What is social media traction?
No one will come.
What the modern marketer needs to create is social media traction, whereby everything works together. Why? Because people have moved away from just using search, instead spending the bulk of their online time on social media.
Traditional online marketing no longer works. You can’t rely on JUST your website or JUST your advertising or JUST an article via PR in a paper or magazine to help generate new business or build brand profile.
The new marketing game plan is to integrate all of these so they work together, and specifically use social media marketing to help create good visibility. By this I mean marketing where the results are more than the sum of the individual parts. Why use social media? Because it’s where most people spend most time online, and so it’s what is increasingly influencing search metrics.
The push and pull of SEO
In the heyday of Google in the mid Noughties people spent most of their time on the internet and they actively searched. Specifically, they pulled information towards themselves by looking for it on Google or had what they were searching for pushed towards them by marketing, advertising or PR. The (inter)net result of this was that content-rich websites and blogs thrived, attracting tens of thousands of visitors a month with hardly any effort.
For example we had up to 30,000 visitors a month to Funky Angel in the mid 2000s (in the days of modem dial up, as well…!), a stat many would kill for now, yet it seemed normal to me then. Sadly, that is no longer the case. In fact, most established websites and blogs have seen their traffic plummet over the last few years and most new blogs are struggling to win traffic.
Most time online is spent on social media
Most people mostly spend their online time using social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and YouTube. On these apps people might start by looking for something, but mostly they look at what they are given (i.e. what is PUSHED towards them) by their friends and contacts.
Not just contacts, but what the algorithms of the apps decide they will want to look at based on what they have looked at before, whether that’s what shows up on their wall (Facebook) or what is suggested (Twitter, YouTube). If people do use search on the apps they will be shown a selection based on what they have looked at before. They rarely hop off and use Google or Bing, so they have become a captive audience.
To put this in context, even if someone likes your business on Facebook, the chances of that person organically seeing your updates going forward is about 2% and dropping, unless their friends also like your page and they all engage with it. Add to that Facebook’s changes and you can see why most brands are struggling to gain visibility.
On Twitter, content has a lifespan of 7 minutes on average, so unless you use proper Twitter Marketing strategy most of your followers won’t actually see what you share. YouTube’s search is a bit wonky owing to their bad auto labelling. Instagram requires expert knowledge of how to best use the platform for business as most people are there in social mode (obviously), and just sharing a pretty picture doesn’t achieve much unless it’s an INSANELY pretty picture. In fact, Instagram stories are a much better bet for gaining reach (which is also true on Facebook) and just opting to use an Instagram Influencer comes with its own risks.
What gets shared on social media?
Research has found that it’s usually funny stuff, sweet stuff, or stuff that outrages. Is that what your business produces? If it does, then you probably work for a charity or one of the biggest B2C brands, because few businesses tend to be able to create content like that – or would want to.
So where does that leave the other 99.9% of brands and businesses? Well, not very visible really. Just being there doesn’t work and pushing out your own announcements doesn’t mean they’ll get seen, and study after study shows people unfollow or ignore brands because of what they perceive to be boring, bland content. Even more interestingly, most people couldn’t care less if 81% of brands were to disappear overnight, and most want brands to take a lead and have values that align with their own. And to read more about that and other trends, check out the Trendspotting Social Media and the Rise of Social Goodness article I wrote for our 10th birthday.
TL;DR: So even if you think that announcement about the CEO is pretty great, chances no one else will and it’s not what will be shared on social.
Perhaps advertising is the answer then? Unfortunately even online advertising only gets a look in if it is very funny or utterly sweet and so primed to go viral on social media. Even then studies have found most people can’t remember who the actual brand is, even when they could remember the advert and shared it with friends.
Social advertising can a great solution if you know how to target it and use it to leverage the rest of your efforts. Sadly it mostly tends more towards being a ‘let’s do something, anything will do’ scattergun action rather than being done properly with measurable ROI.
In addition, the standard backlinks element of the online advertising, PPC and SEO arenas has gone through a massive change since Google targeted link portals. It also takes a very dim view of so called ‘bad bots’ (there’s been a huge rise in them over the last year or so) and if you have a lot of spam on your site or bad backlinks that link to you or you link to then you will get penalised.
This is because if a brand is involved in sending bad bots they may be a spammy site, and so find themselves blocked and blacklisted. The killer part of that is that it can happen without a legitimate business’s knowledge ie via 3rd party advertising or old link building for SEO purposes. Sadly few businesses have the knowledge or expert insights to even be able to work out why their traffic has plummeted, let alone fix it. (Do you want to know? Check out our SEO audit package.)
Linking SEO and social
There’s really only one search solution going forward and that’s to go social. Organically generating SEO over the last few years has increasingly meant using social media, not just keyword optimisation or link building. It’s something we have been involved with constantly, just as a side effect of doing social media marketing in the first instance, and then as a KPI in and of itself.
Now the converse is also true i.e. if you aren’t actively using social media marketing correctly your business’s visibility is likely to already be suffering, and this is only going get worse. Basically I don’t care how interactive or informative or pretty your website is, how optimised or even how good full of good content. People are going to find it less and less often unless you create social traction.
8 ways to create social media traction
- Create an interconnected web of content across many social media platforms that are all saying the same thing about the brand.
- Raise the business’s social media profile (the higher, the better) and keep on doing it day in, day out.
- Create killer content with killer headlines on a daily basis that people want to share.
- Build an engaged and interested community who share and recommend your content and output.
- Don’t just take out advertising in the local paper or generate PR coverage (although that will help, obviously), but USE it on social media to drive more engagement.
- Use social media marketing correctly so you engage, everything is on point, and it connects all the dots so Google thinks “Aha! This is what those kinds of people in that area are looking for when they ask for blah.” Ping.
- Have a strategy that optimises the right time and content to the right audience on each and every social media network, then make them work together to create traction for the brand.
- Be consistent and maintain momentum. Simply put, you can’t get your brand’s social media profiles ‘to a point’ and then neglect them. It’s always a 100 times harder, takes much longer and costs much more to rebuild an engaged audience and generate SEO and sales leads than it does to maintain the momentum you have already created.
In short, it’s not enough to just place some advertising, write fabulous content, create good PR, send regular emails, be on Facebook or ‘do a bit of tweeting’. In order to survive (note: not thrive, just survive) every business in the UK needs an established social media presence, with an engaged social media community and well executed social media marketing campaign to get it on the front page of Google.
In order to THRIVE the business will then need their social media marketing and website to be closely integrated into the rest of its marketing, sales and PR efforts in order to drive search successfully, so the business is able to reach new clients, generate new business, and stay VISIBLE.
Editorial Note: Article updated August 2021.
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