While I think that social media is “the last item up for bid” in terms of a company’s battle plan in search marketing, this doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of an overall strategy. I’ve said it before, an SEO has to be fluent in every discipline. Social media is a the perfect way to:
1) Get links from a variety of outbound sources, at a variety of IP address (though the anchor text is an if’y proposition)
2) A great way to get brand recognition through several communities, marketplaces, and verticals quickly
3) And, if you can pull it off through nice landing pages, a great way to boost conversions
The strategy with any social media marketing effort is, simply put, to hold a conversation with a community, while manipulating them to perform the desired action. It sounds cold and calculating, but to say it is anything else from a search marketing viewpoint, would be a lie.
In order to create a successful campaign, not only for your own branding efforts and promotion opportunities, but to for your clients’ as well, there is a need to coordinate efforts between all of locations to reach the widest audience possible.
A Cooperative Blitzkrieg
It’s very rare you see the word blitzkrieg in anything other than World War II references to German attack methods. But, in this instance, we’re talking about your internal strategy to push your social message out into the wilderness (see the diagram below). The aim of this strategy, which I’ve found to work well, is to create “waves” of pushes throughout these communities.
The 1st Wave
The Parent Entity in the diagram above is a social media asset (i.e. company blog, parent Twitter account, parent Facebook Fan Page, or LinkedIn Company Page, etc.) When the parent entity publishes on the aforementioned platforms, it will have it’s own natural push into the community(ies) at large. Without an internal strategy in place, this is where the meme dies: in an isolated space left to generate it’s own buzz and movement.
To combat this, every company should/needs to encourage it’s employees to become satellite proselytizers of the brand and the meme. It will take time for the individuals to create and manage a trustworthy reputation within their given communities; therefore, this is a strategy that is intended for the long haul and relies heavily on the 2nd wave.
The 2nd Wave
This, perhaps, is the integral piece of the strategy. Not only does it rely on the “individual” off-shoot from the parent to have a good reputation within their respective community and following, it also relies on them to time their re-issuing of the meme so as not to seem “disingenuous” or “spammy”. Which is why Parents should allow their employees to enter communities unattached to the Parent.
Let’s be honest. We all know we’ve done the internal eye-roll when we see an employee spread the parent message. Especially when the meme is re-blasted within seconds of the Parent. If the meme is spread by people unattached to the Parent, then it’s going to have a much higher trust factor and that the information is valuable.
The second wave can last a couple a days, if need be. This is where the coordination comes into play. Depending on how many individuals you have, you can set up “mini-waves” at the 2nd Wave. The objective at the second wave level is to penetrate as deeply as possible into the 3rd Wave (The Communities-At-Large)
The 3rd Wave
If the 1st and 2nd wave really possessed the cooperative blitzkrieg element, and the meme was actually “valuable” to the community, then deep penetration in the the 3rd wave should be all but guaranteed. Controlling the meme at the 3rd wave is close to impossible, which is why it is imperative in the first two waves that message be engineered but not feel contrived. It’s walking a fine line of control and art.
While this may seem cold and calculated, it has to be done. Real spontaneity and viral memes are like Halley’s Comet: it don’t happen often enough to really count on as a staple element. The more strategy you can apply to social media efforts to ensure visibility, branding, and interaction to elicit the desired reaction in a community/communities that have the attention span of ferret on a triple espresso, the better.
I know that seems like a large leap of logic, but when it’s distilled and deconstructed down to the central idea, that is exactly what Google intends to do.
Here’s what Amit Singhal says about how they calculate your TweetRank (in a nutshell)
In the case of tweets, the key is to identify “reputed followers,” says Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, who led development of real-time search. (Twitterers “follow” the comments of other Twitterers they’ve selected, and are themselves “followed.”)
“You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers,” his tweet is deemed valuable because his followers are themselves followed widely, Singhal says. It is “definitely, definitely” more than a popularity contest…
In fact, that is exactly what it is. A popularity contest. Of course, we all had some inkling of that notion to begin with, but now it’s official. I do think they are trying to determine relevance and trustworthiness and integrating that into the TweetRank algorithm, but like meta-keywords in their heyday, it’s a lot easier to “filter out noise” by a simple follower count. It’s more than that, it is, to say the least, another Orwellian attempt by Google to “filter” information they deem “relevant and trustworthy”. Just look at the article’s example for “Obama” tweets.
Google is now Controlling the Conversation
Do not attempt to adjust the vertical or the horizontal. They have control. With the inception of TweetRank, and the newfound importance of RTS (real-time-search) and the RTR (real-time-results), if you want exposure you’ll have to play by their rules. What does that mean exactly?
Hello. I’m SPAM-BOT #6257. I’m now following you.
First: don’t manage who follows you or who you follow. As pointed out, high follower counts, like the PageRank algorithm theorized, is essentially a vote of confidence the user is worthwhile, trusted, and relevant. If follower count is the initial indicator of “trust”, then we’re about to see quality take a dive. Anyone who’s been using twitter, say for more than 2 months, knows spam is the prevalent thing in the tweet-tubes.
Second: put the brakes on your hash-tag use. I can see Google’s point on this, and there is no limit to hash-spam out there (i.e. #ThatsOldSkool). But, for much of the users on twitter, particularly the SEM crowd, it’s more artistic expression and blunt force. Personally, I use the hash-tag for sarcasm, blunt honesty, and to call out industries of importance to me. Hash-tags on Twitter are part of the socio-culture. It’s ingrained. To be so wholly injudicious and lump ALL hash-tags together is ridiculous.
Google: Can it Change the Culture of Twitter?
No one is really taking this seriously yet, so I don’t expect the change to happen overnight. However, as RTS and RTRs are pushed to the forefront of search, and Google makes good on the RTR algorithm, you’re going to see marketers drop hash-tags from their tweets. You’re going to see an over-abundance of spam infiltrating the ranks of everyone just to have massive follower counts.
It will only take 6 months of this algorithm being applied before Google goes back to the drawing board. Google picking on the easy marks to establish faux-quality guidelines: Followers and Hash-Tags. It won’t take long before QDF (query deserves freshness) queries and results are overrun with pure and utter garbage, under the current guidelines. These two major indices DO NOT indicate quality of tweet or Tweeple.
I think Google will fail in its quest to re-mold the conversation on Twitter. And, ultimately, Google is going to have to really put some complicated thought into how it serves RTRs. Perhaps an algorithm that matches the complexity of the is SERP algorithm. This is the easy way out, and it’s only going to lead to poor quality and bad results.
The Year Social Media Grew Up: 2009
Let’s start off with a confession: I’m an SEO and SEM’er (which might have been obvious from the name of the blog). Naturally, I tend to think my discipline of choice, SEO, is the most important of the disciplines. I work in the “nuts and bolts” of sites: from arduous keyword research selection and code tweaking to site architecture to content manipulation/augmentation to link building. A Jack-of-all-Trades you could say.
And, as an SEO, I need to be fluent in all things SEM. Need to know how they tick, are used, and how they can be leveraged at an organic level. Most would believe that SEOs are diametrically opposed to SMM (social media marketing), but this couldn’t be further from the truth (considering the most recent updates to Google SERPs with real-time, “fresh” results).
Social Media: Through Puberty
Social media, as we know it today, has been around for a few years now (Blogger/Facebook/Myspace/Digg/etc). But, it wasn’t until 2009 that social media grew up and became a force of its own.
I can trace back the “GROWTH SPURT” to exactly this date: April 17, 2009. Why this particular date? Oprah dedicated an entire show Twitter: what it is and how to use it. Apparently, she’s not too keen on the vehicle, with only 90 tweets. Coincidently, this is the exact same day Ashton Kutcher was on Larry King Live to talk about the race to 1 million followers with CNN. This is the day social media went from a potty-trained toddler to a college graduate with two kids and a mortgage.
When You Grow Up, You Get Exploited
When you grow up and reach that certain point in your life, everyone wants something from you. And, for the search marketing crowd, the adulthood of Social Media represented a new gold rush. For over a year, since early/mid 2008, businesses were hesitant to drop themselves into the social media pool.
Here are some fun facts about social media and network growth over the past year*:
- The fastest growing segment on Facebook are Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers
- Time spent on social media and networking sites is the fourth most popular activity, ahead of checking personal email.
- Use of Twitter and other micro-blogging sites has TRIPLED since the summer of 2008
- Social networking and media sites account for nearly 10% of total time spent online.
In one day, with Oprah-fication as proof the medium had gone mainstream, every business and corporation wanted to get in on the action. Gobble up all those Gen-X’ers and Boomers as they started stumbling around the social minefield. An easy mark.
Enter: The Social Snake Oil Shakedown
Talk about low-hanging fruit: and out come the douchebags, the self-proclaimed experts and gurus, and those looking to capitalize on the corporate lambs and SMBs that want the latest and greatest. SEO went through the same growing pains, and to some extent, is still going through it.
2009 marked the entrance of SMM and SMO snake oil salespeople. They come in two varieties: Fast-talking folks who have a blog, a Facebook profile, and a Twitter profile. They probably worked in a low-level PR position and started a gig on the side. Or, traditional ad agencies with a newly developed “digital” arm, trying cash-in and be relevant in a web-dominated world w/ metrics.
No, a professional does not include someone who states the pure obvious about “how to really succeed in social media”. I’ll save you some time so you don’t have to read another carbon-copy article just worded differently.
Every Article You’ve Ever Read About Social Media Success Tips:
- Be genuine. Don’t fake your persona
- Engage the community on a regular basis
- Social Media/Networks are all about trust. Work to accrue that trust.
- Mix your personal and business lives on your social account (a.k.a. be genuine)
- Don’t be political, religious, or offensive in any way, shape, or form. (Unless, of course, that’s who you are. Then you should do it. But with caution)
- Know your segment and community. Provide information that will be useful to them, and, coincidently further your business endeavors.
- Don’t prostitute your own links all time. You’ll be seen as disingenuous, and, therefore, lose followers.
There. That should just about cover nearly every single post, article, piece I’ve seen on social media this year. But this is not to say that they aren’t real professionals out there who know exactly how to engineer and construct smart, linkable SMM campaigns. Do your homework, use trusted resources for recommendations, and slam the door on social media snake oil.
Predictions for SEO and Social Media for 2010:
Honestly, what would a review post be without a few predictions?
1) The clear, definite distinctions between search marketing disciplines will be gone
We’ve already started to see this. Algorithm updates, based on some cursory research and data I’ve seen for clients, are suggesting to me that PPC and SEO are intertwined. Taking that further, SEOs will have to get their heads around SMM/SMO and learn to apply it to their overall arsenal. The lines have already begun to blur; evolve or die.
2) Social Media and Networking will go through a Purge Phase
It’s not that the number of sites will shrink and fade out (though I can see that happening too: an inter-web social network pissing match), it’s those who self-proclaim guru status that will die out. I think this coming year you’re going to see more and more “certifications” floating around. And, a higher demand from SMBs and corporations that will demand some sort of certification before they hop into bed with you. Get one or get purged.
3) SEO will be Fine. Relax.
SEO isn’t going to die. Far from it. It’s going to be more valuable than ever this coming year. And, since we are the Jack-of-all-Trades (master of a few), we’re going to be needed on several fronts. Especially dealing with SMM backlink strategies and how to pull reliable metrics on those campaigns to measure effectiveness and ROI. Once again, evolve or die, people.
With that, everyone, I hope you all have a wonderful, pleasant, and successful 2010. Happy New Year!