The Importance of Relevance to Social Media

by Jennifer Osborne January 16th, 2008 

Social media has so often been connected with Linkbait in our industry that it's almost become a truism that social media drives low quality traffic.

This isn't the case. Social media CAN drive quality traffic.

But before we can ascertain that social media can drive quality traffic we must first define:

What is Quality Traffic?

A) Every website is going to have deferring definitions of what quality is for them. Because the Bar varies from individual to individual; talking in absolutes just doesn't make any sense. I.e 30% bounce rate or 5 minutes spent on the site.

As such, quality traffic can only be defined as traffic that meets or exceeds the site's own benchmarks. Personally, I think that bounce rate, time spent on site, and # of page views are good leading indicators to evaluate a specific piece of content. Change in # of RSS feeds or open rate in your RSS are good longer term indicators

B) In situations where you have been able to monetize the site itself (as opposed to the products on your site) such as in the case of selling ad space. Then ANY traffic is quality.

In this case, the more important question is "is it sustainable?" advertisers don't pay for one-off peaks.

C) Generally I prefer looking at Hard metrics; as close to the ROI equation as I can get. However there is one scenario where Impressions count large in social media. And that's where the overall objective is simply branding. If you've got a recognizable brand and you are launching a new product then there is some Branding value in just being seen. Even if those eyeballs don't click through to your site.

How can Social Media drive Quality traffic?

It all boils down to relevance. Both of the content to the site itself and of the Social Medium's target market to your site's target market.

I'm going to use Digg as a specific example because it's the medium most often trashed as low quality traffic.

Anybody who has spent any time on Digg knows that it's heavily influenced by Science and Technology enthusiasts. Aside from the "oddstuff" Jerry Springer-isk pieces, you will usually find a good smattering of space, hardware, software, and environmental pieces recently made popular.

So if your website is truly in these niches (and you're not just writing sensational stories that you know will appeal to techies meanwhile you sell ladies wear) then Digg IS going to drive quality traffic to your site.

Brand Name alone is not going to get votes on Digg. If you want traffic you need for your article to go HOT. For your article to go hot, your content must differentiate itself from the hundreds (thousands ?) of submissions each day.

If you are not going to go the sensational route, then you have to write a piece that:

a) Provides new information that is not readily available i.e. pictures of Mercury from the Messenger spacecraft.

b) Provides new information that we did not have before like a scientific study or invention.

c ) Are genuinely helpful i.e. 'how to kiddie proof your home', 'how to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle' or 'how to download music to your new mp3 player'.

If the piece is relevant to your site, AND it is genuinely good content like above, then this traffic:

  • Is not going bounce
  • Will stay around long enough to at least read the article
  • Has a greater propensity to check out what else you have on your site.

Further, for those sites on a CPM model where sustainability is also an issue, again if you go with a strategy focused around Quality and Relevant Content; it should be possible to go hot in social media with some regularity.

And if you have a recognizable brand then those impressions that don't even click through to your site are also of value.

So can social media sites drive quality traffic? Even Digg?

Absolutely!

If you write Quality content that is Relevant to your niche.

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2 Responses to “The Importance of Relevance to Social Media”

  1. Nick James says:

    Great post Jenn. I've promised myself I'll become more active in Digg this year, but with the horror stories of its anti-SEO bias, I wonder is it worth it? It seems a lot of hassle if everything you submit gets immediately buried because it relevant to search marketing or the like (they don't even give you a suitable category to submit to). Saying that though, Jeff seems to be doing all right over there.
    I know what you're saying though regarding other niches and it may be worth dabbling to keep my hand in, so to speak, should it one day come in useful.

  2. Thanks Nick, I look forward to reading your next post on Quiddity!