While social media efforts do affect your search rankings, it’s probably not in the way you think. Google doesn’t directly factor social influence and interactions into the ranking algorithm, but that is no reason to ignore social channels or slow down your social marketing efforts.
It’s Not the Social Sharing, it’s the Results
The simple act of having a social profile doesn’t do a thing to help rankings. Anyone can create a profile on a social network, any time. Facebook says anywhere between 5.5 and 11.2% of their monthly active users are fake/duplicate accounts, and considering that represents 67.65 million and 137.76 million fake/duplicate accounts, it’s easy to see why social “presence” doesn’t equate to increased ranking.
These spam accounts offer no real value to consumers, and that’s what the search engines look for. Activity and sharing on social channels leads to increased visibility and links, and links lead to higher rankings. Sounds simple, but that’s just the basic concept…the reality is not quite that easy.
For content to be shared, the audience has to be inspired. The goal is to create “contagious content,” and believe it or not, there is science behind it. Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On outlines the STEPPS formula businesses need to consider when creating their content. Your content must have:
- Social Currency: Makes people look or feel good by sharing it with people they know.
- Triggers: Easy to remember and keep your product/service/idea at the front of the reader’s mind.
- Emotion: Content with emotional value is more likely to be shared.
- Public: Share infectious content that people will imitate. Launch something that advertises itself, and people will jump on the bandwagon. Doritos inspired 4,900 amateur filmmakers to submit commercials to run during the Super Bowl.
- Practical Value: Useful, informative content.
- Stories: History shows us good stories are continually passed down. Compelling stories will (hopefully) get people talking about your brand.
This is only part of the battle. Even if your content hits on all six of these key drivers, you’re not guaranteed a successful campaign. It’s possible to craft a funny video and make people laugh, but unless the video directly relates to the product or service you’re offering, it may not boost for your sales.
The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of a successful viral marketing campaign that provided tangible results. More than awareness for the condition, the ALS Association raised more than $5.7 million, compared to $1.2 million in the same period in 2013. In a few short weeks, the campaign generated more than 307,000 posts on Facebook and Twitter. The ALS Foundation ended up with more than 100,000 new donors they’ve kept on file for use with future campaigns.
Where Google+ Fits In
Since Google has their own social network, it makes sense to leverage it for ranking, right? Yes, and no. Posts on Google+ will rank nearly instantly for phrases within your post, but only for people who’ve added you to a circle. Any +1’d content will rank higher in personalized search results, as long the person has connected with someone who has interacted with the content. So, if John puts Jane in a circle, and then +1s something about dogs, that page will rank higher if and when Jane ever searches for dogs. Ultimately, it won’t do much to change the actual ranking of your content, and it’s worth noting any of this Google+ activity won’t influence Bing or Yahoo rankings.
How Your Business Can Use Social to Improve Ranking
Social activity helps build visibility and increases linking potential, but it’s important to recognize that even with great content to fill your social profiles, your work is not done. It’s not enough to have your social profiles ranking in the search results, and it’s not enough to schedule a few articles to post across your social networks.
After you’ve used that killer contagious content to build a following and gain traction across social media, it’s time to listen to what people are saying, and to engage in conversation with your audience. Be present. Ask questions. If you see someone tweeting to (or about) your company, answer them. Whole Foods Market does a great job of responding to customers, which makes them feel heard and contributes to positive brand image and further engagement.
With social CRM, your business can stay connected to social media followers/customers, and handle it all. Using information from the CRM, like how often customers engage with you, you can determine how often they want to connect and adjust your strategy to decrease unfollows and unsubscribe rates.
SEO matters. Social matters. Make the most of both by focusing on providing value to customers and putting them first. That’s your key to success.
Featured Image: Creativa Images via Shutterstock
Image #1: Screenshot Taken 04/03/2015