I’m live blogging Search Marketing Expo Social Media. I see that Kim Krause Berg is also live blogging this session for Search Engine Roundtable, so now I feel all this competition with her. (Eric Lander at Search Engine Journal also live blogged it, as did aimClear Blog, so the competition is really heating up now.) We have coffee, breakfast, and wifi, so things are starting out really well.
Rand is going to take us on a grand tour of social media. What is social media marketing? Instead of answering, he’s just giving us more questions. What are the goals of social media marketing? We’re getting answers now: brand awareness (positive brand impression), traffic, business development and networking, and other things, but these slides are quick. How are these other live bloggers doing it? Maybe they got the slides in advance.
Now he’s talking about creating and promoting viral content. He’s showing us a map from National Geographic that shows that Seattle has many more single men than women. Huh. Apparently that map got the site a lot of links, traffic, and helped them rank really well for single-oriented keywords.
Now Rand’s talking about using social media sites for reputation management — to push down negative results in the rankings. The search engines trust social networking sites, so they tend to rank them highly.
But what about search marketing goals? I think he means links. He says that the rising tide of a link lifts all ships on a domain.
Social media marketing can help with traffic and conversion goals because it helps with overall brand perception. He mentions Apple and presidential candidate Ron Paul as brands who have done well with this.
But why is social media so important now? He’s asking lots of questions. It’s so much pressure. He’s showing graphs and stats that show those who participate in social media. Blogging and message boards are most used, although other types are growing. In fact, social media usage had 668% growth between April 2006 and April 2007. I would show more stats, but Rand — slow down the slides!
He says that those who participate in social media tend to be influencers. Get them engaged and they’ll engage others! It’s like Amway but less cultish.
The blogosphere keeps doubling, blog engagement keeps growing, and who is visiting blogs? Youngish people who make pretty good money. Sounds like a good demographic group to engage.
Asian markets have the highest engagement of blog readers (74% of Japanese read blogs; 23% of Americans do). The percentage of influences is higher — 91% for Japan.
How do readers find blogs? Mostly links (67%)! 20% find blogs from search engines, and 23% find them through recommendations. Interesting, blog search engines account for less than 6%. More proof of why Google keeps leaning to universal search, as no one uses the verticals.
Why do people read and return to a particular blog? The number one reason is writing quality. Good writing trumps all.
What about video? 72% of Internet users watch online videos now, and that number is rising. What are people watching? News (37%), comedy (31%), and movies (16%). Primarily, people find video from links friends have sent them. Only 7% of viewers pay to watch video.
Now we’re switching back to talk about influencers again. In 2007, 27% of influencers are online, so let’s connect with them.
Now we’re supposed to get into a Delorean and learn the power of love. Or something. And now he’s dissing Alta Vista. Poor Alta Vista. Originally, engines used keyword repetition. Not that anyone would ever spam that! Oh wait… Engines switched to links since those are TOTALLY not spammable. Ha. So, people tried “link building” with things like comment spam link exchanges. It turns out that didn’t work for very long and search engines really want links from authoritative sites, not link farms. Who knew?
Apparently social media sites are seen as authoritative, and when you get a link on those sites, it’s seen by the influencers who also might link to it, so go go go!
Who is responsible for creating links on the web? Rand has made up a word: linkerati. I thought only English majors could make up words. He says that most of your readers and customers like you, but don’t link. So you have to engage the linkerati to get the links. And you get to them through blogs, forums, blog comments, social media sites, and old school methods like word of mouth and traditional marketing.
So, what kinds of content are these linkerati influencers likely to link to? Great design, ad-free content, great writing, clear navigation, clever graphics, non-commercial content, high accessibility, and authoritative resources. They don’t like poor site architecture, forced registration, obtrusive ads, long, dynamic URLs (they’re just too hard to email), unprofessional design, hard-to-read text, and articles split between multiple pages (also hard to link).
Finally, he’s convinced us that we want in on this social media marketing thing. But how?
- Social networking communities let users get together and talk to each other (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn).
- User-generated content sites let anyone submit content, and it’s the most visible component of the site, along with things like rating and sharing (YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Yahoo Answers, Yelp).
- Popular blogs have thousands of readers, and links can give you lots of visibility. These tend to have active participation in comments. (These include TechCrunch, BoingBoing, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, LifeHacker, Gawker, Mighty Goods.)
- Social bookmarking sites let you tag content and the most popular content becomes most visible. These are sites like StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia (very visible in search results), and Yahoo! MyWeb.
- Niche and topical participatory sites include sites like Slashdot, Fark, Treumors, NowPublic, Upcoming.org.
- Long tail of blogs, forums, and groups can also be very valuable.
- Mainstream media portals now often allow voting, comments, reviews, and most talked about stories (your site may be able to become part of Google News, the NY Times is now allowing reader comments, San Francisco Chronicle allows you to run community blogs on the site, CNN has a most talked about stories feature, Wired checks out Reddit stories and links to blogs a lot, MSNBC has a lot of comment and voting features).
How do you succeed in social networking communities? What kinds of viral content will help you get links, branding, and traffic? What social communities are relevant for your site? How can you use social media marketing for a competitive advantage over those who haven’t gotten involved with it yet? Apparently Rand isn’t answering these now, but he says the rest of the conference should give us some insight.
How do you reach the wealthy? There are a few niche sites out there specifically for them, so you can seek them out. Neil says it’s a quantity game, so if you get links on enough sites, you will reach this group. Rand mentions that this group searches, and since your social media content will get picked up in the SERPs and will get you links to help your own content rank, you’ll reach this group that way. You can also reach out to bloggers who are already engaged in this niche.
Danny, who’s moderating, mentions that Digg loves pictures, so put lots of those in your content. Neil says to write interesting “how to” articles and then spam all your friends and get them to vote.
Rand points out that when you do viral marketing, not everything is going to work. So come up with tons of ideas, see what sticks. It’s not 100% guaranteed that any one idea will work. Apparently there’s a session later on all of this.
How do you leverage your customer base to help you with social media, and how do you motivate them? And is this black hat? Nah, Rand says if you’re not gaming, you’re OK. If your customer base is tech-savvy, you may be able to engage them. If they aren’t, well, that’s more difficult. You can provide badges to your customers, and, it turns out, lots of people like to use them — which gives you branding and links. You can also use affiliate programs: give your customers a bit of cash as motivation.
The person in the audience wants to know how to engage those who buy office supplies. Rand says you have two types of users: your customers and those who can provide you links. Your customers may not have blogs and may not participate in social networking, so you may need to approach this second audience. Neil says you may not want to try to engage this type of customer base in this way.
How about using Flickr to drive traffic? Put up lots of pictures that link back to your site. These pictures will get picked up by search engines and rank, which will then lead searchers back to your site. (Addition by the live blogger, er me: put your keywords in the title or description so it gets picked up for the queries you want.) Rand notes that you can drop your link in comments to other, relevant photos as well.
Danny says you can open up the usage rights to photos you upload and just add a note that users can use the photo as long as they link back to it, like he does.
How do you target large blogs? Let them know when you have something that’s really relevant for them. Participate a lot in the communities so people get to know and trust you.
Should you have one account for each social networking system, even though you’re doing business for multiple clients on all different topics? Or should you have a separate account for each? Well, if you want separate accounts, use them on separate IPs. But you can also become a power user and use the same account for all topics. Neil thinks you should have one account to concentrate your power, although Rand mentions that if you have tons of accounts, you can use them to vote stuff up. He mentions those get banned though. Neil says to leverage your network to get votes, rather than set up fake accounts.
And we’re left pondering gaming, er, I mean networking for social media success.