SearchFest 2015 was my first, and I can say with certainty that I will be back in 2016. With four SearchFest tracks to follow, I decided to divide my time between SEO and social media. Social media and paid media were grouped together, a reflection of the “pay-to-play” direction social channel distribution is headed. The speakers had powerful ideas and the audience was engaged. In the days following, I’ve identified six trends that are changing social media that you should know about.
Social media was once viewed as a secondary, or “fluffy” channel for communication with audiences. Marty Weintraub of aimClear and Will Scott of Search Influence reminded their audience of an outdated management strategy guided by that thought in their session, “How to Make (Piles of) Money with Social Media in 8 (Absolutely) Attainable Steps.” Frequently, social channels were left to be managed by interns with little understanding of corporate or social media communication strategy. As social channels continue to grow in influence, companies have aligned their social media strategies with the new realities of the importance of social media.
For most major brand searches, social media results appear on the first page of Google. Google and Twitter have recently struck a deal to include tweets in search results, so brand commentary has the potential to be included in Google results. Clearly social channels are making and shaping customer sentiment. Social media is important, it is not going away, and it must be managed to yield company success. In fact, unmanaged, social media can be a disastrous loose cannon for companies. And yes, that includes both B2Cs and B2Bs.
The undeniable truth is that social media channels offer direct paths to connect audiences with companies, and that connection helps your site build domain authority and SEO. It also provides customers with an opportunity to praise or complain about products and services in a very public way. Successful companies have customer relationship strategies in place to manage these posts.
Success on social media is not limited to managing brand image: social media is a distribution channel to get content in front of audiences. Leveraging these channels can drive traffic and build your site’s SEO.
Rae “Sugarae” Hoffman’s presentation included the reminder that content marketing success should be measured in increased traffic coupled with increased sales, conversion rates, list signups, brand searches, and average order value. A successful content strategy leads the right audience to the right site and keeps them there, reducing bounce rate and increasing conversions.
All of the speakers agreed: the need to drive quality traffic is real. Selecting the most relevant keywords and weaving them into content that your audience actually wants to read is a key component in search engine optimization for websites.
The nature of the relationship between companies and social media channels continues to evolve, but the opportunity for companies to reach audiences through social channels remains constant. Recognizing the value of this relationship, social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter continue to monetize by charging companies to interact with their audiences.
Here are six trends in social media that I’ve identified and which are important for your plans, strategies, and success:
- Social media channels are evolving into PR management and customer service management platforms as audiences seek companies out on social media channels for information and to provide both positive and negative commentary on the company’s products and services. Your customers will increasingly use social media channels for information about your products and services. Social media management is mandatory, not optional. If you don’t manage it, your future and fortune is at the whim of the unpredictable crowd. Leverage social media as a platform for managed dialogue with your audience.
- Organic, or ‘free’ reach is rapidly diminishing on social channels. This trend is not expected to decline, but, the good news is that because of the personal nature of social channels companies have access to invaluable demographics information that can be used to highly target paid media campaigns that aid in reducing ad spend and increasing campaign ROI.
- Social media can build market share for you, especially if your competitors aren’t on social media or aren’t using it wisely. You need to find ways, unique to your business proposition, which will seek and keep customers. You need to be unique, pro-active, and open to new opportunities. If you aren’t using social media because your competitors aren’t on social media, then you’re missing out on capturing customers on social media, and so are your competitors. Mirroring your competitor’s social media strategy won’t move your brand forward. Find new ways to connect with your audience- and yes- your audience is on social media.
- While companies should claim their identities on all major social channels, content distribution efforts should be focused on the channels your customers use, prefer, and trust.
- Just like we need to create products that our clients want to buy, write content that your audience wants to read. The importance of content alignment with audience expectations is critical. Hire agencies to design a content calendar based on research and competitive benchmarking. Hire agencies to manage post scheduling tools. But quality content should come from the thought leaders in your industry and target audiences who specifically seek out your content.
- Social media is changing, work with an agency that stays ahead of changes. Channels change, search algorithms change, video delivery changes, text content changes – you can’t fall behind on any one of these things or you look frail and stale. Active research is critical: what’s new, what works now. A good agency will create a content calendar, competitive benchmarking (so your money is invested effectively), and high level strategic planning.