SUMMARY: In the recent MarketingSherpa webinar, "Develop a Winning Combination for Social Media Integration" (sponsored by Aquent), MECLABS’ Kaci Bower discussed how big a role your team plays in social integration effectiveness, as well as some practices you can use to improve results.
In the following webinar recap, which includes the full webinar replay, we asked Bower to expand upon some highlights of her presentation.
by Brad Bortone, Senior Research Editor, and Stonie Clark, Research Associate
When it comes to search and email marketing programs, the benefits of integrating with social media are acknowledged by 75% of organizations practicing integration, according to the 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition. But, without proper practices and people in place, your social integration efforts may not be as profitable as they could be.
In a recent webinar, Kaci Bower, Senior Research Analyst, MECLABS, covered key strategies for attracting and developing the right team, as well as best practices the team will need for effective social media integration.
Here are some of the key points she discussed with us, following the webinar:
Tip #1: Monitor your online reputation, and address negative commentary about your brand
According to Bower, reputation management is both a search and social issue. Your customers talk about your brand in social media, and potential customers find this information through searches --whether conducted in a traditional search engine or on a social site. Reputation monitoring should be a central piece of your social media integration strategies.
"Make sure you’re monitoring online press, conversations and review sites for negative commentary about your brand," Bower says. "If you discover such commentary, reach out to address the complaints, and try to resolve the issue on the same page hosting the complaint. This way, visitors who discover a complaint or negative review via search will also see your timely response."
Tip #2: Add content to your sites by hosting and fostering an online community
"It takes time to build a rich community that regularly posts to forums and message boards," Bower adds. "But, you can start small and expand your efforts over time. One good starting point is the development of a company blog -- or a renewed commitment to an existing (and possibly stagnating) one. Allow comments, ratings and reviews, as these features foster community interaction and help generate even more relevant content."
Tip #3: Quickly optimize social media to boost search rankings
It is crucially important both to optimize social media profiles and to use keywords in status updates.
"Though you don’t have control or much control over the design of Facebook Fan pages or Twitter feeds, you can control the content on these pages," Bower says. "Search engines index this content and list brands’ social media profiles in search results, so optimizing the content on these profiles can help you get more first page search results for your brand.
"Likewise, when it comes to keywords, it’s important to include targeted SEO keywords whenever you post to social media, to take advantage of real-time search features. This also helps you build keyword relevance around your social presences."
Social signals are another way to quickly boost search rankings. If you produce content that’s worth sharing, you can engage influencers and promote social sharing through strong calls-to-action. You can also improve rankings for targeted search terms, if enough people start sharing this content through social networks.
Bower added an important note about the above: "Just know that these ‘instant’ rankings usually don’t last very long, when compared to pages that gained rank status through enduring link-building efforts. But it is a viable starting point. You can accomplish this by putting keywords in the page title, URL and the body content."
In determining social signals, search engines take into account the quantity of social mentions on social networks, the quality of these mentions as measured through the social authority of the account, and the domain authority of the site hosting the content.
Tip #4: Focus on customers first
When engaging with social media, focus first on addressing customer needs, interacting with your audience and providing good content. In short, this means your SEO goals must take a backseat to your audience’s experience.
This doesn’t mean your SEO efforts must suffer in parallel. Keeping the audience experience in mind still presents you with a wealth of opportunities to use social media for distributing keyword-rich, compelling content, and attracting links that can boost natural search rankings.
Tip #5: Make good use of keywords to improve organic search rankings
"Social media marketing is a great way to generate inbound links," Bower says. "Social audiences want to link to good, relevant, useful or entertaining content. When you regularly generate content [of this sort] -- content that is also optimized with your keywords -- you can use social networks to broadly distribute this content and entice followers to share and publish links. This will help your reputation, establish a sense of authority in your market, and translate into more natural links coming back to your site."
Tip #6: Justify costs to management through customer engagement
Remember that when engaging with social media, you want to first focus on addressing customer needs, interacting with your audiences, and providing good content. Entertaining audiences is often one way of doing that, if they’ve shown interest in such content. If they feel entertained, they will respond appropriately and share your content.
This, in turn, will raise awareness of not just your content but also you -- and can help extend your reach. The greater your reach, the greater your potential to achieve your social marketing objectives.
Beyond entertaining content, it is also useful to include educational content. While it’s not recommended to overpromote your own products and information, it is beneficial to follow the themes established in your social content strategy.
When you start seeing the social behaviors you’re looking for, reinforce them by responding to users and offering positive feedback. Likewise, when your efforts aren’t working to expectations, be willing to alter, modify and adjust them accordingly.
Tip #7: Create relevant, interesting social content that serves SEO agendas
Content marketing optimization is, to borrow and paraphrase a definition by the Content Marketing Institute, "The art of understanding exactly what your prospects and customers need to know, deliberately producing optimized content based on keyword phrases that are driving organic search traffic and conversions, and then delivering that optimized content to them in a relevant and compelling way to grow your business by socializing the content through your organization’s social networks."
This is a lengthy definition, but one that indicates exactly what you need to do to create relevant, interesting social content that serves SEO agendas.
When asked specific steps to accomplish this, Bower says, "First, focus on aligning content with your goals, audience and opportunities. Then, let [results] drive your content format and topic choices."
She offered the following steps:
Gauge the content demand by keyword area.
Examine social conversations to define the context of the content demand. Contextual analysis of social conversations gives you a truer sense of user language. How are they talking about it? Where? Why? How often? What kinds of answers are they looking for?
Outline content topics and keywords for which you’re optimizing, and create content themes by month.
Inventory your existing content. Compare existing content sources against the required content, and evaluate the quality of existing content.
Develop a gap-closure plan, and create new or edit existing content.
Finally, distribute optimized content to your social networks and give content consumers every opportunity to socialize it. Why is that important? Because search engines factor social signals into their organic search algorithms. Social media and social networking are about relationships, relationships speak to relevance, and relevance is at the heart of organic search.
Tip #8: Understand trend research
Tools such as Google Trends and the "trending topics" list on Twitter Search give you a glimpse into which topics are hot on the Web. Regularly scan these resources to identify relevant topics, and quickly generate content to help attract searchers.
Also, coordinate research efforts between your search and social teams. Teams in charge of search and social marketing can benefit from the other’s data and analysis, so keep the lines of communication open.
Search and social data are complementary. Search data dictates key terms with high search volumes or competition. Social data identifies consumer language, hot topics and trends. There may be times when you focus social media activities around specific keywords, such as putting one of your target keywords in Facebook updates, if it applies to the message.
Also, make sure your search team is aware of keyword trends identified by your social team’s Web monitoring, as this can aid in search keyword list and content development. This monitoring may uncover keyword trends that can be useful in search keyword list and content development exercises.
Tip #9: Diversify content between channels whenever possible
Some companies write the same message to all channels, neglecting to tailor the content accordingly for a specific channel. For example, they may fail to recognize how social media followers are likely in a different stage of the buying cycle than email subscribers. When doing this, these companies miss an opportunity to use a channel to communicate a unique message, or a twist on an existing message.
"Consumers will often check and compare messages across channels to select the medium that delivers the most relevant, helpful content," Bower says. "If you’re adding no additional value in one channel, they won’t bother engaging with you through that channel any further."
For more actionable advice about social media integration, listen to Kaci Bower and Chuck Coker in the full webinar replay:
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