More of our clients are asking what their social media footprint should look like. The explosion of social media over the past 24 to 36 months has been incredible, often making it difficult to know where exactly to begin when assessing its viability as a marketing channel.
Yet when forced to think only of how social impacts search, and vice versa, there are four areas where we've been able to demonstrate success in maximizing the integral nature of these two communications channels.
Effective search and social integration includes discerning the value of social media; uncovering the lingo; influencing the conversation; and the new link graph.
Discerning the Value of Social Media
Most B2B marketers don't yet know what to make of social media. Many are apprehensive, but feel compelled to be active.
Many also find it difficult to stay current with the constant barrage of new tools and platform enhancements. It's a very intimidating space for the lay marketer.
What value do you hope to derive by engaging with social media? Before beginning any activity, determine your social media key performance indicators (KPIs). This will align your actions with your overarching business objectives and let you fight off the temptation to chase new, shiny objects.
It doesn't matter how many times your tweets are being retweeted if your primary objective is white paper downloads. In this case, the value of social media to the organization is in its ability to produce an audience that is engaged enough to download our assets rather than creating more chatter.
Stick to your KPIs if you want tangible value from social media.
Uncover the Lingo
In B2B marketing the "who" is just as important as the "what" and the "why." Web analytics tools do an exceptional job at telling us "what" happened across our websites, and savvy analysts can help us to understand "why" certain behaviors emerged. What's often missing from web analytics alone though is "who" comprises our website audiences.
In B2B search, you shouldn't construct programs to communicate to audiences based on their personal demographics. It shouldn't matter if someone on the other end is 20 or 90, male or female, rich or poor.
What you should care about is the role they occupy within their respective organizations. Set up search programs tailored to the unique needs of various stakeholders to the purchase decision.
The most effective way to drive engagement and conversion through search is to understand the vocabulary used by those stakeholders, and make sure your programs adopt that vocabulary.
Social monitoring tools help uncover the language used by the market, and shape an understanding of how the space is understood and characterized. Specific hot-button topics can be uncovered too.
Search programs that focus on the types of keyword phrases observed through social media and address hot-button topics tend to be the ones that stand out and convert at higher rates. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for B2B.
Influencing the Conversation
Just as social chatter influences effective search programs, so too can search influence social.
Consider this: if a company enjoys prominent positioning for a certain group of keyword terms through organic search, but the market seems to be searching for a slight derivative of those keyword phrases, how can the company capitalize on its high positioning? The answer may be to attempt to influence the conversation through focused social media activity.
As organizations embrace social media, and accrue fans, followers, likes, retweets, comments, etc., a certain persona for the organization emerges. Where that persona is well-followed and has established authority and influence, an opportunity exists to reshape the conversation.
A growing body of data suggests that, as audiences are exposed to communications messaging via social, they turn to search and perform independent research before forming opinions. In recognition of that dynamic, it's possible to seed content through an authoritative social persona that subtly recasts the conversation around the keyword phrases that the company is already well-positioned for.
Rather than focusing SEO energies on the keyword phrase(s) of the day, turn the conversation in your favor through social media.
The NEW Link Graph
Social media has forever changed the nature of sharing content online. People now share hot topical content through Twitter tweets and Facebook wall posts, where historically that content may have been shared through blog posts or references from websites.
In the olden days of SEO, a key tactic to securing a strong backlink profile was to author content earmarked as "linkbait." This may have been a controversial blog post, a unique point of view on a newsworthy item, or perhaps a new product launch that excited the existing customer base.
Whatever it was, savvy webmasters would craft content aimed at enticing others to link back to that content from their own websites.
Today, as a result of the popularity of social sharing, link profiles of most websites today look substantially different than they did a few years ago. The impact to link building tactics is still being assessed, but this paradigm shift may not be all bad news for SEOs.
Although links from most social venues don't pass any authority in Google's eyes, the more frequently a website is referenced via social media, the more frequently its content is being crawled and indexed.
The arms race to solve real-time search gets more aggressive by the day, and you can take advantage of that by promoting your share-worthy content through social media outlets. Trust me, Google will follow.