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How Social Media Results in SEO Increased Performance

Sometimes it gets ridiculous … the debate over which is more important – SEO or social media. Let’s not be foolish and create another company silo. They both are and they both should be integrated into one strategy and complement one another.

Given the fact that I know far more about social media than SEO, this article takes a look at social media and SEO synergies from a social perspective. That said, I invite my SEO brothers and sisters to chime in with some SEO perspectives.

The first and obvious place to start when talking about SEO and social media integrated power is talking about content strategy and management. Recognize that content is the core of social media strategy. As a brand and/or content producer you look for a large audience to consume your media. Social media practioners plan how their content will be shared and passed along. And no one is going to pass along crappy content. The content must be compelling – entertaining, chock full of valuable information, and/or be very helpful. Then it has a chance to be shared.

But we also want that content easily found. And finding YOUR content is an SEO thing – both paid and organic search. Selecting the right keywords in the title of the media, positioning those keywords in the first sentence, and doing appropriate tagging are minimal requirements to start with from an SEO perspective.

The important point is that your owned media needs to be optimized for search and social!!!

Now let me talk about the not so obvious intersection of search and social. If you have a brand, you better own the top search slot for your brand name, right? Otherwise, you are probably doing something wrong. For a general search for the topical area of your brand, that is a little more difficult. Needless to say, it would be preferable to show up in the top fold of page one, but sometimes that is challenging.

So how can social media help with the variance of search placement between a general search and brand search? To answer this, allow me to re-introduce the social media marketing funnel. (For those of you that are regular readers of my blog, forgive me for continuously going back to this funnel – but in all honesty, it really is the bases of valuable strategy and planning.)

Let’s address the issue with an example. Say I am interested in information or planning a purchase of a bicycle. If I went about this as a simple search with no influential information, I would likely search “bicycle” or “touring bike” or “mountain bike.” But what if a brand did a really good job managing owned, earned, and paid media? What if I saw some good information about bicycling that was sponsored by and produced by Trek? What if one of my friends or colleagues (in my trusted network) knew I was looking for a bike and gave me a “Trek” recommendation? Thus my psycho-demographic went from awareness and interest to consideration and evaluation. The fact that “Trek” was well socialized means I would likely skip a search for “bicycle” (general search) and move directly to “Trek bicycle” (brand search). I could even take this one step further and look for a particular type of product from Trek like the “Madone 6 Series” as a result of a combination of owned, earned, and paid media.

You see, your content, content strategy and plan for owned, earned, and paid media can help in SEO efforts. The more we get people to use long-tail searches as opposed to short-tail searches looking for our brand, the greater success we have with our product getting in front of the consumer. And in the end, that is the ultimate success. If you look at SEO referred traffic to you destination URL, you can actually measure success of your social media implementation. Baseline your different search referrals (general, brand, product, short-tail, long-tail), and measure changes as you implement different social endeavors.

So next time you hear anyone debating the importance of SEO and social media, raise the conversation up one notch. What’s really important is having a killer content strategy and both social media and SEO have great importance there.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under SEO, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy

Do you want people to be reaching and grabbing for your brand and keep coming back? Well having the right content strategy, plan, and execution is your secret sauce. Your content should be of great value. What does this exactly mean? Why would anyone continue to return to your site and social platforms? Simple – because you give them what they value – great information or something entertaining, and then maybe a little bit more …

Your content strategy should be viewed with 4 key ingredients.

1) Kick-ass Content
You must start by having awesome content. And this great content needs to be produced continuously. There is “Power of Compelling and Engaging Content.” It is not only the reason for getting one’s attention, but you look to deepen the reader’s attraction for your brand and build affinity for you.

2) Awesome Curation
Take it one step further and provide a curation linking to places to go to get additional information. If you really want to be the reference point for topical area, you must have not only great information, but also provide places to get more. This is an area some many have a problem with. You can’t be afraid to show other sources of analogous content as in fear that it might trump your content. Another reason for trepidation is feeling that you are the authority of the subject. (Fine – I would not be the one to question that.) But does this really mean that you are the only one’s that have a say on a subject? I am not saying you should link to your competition, but I am certain there are sources that can complement your content. And by the way … sharing others content will build good will and you will see that referencing reciprocated to your digital assets.

3) Places for UGC (User Generated Content)
Make sure you have places for your audience to engage with you. This takes on many forms, but starts with at least having a place for readers to comment. Do not be afraid of negative comments. You can turn these into positive scenarios by engaging and remedying problems. It is also likely that your community will come to your rescue in many instances.

Other successful forms of UGC implementations include actively asking your audience for content and posting it on your site or social channels. Stories, testimonials, videos, pictures and other types of multi-media drive two positive outcomes … a) they allow your audience to connect, build loyalty, and deepen relationships to your brand, and b) UGC promotes greater sharing. People want to show their friends that their content is highlighted on specific sites. As Andy Warhol said, “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” or at least many are seeking this.

4) Sharing Tactics
If you want to drive more awareness, more traffic, word-of-mouth is extremely powerful as it has other people do your marketing. Referrals are generated by trusted, objective sources. To start, you should have sharing widgets (Facebook Like, Tweet, etc.) at a minimum. You can use plug-ins like AddThis, ShareThis, Gigya, and others. Other tactics you can use are voting on content and polling on questions related to content. There are a number of other ways to optimize sharing. The most important thing is not to have the “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality. Consciously think about and plan how your content will be shared and what will provoke your existing readers to share it with their friends.

At the end of the day, you want to be perceived as the subject-matter-expert, leading solution providers, or one with the best product for your market sector. It obviously starts with having a great product or service, but marketing your greatness is equally as important. Content marketing is the way to reinforce your “wow.” It starts with having superior content, but that is far from the end. Think about the ingredients mentioned here and also think about a holistic “Integration of Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media.”

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

PS – Needless to say, your content has to be SEO-friendly … and that is a discussion unto itself.

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, content marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

Talking About Your Relationships with Your Social Media Psychologist

Come in. Relax. Make yourself comfortable. Feeling a bit uncertain about your relationships – social media relationships? I am here to help.

In the past I have emphasized the importance of establishing relationships via social media as opposed to looking at social as a sales channel. And many still have significant problems establishing and maintaining their relationships. If we would just let “brand relationships” follow the rationale of “personal relationships” we would make it so much easier on ourselves. So think about those close to you in your own life and apply the same mechanics. While we don’t typically think of “mechanics” when it applies to personal relationships, I would suggest we do for brand relationships – because it is not so natural in a business setting. We have been programmed to sell, sell, sell.

There are four elements that must be present to have strong brand relationships.

Empathy
How well do you know your target market? Have you walked in their shoes? You will never have a strong relationship if you do not thoroughly understand your audience and their perspective. According to Wikipedia, “empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sentient or semi-sentient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion.”

Value
Forget marketing (and of course forget selling). Simply think about delivering value. Think about your strongest personal relationships. Your strongest relationships provide you great support, love, or something that you truly value. Social media usually starts with content. What content can you give your audience that they value? As a brand, deliver valuable content without a hidden agenda.

Transparency and Trust
Transparency and trust go hand and hand. There is absolutely an aspect of trust in strong relationships and if you are not totally transparent, you are likely hiding something. How can you have trust if you are hiding something? If there is a problem with your product or service that makes you uncomfortable (and eliminates your ability to be transparent),“Do the Right Thing” (in the words of Spike Lee). Fix it, don’t hide it. Your degree of comfort of being transparent is a great barometer on the real strength of your offering and your organization.

Mutuality
Have you ever been in a great relationship that was one sided? Yeah, I know, rhetorical question. So, are you ready to put as much energy, commitment, and passion into the relationship that you seek from your target audience? Do not expect what you are unwilling to give.

When you think about it, there really is not anything earth-shattering said here. I’d almost expect the response, “yeah – so what?” But for some reason, we seem to lose our rational thinking with regards to establishing relationships between customer and brands. Remember these four elements of strong brand relationships – empathy, value, transparency, and mutuality. The acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid comes to mind, but let’s change it to Brian Solis‘ version … KISS – Keep It Simple and Shareable.

I hope you feel better. See you next week … no charge.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized, Word of Mouth Marketing

Social Media – Great for Reaching Celebrity Status, Except for Celebrities

Every brand would love to be in the public eye, like celebrities and pop stars alike. Feel the love; feel passion; feel the desire to connect and engage. Now I don’t think it is likely that brands will reach the level of connection of say Lady Gaga with her audience, but certainly social media, when executed correctly, can increase your audience and the passion they have for your brand.

And yet, it is almost ironic that so many stars that have already reached pinnacle admiration from their audience have failed and/or retreated from social media. Just one case in point – James Franco. Last week, Franco told Policito “Social media is over … You heard it here first.” He went on to say “My thought was ‘this is my Twitter. I can do whatever I want.’ But certain companies I work with contacted me about what I was saying.”

So think about this statement for a second and start to assess the difference between being a brand and being an individual while engaging in the social world. The social world demands that we are always on our game. Just one slip up produces a hurt to reputation. While we definitely need to have a person and personality behind social communication and engagement, brands must not be emotional. They must maintain a strong, rational position. Do not undermine the importance on this! If you represent a brand, and you want to reach celebrity status for your brand you will need to follow this guideline.

From the perspective of celebrities, it doesn’t exactly work that way. When everything is going great, celebrities want to show you their world and open up to the public. When things are not going well (and everyone has their hills and valleys) they prefer their privacy and solitude – rightfully so.

But brands do not have this luxury. Now I am not saying that brands should be deceitful and put “lipstick on a pig.” What I am saying is that brands can not hide in hard times. They must come out and face the music and publicly deal in challenging times. Have we not learned from BP and Toyota?

Brands should use social media in both good times and bad times. Social media is an excellent way to deal with mistakes. People don’t like to do this. Brands must! Want to create the best goodwill with your audience? Want to turn a bad situation into something positive? Use your social to fess up to your brand shortcoming – apologize and state the corrective action taken. Acknowledge that you know there is a problem. Listen to your audience. Convey strong and valid proof that it will never happen again.

And hey, when times are great, we all want to get the word spread. How do you do that? You start by creating informative and entertaining content/media. Not sales-ie stuff. Something of value for your audience. This is your owned media. You must have a plan that integrates your owned media with your paid media and on top of that, produces earned media. (See Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media.)

Last week, in my column “Social Media – Quarterly Review, Q1 – 2011,” I stated that the strength of social media was “the ability to build relationships with your target audience like never before” (as part of my SWOT analysis). I am not sure celebrities really want this. Understandably so, they want their privacy and space.

Brands on the other hand, definitely want this. Once again – people want to know there is a human side to brands’ social efforts. But that personal aspect can not be moody and can never include rants. Think of the personalization of brands’ social endeavors to be carried out by a diplomatic ambassador. Yes, the ambassador(s) can be fun and informal. But they also need to be careful with regards to snarkiness. Remember Kenneth Cole’s botch. Brands must focus on a strategy, plan and execution that build relationships. If they deliver value to those relationships with a humanized rational touch, they can achieve celebrity status. Celebrity status – tons of attention, attraction, and passion from their audience. It takes time – there is no overnight stardom.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – yes there are a number of celebrities using social media well. I would say that those that are successful, approach their individual social media activity more like an individual brand as opposed to their personal side.

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Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

Social Media – Quarterly Review, Q1 – 2011

We finished Q1, 2011. How was the quarter for you? From a social media perspective, I think it was a good quarter – we saw greater adoption. There is still much to be accomplished and significant maturing of the industry will take place for a number of years.

I thought it was fitting to do a brief review of Q1 … a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) Analysis and review of a few articles that received strong responses.

Here is the SWOT Analysis for Social Media for Q1, 2011 …

And now, a quick review and some highlights from articles and ideas I’ve posted this quarter:

IP 3.0 in the Digital Age – social and digital become interchangeable. The next wave of digital/social will come from brands that integrate and package social right into their product/service offering.

The Power of Compelling and Engaging Content – new media marketing means producing information and entertaining content that appeals to your target audience. Compelling content is a powerful way to keep your audience engaged.

Social Media in Your Company – Guidance for Where It Fits In – finding the right place for social responsibility in an organization continues to be problematic. Some thoughts on the subject here.

Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media – a really nice outline and guide to molding and creating synergy amongst owned, earned, and paid media. Bottom line – must integrate.

Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term and Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel – measurement and ROI for social media … still illusive? I think not and here are two great articles that give you ideas how you might go about reporting KPIs (key performance indicators) for social media.

Social Media – Mentality is the Key to Winning! – you can’t just do it. It takes the right attitude. Got what it takes?

If you missed these articles, check them out. If you’ve seen them, thanks for being part of the great response.

I’ll leave you with a mention of three company events that I think punctuate where social media stands and is heading: 1) The launch of “Color”, 2) The acquisition of Radian6 by Salesforce.com, and 3) Google launch of Plus 1.

If you haven’t seen the iPhone app Color, check it out. Neat photo app that allows you to connect with your friends (and others). Still has a number of issues to work out (first and foremost the UI), but signals the importance and future of community. Social is about connecting with your crowd and I think Color is just an awesome implementation of this for photo taking.

Next Radian6 acquisition signifies just how important (and achievable) measuring ROI is for social media. Radian6 is considered the social media monitoring leader and was bought for north of $300 million by Salesforce.com. Shows how important social media measurement is. We will see great advancement of connecting social media measurement to sales and CRM.

And last, Google’s Plus 1 … the combination of search and social defines the best one-two punch for brands. Google seems to finally start delivering on the promise to be social. SEO has shrunk as a way people find brands at the hands of social and Google has just admitted so with their actions.

I am continue to be bullish on social media. (Was there any doubt in your mind?) What are your thoughts on the state of social – now and in the future?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under quarterly review, social media, social media marketing, social media organization, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

Social Media – Mentality is the Key to Winning!

We are at the point where just about every company is starting or active in social media in one form or another. No need to evangelize social anymore. Everyday, I scan the news for articles on social media and there are tons. In the past weeks, I have seen a majority questioning the success of social media. But we can not go from everyone’s doing it to the next question of “Is it working?” Something very important is missing.

Are you going about social media with the right mentality and approach? It is not about having a Facebook fan page and Twitter account. It is more about having the right attitude, style, and engagement mentality on these platforms as well as OTHERS. Can you really expect to have social media success if you are not actively engaging, building relationships, and, well, being social?

There is also another piece. When I’ve made a career change, headhunters and prospective companies asked me, “What are you looking for? A startup, emerging, big company?” I always answer the same thing. Size does not matter. Spirit does. Entrepreneurial companies are what attract me, because they are the winners.

Now this term entrepreneurial is thrown out all the time. But what does it really mean. Well let’s start by looking at the formal definition of entrepreneur. According to Merriam-Webster, an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” Key word here – risks.

And this is the pinnacle part as it relates to my interests, and even more importantly, social media. No company, and I do mean no company at all, will be successful with social media if they are not willing to take risks and accept some degree of failures to occur in plight for big wins. If your company is waiting for a social media recipe with guaranteed results, as opposed to taking calculated risk, forget it.

On topic to this discussion, I just finished reading Seth Godin’s latest book, “Poke the Box.” I have always found Seth to be creative, inspirational, and one of the best marketing minds. The emphasis of Seth’s recent book is really two-fold. 1) The need to not just have good ideas, but the requirement to get started and release something. 2) Pushing educational and corporate cultures to have a greater acceptance of failure, because from failure we learn and spawn great things. Creativity is totally sapped without an acceptance of failure.

The book speaks to individuals. Yes, social media requires leaders. Leaders that start things and push for success. I often use a rubber band analogy to make a point about introducing social media to an organization and/or change management in general. In order to provoke positive change, it is your responsibility as a leader to view your organization as a rubber band. It is your job to stretch and expand the rubber band, but not push too much to cause the rubber band to snap. Each rubber band size and elasticity varies by culture. Understand the environment you are in and stretch.

So back to social media success possibilities within a company. Is the right mentality in place? What does that rubber band look like? What is the willing elasticity and stretched factor of the organization? Are they entrepreneurial to take risks and accept failures?

Social media is not about being “right.” It is about connecting with people to find the right. Build strong relationships. The right as defined by your target audience. The relationships with your targets will tell you (indirectly) how to be a success.

At the highest level, social media’s objective is getting the prospects and customers to love your brand. Could you have a stronger relationship? Is your organization really ready to take this on as an objective and put appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators) in place to measure this?

Do organizational boundaries exist that prohibit this? I’ll give you an example on the contrary …

I am part of an Innovation Team where I currently work. I represent the marketing discipline on the team. We are about to launch a very cool video application for smart phones (iPhone first, then other platforms). About a week and a half ago, we had a meeting to discuss launch plans. I lead the meeting to discuss our go-to-market and continuing activities and some things that need to be resolved. I brought up the issue of customer support and questioned who was going to own this responsibility. Our COO responded immediately to me – “Your team.” Formally in the big corporate structure, I run the social media team, not a customer support organization. But our COO was exactly correct. I said social media is about getting your customers to love you and customer support certainly plays a key role here.

Here is another point on the potential of the organization getting in the way of social success. .. A number of months ago, I wrote an article “People Have the Power – a Social Media Story.” I told the story of having a problem with my cable provider and not getting resolution from “customer support” but rather someone in PR picking up a tweet I made and working the issue to resolution. From a customer/user perspective, do I really care about organizational boundaries or do I care about a brand that shows me love when they are looking to capture me as a customer and continuing to show me love as a customer. Continuing, seamless love – How powerful is this if you really accomplish this within your brand?

So when you put it all together, I am suggesting that some companies have no chance at all of social media success. Wrong attitude; wrong results. If you are not entrepreneurial, social and committed to building strong relationships and customer love, don’t expect a miracle. Make sure your culture fits the requirements for social success. If this is so, we will see an overwhelming number of winning business cases.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brands, change management, company organization, marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized