours is only thumbnail-sized, it’ll end up grainy. 2) Register with Gravatar and upload your photo. Many blogs these days automatically display your Gravatar photo next to your comments. People are far more likely to associate intelligent comments with a face than a name.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GENERATE A LOT OF LINKS?
A long time!
It’s impossible to say how much time you’ll need to spend building links, but you can be sure it’ll be a while. You just have to keep at it until you have achieved a high ranking. Even then, you’ll still need to dedicate some ongoing time to the task, otherwise your ranking will drop.
HOW MANY LINKS WILL I NEED TO GET A TOP RANKING?
Lots! Depending on how much competition you’re facing for keywords, and where the links are coming from, even 100 inbound links may not make much of a difference. So don’t expect anything to happen too quickly. But if you’re dedicated, and you’re prepared to work hard at your blogging and your social media optimization (and your other link building methods), you’ll definitely see results within six to 12 months.
- Use social media to get people talking about, and linking to, your content.
- Social media is all about community.
- Be authentic, transparent, helpful.
- Listen & help.
- Learn the culture and etiquette of any social media service you use.
- Be patient – social media optimization requires long-term commitment and delivers benefits slowly.