Is Being Found Part Of Your Social Media Strategy?
Successful communication is all about getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time.
In the first part of this two-part series on search and social media sites, I noted the undeniable importance of social media as evidenced by the sheer volume of social media updates posted daily on Twitter and Facebook (not to mention lesser-known sites like VK in Russia and Sina Weibo in China).
I also looked at why, once posted, most of these updates ended up in a social media limbo, rarely to be seen again.
Most social media sites are finally turning their attention to site search functionality to make all sorts of information discoverable. Not only will users of social media sites continue to see updates flying across their displays, they will also be able to surface previously inaccessible updates from the past.
Better social search presents opportunities for communicators who include search in their social media strategy, as well as a few risks worth managing. In the second part of this series, I’ll take a look at a few of the techniques communicators should consider to ensure that they shine in social media search results. Search engine optimization (SEO) is for social media search, too!
Start Here: The Social Media Profile
Social media search visibility begins with a profile, often called a page when referring to entities other than people. When creating a profile, take the time to complete the profile as fully as possible. The richer the profile, the greater the amount of information available to potentially match a user’s search.
Brands will generally want to include synonyms used to describe the product or service, e.g., Kleenex might want to include facial tissue in its profile description. Profiles of key individuals, such as company executives, should weigh findability with privacy and identify theft considerations.
While reviewing a new or existing profile, do ensure the profile contains a link to the official website for the represented entity, whether it be a product, place, service or person. In almost all cases, our goal isn’t to promote a social media property, but to help people find our official home on the Web.
Remember: When you’re on Facebook (or any other social media site), you’re a guest in somebody else’s home. They dictate the house rules and can change them at any time, as they will. Don’t make yourself too much at home!
Social Media Updates No Longer Lost In The Sands Of Time
As discussed earlier, for too long it has been nearly impossible to find old posts on social media sites. This state of affairs is changing rapidly, albeit with some limitations. Twitter is slowly making much of its historical archive searchable. Facebook supports searching updates from the last 30 days and plans to include better update searching as part of its new Graph Search.
When publishing updates on social networks, communicators should consider including keywords their target audience would most likely use when searching on the topic of the update. Many of the same rules for search engine keyword research apply here.
For instance, the words I might use to search for something I know a lot about are probably not the same words the man on the street would use — I know too much about searching, as it were, and may use a different vocabulary. Language is often tied to geography, too, so consider regional and national differences.
When performing keyword research, avoid using popular tools that rely on data from meta search engines such as metacrawler.com and dogpile.com. Do you actually know anyone who uses these search engines? Thought not. Then why would you base your marketing activity on a dubious data sample? Marketing tools are only as good as the data underlying them. If you don’t know the source of the data for a tool, you shouldn’t be making business decisions using that tool.
Many social media sites support keyword tagging in the form of #hashtags. Do make use of #hashtags, but keep in mind that what is worth doing is not necessarily worth overdoing, unless you want to run the risk of being profiled as a spammer.
Likes, Shares & Comments Are Your Social Media Update Friends
It’s a safe bet that the algorithms social media sites are using today to return site search results are in a fairly rudimentary state and will become more complex over time. What we do know is that every social media update has certain attributes which help define its particular importance.
There are, of course, the semantics of the words used in the update itself. Users of a social network help determine the importance of each update by endorsing it (Like, +1, Favorite), commenting on it and/or sharing it with their own followers. Therefore, the importance of crafting compelling updates will also be an imperative for becoming “discoverable” in social site search.
Finally, the author(s) of an update add their own value. How old is their profile? How many followers does the author have, and who are they? Not all followers were created equal.
Trending Topics, Beware Of Party Crashers!
Some social media networks, like Twitter, allow users to view the hot and trending topics of the moment (Google also offers a similar service for general search).
Among some marketers, there is an irresistible temptation to insert themselves into discussions involving trending topics in order to garner greater visibility for a promotion or general branding. The impact is a lot like that of interrupting a conversation at a cocktail party: if you’re lucky, people will treat you politely while thinking you’re a jerk; if you’re unlucky, you’ll get a drink thrown in your face.
Reputation Management, Oh Yeah!
Improved site search in social media sites will potentially create some problems for companies which may have experienced a social media crisis, as old posts reemerge from archives that were previously off limits. At a minimum, communicators need to ensure they’re providing new content which resonates with their fan base, as measured in endorsements, shares and (positive) comments.
Such content will likely be given priority by social search algorithms over older content, although the exact rules applied by each social site search engine will vary and evolve over time. Monitoring site search results for the brand, key executive names and other important keyword phrases should become part of a company’s overall social media strategy.
Using Social Media Search To Find & Eradicate Fake Profiles & Pages
There is an additional reason to use site search within social media sites to monitor for a company’s brand names and the like: discovery and eradication of fake profiles and pages. Companies and organizations should also keep an eye on the well-meaning fan profiles which will pop up from time to time.
Are there branding guidelines in place for brand use on social media? Do the profiles violate branding terms and conditions? If they do, consider how to reach out to well-meaning fans. Sending a cease and desist letter from the lawyers as the first step is probably not the best course of action.
Hold Events? Social Media Search Has Opportunities For You!
Companies and organizations that hold events, whether they be seminars or industry conferences, will want to consider posting the event on social networks that have specific support for events, such as Facebook and Google+. LinkedIn discontinued their events in November 2012, but events can still be promoted there via status updates.
Do ensure that event descriptions make it clear where official registration happens. It is too easy for users to assume that saying “I’m going” on Facebook is tantamount to an official registration. Seasoned event organizers will know differently.
User Behavior Will Change Gradually, Get Ahead Of The Curve Now
For most social media users, Google is synonymous with search, and I don’t expect that to change soon. Yet, people are already searching social networks for other people (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn) and topics (e.g., hashtags on Twitter).
As the search experience within social networks improves, it isn’t far-fetched to imagine that users will become accustomed to searching a social network for more general information, since they’re already on the site. Expect journalists to be among the earliest adopters of improved social search.
As you review or draft your social media strategy and processes, don’t forget to include search engine optimization for social search. Do reach out if you’d like assistance with your social media strategy or training for your team.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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