With A Little Help From My Friends

by Barry Welford June 3rd, 2009 

The title of that popular Beatles song captures an approach to help your website better achieve its goals.  Some years back you might have thought the key to that was to make your website very visible in Google keyword searches.  That is still very important.  One feature of the Internet is that a search engine like Google can aim to catalogue all the information so that people may readily find what they are looking for.  Search engines  will certainly display your web pages if you do the right things in SEO terms.

The other ever-more important feature of the Internet is that people can easily communicate with people.  Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg or StumbleUpon now allow individuals to share their views on what is worth watching.  If you do your social media marketing well, you may even get much of the traffic to your website coming from social media rather than search engines.  This post will explore how to handle social media better.

Analog Beatles by kevindooley

Social Media Also Help With Search Engine Visibility

Social media may cause more people to see your web page, particularly if a large number of people are indicating or voting that it is a web page worth viewing.  The social media pages themselves may serve to give a link to your web page or perhaps one of the social media visitors may be so impressed that they blog about it.  Either way these additional links help to make your web page more visible in search engines.

What exactly are Social Media?

To handle social media better, the first thing to understand is the nature of social media.  There is no tight definition of social media.  Indeed the phrase, social media, as it is commonly used tends to be an oxymoron.  An oxymoron, as you may remember, is a two-part phrase where the two parts are contradictory.  Media most often is assumed to be mass media such as TV or radio.  Social on the other hand implies relationships between individuals. 

The two very different words making up social media almost define a social media scale..  The minimally social ones merely allow you to vote on items that are classified by the medium.  An example of this is reddit.com. To an extent, amazon.com is similar in that you can review products and others can even say whether they found your reviews helpful.

At the other end of the spectrum, social media can be an online space where you can 'meet' and interact with others.  Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of this.  Others will be found to fall between these two extremes.  StumbleUpon for example is closer to reddit but does provide for messages between friends.  Digg has only recently backed off and moved more towards the minimal social content end of the scale.  You can no longer shout to your followers but are encouraged to share using some other vehicle like Twitter or Facebook. 

Twitter itself was very much at the social end of the scale in its genesis.  The objective was to let your followers know your current status.  Many still use it that way.  However some participants have abandoned that approach. They seek to get the maximum number of followers by following as many other people as they can.  Since some people have arranged that automatically they will follow anyone who follows them, this approach to develop a following works well.  However at that point with say 50,000  followers you have almost created your own mass medium.

If you want to check out some data on people using Twitter in this way, check out the TwitterScore website.  This shows data only for those who have chosen to register with the site but the numbers are illuminating.  Over 500 people have more than 26,000 followers.  In the US, there are 28,266 Twitters registered with an average following of 3,055.  Surprisingly in Poland there are 67 sites that are registered with an average number of followers of 30,851.  These numbers are staggering and show that such people can hardly be using Twitter as a social medium but each has turned it into their own 'mass medium'. 

This article has little to teach such power users but deals rather with people who are taking the true social media approach of spreading the word among their friends.

Starting off another year - Focus Friends by lissalou66

Friends or Followers

Most social media are very clear in indicating that you have followers rather than describing them as friends.  If you have followers, then the chance they may see any particular blog post you announce is very, very low given the huge torrent of information that is added to the Internet every single day.  In turn, if they see your blog post, the chance that they will alert their followers is also low, unless the blog post has some incredible buzz factor.

Of course not all your contacts on the web are followers.  Some of them may well be online friends, even if you have never met them.  Provided you do not overstep the bounds of friendship, it may well be that such friends will find your blog posts of interest and may wish to tell others about them.  This is a very reliable way of making more people aware of your blog posts in a positive way and increasing visitor traffic.  We will now describe how to do that most effectively.

Getting Your Friends Attention

One simple way of letting your friend and everyone else know that you have written a blog post is to create a tweet with the name of post, the short URL and perhaps some other intriguing words.  If you suspect that your friends have a good probability of seeing your tweet then this is one way that you can get their attention.  They can also easily send on the tweet using a retweet and perhaps others will in turn become aware.  Be aware that for your most important posts, using Twitter alone is probably quite insufficient.

A more reliable way of getting your friends' attention is to send a personal e-mail to each of them.  If you maintain a list of friends and their e-mail addresses then sending each a personal message is by far the most effective way of spreading the word.  The key caution here is to treat your friends with respect.  Ask for the help only on the blog posts which really deserve to be seen by a wider audience.   Make sure that it is clear you will do the same for them.

If you have a group of friends who wish to provide mutual help in getting the word out, then another mechanism is to start a Google group among these friends.  In this case a message sent to the group is then seen by every member of the group.  Such groups can function well over long periods of time.

What Do You Ask Your Friends To Do

Since what we are proposing is a mutual arrangement, there is a good chance they will act on it.  What should you be asking them to do?

The most important thing to ask is something where their doing it will be much more effective than if you do it.  Since they represent a second opinion, that is true of almost any action they may take.  However it is particularly important that others recommend your works rather than yourself in certain social media.  StumbleUpon for example will give less weight to your own recommendation for your own post.  Indeed if you repeat this too often you may be blocked from submitting other web pages.

For other social media it becomes less significant and you can recommend your own work without the same  degree of risk.  You would then provide a URL for the entry in that social medium to your friends and encourage them to vote the item up and tell others about the recommendation.

Which Social Medium To Work With

The choice of social medium is best determined from experience by watching what traffic resulted in the past when items did well in a particular social medium.  Sometimes a specialized social medium, like Design Float, can be very effective in bringing traffic.  Such specialized social media should be your first choice.  The important thing is not to overwhelm your friends with a long list of potential social media that they should cover.  Three or four in a single e-mail message is probably more than enough and they should be encouraged to handle only those where they are at ease..

StumbleUpon is very productive in visitor traffic terms and your friends should be encouraged to vote there and offer reviews.  As mentioned one of your friends should ideally be the one who registers the blog post in StumbleUpon in the first place.

One or two others from the following list are probably useful additions:

  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Mixx
  • Propeller

Keep Your Friendships Warm

This is all a very mutual process so you should watch out for your friends' posts and help them to be seen by others in a favorable light too.  Watching Twitter and ReTweeting their blog tweets is essential and is very effective in reminding them that you too are looking out for their interests.

Barry Welford

Offering practical, effective ways of strengthening Internet marketing strategy and getting bottom-line success, particularly through local SEO.

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