You’ve heard it before, here and probably elsewhere: Social media is about much more than exposure or coverage. Simply putting a friend request out and amassing a ton of retweets is not enough to achieve genuine social impact.
Now there’s some additional evidence that bears this argument out:
In short, Google officials have said that while the search engine giant does use Facebook and Twitter as part of the input in determining a site’s SEO ranking, it is a very small, low-key part. It’s more of a modifier of other data than it is an actual contributor in and of itself.
But before you go slashing the budget to your social media marketing department, hear out these few issues that explain why this means more attention, not less, should be paid to social media efforts.
It’s Social, not Digital
Despite being in the online realm (insert all the stereotypes about the cold, impersonal Internet here), social media is all about the first word. Social interactions are about relationships, conversations and, above all, respect and trust. Violate a trust or fail to provide respect, and you gain nothing at all. You could even find yourself blackballed as your reputation flies out of control online.
There is no magic formula to social media success, just as there is no magic formula to being socially acceptable and friendly. It involves politeness, attentiveness to the interests and needs of others (not just your own) and participation in the social scene as a whole. That’s it – hard work, performed with an attitude of courtesy. It isn’t complicated, just slow and requiring attention.
But Why Bother?
After all, it doesn’t correspond to SEO, so why sink more effort into social media?
Because social media is the key motivating factor in whether a video, advertisement or even random picture goes viral. The average user on Facebook has dozens of friends, and not all of those friends are the same. Say you have three people who are friends, each having 10 other friends. Only six of these friends are mutual friends among the three, which means there are 24 more people to reach. If each of them has the same ratio of friends… you get the picture.
So yes, adapting to social media does mean changing your perceptions of how marketing works. People can ignore it… they can block you online like they can’t block most commercials on television. You have to engage with them directly, converse in intelligent fashion and have the respect not to bombard them with your product nonstop. You have to know when to provide helpful input about your material, and when simply to listen. But the value of it, the potential return of genuine word of mouth rather than abstracted “website performance” metrics, is something worth fighting for and investing the additional time and money in.
Why Does It Work?
People like to be talked to. We are social animals, by and large, and having the ability to discuss topics with others is of vital importance to us instinctively, even if not consciously.
Additionally, people can see through fakes. Everyone has a customer service story where they’re told, “We appreciate your input,” and realize they’re just being read a line while their input is filed in the circular file. People respond far better to an honest comment, like, “We understand what you are saying, but for the following reasons we’re going to do what we feel works,” rather than being given the runaround. A genuine response reminds them there is another human being with their own restrictions and worries on the other side of the screen, and honesty gets a branding campaign point. Responsiveness and actual replies to commentary rather than rote recitations is also important, showing them you are listening and engaged, not just copypasting.
Believe it or not, engaging in good practices on social media sites while representing your brand will result in improved SEO for the brand whether Google directly ranks your Facebook performance in searches or not.
Word of mouth is still the strongest motivating factor in advertising. It’s the coveted Holy Grail. As you engage with others in social media, you are harnessing this power for your purposes. People who think highly of you will be more inclined to check out your website, and tell others to do so as well. Someone to whom you provide an answer to a particular issue that your brand covers might respond favorably to a request to link to you on his site. Traffic will build in the background, enhancing your standing. A conversation might lead to an interview with an online publication, or an advertising spot with a site whose owner you’ve had chats with.
They key is to understand the value of delayed benefits that result from being a nice, reasonable person. Gain a reputation as someone who is worthwhile to talk to, and people will want to talk to AND about you. The effort is extensive and the value is delayed; however, it will result in long-term support to your reputation that will allow your short-term advertising campaigns to go further, with more weight and endurance than if they were performed alone.