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January 22, 2013

Is Your Brand Fighting Against Social Media Bias?

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to interview link-building guru (and if anyone deserves to be called a guru it’s him) Eric Ward. One of the things I asked him was about social media marketing’s impact on link building. After all, every time a piece of content is shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networking sites it creates a link (even if it is nofollow) and a social signal that search engines incorporate into their ranking algorithms. Since Eric has been link building since before it was really even a “thing” I wanted to know how he felt social media would change traditional link building. Here’s what he said,

“It has definitely helped people see that link building is a very human activity…Can you incorporate social into your linking strategy? Absolutely. Should you? Maybe. It will depend on your site and your business. Likes and shares and pluses are really not very good metrics for organic search, because there are inherent biases against certain topics. The search engines have to be able to recognize that a site or brand is not popular or unpopular based purely on tweet/plus/like.”

Eric even admits that his point of view sounds a bit like heresy but the example he used to back up his point got me thinking about social media bias and its impact on a site’s link building campaign. Eric, a dad with three kids, explained that if one of his children came home with head lice he’d be up to his ears in RID Head Lice Remover. He’d be eternally grateful when RID gets the job done but is he about to go out and like RID on Facebook? Probably not. Even though Eric had a great experience with RID and the product actually did what it said it would in his time of need, he’s not about to share his love for RID across his social networks. After all, would you want to broadcast to the world that your children had head lice? You might recommend RID to a friend whose child also comes home from school with head lice but are you going to retweet their content? Probably not.

There are plenty of brands out there that offer incredible services to their customers and deliver every single time in their customer’s hour of need, but due to the nature of their products/services their customers might not be as inclined to share the social love like they might for their favorite shoe brand. Even though we as consumers are putting more and more of ourselves online for all to see (whether we mean to or not) there are some things we just don’t feel like sharing with the world at large.

I’ve talked with many site owners over the last few years who don’t think social media will work for them. Most of the time it’s because they don’t know how to leverage social media—you need more than a Facebook page to get any real value from your efforts. But every now and then I come across a company that has invested the right way in social media; they are active on several networking sites, promote their content, interact with customers and other industry leaders and so forth. In short, they are doing everything right but they just aren’t seeing the return they had hoped for. The shares, fans and followers just aren’t there. Does this mean their social media marketing campaign is a bust? Not necessarily—depending on what kind of products/services they offer they might be fighting against social media bias.

So what’s a brand that is fighting social media bias to do?

Keep in mind that social signals are not the only things that matter when it come to link building. Can they help? Definitely. Should you keep promoting your own content and building social signals on your own? Absolutely. But not every industry is going to become a social media darling overnight. Some businesses, like RID, exist in niches that are maybe a little too personal for the majority of their consumers to talk about on social networking sites. But, just because you aren’t getting hundreds of likes, reTweets, shares and more, that doesn’t mean your social media efforts aren’t working. Great content is still great content and even though your audience might not be retweeting it, they could still be reading it (check your analytics) and sharing it in less obvious ways (yes, people still share things in ways other than Faceook!).

The biggest goal, in my opinion anyway, of social media marketing is to connect with, engage and interact with your target audience. Measuring social shares is the easiest way to tell if your company is doing a good job but it’s not the end of the world if your content only has five retweets as opposed to 50, especially if your brand is working against social media bias. Just keep doing what you’re doing and take each share as a small success that plays into your long-term efforts.

Nick Stamoulis is the president and founder of Boston search marketing agency Brick Marketing. With 13 years of experience Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by 150,000 opt-in subscribers. Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or