Stop what you’re doing! Let’s have a huddle at the mound.
The phrase “get off the schneid” may seem funny, but is far from a laughing matter- in baseball, being “on the schneid” means a team is in a scoreless, hitless or winless streak.
Right now, that winless team is you. Whatever SEO tactics you are using are going to result in a L for you and your clients in the near future due to your current outreach process.
Integrating social outreach strategies, on the other hand, will improve your SEO box score- and maintain it.
Over the next four weeks, in my Major League Link Building for Social Media Outreach series, I will be providing you with the strategy and tools you need to build a social outreach strategy – from finding and creating relationships with influencers, measuring success and implementing change, and using your social outreach experience to continuously innovate SEO processes.
You can’t craft a strategy without first knowing why changes have to be made and how to get your roster on board. Don’t be the Miami Marlins: extravagant new stadium in a new city, complete with gaudy home run feature, yet the city they are in is mostly uninterested in the team (or possibly baseball in general) and the players they have aren’t able to produce desired results this season.
Before we step up to the plate and start swinging, we must assess why what worked last season isn’t cutting it anymore- and why social outreach is what will turn you back into a winning team. Even if you are aware of the “whys” – your team may not be, and they will not be able to succeed without a foundation, which means your strategy won’t win for you either. The Marlins will tell you: eyesore or not, having a home run sculpture is pointless if you’re unable to go yard.
Here’s why you need to integrate social outreach:
It’s common sense.
Twitter has over 500 million active users. Facebook has over 900 million. If you’re reading this, you’re probably on both as well as at least two other networks. Imagine if the Harvard baseball team hadn’t bothered to upload their “Call Me Maybe” video to YouTube.
No one would have seen it, there would not have been a viral phenomenon, the team wouldn’t have made an appearance on the Today Show and their only memory of their 2011-12 season would have been an overall 12-30 record (ouch). Essentially, without implementing social tactics into your outreach strategy, all you will have to show for your efforts will also be a 28.6% win percentage – or less.
Not taking advantage of social means you’re creating content that no one sees without even consulting with your target audience about what they want to see. Social is the best and easiest way to amplify impact and extend reach of content through direct interaction with target audiences and support of already existing relevant influencers and brand advocates.
Social indicators are the future of search, and the future is now.
We already know that social signals improve search implications and will continue to grow in importance to search engines. Sharing activity is tracked by Google’s algorithm. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. SEOMoz’s survey of search experts in their 2011 Search Engine Factors Ranking Report attests to this- many believe that soon social signals will soon have a greater impact on search engine rankings than other SEO methods that were more heavily relied upon in the past.
Both Google and Bing have increased priority of social results in search and are continuing to place emphasis on various social indicators, such as author network and reputation, in search engine results rankings. Even if you aren’t in the SEO industry, if you create any kind of online content at all, it is wise to grow your network and influence via social interaction so what you create matters more to both your audience as well as search.
Social increases the quantity and quality of links to content and can even help you optimize CTR rates. Using social for outreach guarantees that your content will not only be shared, but it assures you that it will be shared amongst those who are relevant, interested, and have impact. Creating a network gives you the potential for organic viral content.
Social provides a strong foundation of trust and credibility for relationship creation.
iAcquire’s Quantifying Outreach study, which analyzed 300,000 outreach e-mails, touched on using Twitter for social outreach. The figures indicated that building relationships via Twitter was definitely an opportunity outreach teams should look into.
Beyond the numbers, social provides credibility by taking outreach one step closer to face-to-face interactions- which creates trust between publishers and content creators. These relationships will be non-replicable, genuine, and will help you expand your network for both content placement and sharing. Instead of being at odds with publishers, you will be on the same team.
Those who inspire action on the internet reside in the social sphere.
I’m sure you’ve heard the latest social/SEO buzzword: “influencers.” To be honest, influencer marketing has been around for a long time- it just wasn’t as easy to harness as it is now. Word of mouth fuels influencer marketing, and it has partly contributed to the very evolution of social networks.
Who doesn’t want a free platform that takes minimal upkeep to voice their thoughts or opinions on anything and everything? Influencers have emerged based upon both popularity, constancy and quality of content and are incredibly accessible – Washington Nationals pitcher even has his Twitter handle on his glove.
Not only will creating relationships with these influencers benefit you by better content placement and social shares, but also by social endorsement.
We need to save the internet.
The internet is becoming a wasteland of premade redundant pointless content. Placing content with links solely for the sake of SEO is not doing you, publishers, or your clients any favors. No one wants to read yet another “5 Tips for Doing Insert Mudane Task Here That Everyone Knows How to Do Already” post again- if anyone even read it in the first place.
Do you think Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg throws the same pitch to every single batter he faces? No. Strasburg tailors his strategy for each and every pitch based upon a myriad of factors including the count, individual batter’s skill, whether the batter is right or left handed, desired location of pitch, and more.
A four-seam fastball is not one size fits all, and neither is content. Originality and customization are key in creating powerful, engaging content, and social is the tool needed to define these terms per audience. A specific target audience must be in mind and even consulted with when creating content so it achieves the desired effects.
Social will allow you to tailor your content to the interests, wants, and needs of your target audience- not just one publisher willing to put anything up just to have new content on his or her site. This will ensure its shareability and impact on search and relevant verticals. You will become a trusted resource by answering questions your audience may have or providing them with information they need. In other words: stop hammering out pointless crap and start crafting provocative posts. If you’re bored writing it, people are bored reading it.
Ready to start hitting home runs with social outreach? Great! But before you step up to the plate and start swinging away, you need to have a strategy or you’ll strike out. Just because you own a baseball bat doesn’t mean you can hit a 95 mph fastball. Just because you sign up for a Twitter account and can compose 140 character or less strings of words doesn’t mean you’re ready to begin social outreach.
Social outreach is different than what you do for your personal social accounts and requires the right strategy and tools for success. I’m going to go into much more detail regarding social outreach strategy in future posts, but here are a few things you can implement right now so that you’ll be prepared for what is to come:
Pick team captains.
Social strategy should be scalable for your entire team, but when first introducing it, it’s best to stick with a small group. Choose those you see already have a successful presence established on social networks. This will enable you to fix issues that may crop up, iron out strategy, and prepare to answer common questions without being overwhelmed.
Then, this group will be able to understand the hows and whys of the strategy and can impart it to the rest of the team as well as handle things on a day-to-day basis if you are unable to. They can also contribute to shaping effective strategy and can bring their own strengths to improve it. Although I will be giving you tools and processes for effective social strategy, you may want to alter my suggestions based upon your clients or how much you value certain results.
This team will be your test group to see what metrics matter most to you and your clients as well as help you decide how best to teach it to the rest of the team. Social media in general can be scary or overwhelming, especially to those who do not already have personal accounts on any social platform. Being prepared and having strategy advocates will help you smoothly ease the team into social.
Protect your players – and brand – from injury by establishing a social policy.
If you haven’t already, you should encourage your outreach team to have active personal accounts on social networks. This will give them some practice with just using the networks and associated tools as well as cultivate your brand’s social presence.
However, before you do this, you may need to create a company-wide social media policy. This can include the basics on how to get started, why it is important personally and professionally to have accounts on social platforms, tips for engaging others, and the do’s and don’ts of these networks. You can consult other social media policies for ideas on what to include.
Although you have little control over personal accounts because you don’t own them, guidance and suggestions are more welcome than you would think – some don’t know where to start, others may not update regularly, and those who are already involved will appreciate the encouragement.
You can also safeguard your brand by openly stating what is and isn’t considered generally acceptable. It’s always better to be prepared – or at least try to prepare – for potential inflammatory situations. Last year, my own Milwaukee Brewers had to deal with inflammatory statements outfielder Nyjer Morgan tweeted all season, his most notable target being St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.
It doesn’t look good for your individual team members or for your brand if sloppy or offensive content is published, so make sure your social policy reflects the values of the company while still encouraging people to share their unique personalities. This policy should be distributed to the entire company, not just your outreach team. Everyone at your company will benefit from social engagement and your company will benefit by supporting and creating potential brand advocates.
Know the strike zone.
Decide which social networks are the best fit for your clients. Just like content, social platforms themselves aren’t one size fits all. There are also niche networks where influencers are more easily accessible or that are more powerful in the vertical you are creating content for.
Do your research so that you know exactly where you want to direct your outreach. Follow influencers to their networks. I will also be providing more information on finding influencers, but you can lay the beginning groundwork now so you know which networks you’d like your team to become accustomed to using first.
Take batting practice.
Along with introducing social policy and encouraging your team to get involved, have sessions where they can ask questions or learn how to use social media and social media tools as well as practice engaging. Have lunch and learns to teach them about social outreach as a whole, even before you introduce it to the entire team so that they know what is on the horizon or can little by little begin to integrate it. Do things to encourage involvement and strengthen social skills such as holding “social media contests” that assigns points or prizes based on creating profiles, interacting with others, etc.
This will also give the outreach team confidence and the ability to see social outreach as a person-to-person interaction, not a business transaction. In future posts, I’ll be going into more detail on getting your team on board as well as scaling the process, but for now: focus on mechanics.
Play Ball… Sort of
You know you need social. You know your team is familiar with the basics and already have active accounts on the major social networks. What’s next, you ask? Grab your glove, because it’s time to head out to the field- for Spring Training. You aren’t ready to start the season until you have gotten and tested the right equipment.
No one wants any surprises out on the field, and you have to know the strengths and background of publishers before you start to contact them. The next step is choosing the right tools for discovering and contacting influencers, managing your social accounts, and tailoring your message.
In other words, next week I will tell you how to find your social sweet spot.
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Find Your Social Sweet Spot - Choosing the right tools for discovering and contacting influencers, managing your social accounts, and tailoring your message
Load the Bases – Finding influencers, setting yourself up to score runs and relationships, avoiding RISP failures
Keep “The Book” on Your Social Strategy – Scoring your social strategy, defining social “wins,” metrics for measuring success, and implementing strategy changes
Be Mr. October Year Round – Building upon relationships you have created, the future of social strategy, how to stay ahead of the game