The social media rage continues unabated, and with great reason. There is a lot to be gained by engaging with social media. However, social media is only one component of social link building.
The value of a received link can vary greatly. One link can easily be worth 1 million times more than another link, but more valuable links are much scarcer than less valuable ones. You can visualize this as a pyramid:
As it turns out, the social landscape isn't that much different. There are probably some relationships that are far more valuable to you than others.
For example, while each customer represents a valuable relationship, having a relationship with a highly influential media person who can get your message out to millions of potential customers will be more valuable to you. As with the high value links, there are inherently fewer of those higher value relationships to be had, as represented in this chart:
You can see that these scenarios have the same pyramid shape. Of course, there is some linkage here too. The most valuable relationships often are more valuable because they have the most valuable links to give.
As with link building, developing those more valuable relationships will require more effort. While many people are vying for each individual customer, the amount of effort typically made by people (such as your competition) to develop those higher value relationships is much higher. As a result it takes more effort to stand out and develop credibility with them.
Here's a list of seven types of social activity that can play a role in developing relationships and link building:
- Facebook: You just have to love the size of the Facebook audience, and the opportunities it creates. It's a great way to reach large audiences of people. The relationships can be with people you already know quite well, or if you have a Fan page, can be with people that you don't know, but who know you. While you can have deep relationships on Facebook, these tend towards occurring with people you already know via other means. As a method for developing relationships with other people it's a relatively impersonal environment.
- Twitter: Twitter is another great environment for engaging with people. Once again, relationships can range from highly personal relationships, but as with Facebook, these are usually with people you know by other means. Twitter can be used to develop connections with others, but the volume and directness of the communication remains low.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn also offers opportunities for developing and expanding relationships. When you're connected to someone on LinkedIn you can send them an InMail. You can also sign up for a paid version of LinkedIn's service that lets you send InMails to people you aren't currently connected with. This is a great way to reach people because the open rate of InMail messages is so high. Or, if you don't want to pay for that privilege, you can ask someone you know for an introduction to the person you would like to reach. Because these communications are one-on-one, they can allow for a more comfortable environment in which to develop a personal connection.
- Blogging: Blogging is a social activity as well, and is interesting because of its one-to-many nature. In addition, through comments you can interact with your readers, and if you make your preferred contact information available you can develop some one-on-one relationships.
- Meetups and conferences: Now we begin to shift our social activity to the real world! Going to meetups and conferences can really help develop relationships because you can get face-to-face. If you present at a conference you get some of that one-to-many characteristic you have with blogging, except now the audience gets to see you live. Even if you don't present, there are many opportunities to interact while looking the other person right in the eye. Powerful stuff. Going to the conference costs money (planes, hotels, conference fees, food, etc.; or even if you just go to a local meetup, you need to spend a lot of your time to interact with a small number of people).
- Face-to-face meetings: These represent the next level of expense because you incur many of the same costs of going to a conference. You spend a lot of time to interact with a small number of people, and may also incur travel costs if the meeting is not near where you live/work.
- One-on-one: Lastly, we have the method with the highest level of effort -- the one-on-one meeting. Here you incur all the same effort as in a face-to-face meeting with a group, but you only get to interact with a single person! However, this allows for the greatest development of trust, and for your most important relationships is a must.
Some things aren't in this list, such as phone calls, but it's pretty easy to figure out where other activities fit in.
For example, phone calls would probably go between LinkedIn and blogging. However, you would have to reconsider that if the call is unsolicited. Unsolicited calls inherently start by instilling distrust -- not a good way to start any relationship!
Here's a look at all of our social activities in a pyramid format:
The bottom represents the least personal, least effort part of the spectrum, and the top represents the most personal, most effort.
How Does This All Relate to Link Building?
Building trust is a crucial element in link building. Regardless of how you go about it, the person providing the link has to believe that the recipient page and website is deserving of visibility on their site.
You aren't going to give a link to someone who you think is a dirty rotten spammer, or whom you don't trust. All the social channels discussed above are ways of building trust.
There are tradeoffs between volume and level of trust that can be built, just as there are tradeoffs in volume and the value of a relationship. Successful web marketers will work the trust and effort pyramids to maximum affect.
So in principle, you can merge our two pyramids to create a visual view of using social techniques as a link building tool:
Higher levels of social activity should be used to pursue higher quality links.
That doesn't mean that you can't get high quality links from Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn -- you can. These spaces can be quite effective in helping you start a dialogue with a major influencer in your space. Given the impact they have on your goals, however, you should seek to move them up the chain to more personal levels of communication as quickly as you can.