Fixing your Social Media Faux Pas
There’s much ado about the death of SEO, or at least the shift from trying to convince a computer that your content is relevant and into the realm of social graph optimization.
SEO, or search engine optimization is a term used to describe all those little tricks marketers pull in order to make the content on a site seem more important than it actually is. For instance, you’ve probably seen these tactics already in an article that has been split up among multiple pages instead of a single read, or those picture galleries with a paragraph of text each page.
There also keywords in the meta-data, and having spam blogs where an army of writers are churning out link-bait content just to raise traffic arbitrarily.
I have a personal hatred of SEO, because it’s become synonymous with me to sleazy tactics to make noise on the Internet look like a signal. Let’s face it, most of that crap really is just noise and somewhere a website is benefitting from the fact that you clicked.
As luck would have it, the major search engines no longer give a damn about SEO because they’re switching over to what can be termed Social Graph Search. What that means is, the content on a site is deemed more relevant not because some search algorithm thinks it is but weights the decision heavily on social engagement and the organic opinions of the actual people the content is meant for.
This means that you are at the mercy of the community you were originally supposed to be creating content for, and if you act like a jerk or try to cheat them then they aren’t nearly as forgiving as an automated algorithm. In fact, social media is a harsh mistress at best but can definitely work in your favor if you know what you’re doing. There is definitely a very large margin for error here and even the best and biggest companies manage to royally screw it up – so don’t feel bad for reading this post.
In order to excel at SGO, (Social Graph Optimization), the trick is simply to be sincere and engage. This seems like common sense, but you’d be amazed at how often people and companies sabotage themselves by treating social media like traditional marketing outlets, or just plain being stupid.
In social media, it’s not just a matter of being ineffectual with your engagement, but it’s a long lasting and far reaching amount of damage that you can do to yourself, a personal brand identity, and ultimately an entire company if you go in acting like a jerk.
Here are the 5 things I’ve learned from being in marketing as a professional:
1. Lateral Cross-Promotion is lazy.
Understanding the context of each social media outlet goes a long way to helping you understand what is and isn’t alright for cross promotion. For instance, Twitter is a good lateral cross promotion in different social media outlets (Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc) because there isn’t a lateral competitor. This is seen as an agnostic social media and likely wouldn’t cause detriment for cross promoting. However, Facebook and Google+ are lateral networks and so it would be a public sign of SEO ignorance to ask people on one network to leave it in order to check out a post on another.
This is most common among so-called SEO folks, and it’s insulting at best.
The point of social media is to engage a conversation in the medium you are addressing. If you have a Facebook brand page, it’s fine to ask people in Facebook to come check it out but completely arrogant and ignorant to wander into Google+ and ask people to check out and like your Facebook page.
The analogy is akin to wandering into the Apple Store and telling them to go check out the new version of Windows. Needless to say, this does nothing for your public perception and likely is detrimental. When you post something on a social network, you are soliciting conversation and engagement – but when your conversation topic is asking your followers to go to another network altogether to “like” you, the message you are saying is this:
“I have no intention of starting a conversation here, nor engaging. This post is wasting your time, and so am I. However, go check out my brand page elsewhere and do me a favor now that I’ve insulted your intelligence.”
2. You have little control over the conversation.
You can shut down comments and treat your posts like a one-way street, but at the end of the day people are still talking with or without you in their own threads. When you refuse to engage in conversation, or attempt to dictate the message, you’re treating social media like a spam channel and telling your audience:
“The only thing that matters is what I have to say. I have no interest in your thoughts or opinions.”
Unfortunately, when you send that message what you end up with is bad word of mouth spreading like wildfire. Just as media can go “viral” there is such thing as “viral negativity” and it’s equally as damaging. Setting off this domino effect can bury a company image overnight, with months and maybe years invested to recover.
Instead of trying to get people to stop talking negatively about you or your brand, why not just give them something good to talk about instead? If you screwed up legitimately, then you need to own up to it and make amends. It’s that simple.
3. The Social Media Universe does not revolve around you.
We’d all like social media to revolve around us, but it’s a community. Posting non-stop self-promotion posts, links to your blog articles, and asking stupid questions about your own products is disingenuous and (surprise) obnoxious.
Applebees posting about their new dish and then asking “What do you like best about our new dish?” is sleazy and disingenuous marketing. It’s nothing less than being an attention whore on social media, always trying to steer a conversation back to themselves. Nobody likes that asshole at the party who always tries to make everything about themselves, so why the hell would anyone tolerate that in social media?
Welcome to the community!
Now actually participate in it and show a genuine interest in your followers.
4. Quality over Quantity
Which would you rather have? 1,000 followers who engage with you or 1,000,000 followers who are barely paying attention?
There is a mistaken assumption that social media is a numbers game and you have to treat your followers like Pokemon (Gotta Catch’em All!). A lot of places even go so far as to inflate their numbers by purchasing followers. The truth of the matter is, the true worth of social media is measured in quality of followers and not quantity.
If you’re a business, it’s about building a lifelong connection to your followers and thus turning them into devoted customers. If you’re a brand, then it’s about the same thing – or at least building a positive connection with those people which will last and pay off far more than had you just treated them as a disposable number to make a quick buck off of.
I’d always choose to have 1,000 highly engaged followers than 1,000,000 disengaged zombies. I enjoy the in-depth conversation that I have with many of them, and make it a point to tell each of them that I’m open for a chat if they feel so inclined.
If you’re a company, this is known as building brand loyalty. In my case, the “brand” is myself because we’re in the age of Brand Human. The only metric that truly matters is LOE (as I said in 2010) which is “Level of Engagement”.
5. Your grandparents know more about social media than you do.
What you call social media today, your grandparents called common sense. The same rules they lived by in a community and in business, are the same rules that apply to social media. Back in the day when the butcher knew your name and the bartender knew your “usual”. Joe Rigby delivered you milk on Wednesdays, and you’ve been helping him out a bit since he and his wife have been having issues.
Fostering a long-term relationship with people, and a meaningful one, is what social media is about. Sincerity, honesty, and humility... pretty much the actual virtues that your grandparents were brought up with as “normal” we have seemed to have forgotten.
You don’t know Jack. In both the figurative and literal sense. But let me introduce you to Gary Vaynerchuk instead. You can learn a hell of a lot about social media from this guy, and I highly encourage you to take notes.