Many brands and organisations developing digital strategies have moved beyond asking whether Twitter and Facebook presences are necessary. (Yes, they are.)
Now the question is: We’re on the social web, so how do we make the most of it?
There are two key methods for supercharging your social strategy: social media optimisation (SMO) and engagement. Although they’re equally important for getting more people to your website via social networks, far different rules apply for each. SMO implies a scientific approach — updates are crafted with the intention of being seen, and ultimately clicked on, by your audience. Engagement, on the other hand, is about connecting with fans and followers. The idea is to build a community of vested members who will respond to and share your social updates because the content resonates strongly.
Here’s an in-depth look at each approach, and how you can combine both tactics to drive the distribution of your content.
Social Media Optimization
SMO can be valuable for getting more visits to your site. The key is understanding the audience of each social network, as well as when and how they interact with it. This will help you to learn what type of content works best there, and how you can frame that content to be more clickable.
In general, a certain audience exists on each social networks. For example, LinkedIn tends to bring in professionals of all ages who are interested in job searching and networking, while Tumblr is popular among young people and the design and fashion communities. However, I advise verifying your account’s demographics statistics either on the network’s analytics program or with a social media management tool that has analytics capabilities. This will give you a sense of the types of users that populate the audience of a particular social site, and whether your community matches that demographic.
Timing is also important for SMO. Just as websites have traffic highs and lows, so do social networks. But beware: Your site’s peak times may not match those of your social networks. For example, some people are restricted from logging into Facebook from work or school; therefore, you may notice that your posts on nights and weekends perform better. You should also consider how the EdgeRank algorithm affects when your page’s updates are appearing in your fans’ News Feeds.
Another SMO necessity is understanding how people are using the platform. For example, 40% of Twitter users would rather listen than write their own tweets, which means you might not get a ton of response to your question tweets. On Tumblr, the majority of the site’s pageviews come from the user dashboard. If you want it to catch a reader’s eye, it’s wise to format your post properly so that it reads well on dashboard view — not just on the front page.
These steps may improve your click-through rate, but remember they’re just one piece of the web publishing puzzle.
While SMO can help bring people to your site, engagement brings the right kind of people to your site. It builds a vested userbase that not only wants to click on your content, but also wants to be involved with it. These readers are valuable because they’re more likely to view more pages, spend more time on your site and contribute to your community by posting thoughtful comments and sharing content to their networks.
So what exactly is engagement? It could mean sparking discussion among your followers and responding to their comments, or it could mean recognising their contributions on your site and incorporating their ideas into your product. In short, it’s not something an intern can accomplish during 9-5 hours.
At the most basic level, engagement is about personalising your organisation and giving it a voice that resonates with your community. Keep in mind that the social web is a two-way dialogue. It’s vital to respond to questions and comments from your followers. More often than not, people just want to know you’re listening. Sometimes a simple “thanks for your comment” goes a long way.
For more advanced communities, engagement is getting to know your most vested followers on a deeper level. That could mean featuring them in posts by letting their ideas drive your content. A good example of this is Instagram; the company invited a top user to create photo filters for its latest app version.
There’s no scientific formula for engagement. Every audience is different and, ultimately, you’ll need to communicate in a way that best suits your community. Devise a way to foster their passion for your organisation and its mission by connecting with and empowering your audience.
SMO and engagement are separate concepts, yet both are important for getting the most out of your social media presences. Though the terms aren’t synonymous, the strategies should be used simultaneously. By optimising posts for your various social audiences and by building a community of vested followers, you’ll create an unstoppable social media presence that will not only drive traffic to your site, but will also reinforce your fans’ brand enthusiasm.