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Posts from the ‘SMO’ Category

15
Dec

Social Media Profiles for Quality or Rank?

Creating Social Media Profiles for Quality or RankIf you work in search marketing, then chances are good that you’ve read the great journalistic effort from Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land “Social Signals Google and Bing Really Count?” Since the story is now 13 days old in linear, real-time (translating to roughly 6 months old in Search Marketing time), you might be wondering why I’m choosing to talk about this now?

There’s been plenty of talk about the details of how Bing and Google credit profiles and what they key off of to assess that profile’s authority. But, what I haven’t heard from anyone, is the quintessential problem this reporting of this data brings with it: do you build a profile for quality or a profile for ranking purposes.

Caveat Emptor:

This post is solely going to focus on Twitter profiles. While Facebook does have relevance to the conversation, it’s not being used by more than one of the major search engines in full (via Search Engine Land’s Article) and even at that it appears Bing is back-referring to Twitter to surmise authority. Ultimately, this is going to more introspective about how I’ve used Twitter in last two years, than empirical facts.

It All Starts With Quality

We all start building our profiles with the aim of quality in mind, because, after all, our first profiles are usually personal. We follow influential people in our business spaces, friends, or people who provide amusing or great information. As your time in a given space grows, your own influence builds. Whether it takes months or years, every active profile arrives at this point where they must choose the direction of the profile.

Follower counts grow, following counts grow. The opportunities to spread your meme farther and farther is alluring. At some point you stop focusing on the quality of followers and focus on the number. Bigger is better. And Google and Bing seem to agree with that logic. What Danny was calling the SocialRank and as Bing articulated:

We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results

Nowhere in that statement does it mention quality. And, you might feel free to apply that to this statement, but I’d be careful about that. It seems to be focused on straight quantity. Followers to Following.  The measurement, it would seem to Bing, is to see a well-defined gap between Followers and Following.

Social Media Can Be Cold-Hearted

It Ends With Rank

I’ll be the first to admit, being on twitter for almost 2 years now, that I’m as interested in attaining rank, being as “influential” in the space as possible. At some point Twitter transformed itself for me into being a tool for getting messages out, highlighting great content, building relationships (i.e. Superstar mentality) and less about the quality of followers.

For the first year on Twitter, I didn’t care about counts in the least. I built a profile fashioned out the industry’s best, whether they followed back or not, because they brought great information and conversation to the table. I was of the mindset that I would rather have a succinct core of idea and information exchange, than be a Jim Morrison wanna-be. I subscribed, and still do subscribe, to Edward Lewis’ Twitter paradigm that you kill off spam profiles/accounts from followers. Because it was/is all about quality in your stream and getting the maximum from the space/tool. Then it happened:

At some point, I started caring about how my profile ranked and how much influence my profile carried. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but is was a progression over time. And, truthfully, it makes me a bit sad. I love the community of SEMs/SEOs/Marketers that I listen to and communicate with daily. I really do believe we are as tight-knit a community as there is on the web, but at some level we all see each other as a means to an end. Spreading the meme, good SERP position for queries where social has influence, and standing on one another’s shoulders to shout for authority/thought-leader status.

Just tonight I looked over my profile and found a huge surplus of spam hanging around. And, because I’m so careful to keep an acceptable Friend/Follower ratio, I explain it away. I prune obvious leaving the ones I know are spam but fake human well enough.

The Tools Reinforce This Behavior

Don’t get me wrong, I think Klout, Peer Index, and the like are innovative and genius. But they reinforce the mentality about Rank over Quality. And, yes, I use these tools to not only keep tabs on my own influence, but when I’m engineering a social attack strategy, these are first places I go to start organizing and architecting that attack.

These tools assess influence, reach, amplification. I don’t know the accounts personally, whether they’re small and have a solid following; I just know that I’m going to place Person X here and Person Z here because their influence and amplification dictate those terms. Because these are the right moments to set off the meme-explosions with the right profiles. It’s impersonal and cold-hearted.

Google and Bing Reinforced This Behavior

I’m not blaming the messenger for this. Danny did a bang-up job on that post. I’m blaming the engines for encouraging people to be more mindful of their counts than the quality of their profiles. It’s clear the engines think that these two ideas overlap, that one can’t be had without the other. In some respects, they’re right. Quality attracts quality. However, quality also attracts a boat-load of spam.

To be honest, one the hand I’m glad the engines finally admitted what most of have known for some time: influence, friend/follower ratios matter. On the other hand, it disturbs me that this information will only encourage more spam profiles to be created, and that people will not label as such because of the influence factor. I know that’s asserting a lot about the Twitter community in general, but I see this as an inevitable outcome. When ratios matter, when authoritative meme-spreading matters, spam gets a break because they lend itself to bolstering stats and occasionally helping a meme along.

What’s the Solution

I wish I had one. And, there are some of you out there saying, “And? No problem here. It is what it is.” I’d love to tell you that Tweeple will reverse course and solely focus on building quality, but I know that’s not realistic, or feasible. We’re marketers, it’s about leveraging advantages.

The solution is to let this take its course. That’s the best I’ve got folks. I think since there’s still some mystery around how engines are viewing what’s authoritative and influential and what’s not, there’s no reason to get jittery. Yet. But, if “links” have taught us anything, it’s only a matter of time before exploitation of the system becomes a premium. And it is my sincere hope that the engines have enough sense to adjust fire when it becomes saturated into their SERPs.

Overall, I’d like to see our community eliminate the spam profiles following them now. I know that you kill off one, three more takes its place, but if we remain steadfast on eliminating these profiles, eventually we’ll be left with quality. I can hope can’t I? (Starting with me)

22
Jul

7 Links Down Memory Lane

The Milwaukee SEO Memory Lane ArchivesI’ve been doing a lot of heavy SEM lifting lately; a couple of intensive posts on The Firehorse Trail, an SEO Dojo radio interview, publishing a C-Level SEM guidebook, and SEM reporting post. Whew. I’m bit tired just listing them.

So, I thought I’d ease off the throttle a bit this time out, take a play from Lisa Barone and the Outspoken blog, and delve into a creative exercise. Spending much of my academic career analyzing, studying, reading, and writing poetry and fiction, I’m no stranger to word-play and thought-exercises, and have trained myself to spark creativity. But now and then, everyone needs a kick in the ass.

This is that kick. I think this is a really great exercise, in part because most bloggers rarely link back to archive posts. Bloggers rely mainly on in-site search and calendar functionality for people to find those old posts. It’s akin to dumper-diving; you’ll have to dig through miles of crap before you find those valuable items someone was crazy enough to ditch.

Blogs are no different than “corporate” sites. Internal linking structure and great anchor-text is just as much a life-blood to relevance as external linking, and it’s great thing to get in the habit of doing. (There I go again, talking SEO; you can take the SEO off the topic, but you can’t take the topic out of the SEO.) Without further ado, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

  1. Your first post: wasn’t much of anything. I was driving to work, listening to the local public radio station, and heard a very quick piece of news that Google and Microsoft were opening up shop in Madison. I thought, “Wow. I bet only a handful people know about and even heard it.” That’s what started my professional blogging career. NPR. I reached out to Danny Sullivan, asking if there was anything unique, and my first real blogging research was complete. *Google never responded to me. Typical.*
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: I love a good rant. Blasting big news corps for trying to leverage top placement in the SERPs just because they are who they are, and blowing off a little steam in the process, was by far my favorite. I still feel the exact same way about that post’s message today as I did then: tough shit, do some SEO.
  3. A post which had a great discussion: RE: Most of SEO Just A Boondoggle? Just Hullabaloo. Admittedly, this blog isn’t set up for tremendous discussion. And, it’s been only within the last six months that I’m actively responding to comments (Right. Community lessons learned the hard way). So this post stands out to me because not only was it a extra hot/heated topic around the community, and still is today, but there were some really thoughtful comments from Halfdeck.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written: This was a tough one for me. There are a lot of tremendous industry bloggers that I respect and admire. Each with their own style and panache that make their writing so easy and delightful to relish. But Outspoken’s It’s Not the Recession, You Just Suck is one I wish I wrote. I mean, damn, it was flawless, ballsy, and so honest. It was that post alone that convinced me to read Outspoken any time they posted and turned me into a huge Lisa Barone fan.
  5. A post with a title that you are proud of: I hate headlines. It’s always been the hardest part for me. I can kick the ass off content; write it, polish it, and make it gleam. But you always need a great headline to tie it all together; the lynch pin. I like this one: Deserving to Fail: The Fortune 500. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.
  6. A post that you wish more people had read: Create Your Social Media Attack Strategy. I really like this post, and think it offers a really solid strategy and methodology for cranking up and planning your social marketing strategy. Just fell flat, I guess.
  7. Your most visited post ever: Terminal Wave: The Google Wave Failure I seriously doubt that I will ever top this post. Unless I spontaneously combust and live to tell about it.

So that’s the trip. Let’s see what you can come up with for your trip down memory lane.

4
May

One Thing You Need to Know About Social Media

Rule One: Use It

Be a crash test dummy of social media If nothing else, there is really only one thing a business needs to know about social media. Use it.

There are thousands of quotes about “no time like the present” and “carpe diem”, but there’s simply no time to have you glaze over on me now. The truth of the matter is you have jump with both feet, arms spread wide, and get to the bottom of the social media deep end.

That’s the biggest barrier I’ve seen the last seven months. Everyone has heard about it, everyone is talking about it, and no one is using it. Apparently, there is a “no escape” clause built-in to social platforms. Or least you would think so. And, if your business is already using social (I use this term loosely), step back, take a deep breath, and start using it all over again.

Wanting a Ten-Speed Before You Have Training Wheels

You might find yourself reading something like this. All in preparation for that time when you might, eventually, create a profile for your company. Why bother learning the finer points of social communication w/ niche communities if you’re afraid putting your fingers down on the keypad? Or worse yet, not even using social media.
Do It Yourself Social Media

Tip and Guideline Posts are for People Using Social Media

All the “tips” and “guidelines” posts are for people who’ve discovered there might be a better way to get in touch with their communities. Tips and guidelines are primarily for social media marketers that have some level of familiarity, and some unsuccessful social marketing attempts, and are trying to figure out how the “social rock stars” do it.

What Tips and Guide Posts are Really Teaching

These posts really teach you how to play it safe. Both personally and as business on these platforms. Tips like, “*be firm, but not too firm. *Be yourself, unless yourself sucks. *Speak your mind, but don’t be too honest.” How do you expect to differentiate yourself if you’re all acting the same way? Would any real communication be achieved?

Clearly it’s a business tool, and clearly there are “rules” to engagement, but it’s not something you’ll pick up from a post.  Take the SEOs and SEMs using social. It’s a unique niche where pretty much anything goes (unless you trash SEO. Then you’re just in a world of trouble). There is no post, tip sheet, or guide that would prepare you to swim fluidly in those streams. It’s a jungle; it’s bizarro world.

And, that thin-slice can be transfered to any vertical, marketplace, or community you want to be a part of: each one has its own way of doing things. Its own unique way everyone communicates. All these tips and guides are really for social media marketers; the people who use it for a living and are looking to gain an advantage over their “community”, not interact with it.
Learning to Listen

The Human Element

Now that we’ve cleared some of that up, it’s time to talk about how you are / how would be using social. Again, the majority of the people I run across, use social like they would use television: push marketing.  You don’t talk, you don’t get involved, you just drop links to product pages, event pages, without so much as peaking any interest in your “community”.  Social isn’t push marketing no matter how much you think it is or could be.

Social media is about getting people to care about what you have to say. In any way, shape, or form.  Whether you pander to their greed, their charitable side, emotional side, or even the little kid in all of us. Give someone a reason to invest in you, and they will.

If you don’t listen, how do you expect to communicate? How can you provide something meaningful to the conversation if you never heard what was asked for?  If you’re continually pushing a message, a link, an anything, without listening, don’t expect people to listen to you.

Use these platforms to better understand what your customer needs. It’s the ultimate CRM tool. If you’re listening, you find out what it is your customer likes about a certain product, doesn’t like about a certain product, whether they got bad customer service, or great customer service. You can react quickly and resolve or champion a situation.

The Bottom Line

You need to use social media in order to understand it and use it for business. Social is not a “magic portal” where people simply follow your direction, convert, and bring you profit.  No amount reading “tips” posts or “the ultimate guide to using Twitter” posts will make you understand it any better.

There’s a theoretical side and applied-practice side to everything in life. Once you have enough practice you can start applying theory and making the platform your own.

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