Social Signals: Reaping the Rewards of Social Sharing
As we become further enmeshed in the world of social networks, social signals are garnering increased attention. Google’s launch of Search Plus Your World underscores that who we know and how we interact are important components of how we approach the web. While it is a difficult metric to influence, you still need to develop a social signal strategy. Follow the steps below and you will be well on your way to reaping the rewards of social sharing.
- Create excellent content. Good SEO revolves around excellent content. You cannot expect friends, families, and colleagues to recommend material that is not original and engaging. The bulk of your energy should always be focused on high quality content that contributes meaningfully to the global conversation. Once you have that, you can turn your attention to building your brand through social sharing.
- Thoughtfully embed social sharing buttons on your site. Social sharing icons have become so ubiquitous it is difficult to imagine that they are not already integrated into your site. Still, it is an essential step worth mentioning. Keep in mind that Facebook likes, Google+1s, Tweets, and LinkedIn Shares may be the most common forms of social sharing, but there are others that can be just as beneficial. Digg, Delicious, and Reddit predate the most popular social media sites and still drive considerable traffic. Pinterest is gaining traction every day and may even eclipse one or more of our social media giants. It is a big world, and you exclude established and new sites at your own peril. Of course, you do not want to clutter your site with social sharing buttons. Make sure the most important ones are easy to find and in close proximity to the main content. Find a sharing tool that includes a feature like a hover window that contains the official sharing buttons of other sites that users might prefer to use.
- Publish your content on each site. It is not enough to post on your own site, include buttons, and expect others to do the sharing for you. Publish your articles to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. For all of these, you can also include a comment. Some use this space to summarize the article, while others introduce a question for discussion. How you choose to approach this is up to you, but I would put as much thought into this as you would your typical status update or tweet. The idea is not only to spark interest but also to encourage interaction.
- Ask trusted friends and colleagues to share your content. Tread carefully with this because no one wants to become a shill for your company. Clearly, co-workers who have some relationship to the piece have both incentive and a clear reason for liking, tweeting, or sharing your content. Friends and family, on the other hand, are an easy resource to misuse, and you will deplete their goodwill quickly. Chances are if your personal connections think your material is worth sharing, they will do so of their own volition. Still, it is easy for things to get lost in the shuffle, so if you can think of particular reasons why your content would be interesting to specific people, feel free to approach them individually. Succinctly explain why you thought it would be of interest, and do not hold it against anyone if he or she does not share your enthusiasm. If you make these overtures judiciously, people will be more receptive to your requests and more apt to recommend your content.
- When appropriate, revisit the material. Duplicate content and spinning articles is taboo for a reason. It will dilute your brand and erode others’ trust in you. There is nothing wrong, however, with expanding upon material as long as you are truly adding a new dimension and not merely reiterating your original post. Perhaps an interesting discussion erupted around your article or you encountered new information. Substantive updates and alternate perspectives are excellent ways to keep content fresh and engaging. They can also redirect attention back to your initial post and prompt another wave of social sharing.
Businesses have always relied upon word of mouth and the goodwill of others. Social signals are merely the 21st century version. While the specific steps may differ and you do need to make a concentrated effort, the underlying theory remains the same. Provide something of value and others will take notice. Make it easy for people to spread the word with the confidence, and they will do so happily.
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