How Many Flavors Do You Have? Harnessing the SEO impact of Social Media

Last week I presented to the SEMNE professional organization in Rocky Hill Connecticut to a room full of search engine optimization experts. In surveying the crowd in advance of delivering this presentation, many attendees wanted to know how social media can help build a website’s inbound links. To explain how this works, I used the following analogy.

How many cereal boxes do you have?

We have all noticed the remarkable variety of cereal types in the grocery store. An entire aisle has been dedicated to only a few cereal companies, who each have dozens of brands on the shelf.  Cereal companies provide this varieties to increase the the amount of shelf space the own, and the likelihood of sell at least one box to each shopper. The aisle is a finite space, and they want as much of that space as possible. It is this same philosophy the SEO expert should consider in leveraging social media. Every employee profile created on Linkedin, the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare accounts, and blog post that mentions the brand, give the company one more item in Google search results. So, like creating another brand of cereal for the aisle, each property is an opportunity to get your brand in front of your customer or prospect. These properties also build an inbound linking program to help raise the quality of the website overall.

Create a Sustainable Content Strategy

It is important to note that setting up these properties is only the beginning. You must have a content strategy that considers your audience and what they are interested in. Your content should be helpful and interesting, not advertising stuffed with key words. This strategy should be sustainable, and relevant to your audience. You should monitor what people are commenting on and sharing, and tweak your content to reflect what you are continually learning from your audience.

Below are my slides from the presentation. Soon I will post the talk itself, with the slides incorporated. Let me know what you think.

Businesses Benefit from Strategic Social Media Programs

Bridge to CustomersWhile social networking began as a consumer activity, it has become a crucial component of most business marketing strategies as it allows companies to reach highly targeted audiences with custom messaging to build brand awareness and establish a relationship with the customer who now expect companies to be reachable and accountable.

Business Benefits
Businesses are now regularly using tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn for hiring, customer support, product development, brand recognition, and, of course, client acquisition and retention. Social media has another benefit: the cost of acquiring customers is significantly lower than placing ads, and creates a lasting relationship.

The benefits of a quality social media marketing program include:

  • Transparent, authentic feedback from your audience
  • Integrates well with conventional marketing programs
  • Reach highly-targeted audiences
  • Improves search engines positioning
  • Lower cost than advertising
  • More long term and wider impact than conventional public relations

Listen first, Act second
Buyers look to objective internet sources to compare business products and services including existing customers who are more than willing to share their experience with these products. Companies can’t control the chatter, but they can learn what customers want.

Brands such as Comcast have made major strides in customer service by listening on Twitter. When their brand is mentioned, they know. When someone has a problem, they help them within minutes. They follow the first rule of social media: listen first, act second. Maintaining a regular monitoring program helps to understand customer sentiment and how it changes as you implement online programs.

Defining Success
Measuring the success of a social media campaign is possible only if you define your targets in advance. Whether they include increased traffic, website conversions or leads, you must have clear targets for successful campaigns, at short-term and long-term time intervals. A few examples of what success might look like include:

  • Gaining a better understanding of your customers
  • Increase brand exposure in ways which were not possible before
  • Reducing costs for achieving the same targets using other marketing tactics
  • Increase sales and conversions

Some great resources to compliment this blog post:

Social Commerce, Social Media Today, November 2, 2010

Content for People, Not Robots, Impressions Through Media, September 18, 2010