“We’re all quite mad here, you’ll fit right in.”
When it comes to social media, I often feel like the Mad Hatter — aka
Alice’s friend and not the Batman/Gotham villain. Although truth be told, you probably have to be a bit of both if you want to succeed in the online social media universe. In other words, it will probably help if you’re more than a little wacky when taking your web marketing efforts into the social realm.
My main haunting grounds are Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google+ … and to be brutally honest I am not a particular success in any of these social networks. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying, and that alone shouldn’t stop me from telling you about my first-hand experiences. If there’s anything life has taught me, you learn more from your failures then you do from your successes.
In writing this piece, I tried to think of the most notable adventures/failures I have had with these social sharing/feeding sites. Right away, two events came quickly to mind. I once got 70,000 useless visitors to my site in one day. I once spent $3,000 on Facebook ads to build a 1,000 fan base. Both events taught me tons about using social media that you might or might not find helpful.
I discovered the enormous power of social media quite by accident, and I wasn’t even looking for it. I remember it clearly, it was a Sunday afternoon in October of 2007. I was checking my log stats (this was long before real-time Google Analytics) and instead of showing a few hundred visitors… it was showing thousands, even 10’s of thousands of visitors swarming my site. What was going on?
The answer was quite simple. Digg, the popular content sharing site, had featured a link to one of my articles on its front page. I had recently posted the AddThis social media button to my site and visitors had used this button to bookmark a silly article 21 Facts About The Internet You Should Know to Digg and other sites. For the first time, it gave me an excellent opportunity to examine this kind of social traffic, and I even wrote an article on it entitled: How I Got 70,000 Useless Visitors To My Site In One Day!
No visitor is useless, but I wanted to stress the “fleeting” nature of this type of “social” traffic. This traffic is totally different from organic search traffic, PPC traffic or even referral traffic from other sites on the Web. It is transitory; few visitors stayed longer, but most only checked out that article and didn’t venture unto other parts of my site or sign up to my newsletter.
Social media traffic can be like that, very fleeting — here one second and gone the next. It was like that in 2007, and it’s like that in 2014.
However, we must never forget the SEO benefits and importance of social media bookmarking/voting/metrics. That featured article page on my site still receives traffic from the search engines — including Google. Keep in mind, this is one of my syndicated articles which still appears on other sites around the Web.
This rather unnerving first adventure into the social sharing universe left me with a rather misguided perception that took years to dispel. I believed then and still do hold today to some extent — what often succeeds and goes viral in this social world are fluffy disposable catchy “National Enquirer” type of content which leans toward the ridiculous. It has to appeal to the emotions; the obscure or the funny bone to truly succeed on Twitter, Facebook… and the other sites.
I just checked the Digg site and some of the featured items were:
- Why Talking About Pizza Can Land You In Trouble In Thailand
- Escape From Microsoft Word
- How to Trap a Cat In 3 Easy Steps
That last cat article/post had 56,000 likes on Facebook.
However, don’t make the same mistake I did, just because something is silly — doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. Just look at the whole Ice Bucket challenge nonsense from this summer, despite driving completely sane people to unbelievable lows it did raise a bucket load of money for ALS that should be applauded.
Social media sites have proven to be of great benefit for worthy causes, social changes and effective rallying cries for many issues around the world. In the online world, any webmaster or site owner would be foolish not to take advantage of these social networks to build their brand and increase their presence on the Web.
Easier said than done. My own experiences with social media have been frustrating to say the least. The main over-riding obstacle is the simple fact I am an affiliate marketer. Trying to market a product or service while someone is discussing Aunt Sally’s apple pie recipe or while someone is viewing cute cats doing silly tricks — is a formula for failure.
The key here is to seek out like-minded individuals and communities in these social sites and build relationships with its members. It’s more of a long-term venture and not a quick fix like organic or PPC traffic. It is also very time-consuming if you’re a small site or company which can’t out-source your media marketing efforts.
As you can see from the Mediabistro Infographic, social media sites do generate billions in sales each year and those numbers are only increasing.
Promoting your brand and building communities on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest… often comes down to offering/creating quality content that gets shared and recommended. Unless you go the “Buzzfeed” route with off-beat content, creating helpful content/infographics can do wonders for getting your site or product noticed.
Of course, most of these sites also has a “paid element” which leads me to another adventure where I spent slightly less than $3,000 on Facebook advertising with limited results. The most attractive aspect of this type of advertising with FB, you can closely target your audience or who receives your ads. Unfortunately, my ads directly displayed in the news feed met with “hostile” reactions which didn’t do my cause or brand any good. Ads displayed beside these feeds were much better received, but overall Facebook advertising (at least the way I did it) was hugely disappointing.
I did make a few sales, but I find PPC (mostly Bing/Yahoo) much more lucrative. What you have to remember, there are different forms of advertising within Facebook… you can pay for website clicks, post engagements and page/brand likes. I tried many different types with my FB advertising, mainly concentrating on building “likes” for my fan page. As the theory goes — get thousands of these, and when you make a post, lots of these fans will read it and start sharing your cool content.
Just didn’t work for me, I reached more than 1,000 fans but now when I make a post only a handful of people see it. Of course, organic reach in FB has greatly declined and will keep on declining. This organic reach determines how often a post will be seen without help from the FB algorithm or paid engagement.
The real unknown variable here is the quality and nature of my ads? One of my most popular posts did have 2,256 post-engagements at 14 cents a pop and reached more than 75,000 viewers — believe that cost me around $308 but only got three measly shares. My most popular promoted post reached 61,000, had 423 likes, 18 comments and 19 shares. The most I paid for a website click was $14 — did I mention it helps to be more than a little insane.
While I have placed my Facebook advertising on hold, I still make regular posts to it and to all my other different social media sites. I am taking a holistic marketing strategy and closely connecting my site and content with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Linkedin, Stumbleupon… it’s just something that has to be done on today’s Web. I am currently using the ShareThis button which remains in the viewing frame as visitors view my site’s content.
I have one other over-riding marketing strategy when it comes to social media sites:
Monkey See, Monkey Do
In other words, one of the best ways to learn about all this foolishness, is to follow and closely monitor successful members in each of these different platforms. Find the most prominent members in your field of interest or community and follow them. Then politely stalk these major players and learn their techniques.
For me, another rewarding aspect of these networking sites is that great content sometimes, besides the smiling cats and Aunt Sally’s recipes, rises to the top. If you’re looking for more information on how to use these social media sites, which major players to follow or just want more info on content marketing in general. I would highly recommend you check out this treasure trove from Attendly: A Spectacular List of 240+ Tips, Tricks and Resources for
Lastly, keeping all these social sites active and productive takes a lot of work so you will need some handy tools to make all this run like clockwork. Some of the most useful tools/software can be found here: 24 Must-Have Social Media Marketing Tools
I especially would recommend using a viral sharing pop-up where your visitors have to bookmark your content in order to keep reading or to download a piece of software. Plus, one of my most helpful sites has been Quozio.com where you can quickly turn any quote or headline into a graphic image within seconds to post in any of your social media sites. All these sites, including Twitter, are perfect vehicles for catchy images that immediately grab the viewer’s attention. Never underestimate the power of a visual image and always remember with social media you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention. No, on second thought, better make that milliseconds.