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Social Media Link Building
By Julie Joyce
We've been talking about social media for what seems like ages now. However, unless you've seen it grow from the ground up, it's not an immediately clear concept - you and your clients may not be on the same wavelength.
One concept that can still confuse the heck out of clients is social media link building. So let's dig into why social media matters, which networks/platforms have value and which don't, and methods of using social for your own link efforts.
Why Does Social Media Matter?
One huge reason that social media matters right now is, simply, because everyone likes it. Even if you detest some (or all) of the platforms, using the big ones is almost mandatory at this point.
Nearly everyone is on Facebook. Lots of people are on Twitter. A good number of people are on LinkedIn. Some people are on Pinterest. And SEOs are on Google+.
Social media is all about relationship building, and the more recent lines of thinking about link building involve (guess what?) relationships. Just as you have to earn the trust of a friend, you have to earn good links these days.
With trust being such a good thing, using trusted sites is a critical way that you can show your community that you are legitimate. Many things are easy to automate and fake, but doing social media well? That's difficult.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook are seriously trusted sites, and a profile link there is obviously going to be a good link, but the interaction there is also a good source of trust for a brand. Tons of spammy template sites are built in order to capture rankings and traffic and send it elsewhere, for example, but the chances of those types of sites having a Facebook page with 1,000 fans who actually comment and interact is pretty slim.
Social matters because everyone uses it, basically, and because it's a seriously efficient way of promoting your site, your brand, and your personal voice. We used to comment on blog posts and in forums mainly, but now we have all these other ways of expressing our opinions, bonding with others, and promoting ourselves.
How to Build Links Socially
Promoting a site through social media can also help to build links. A key point to remember here is that there are many ways to build links.
Social media links are difficult to measure much of the time. Many links generated through social are indirect ones, being placed down the road.
Sometimes you don't actually generate links. Sometimes you generate straight conversions, which is fantastic.
Sometimes all the social activity helps you rise in the SERPs, hopefully leading to more links/clicks/conversions. The links that you insert into your profiles can certainly help you, and you can build links to those profiles to boost their visibility. Sounds almost like magic doesn't it?
The Benefits of Social Links
The main benefit, as mentioned earlier, comes from the visibility that social promotion gives your brand. Social signals are a factor in Google's algorithm and can cause your results to appear higher in searches at times.
Having great social sites encourages people to interact with your brand and have it on their minds, thus (hopefully) encouraging more conversions and links.
Popular social networks also give you a good link to your main site from your profile, which carries the very real benefit of any great link. If it's a followed link, it will help you rank higher, which is a good direct SEO value.
Not all profile links are followed, and those that aren't are still good for traffic, but if you can grab the followed ones? That's fantastic for SEO purposes.
Pinterest and Google+ profile links are followed for now. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profile links are not followed.
Don't ignore a site that's big just because you can't get a followed profile link though, as the benefits are still there.
The Major Social Networks
Facebook has been around since early 2004 and has more than 1 billion active users.
We constantly fuss about privacy issues and being served ads on Facebook yet we're still using it to show off our kids' latest photos, tell everyone about our amazing vacation, inspire jealousy about how awesome our lives are, spout off about politics and religion, and annoy everyone with our game requests and group invitations.
Facebook has a lot of problems and a lot of intricate settings that you need to pay attention to, but it has some fantastic benefits too, most importantly (for marketing purposes) the Facebook Page. A brand can post photos, videos, status updates, information about upcoming events/sales, contests, etc. You can communicate with a brand and its users on a Page, and some brands give you special information if you "Like" them.
Just to give you an example of the potential of a big brand engaging its users, check the Starbucks stats below:
What about a small brand? My daughter takes ballet classes at a local dance school that has 469 likes. That's a far cry from Starbucks but for them, it's a nice amount. They can promote upcoming dance shows, post photos in hopes of getting more parents to sign their kids up, offer special rates for signing up before a certain date, give parents information about rehearsals and extra practices, etc.
In their case, maybe they don't generate actual links to either their Facebook page or their website, but they can generate signups. If the goal of a link is to increase brand visibility and generate more converting traffic, then anything else that functions in that same way can easily be regarded as just as important as a link.
Last example: My agency runs a local news site and we've relied heavily on Facebook to promote its articles. In fact, in all of 2012, our number one referral was Facebook, sending us 8,321 visitors who averaged over 3 pages per visit and over 3 minutes per visit. For a small local site run totally through volunteers those numbers aren't bad at all. That's great visibility for us and it's translated into advertising requests, guest post inquiries, and new non-agency volunteer staff.
And personally on your own account, you can always promote whatever you like. I sometimes post my articles there but don't always because I use the account for more personal than business reasons.
Some people have their Twitter and Facebook connected so whatever they post on one gets posted on the other. Although I'm not a fan of that usually, it certainly does provide efficiency.
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