Content is King online - so were always being told and most people who work in the digital marketing arena are aware that great content has the power to drive traffic. With social media marketing becoming an essential part of the digital marketing toolkit this means that content needs to be more social media friendly than ever before.
Social means sharing and people will only share compelling content that they want to bring to the attention of family and friends. This means that the quality of your content is more important than ever before - not only does it need to add value with interesting information that provides readers with a useful resource to pass on to others, it needs to have the WOW factor!
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND (SEO)
Recent reports heralding the demise of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) have had digital marketing experts in a flurry as they attempt to come up to speed with a new skill - Social Media Optimization (SMO). With Google search results returning an increasing number of ads, a recent report by Forresters reveals that in 2012 a whopping 32% of consumer discovery came via Social Media as opposed to 54% via search. This is a growing trend as recommendations from friends and family are far more likely to be trusted than search results.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA OPTIMIZATION?
Were probably all aware of how to use SEO effectively in a digital marketing strategy, but Social Media Optimization is the new kid on the block that we all need to get to know if we want to carry on driving traffic. SMO means that marketing campaigns now need to focus on customer-centric (rather than Google-centric) interaction - inviting people into a conversation rather than broadcasting a message to them.
Its all about taking part in the online conversation, listening to social media chatter and acting on the results - joining in with the conversation. This means we need to have a Social Media team/manager that will respond quickly and generate a great customer experience. Its no longer a case of keywords, its a case of Communication with a capital C.
Nowadays its not enough to just add some social media sharing buttons to your website and hope for the best - its time to get stuck in and take control of your social media presence. You need to reach a wider audience and here are some tips on how to make your content more social - more shareable if you wish.
1 - COMPELLING CONTENT
Traditional content (articles or blog posts) is just not enough - your content needs to be compelling enough to make sure you stand out from the crowd. The content on your website needs to be irresistible so that readers want to share it with family and friends. Content that appeals to peoples emotions, helps people solve a problem or offers real value that is just not available from your competitors.
2 - TELL YOUR STORY
Corporate websites with no personality don't usually engage people, they bore people. This means taking an imaginative approach to how you say what you have to say. Try telling your company's story - how you started out, what your mission is, how you overcame the problems you faced when setting up your business, personal information about yourself and your employees - these are all interesting topics that your readers will find fascinating, making them want to connect with you/your company.
3 - MAKE IT PERSONAL
Think about your Meet the Team webpage and look at ways of spicing it up to make it more interesting (check out some great examples here). Consider using a gregarious identity (the person who started the business or a social media savvy staff member) as the voice of your website - a character that readers will identify with and remember.
Adding this personal touch means that you must remember to connect with your readers. If somebody engages with you (via your website or via one of the social media platforms you use) then its essential that you respond (and quickly). This sort of reader engagement is a valuable opportunity for you to connect with your customers (and prospective customers) and is a great way of recruiting brand advocates who will share your content.
If you're getting negative comments/attention, don't make the mistake of ignoring it (or even worse, deleting it). Turn it to your advantage by responding in a positive manner. Take on board what's been said and make sure that you do something to address the situation and post it. Readers will see your positive response and react positively - a great way to create trust in your brand.
4 - WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
Most corporations broadcast their message to their potential customers/clients - its the way we've been used to doing things. However, todays online consumers don't want to be spoken down to in this way - they want to be friends, that's what social is all about.
Consider rewriting your website content to make it more personable and friendly - read the content out loud to determine whether it sounds business-like or cordial. Use joke terms now and again - it will make your readers smile and if they're smiling they're more likely to share.
5 - TITIVATE YOUR TITLES
Titles can be the most important part of your online content - you need to make the titles titillating enough to ensure readers actually read the rest of the text. If the titles are eye-catching they will compel your readers to look more closely at the content. Intriguing titles will catch peoples attention and make them want to read (and share) the content. For more advice on how to write great titles, check out this article.
6 - BREAKING UP ISN'T HARD TO DO
Reading online is a very different experience to reading in print - an online audience will generally skim read. This means that website owners/webmasters need to optimize the text for the online reading experience. Most people faced with a screen full of text will not bother reading (let alone sharing) the article/content.
Your content needs to be split up into easily digestible chunks of text, rather than huge, monotonous blocks of words. This means breaking up the chunks of text into manageable pieces. Keep the paragraphs short (5 or 6 lines) and use bullet points if possible to spread things out even further.
Sub-headings are a great way of splitting the text into readable sections and a great way of drawing attention to what's being said.
7 - A PICTURE TELLS A THOUSAND WORDS
An image is one of the most useful tools you have to break up your content - the more images, the merrier. Make sure the images are well-spaced throughout the article/page - people reading online are usually very visual and plenty of pictures will serve to make the content more appealing to readers.
If the images are cute or funny, they will work even harder for you and your readers are much more likely to share them. After all, according to Friskies, 15% of all internet traffic is cat-related. A Toronto based digital ad agency recently made a tongue in cheek video about catvertising which got 1.5 million viewers in two months and won them 3 new contracts! Never underestimate the power of the cute, the cuddly and the downright funny.
8 - LIST IT
People love lists - they are easy to scan read and easy to digest. there's so much information available online that lists allow readers to quickly browse whats on offer and determine whether they want to read more. Lists are much more likely to be shared compared with other content/articles - so consider using lists on your website. They can be easier to write and are very linkable. For more information on why to use lists, check out these Top 10 Reasons why Top 10 Lists are so popular.
9 - MAKE IT MOBILE
With so many people accessing the internet via mobile devices nowadays, it really is essential that your content is accessible to mobile users. Forbes predicts that by 2017 87% of connected devices will be smartphones and tablets. Providing mobile users a great experience is essential if you don't want to lose customers to competitors who have adapted to this trend.
10 - BUTTON IT UP
Make sure that your website/content is easy for readers to share by including social sharing buttons. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ - if the buttons are there next to every article, then its easy for readers to share with a click of the mouse. These social sharing buttons can be set to follow the reader as they scroll down the page, meaning that they're always available and readers can spread the word about your content whenever they feel like.
Social Media is one of the most powerful tools that marketers have available and using social media to your advantage will keep your company ahead of your competitors. No business, large or small, can afford to ignore the opportunities that social media offers in the digital age.
The more people that share a piece of content, the higher it will rank in the search results and search engines look at the number of social shares when determining how relevant content is.
Social sharing acts as a stamp of approval for a landing page. Thousands of shares mean that the content must contain something of value. So many businesses are installing social sharing plug ins to encourage consumers to share as much as possible and social sharing is predicted to outweigh traditional inbound links by the end of 2014.
Don't get left behind - strut your stuff so that it can be shared.
Jonny Ross specialises in Social & Digital Marketing and Organic Search. He has a proven track record in the retail e-commerce field and now specialises in providing and enhancing social and digital services in the B2B and B2C sectors.