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Branded Content and Targeting Your Social Media Marketing Initiatives

As a former editor I love to see this growing fervor around social media marketing. I remember some heady days at WebProNews when we got on the front page of Google News for the first time. 50,000 page views on a single story was exciting indeed, and I can only imagine the writers there today crafting work for Digg.

Danny Sullivan wrote recently regarding social media optimization – he’s quickly becoming a major fan. In “Beyond Google: Social Media Engines First, Other Search Engines Second” he writes “They [Digg, Reddit, Netscape] are traffic powerhouses you can’t ignore.”

I fully agree, but I want to wag my cautionary finger for a moment regarding that Digg-bait piece you just started, and to point you to some folks who’ve been less than exuberant about social media.

For one Sullivan runs a blog that sells advertising. Advertising sells on a CPM basis which means Sullivan’s selling page views. Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Netscape can bring in massive page views, but you have to ask yourself – do I sell page views?

GreatScott, who works for SEOMoz, noted their great success with the snarky media site Drivl (weird I don’t see ads on the site – it’s a client site so I assume they’re getting paid, unless they’re writing for fun and education).

Their linkbait (market-targeted writing) only campaign on this blog seems to be working:

Well, when we were handed Drivl by our client at the end of October, it had about 90 inbound links and an average of 50 visitors per day (after about a year online). In the three months since we took it over and relaunched the site, we’ve gained over 19,000 inbound links and average around 5,500 daily unique visitors.

It’s awesome that they’ve had such success, but where is the monetization, and how does such a Digg-oriented campaign have marketing applications if you’re not selling page views to advertisers?

There IS the linking benefit of social media marketing, as Fishkin points out in “Social Media Traffic Isn’t Useless.” These numbers are pretty astounding:

Average number of links to a page 14 days after being on:
o ~2,500
o ~800
o ~500
o ~400

A Digg/link bait campaign that actually gets you to the front page of Digg could have incredible linking results.

If you’re bound and determined to get social media traffic I think you should take a step back and make sure that your content is branded and targeted to your market. In short, make sure that your content will actually help you sell.

Social media marketing is, quite simply, a distribution channel for your content. Granted it’s a living, organic and highly volatile channel that will squeeze your brand like play-doh.

Make sure that the content you create for it will have an actual impact on your bottom line, and not just generate page views from folks who, as Rand describe them, are a “negative, condescending and disruptive group. The traffic is greedy, seeking immediate gratification and something that will connect with them.”

Do this by thinking like SEOBomb, who crafted a contest targeting graphic designers and gave away Apple products for his micro stock photography client.

And if you’re a small business owner you’d do well to not get caught in the hype and think like Matt McGee:

“I could never imagine telling a local insurance agency client, or an independent car dealership, or the bike shop down the street, that we’re going to focus more on the likes of Digg and StumbleUpon (a site I really like!) than we are on Yahoo and MSN’s Why? Because the audiences that use sites like Digg or Reddit are 1) too small, and 2) not representative of the population as a whole.”

Unless of course, as McGee notes, “if the nerd/geek audience is your customer base, Digg would be a great place to get exposure and links (even if the traffic is bursty and not always long-lasting).”

That’s it folks. Alls I’m sayin is that Social Media Marketing as it’s shaping up to appear can be a powerful content distributor, and a great method for CPM business models to generate more traffic.

If you have an email newsletter you’d like more subscribers to and your target market is Nerdy then SMM could be a good route too.

And the links, yes those tantalizing links. If you’re sold on social media marketing as a link builder then please please please take the time to brand your content offering. Take the time to make it killer and understand how it fits into your overall sales cycle.

Think of this “bait” you’re creating – or paying to have created – as a landing page with measurable actions tied to it that will increase conversions.

For hype-balance also see:
Don’t Digg Being Dugg
Social Media – Under the Microscope

Category SEO
Garrett French Link Building Services

Garrett French is a long time search marketer, blogger and conversatrional marketing consultant.

Branded Content and Targeting Your Social Media Marketing Initiatives

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