March 18, 2009
We've covered aspects of social media and Twitter the past, e.g., Jim Spencer's great article "Twitter Is Not for the Birds" where he explained how to find people to follow as well as how Twitter can be a great business generation tool. Also my article "Are You Scared of Social Media?" where I talked about how social media may be something you've been using for years, but with a new name.
Today I'll show you how to create your own social media monitoring and marketing strategy that complements your SEO campaign. While I'm going to talk mostly about Twitter, you can apply much of this info to other social media as well.
Social Media and Links
The first thing I want you to do is to take off your old-fashioned SEO linking cap that tells you, "It's all about the links." This is the wrong mentality.
While you can link to stuff in your tweets, those links won't directly gain you link popularity from the search engines. This is because links from Twitter and most other social media have the "nofollow" link attribute on them by default and therefore don't count toward Google's PageRank algorithm. We could debate whether there is still some link popularity benefit with other search engines or even perhaps some with Google, but I'll save that for another article because links are not what we're after today.
If Not for Links, Why Bother?
Your goal with social media is not to directly get links, but to be where people are already talking about your industry, participating in the conversation, and making them aware that you exist. It's almost the opposite of SEO. With SEO, you try to make your website as relevant as possible for the words people might be typing into Google and hope they eventually find you there. With social media, you have the opportunity to grab their attention before they ever get to Google! They are no longer nameless, faceless searchers, but people looking to other people for advice, recommendations, and help.
How Can You Help?
First, you need to find out where the conversation is happening and who's having it. The secret to this is the Twitter search engine. Twitter Search opens up a whole new world beyond your followers. It's akin to the telephone "party lines" you've seen in old movies, where everyone could hear what everyone else was talking about.
Start searching Twitter for anyone with your main keywords in their Tweets. If they're asking a question that you can answer, go ahead and @reply to them. You can follow them, but you may only want to if their Twitter stream seems to be of real interest to you. Many times people have one particular query or statement about something that relates to what you offer, but their overall Twitter stream may not. That's fine – there's nothing wrong with having a one-time communication with these folks.
Here's a real-life example. One of our recent SEO Training Class students owns a company that designs and manufactures some cool pet beds and pet travel crates. The day before our class I did a Twitter search for "pet travel" or "pet crates" or something along those lines. There was a lot of junk, but one person had mentioned that they needed to buy a dog travel crate. I didn't know this person, they didn't follow me, nor I them. Their Tweet just appeared in the Twitter search. So I @replied to them and simply said, "Have you looked into the cool pet crates from ___?" And provided a shortened tracking link to our class attendee's website.
Tracking Twitter Clicks
Because you have only 140 characters to work with in Twitter, numerous URL shortening services have cropped up. What they do is provide you with a shortened, redirected URL that has fewer characters than the original. On top of that, many of them provide you with clickthrough statistics. My service of choice is Cli.gs.
The next day during the class I told the story to the students and we checked to see how many clicks the site had gotten. It was around 15. (As of today, a few weeks later, there were 20.) So, while I was only talking to one specific person whom I had never engaged with before, others – presumably my own followers or others searching for info on pet crates – saw my Tweet and clicked through.
Did the clicks make any sales? That I don't know, but if I were measuring it for our own site or for a client's site, I would have set up a campaign with Google Analytics that tracked and measured those clicks at a very granular level. That way I would know exactly what time those clicks came in and if they converted.
Now, remember, I only made one Twitter search at one particular moment in time. While 20 clicks is no big deal to many companies, imagine if I had searched for 20 or more relevant phrases and replied to other people who were discussing pet travel options. If just one person each had a Tweet that fit my 20 queries, and I replied to all 20 of them, we might have seen 400 clickthroughs!
Monitoring Your Space
The other cool thing about search.twitter.com is that you can create RSS feeds for as many Twitter searches as you want. You just add them to your favorite RSS reader and monitor them on a regular basis (at least daily if not hourly). I use iGoogle for the twitter feeds I monitor. Be sure to also create a search feed for your company name to see if and when people are talking about you so that you can be part of that conversation and monitor your reputation as necessary. There's even a service called "TweetBeep" that enables you to receive email alerts for specific Twitter searches.
The Fine Line Between Work and Play
You will need to invest some time into this for it to work well. You (or someone) will need to "hang out" at Twitter at least a couple of times a day, perhaps a half-hour each time. During that time you can follow additional people who have followed you, look for other people to follow who would be interested in your offerings, and visit other sites of interest that your followers have pointed out to you. Be sure to make comments about others' Tweets that you like. Most of all, be authentic. Show your human side and don't be afraid to just talk about nothing. If you only talk about your products and services, people will get bored with you and lose interest. Say what's on your mind, use humor, and reply to others who are also just chatting for fun. This way, you'll have the best of both social media worlds!
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.
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