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by Tom Howlett on 4th October 2012
With the rise of social media and the social web, the concept of outreach is becoming all the more important. With search engines and consumers taking note, it makes having a social presence almost a necessity for your business or website.
How do you establish yourself online when there is so much information around today? It is certainly much harder to get noticed, especially if you don’t have the budget of some of the larger brands.
The ideal position for any website to be in is to have a loyal following; one that generates lots of shares and that people link to naturally. It won’t just happen by chance though – this is a result of clever planning, a strong and continual online strategy or by having that initial push from other established sources (say for example Apple were to start a car manufacturing business (oddly), this will get lots of PR almost immediately).
Why People Share
It is important to think about why people share information and link to different content online to help you establish what you need to be doing to replicate this on your own website. Here are just a few of the possible reasons why someone might share:
What Content Gets Shared?
What type of content gets shared more often? This likely varies from industry to industry, but in general you are likely to gain links and shares by creating content that satisfies anything from the above list.
You may create something useful, such as a guide or whitepaper (see our digital marketing guides for inspiration), you may create something intentionally controversial, place yourself as a thought leader or you may regularly post news from a well-established industry – think of car news Blogs.
Sharing is not limited to useful content; a high number of shares are a result of great design, good experience, something new, something innovative, something funny or something thought provoking.
The content shared varies hugely from website to website; if you satisfy any of the above elements and tailor it towards your audience, there is a high chance your social presence will grow naturally.
I have briefly touched on design influence; it is a strange consideration because it doesn’t directly refer to your content but how your content is presented. You may find that this has a considerable effect on the shareability of your content.
Firstly, you want people to be able to easily find your content if they are navigating the website and when they are navigating the page they have landed on. You will be surprised at how impatient people are online, they will not spend ages trying to find content before they resort back to the search engine to try another website.
If people cannot find your content, they are very unlikely to share it.
Bad design can also put visitors off – good design and a good experience is much more likely to reduce your bounce rate and keep visitors on the site.
Great design and experience is a linkable trait in itself, if you can create this you have set yourself in a good position.
During the design of the site experience and deciding how visitors will use, navigate and flow through the website an important consideration would be to establish how you want people to share your content. Are they able to easily share your content with their followers if they choose to? Will they be able to see that you have a presence on various social platforms where they can follow your updates?
This briefly discusses how design can factor into your social presence and success. No matter what content you create, you will want to make sure that it has a good design and user experience behind it.
What Social Platforms Should you have a Presence on?
Whilst establishing your site socially, you should have a presence on the social media platforms. Which platforms should you use? I believe it is important to have a presence on the main social platforms out there today – this includes Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Facebook and Twitter, because sometimes visitors expect you to have a presence on these platforms, regular visitors will likely choose to follow you. Google+ is definitely an up-and-coming platform, it does have a strong user base and is of course a Google run platform that can be very useful in creating additional visits with the integration of their social elements within the search engine results.
A presence on these platforms is a great start; you should also work on establishing your brand within your own industry and have a presence on platforms more closely related to your target audience. An example would be Dribbble and DeviantART for the design/graphic industry.
What Social Buttons to Use?
Having social sharing buttons on the site is a good way of making it easy for someone to easily share your content. At the very least you will want to enable sharing on Facebook (like and share), Twitter and Google+. Other common platforms include LinkedIn, Pinterest and Stumbleupon. You could also integrate AddThis that allows users to select a platform of choice to share the content on.
As well as utilising sharing buttons, you will also want to include a link to the profiles in which you have a presence on.
Where to Place These Buttons?
What pages should you include these buttons on and where on the page should they be placed?
You should look to provide link to your social profiles from each page of the website. Where you place these is up to you and depends on how your site is designed, there is no point in ruining the usability of a website by throwing these links on in the most prominent position. So while they need to be visible, they shouldn’t be obtrusive. Often featuring them in your footer, or in a panel on either side of the page will enable visitors to see them without impacting their experience.
Social sharing buttons should be placed on pages that contain shareable content. It is not worth placing these buttons on every page of the website. Firstly this could harm your site speed and secondly it would mean social takes up quite a lot of your valuable space that can be used for content and conversion purposes.
Unique Products and Services
If you have a completely unique product or service, that in itself is a catalyst to gaining lots of links – you just need to find your audience through advertising or by utilising the popular social networks and growing your following. Generally, if your offerings are ground-breaking, you could get a lot of link value from people talking about this online.
One strategy to gain that initial presence would be to contact a variety of industry related Blogs to see if they would be interested in writing a post on the product/service. This can be a good way to initially gain a following who could share your content with others.
What if you Work in a Boring Industry?
You may not work in a particularly glamorous industry or offer a product that is hugely unique, but you can still benefit by following the above suggestions when it comes to establishing your brand socially.
There is more to be offered using these platforms rather than just focusing on your immediate product or service. You could focus on offering a great customer experience on these platforms. People generally seem happy to recommend companies that go out of their way to make sure their customers are happy. You could think about including follower benefits into your social strategy whereby followers are rewarded for their brand loyalty.
Creating one or more microsites is a tactic many businesses have used online. These are often small external websites that offer a user something different to the main site or relate to a particular promotion. This can be a game website for entertainment purposes or provide a useful tool. The purpose of these sites is to build a resource that encourage visitors and interactions, build up fans and followers that you can then use to market to.
The higher profile examples tend to be managed by large brands – some of these include Compare the Meerkat (from Compare the Market) and The Fun Theory (from Volkswagen). Although being high profile brands already, these sites would of likely increased their brand engagement – especially for Compare the Market whose Compare the Meerkat Facebook page has in excess of 810,000 fans.
These types of sites are not limited to big brands, if as a smaller business you are able to create a useful external tool or website that is free or entertaining etc. This can have a significant effect on overall engagement online.
I am going to finish off this post with a few examples of small companies/websites that have done well to establish themselves in today’s online climate with clever social media engagement.
Ben the Bodyguard
Ben the Bodyguard is an iPhone and iPad security app. They initially launched an interactive website that revealed a story as you scrolled down the page (still visible by visiting this link and scrolling). This story consisted of Ben, a Bodyguard who is experienced in protecting personal data.
At first the end product was a secret and no one was really sure what the function of the app would be. Nevertheless, the combination of the site going viral across the web and the secrecy surrounding the app created anticipation across the social media platforms and undoubtedly led to quite a few initial purchases. Unfortunately it seemed the app didn’t live up to the hype in this particular example, but it was definitely a clever promotional idea.
Will it Blend
Will it Blend is an online creation from Blendtec where they would blend a series of common objects to see if they would blend using one of their blenders. This made for entertaining viewing and this soon spread across the web and the various social media channels. Their Facebook profile has 111,182 likes to date, which definitely highlights the success of the campaign – I’m sure this has had a positive impact on sales and brand loyalty. A good example of how a business in a largely bland industry can use a bit of creativity to establish themselves socially and gain a huge following.
Leave a comment if you know of any other companies or websites that have done something similar with great social media gains.
If you’re looking for information on Link Building then read Tom Howlett’s posts. Tom has a specialist insight into link building strategies designed to improve website’s visibility and ranking. He will help you become a master in finding new link sources.