The Power of Social Media to Acquire Website Traffic

By Mark Evans - September 22nd, 2014

For all the talk about social media being a way to engage and have conversations with customers, one of the most compelling features is attract Website traffic.

From a sales and marketing perspective, social media is an effective acquisition channel. This is particularly the case for companies that have embraced content marketing. What better way to get people to read your blog, white papers, case studies, videos, etc. than an aggressive social media strategy that puts everything into the spotlight.

In a recent blog post, Fred Wilson, a well known venture capitalist with Union Square Ventures, looked at the referrals sources for his blog.

social mediaHe discovered that social (Twitter and Disqus) attract 23% of all traffic, while search accounts for about 20%.

For anyone wondering about the value of social media, Wilson’s blog traffic is a clear illustration about how customers are discovering content.

Social media has become so valuable for brands and individuals creating content because it’s a vibrant, dynamic landscape that can take on a life of its own.

In social media, a particular piece of content can be easily distributed, discovered and shared. Content that captures the spotlight suddenly enjoys the benefits of viral marketing and the multiplier effect.

As important, content that is shared and recommendation within social media enjoys authenticity and validation.

I’m not suggesting in any way that search isn’t an effective tool for content discovery. But it is important to remember that social media channels can deliver extensive reach.

Brands and individuals driving hard with content marketing need to look at all their distribution weapons to attract as many readers as possible.

In some cases, social media is going to be the biggest traffic driver. This is especially the case around dynamic content such as blog posts.

In other cases, search offers tremendous value, particularly if it’s high-quality content (e.g. white papers, e-books) that attract a lot of attention (aka in-bound links).

The key lesson is it’s important to tap into anything that can attract the spotlight and drive Website traffic.

 

 

 

 

#WhyIStayed Opens the Domestic Violence Conversation

By Mark Evans - September 19th, 2014

whyistayed-473x315Social media has been flooded the past month with a lot of differing conversations about domestic violence. These conversations have been fuelled by Ray Rice, the running back of the Baltimore Ravens who was arrested on aggravated assault.

This came on the heels on a video being released of both the altercation in the elevator between Rice and his girlfriend, and the haunting and disturbing aftermath.

It might be hard to believe but many users on social media were not overly sensitive to the situation, and some were even in defense of Rice and others like him.

Much of the conversation has been constructive and open communication, but nothing has had the emotional impact of the simple hashtag of “#WhyIStayed”. A hashtag used by victims of domestic violence to tell their story.

It quickly became one of the hottest trending topics, and easily the most compelling. It was human experience on display acting as a conduit for others to empathize and learn.

The hashtag was so immediate that its ascent is a true testament to the abilities of social media, and in this case, Twitter.

The hashtag was started by just one woman who shared her story in 140 characters. From there, it spread like wildfire and hasn’t stopped since. Twitter is the perfect arena for safe and open discussion on this issue.

Social media has been able to focus the spotlight on the victims, giving them a personal microphone and podium to talk about what they’ve endured and to help others who might be experiencing the same trauma.

It only took hours to explode but there’s hope that this hashtag and its insignificance will not only have staying power, but also the ability to change circumstances.

Truly, one of the more inspiring stories to follow in social media and a ray of light compared to some of the other conversation that many users have had to endure.

Social Media Shaming Backfires

By Mark Evans - September 17th, 2014

102005906-tip2.530x298Shaming by social media comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. Rarely though is it a good idea to shame someone publicly, even if you are certain that they deserve it.

This school of thought extends to users shaming other users, users shaming brands and organizations and can even includes brands shaming customers or potential customers.

PYT, a popular burger restaurant in Philadelphia, had to learn this lesson the hard way when they posted to Facebook the receipt of Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy showing the $0.20 tip he left on a $60 meal.

The strategy backfired as users on Facebook thought the move by PYT was classless and some even spoke about their own experiences at the restaurant which might have led to the poor tip.

It’s hard to sympathize with the owner of PYT who admitted to posting the receipt. The restaurant left itself open to criticism and negativity by taking this route.

In fairness though the post did generate close to 3000 likes as of Tuesday, but overall the conversation was slanted towards disapproval and overall negativity.

A silver lining to this story is that the receipt is on eBay where bidding was up to $100,000. The owner has promised to share some of the money with his staff in lieu of a tip.

The lesson for all businesses is to respect your customers and think twice before taking any harsh feelings public via social media. You have to really consider if this is the best route to take, because many times it is just a can of worms waiting to be opened.

You also have to be honest with yourself before posting. In this case, did the owner ask the staff what happened? Did they consider that the tip was the result of bad service, food or maybe even something else.

This is an interesting story and an even more notable cautionary tale amongst the many for businesses in social media,

Talk Of The Scottish Referendum In Social Media

By Sheldon Levine - September 16th, 2014

The Scottish ReferendumThis Thursday is going to be a big day in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday the people of Scotland will be voting on referendum that would see Scotland breaking off from the United Kingdom and England to become it’s own country. Of course, this is a huge deal for everyone in the United Kingdom.

People have been talking about this referendum for almost two years, but now that it’s getting down to crunch time, we thought it would be interesting to see what people have been saying for the past month in social media around it.

Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, we searched through social channels for people using the referendum’s official hashtag, #IndyRef, and social conversations that contain both Scotland AND referendum for the past 30 days.

Our search came up with over 2.7 million results. Our search terms showed 9,403 blog posts, 36,161 online news articles, 8,160 forum postings and 2,673,318 tweets that have been talking about the upcoming referendum vote.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

While, of course this has been part of a great deal of conversation, especially in the United Kingdom, for a few months, when we looked at these mentions spread out across the past month, we can really see the referendum talk ramp up in the past few days as the vote becomes eminent.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

As we’ve mentioned a few times already, this is news around the world, but especially in the United Kingdom. When we looked to see where conversations about the Scottish referendum were coming from, it wasn’t surprising that the majority of it came from the United Kingdom. 59.9% of all the conversation was actually coming from the United Kingdom. Interestingly enough, the two largest “colony” countries also seem to be keeping an eye on what’s going on with Australia accounting for 3.5% of the conversation and Canada with 3.4%.

Sysomos MAP - Country Distribution

However, many people around the world outside of the colonial countries are keeping an eye on what’s happening and also talking about it. A look at our geo location heat map of tweets that have surfaced in the past month that meet our search criteria shows that people around the globe are in fact interested in what’s going to happen on Thursday.

Sysomos MAP - Geo Location Heat Map of Tweets

Since we were already looking at Twitter, we decided to dig in and see what hashtags were being used most when people were tweeting about the Scottish referendum. When we look at the list below of the top 10 hashtags being used we can see that five of the 10 seem to be on the #VoteYes side, which is the side vying for Scotland’s independence. On the flip side of that, only two of the top 10 hashtags being used seem to support Scotland staying part of the United Kingdom; the #BetterTogether and #NoThanks hashtags.

Sysomos MAP - Top Hashtags on Twitter

For one last idea of which side of this referendum might be winning, we decided to compare the #VoteYes and #NoThanks hashtags side-by-side over the past month. When we did this, we found that #VoteYes hashtag has a commanding voice in the social space over #NoThanks with 87% of those conversations.

Sysomos MAP - Comparison of Overall Activity

There seems to be a lot of chatter pushing towards Scotland becoming it’s own country on Thursday, but social talk is only one thing. Only the votes will really tell.

For a much better (and funnier) explanation of what the Scottish referendum is about and what’s been happening, here’s a great (and hilarious) video from Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver:

What do you think is going to happen on Thursday?

Blogging Is Easy….With the Right Approach

By Mark Evans - September 15th, 2014

I always find it interesting to read articles about how to discover ideas for blog posts, how to stay organized, or how to drive distribution.

It’s helpful advice but it tends to over-complicate blogging, which has much to do with writing content on interesting topics.

It’s really that simple.

The problem, however, is people tend to over-think how and why they blog. In the process, it becomes a multi-faceted approach overwhelmed by strategy, tactics and planning.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead, blogging should be something that happens naturally or, at least, happens by simply creating a measured approach.

When a blog is rumbling along, the ideas and posts flow. There’s no writer’s block or a lack of things to write about. It just seems easy.

How does that happen?

In some respects, it’s a matter of not trying too hard to make things happen. Yes, that may sound simplistic or unstructured but blogging shouldn’t forced or a lot of work.

Here are some tips for making blogging easy and, hopefully fun:

1. Keep a close eye for ideas wherever you go and whatever you read. Think about how something could be an interesting blog post by developing your own take on something, or reacting to someone else’s ideas or thinking.

2.blogging Allowed yourself to be inspired rather than thinking about blogging as something that happens by coming up with a long list of editorial possibilities. Sometimes, blog posts idea come out of nowhere when you’re not working. And often, these are the best posts because they materialize when you least expect them.

3. Keep a notebook for ideas, even if they are half-baked. Sometimes, a blog post idea takes time to completely emerge so its essence needs to be captured right away. Another approach is writing quick drafts in WordPress that may feature a headline and/or a few sentences.

4. Write a variety of blog posts, rather than the same kind of posts day after day. It’s like visiting Baskin Robbins, rather than eating vanilla ice cream all the time. It’s a more interesting way to write, and a better way to serve your audience.

5. Think about your “customers” (aka readers), and their interests. What are kind of things that they would read to be engaged, entertained or engaged. What kind of things would encourage them to invest a few minutes of day on your blog?

6. Spend as much time on the headlines as the blog post copy. A bad headline will cut a blog post off at the knees.

7. Use images and links to spice things up and offer more information. There’s nothing like a wall of text to quickly discourage someone from reading a blog post.

8. Answer questions that your customers are asking. To discover the questions being asked, talk with your employees – people in customer service, sales, marketing, etc.

9. Blog when the iron is hot. If an idea pops up at 5 a.m. or midnight, it’s a good sign to starting writing. It may not be the best blog post but sometimes an idea just needs to come out.

10. Don’t look at blogging as work, otherwise it becomes tough slogging and a drag to do. Blogging should be interesting. It should inspire, spark someone’s curiosity or educate.

Putting aside the mechanics of blogging (e.g. creating an editorial calendar, holding formal brainstorming sessions, etc.), what do you think the keys are to a good blog?

More: For advice on how to blog faster, check out Brad Blackman’s post on how to use a checklist or template.

Build Awareness through Social Media

By Mark Evans - September 12th, 2014

Donations-590x250With the popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and with the many causes that have flooded and leveraged social media to fundraise, it’s important that organizations ensure that they have raised awareness along with capital.

Social media offers the unique opportunity to know more about your charitable campaigns beyond the amount of dollars raised.

For instance, ALS’ wikipedia page views are up 18% since the Ice Bucket Challenge commenced. The Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t alone in this field, even though it has fully dominated most newsfeeds this summer.

Race for the Cure, The Big Dig, Charity Swear Box, amongst others have all raised funds successfully on social media. The hope beyond money is that the message of why these campaigns exist gets across to a large and engaged audience. Essentially, to go viral in some capacity.

Each campaign must monitor and measure their website analytics, where users are interacting with their website, Wikipedia and any other satellite websites where information of their cause is kept.

On top of all of this, you need to closely monitor social media activity. Every tweet, post and comment must be part of your measurement and determining success.

An interesting point to note is that the ALS Wikipedia page in other languages has generated an increase in traffic, proving that this sparked interest from around the world.

This is not to say that the money raised isn’t the real cause, but the real value lies in increasing awareness which can lead to ensuring spikes in fundraise don’t take nosedives in the future.

Social media has the power to get a message out to the large group of people and have it expand from there. This has to be part of the intention when crafting these online campaigns.

Once the Ice Bucket Challenge subsides, it’ll be fascinating to see how the next few campaigns handle the challenge. As well, will people have gotten the message of what the Ice Bucket Challenge was really about.

Filtered Feeds And The Future Of Social Advertising

By Sheldon Levine - September 11th, 2014

This post first appeared on the Social Media Week global blog.

What a Filtered Twitter Means for the Future of Social Media

Twitter users were outraged this week – shocking, we know – to learn that Twitter announced possible plans to switch to an algorithm-drive content feed. If adopted, using Twitter would feel more similar to the user experience on Facebook, which also uses an algorithm-driven feed to filter the content that appears on users’ homepages. The result would eliminate the aspect that many users believe to be Twitter’s greatest strength – a raw stream of information and opinions filtered only by which users choose to follow.

As GigaOm points out, users are not pleased:

Twitter1

 

The real question for social media users to ask, however, is not how this change may affect Twitter, but what it means for the future of social media? Facebook and Twitter, the behemoths of social media, have found an effective model for generating revenue from ad dollars, which means we better get used to seeing promoted content across all of our social feeds. The social media advertising industry in the U.S. is projected to be $8.4 billion in 2014 – and grow to $15 billion by 2018.

The Future of Social Advertising

Although we’re all accustomed to incessant and irrelevant Internet advertising by now, consumers will no longer have to suffer through months of banner ads trying to sell them dietary supplements or jeggings after one regrettable Google search. Today, advertisers are finally equipped to actually bring consumers content they desire, or will desire.

More data about consumers’ preferences and desires exists on social media today than ever before. But while advertisers previously lacked the ability to harness such information to deliver worthwhile content, Sysomos’ social technology has progressed to a level where marketers can dive deep into communities of users. This allows them to produce specifically tailored content from what they say, what their friends say and what is said to them – all in real-time. This new technology allows social advertisements to finally deliver to consumers the content they’re actively interested in, and even predict their preferences. It’s the right content, to the right person, at the right time.

So does Twitter’s move to filtered content signal the world’s pending takeover by advertisers? Maybe – but at least we’ll be too engaged on social media to notice.

Social Media Finds its Voice Against CeeLo

By Mark Evans - September 10th, 2014

CeeLo-Green-Deletes-Twitter-After-Rape-CommentsSocial media is vocal and when it is time to let a brand, user or celebrity (who can be labeled as both user and brand) know how it feels, it can become relentless.

As discussed many times in this blog, all digital marketers and celebrities need to not just be careful of what they post, but also really consider the message they are sending.

Recently, musician and television personality CeeLo Green used Twitter to share his controversial beliefs on rape. The comments won’t be repeated here but needless to say, Twitter responded in kind.

The response was fast and harsh causing CeeLo to remove the tweets and deactivate his account but not before screenshots of the conversation made the digital rounds.

The real consequence for CeeLo was after news of this story surfaced, TBS canceled his TV show after only 1 season. A great reminder that social media carries very drastic real world consequences.

So many great lessons for digital marketers and PR practitioners, but it’s unfortunate that it comes at the expense of such harsh and false comments.

While most would never post on this issue unless for very specific reasons, the lesson is that social media is always vigilant and always on guard. Just as important to take away from this is that the consequences do not end in the online world, they will continue to follow you around.

As always suggested on this blog, organizations should stay far away from these topics, regardless of how vehemently strong the stance might be. If for some reason they pertain to your cause than enter very carefully.

Watching Twitter opinions congregate, mobilize and attack is really one of the great sights to behold in this day and age. It never ceases to surprise, and we should all be curious as to where it will wield its power next.

Lots Of Hype Leading To Today’s Apple Announcement

By Sheldon Levine - September 9th, 2014

Tim Cooks Reveals New Apple ProductsSeptember is the new Christmas if you’re an Apple fanboy (or girl).

If you watch the world of tech you’re likely aware that Apple will be making a big announcement today. September has become the annual time when they show off and release the latest version of the iPhone to the world. A lot of people have been waiting a while for this announcement as the phones are supposed to get an all new design, probably get larger and will likely have a bunch of fancy new bells and whistles.

But the phone (or possibly phones if the rumours are true) isn’t the only thing that people are excited to hear about today. It is also rumoured that Apple will be unveiling their first piece of wearable technology, which is expected to be called the iWatch. As well, earlier this year Apple showed off iOS8, the software that the new phones will run, and they have a tendency to release new mobile operating systems on the same day or within a few days after these September announcement events.

There’s a lot to look forward today.

Since a lot of people have been anticipating this day for quite some time, we thought it would be fun to look at the hype leading up to today in the social media world using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software.

We started by casting a wide net and looking for mentions of Apple and a bunch it’s already popular and newly expected products like iPads, iPhones, the iWatch and iOS. Doing a search for mentions of these things over the past six month shows a whopping 538 million results. We found 2,504,900 blog posts, 3,973,049 online news articles, 13,136,384 forum postings and 518,580,160 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

If we look at those mentions over time, we can clearly see that there’s almost never a lull in talk about Apple and its products. We can see that there was a large spike in activity around the beginning of June when Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, took the stage at their WWDC (World Wide Develop Conference) to announce iOS8 to the world. The second spike we see around the beginning of August is a strange one. After we did bit a research into the spike it appeared to be a few days of a flurry of tweets that were promoting a game for iPhones and iPads called Big Business HD, but we’re not quite sure why (no offence to the game makers).

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

We then looked into which countries seem to be the most interested in Apple and their products. Not surprising, the most mentions of Apple and Apple products came from the United States. They accounted for 33.1% of all mentions. The next closest countries were China with 12.6% of mentions and then the UK with 6%. However, you can also see that a lot of other countries are represented in the pie chart below as the world seems to be in love with Apple.

Sysomos MAP - Country Distribution

For a better idea of how world-wide the talk about Apple is we pulled up a geo location heat map of where tweets about Apple and their products are originating from. In this image we can see just how wide spread the talk is throughout the globe.

Sysomos MAP - Geo Location Heat Map of Tweets

All of this data shouldn’t be so surprising though. Everyone knows that people love Apple products (and love to talk about them as well). So we wanted to also know which of the upcoming announcements today people are most looking forward to.

Here we compared talk specifically about the iPhone 6, iWatch and iOS8 to see what people were going to be most excited to hear about today.

Looking at talk of these three things over the past six months we found that the iPhone 6 has been talked about the most coming in with 7,888,715 mentions. That’s not too surprising seeing that iPhones are big sellers and people are more worried about their phone than what operating system their running on that phone. That said though, iOS 8 came in second with 3,222,731 mentions over the past six months, which is still a significant amount of chatter. The iWatch only racked up 1,645,256 mentions showing that people are still excited to find out about it, but don’t seem as concerned with owning a wearable device as they are with a phone.

Sysomos MAP - Share of Voice Comparison

When we looked at the talk of these specific products over time, that spike in mentions when iOS 8 was announced in June becomes much more apparent. It’s also interesting to note how over the past month as we got closer to today talk about the new iPhone 6 that is likely going to be announced today has been steadily on the rise.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Overtime Comparison

One other interesting thing we noted while comparing talk around the products was where they were talked about. The iPhone 6 dominated social conversations in each channel we looked at, except in blogs. On blogs, the iWatch seems to be of the most interest. A theory as to why this may have occurred is that bloggers have a bit more room to speculate over things that reporters that write for online news sources and on Twitter you just get the general public, who is more interested in the phones than anything else. But that’s just a theory. What do you think?

Sysomos MAP - Comparison by Source

Are you excited to hear what Apple announces today? Let us know what you’re most excited to hear about. Is it one of the three things we looked at? Or will it be “one more thing” that Apple will sneak in that no one was expecting?

Social Media’s Quiet Superstar: Slideshare

By Mark Evans - September 8th, 2014

Within the social media “party”, Slideshare is the cool, confident and level-headed kid.

Slideshare doesn’t make a scene, try to attract the spotlight or do things that piss off other people. It just quietly rumbles along, making friends and doing thing that make people happy such as getting rid of its freemium model.

SlideshareAs important, Slideshare does a great job of giving people a place to effectively share their presentations.

I met with a startup entrepreneur recently who talked about how much traffic it generates when it posts content on Slideshare.

When asked to explain, he said there simply isn’t as much competition for attention as Twitter and Facebook where everyone is yelling to be noticed.

So, what is Slideshare’s secret?

I think it boils down to how Slideshare is an easy and effective way to share content.

Its success, in many way, is driven by its focus. You don’t find a lot of bells and whistles on Slideshare or a continual expansion of features. Slideshare just does what it does without making much of a fuss.

It has been interesting to see how little has changed with Slideshare since it was acquired by LinkedIn for $119-million in 2012.

Aside from the decision to eliminate freemium, LinkedIn appears to have left Slideshare alone rather than suck it into the fold – something it has done with other acquisitions such as Connected (a social CRM service that was a personal favourite).

Maybe the folks at LinkedIn realize that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing, so they have left Slideshare alone – at least for now.

It’s a smart strategy because Slideshare has such a strong reputation as a valuable service. What’s particularly interesting is how Slideshare’s utility has expanded even though it hasn’t gone out of its way to add more features. In a pretty organic way, people have started to use Slideshare in different ways.

For marketers, Slideshare’s unassuming personality can make it a really effective tool to publish and share content. Since it’s not a place that features loud place to have conversations, a flurry of personal updates or engagement, it’s not as difficult to get noticed.

As important, Slideshare makes it easy to share and consume content, particularly the ability to embed presentations on other Websites.

For people who haven’t used Slideshare, it’s worth exploring how it can be used for marketing, sales and sharing interesting content.

Why do you think Slideshare is so successful? What are some of the ways that you use it?