Search engines are struggling to maintain market share as users move to social for answers. Rumors that Facebook is building its own search engine do not help the situation. As we speed along through 2014, do you know where you should be putting your effort to get the widest and most desirable audience for your content? Is it still the search engines? Or should you focus elsewhere?
In some ways, the jury is still out on this question, especially with those who have not got to grips with social media. In other ways, to those who have engaged deeply with social media for instance, the answer is clear.
The argument for a broader focus than just targeting the search engines is that content marketing via social is a virtuous circle in many ways. The more social activity you participate in, the more social signals you put out, so the more notice the search engines take of you, and so more people will find you on the search engines because you will move up the rankings.
There is more to it as well – social marketing of your content also brings you to the attention of a wider audience than simply relying on search engine listings. We all know how fickle the search engines can be and an algorithm update or change can see your site plummet down the SERPs for no apparent reason. It can be a long haul back up again if you take the traditional SEO route only.
Some of these updates and changes have meant that pure SEO is no longer a good option, whether that is on or off-page optimization e.g. keywords and links. The search engines want results to be more relevant, authoritative and popular. Judging popularity and authority simply from the signals used previously is no longer accurate (e.g. number of backlinks), because so many people are gaming the system, whether deliberately or by mistake. Now, social signals are playing a greater part than ever before and you need to be in it to win it.
Ask people where they get their info or e-commerce links from and you will find that an ever-increasing number act on word of mouth (or word of mouse) recommendations from social contacts and their network, rather than searching directly.
Social is used so much that it is now quite difficult to miss a breaking news item, a meme or a vital article or product – somehow social will find a way to get it to you, however small your social circle!
How To Make Social Work For Your Business
To capitalise on all this social activity and enjoy its impact on the engines, you first need to understand clearly what your objectives are. The fact of the matter is that SEO in its real sense of the term is taking a back seat. It is secondary now to creating great content that your audience will enjoy and share with others.
While some are very vocal about how many followers they have, this is not a metric of any value if those followers are not engaging with you, enquiring from you, or buying your goods. You cannot control who follows you, befriends you, or comments, shares, and likes your content, nor can you know precisely why each individual has taken the decision to do so. All you can do is “Encourage to Engage”, monitor effectiveness of content, and create content and Calls To Action that suit your objectives.
Your needs will dictate not only which platforms are most appropriate, but also define what strategies you should adopt and experiment with. Worry less about defining the actual audience participants and more about what content you can create that shows your passion, knowledge and expertise that people in your niche will be interested in.
If the aim is to persuade people into the sales funnel, ironically the best procedure for doing so is to hold back on the hard sell. Keep the ads and product links to a minimum while providing quality and informative copy that drives desire without the reader being consciously aware of what you are doing.
You will need to build trust and relationships with your audience, and also with your peers. It is unlikely that you will ever be the business or blogger with the highest number of Twitter followers, but having friends with authority and popularity will increase your reach dramatically.
Facebook (or Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, etc.) may not be the ideal platform for your key messages, because it may not be where your target audience hang out. Just having a presence and an automated mechanism for adding your content to your page on each social network will help to disseminate your content more widely and help to provide the social signals the search engines are looking for. The creation of a profile on a social network, however, does have ramifications.
Nobody has time to check every notification for every one of their profiles on every network each day. However, once you have a presence, you will need to be ready to jump in and get involved in discussions, answer questions, deal with complaints or negative reviews should they arise. For instance, anyone asking a question or making a complaint via Twitter to a brand expects a response within about an hour. Even, sometimes, in the middle of the night.
So, one of the unintended consequences of using social in your marketing mix is that it also becomes a customer service point and you will need to figure out how to manage that so as not to raise expectations or fail to meet customer need. Your friends and followers will also expect a response to comments or when a discussion begins in the comments section. This is essential for a successful social marketing presence and you will need to allocate time to ensure that you do this effectively.
You could ignore all social media and continue pursuing standard SEO, deciding that the above sounds as though it may become a time sink with little measurable, monitorable outcomes. This would, however, be extremely short-sighted. It could result in you losing the potential traffic that can come from good social media marketing. You will also start to see the effect on your search engine rankings if your social signals are low or non-existent.
It is entirely your decision to what extent you include social media in your online marketing this year, but to omit it entirely would not be wise.
For more advice on social media and content marketing, call MintCopy at 888-646-8003 or send us an email.