Here are the links to the other articles in the series:
Promote your site for free: on-site SEO
Promote your site for free: off-site SEO
Promote your site for free: forum marketing
In the article on off-site SEO I touched on social media and how the search engines are increasingly taking into account the sharing of pages and sites on social media in their ranking algorithms.
So I wanted to go into social media in a bit more detail, because it’s a fast moving area that continually changes.
The times are changing
About 3 or 4 years ago there was an explosion of what were known at the time as Web 2.0 sites. Places like Apsense, Pownce, Digg, Mixx and a whole lot more that I’ve forgotten.
Back in those distant days I wrote an article suggesting that in order to build links to your site you needed to create a big web footprint.
The way to do this, I wrote, was to open accounts on as many of those Web 2.0 sites as you reasonably could, creating links back to your site via your profile, and network furiously.
Oh how times have changed! Many of those sites have either closed down or lost the popularity they once had.
The ‘join lots of sites and network to create a footprint’ from the early Web 2.0 days has been replaced by commenting and guest posting on other blogs as ways of establishing your online presence.
And, generally, the quality of peoples’ contributions as guest posters or commenters is higher than it was on those Web 2.0 sites where, to be honest, it was pretty poor.
Today, social media is not so much about attracting links to your site as getting content on your site shared.
Sometimes this will generate links, but more likely it will generate visitors.
Forums vs social media - the differences are blurring
As I said, many of those Web 2.0 sites have closed down. Additionally, the lines between forums and social media sites have blurred.
For example, LinkedIn was considered a social media site but, in reality, it’s closer to a forum, particularly in the Groups. Content is shareable on LinkedIn, but the fact is that it doesn’t get shared much.
It is, though, great for making direct contacts that often lead to business. It's an out and out networking site.
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, on the other hand, are what I consider to be out and out social media sites, because one of their prime functions is is to enable people to share stuff online – and they do. Lots: links, videos and images.
Create a Social Media Strategy
So, recognising that there are different types of social media sites, you need to think about a social media strategy if you're to get the best return on the time you invest.
Social media is, of course, a great way to promote your website but, as with everything else, it takes time, thoughtfulness and work.
So as you ponder your strategy here are some points to think about:
- Some sites are better at sharing your content
- Other sites are better for connecting with other people, building relationships and getting direct business
- Some sites won't allow you to promote your own content at all (Reddit, for example)
- You’re better off providing quality contributions in one or two places than you are providing shallow contributions in lots
This leads me to the strategy I follow:
I have accounts with sites that are good for sharing content and sites that are good for making connections and, although I'm a member of more, I limit the majority of my activities to just 3 sites.
Choosing which sites to focus on depends entirely on whether you’re using your website for business or pleasure.
If it’s for business you need to focus on sites where your potential customers hang out, whereas if it’s for pleasure you can focus on whichever sites you like the best.
So, if you're promoting a business via social media, where do your customers hang out, and does that site enable you to promote your own products and services?
I have a client with a ballroom dancing website where they sell ballroom dresses. Facebook is more visual than Twitter, so that's where their customers hang out, and that's where they focus the majority of their social media efforts.
They are active on both LinkedIn and Twitter, but Facebook is where they focus their attention.
I, on the other hand, focus my efforts on LinkedIn because more of my customers hang out there and my business is not particularly visual.
Once you’ve settled on the sites you’re going to focus on the same old rules apply: quality not quantity.
The Internet already has a surfeit of information on how to promote your articles successfully on the social networks, so I won't repeat that information in detail here, other than to summarise:
- Mingle with the group
- Initiate, participate and comment on discussions
- Promote and share other group members’ content more than your own
- Answer questions wherever you can
- Limit promotion of your own content to just your best stuff
In other words, be a good citizen and neighbour!
Social Media marketing is a fast moving, ever changing field.
Recognise that, currently, there are different flavours of social media sites and they have different strengths, weaknesses and rules.
This, of course, is almost certain to change (look how Pinterest has burst onto the scene) so keep watching developments closely, particularly of new sites that are launched, and be ready to adjust your approach as soon as it’s necessary.
Choose the sites you focus on thoughtfully and become a good citizen when you join.
I said in the article on forum marketing that it could become a real drain on your time. The same is true several times more so with social media..!
When you’re being presented with all sorts of images to look at and videos to watch time can disappear in an instant.
So be sure to develop a disciplined process, just as with forum marketing, to help you make best use of your time!