4 Easy Steps to Social Search Success
For multichannel marketers to get the maximum return on social media assets like articles, videos and images, they must treat them like PR professionals treat well-timed news releases.
First, marketers must build a new-age public relations network of social media “influencers” — i.e., long-standing contributors to social engines like Digg and StumbleUpon who have organically grown their influence within the social media sphere through a process similar to how respected journalists earn credibility.
Second, marketers need to control the timing of their releases directly to their network of influencers before having them crawled by search engines. This approach gives social media assets the best chance to generate short-term viral traffic and longer-term search engine visibility, essentially turning these assets into instant “earned media.”
Before the advent of social media, the term earned media referred primarily to traditional media coverage that PR practitioners earned through newsworthy brand-building campaigns and by leveraging relationships with influential journalists. Social media’s distributed nature and attendant lack of marketer control compared to advertising or paid media makes it a new form of earned media because advertisers cannot pay social engines like Digg or StumbleUpon to place their content at the top of the recommendations.
That honor is distributed to the social engines’ legions of users who “vote” for or “like” content that they come across while surfing the web. The more “votes” and “likes,” the higher the placement on Digg’s and StumbleUpon’s recommendations.
Social engines have grown in usage to serve the same purpose for millions of people that newspapers, magazines and news broadcasts once did — sources of aggregated information and entertainment. A very select few of these social engine users have gained the status of influencers — power users who have been regular contributors to, and users of, the social engines since their inceptions.
Within the social engines’ “editorial algorithms,” which mathematically distribute editorial responsibilities across social networks, these power users are bestowed analogous editorial weight as senior editors of newspapers and magazines. A vote from one of these algorithmic editors propels an article, video or image toward the top of the recommendations.
More people see the content; they “like” it and push it up; even more people see it and “vote” it up; and some people find the content compelling enough to link to it from their websites, blogs or Facebook pages. They even tweet about it. This is the definition of viral.
Google and Bing have incorporated the social engines’ viral link-building capabilities around fresh content as proxies for social media relevance. Search engine algorithms normally penalize rapid link building, as the acquisition of relevant links is supposed to be a long, natural process. By contrast, the viral nature of social media engenders rapid link building. So a trendy and informative article that was voted up on a social engine's recommendations and redistributed through links to other websites can develop proper search engine link equity that helps drive search engine optimization long after the initial buzz.
Large marketers with a network of influencers who value and appreciate their social media assets can harness this social/search virtuous cycle by doing four simple things. They include the following:
1. Add social media influencers to your organization’s PR network. Just as companies hire seasoned PR professionals partly based on the size of their Rolodex, hiring a “socialista” based on the number of his or her social media connections on LinkedIn equals a ready-made influencer network.
2. Allocate a small percentage of your media budget to social media asset development. For starters, a little excess budget for which you couldn't find enough quality paid media will do.
3. Integrate linked, portable content into social media assets. This allows others to incorporate it on their web pages, thereby increasing link life span, which promotes sustainable SEO traffic.
4. Release new social media assets to influencers before having them crawled by search engines. This gives your influencer network the “scoop.” Provided they find the content interesting, their editorial weight will help get these assets to the top of the social engine recommendations exponentially faster than a regular user.