In the constantly changing environment of social media marketing, brands and agencies are frequently asking themselves how to measure the success of online campaigns. There are different answers, of course, depending on the goals of those campaigns. One marketer might view the total number of Facebook fans as the end-all metric, but his client might be concerned only with converting Facebook page visitors into new sales.
Even though they duke out the details, marketers will all likely agree that no matter what, they will have to drive traffic to the page. And for now at least, the big search engines remain one of the best ways to get eyeballs.
Traditional search marketing holds that there are two ways to get search engine traffic. The first is to pay for it via pay-per-click advertising, and the second is to earn the traffic with optimal search engine placement. In the earned search marketing business of search engine optimization (SEO), a Facebook fan page is merely a web page, just like any other, except that it has the built-in benefit of residing on a very powerful domain. The same goes for YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Smart optimization, combined with the strong domains that house them, can propel your social media pages to the top of search engine results for relevant searches.
Social media marketers and SEOs should work together to optimize profile pages, fan pages, channels, etc., to give them the best chances for ranking well. Google and other search engines apply all the same rules to social media pages that they apply to any other page, so understanding the basic guidelines of SEO can have a significant impact in the traffic you are able to drive to your social media assets.
SEO can be broken down into architecture (the way a page is built), content (what appears on the page), and linking (inbound hyperlinks from external sources). Since most social media sites give very little control over the architecture of the page, you will usually be left with linking and content as the only elements that can be changed.
With that in mind, here are tips for optimizing your Facebook and Twitter initiatives, as well as some brands that are getting it right.
Quick tips for optimization:
- Provide regular updates. Like most social media, a Facebook page is only as good as the content available for fans to interact with. Generally speaking, the more digital assets (videos, photos, etc.) the better. Provide regular updates (at least daily and preferably more, though this will depend on your niche) that encourage user participation. Respond to user feedback. To keep from falling behind, consider creating a calendar of updates at the beginning of each week or month.
- Choose a good name for the page. The name of your Facebook page is arguably the most important early decision you will make because this is the very first thing the search engines will see when they visit your page. At the very least, you should include the name of the business. You might also include targeted keywords if appropriate.
- Choose a good username. A username allows you to have a "clean" URL. For example, if you choose "dwaynejohnsonrocks" as your username, your page URL will be "www.facebook.com/dwaynejohnsonrocks." These URLs look nicer on business cards and letterhead, and they are easier to remember.
Vanity URLs, as they are called, also provide an opportunity for further optimization with your business name or a selected keyword. Given the choice between the two, the business name will be more appropriate in most cases.
- Take advantage of the "about" box. The "about" box is a great place to include relevant content and keyword-rich descriptions. This is one of the only places on a page's "wall" that allows for fully customized copy to be written. Many pages use this space to simply provide a link back to the corporate website or place their tagline, but it is an ideal place to help the search engines understand more about your page.
- Customize your page. Facebook allows for a moderate amount of customization. You can't change backgrounds or otherwise skin the page, but you can completely customize other things. For example, you have a large degree of control over how your tabs appear. In addition to adding unique content inside "boxes," you can frame a page hosted elsewhere, which allows for full control over the look and feel of that particular tab (within the confines of the Facebook page that surrounds it, of course).
A customized page immediately communicates credibility to the user and also shows a commitment to your brand's involvement with not only Facebook but also social media as a whole.
Who did it great
The online T-shirt company Threadless has been active in social media since its inception. Its business model of printing user-submitted and user-voted designs requires an environment that encourages feedback and user interaction.
The Threadless Facebook fan page has nearly 77,000 fans and has customized tabs including one that features new shirts. Next to each design is a comment box, which means that every time a Facebook user comment is left, it will be shared with that user's entire network. That's valuable free advertising. Threadless also does an excellent job with the "boxes" tab, which shows a multitude of unique content.
Mistakes to avoid
Any company that does business online should have a Facebook profile. Existing clients and potential new clients expect to find you there. But more importantly, the exponential sharing aspect of Facebook makes it an ideal location for free advertising. Having said that, it's important to understand that a bad Facebook page -- one with no customization, or worse, no regular updates -- can be more detrimental to your brand than having no Facebook profile at all. So before taking the plunge, have a plan.
Quick tips for optimization
- Pick a good username. Your username, or handle, will likely affect if and where your Twitter profile appears on a search engine results page. Most of the time, the most appropriate username will be your brand name, but in certain cases a relevant keyword will be preferable.
- Choose a good account name, which is as, or more, important than the username. Search engines look at both the username and the account name to determine relevance for keyword searches. So if the name of your organization is Dwayne Johnson Fan Club, you'll likely want to choose that as your account name. This will increase the likelihood that your Twitter channel is returned as a result for the keyword search "Dwayne Johnson Fan Club."
- Add links and keywords to your profile. One of the reasons Twitter is so popular is because it is so damn easy to use. While this ease of use might be good for my mom, it's not the greatest thing in the world for your brand because it means that you have few opportunities to customize the page.
Write your bio carefully and include relevant keywords if appropriate. For the "web" URL, it would be best to link to a landing page created especially to convert social media users, but you also might consider linking to a Facebook or YouTube profile. Linking to your homepage is a perfectly acceptable option too.
- The initial characters of tweets are important for search engine listings. The first 40 or so characters of each Twitter update are the ones that will appear in the titles of the search engines' listings when an update, or tweet, is returned as a result. As such, this is an ideal place to include any relevant keywords that might define the content of the message. And as a general rule, try to include keywords in your tweets whenever it makes sense. It's always best to tell the search engines exactly what you mean rather than let them figure it out on their own.
- Tweets should include back links when appropriate. A big part of SEO is link-building, so when it makes sense to do so, include links back to content on your blog, Facebook, YouTube, or website. If you don't overdo it, and keep the tweets on-topic, Twitter can be a good way to build some links back to a page you want to promote.
- Optimize your background image. Even though none of the links will be live, you can customize Twitter's background image so that your profile shows links to your other social media destinations. If it's a personal twitter account, you can include a headshot and even a phone number. And by all means, take advantage of this opportunity to stay consistent with your branding so that it matches your corporate website, blog, etc.
Who did it great
The Coffee Bean
The Coffee Bean has chosen a corporate messaging persona for its Twitter account. Therefore, the background has been optimized to display contact information for customer relations, media and entertainment, and career opportunities. The company has also set aside a small space for current promotions in a graphic labeled "Happening Now at The Coffee Bean."
Best Buy's Twelpforce is a Twitter-based customer service forum. It has optimized its background image to both stay consistent with the branding and messaging of the Twelpforce campaign and also to provide instructions for how to use the Twelpforce service. The bio section clearly states the purpose of the profile, and it even lists a non-live link to an associated Facebook profile.
Mistakes to avoid
Abandoned Twitter profiles are cringe-worthy. It's bad enough when a company sets up a Twitter profile but then does nothing with it, leaving the default color scheme and background. But it's even worse when you see a company that created a Twitter profile, changed the default images, perhaps wrote a few updates... and then abandoned it.
These scenarios communicate a lack of commitment to the brand's online client base. Just like all good online profiles, Twitter requires attention, especially in the form of regular updates. Definitely don't use Twitter as a place to post every new blog post, press release, or corporate announcement. Twitter provides nearly endless opportunities for two-way communication with potential brand advocates and loyal customers. Make an effort to interact with your followers as much as they interact with you.
With regards to SEO, many of the same tactics are going to apply to any social media profiles you are looking to optimize. Try to keep in mind that one of the principal ways that search engines measure the importance of any page, whether it is a social media page or not, is by counting the total number of good links, and more importantly the total number of relevant domains that link back to the page.
Therefore, promote your social media profiles in company correspondence. Add them to email signatures. If you run video online or on television, reserve some space to include a link to your Facebook page. All of these tactics help build awareness of your social media presence and can organically attract links. Also remember to interlink all of your different profiles together, and link to them from your corporate website.
Above all, remember to include your social media presence as part of your larger marketing effort. You don't have to create new campaigns specifically for Facebook or Twitter. If you have success with an existing online or offline campaign, you might be pleasantly surprised how well it translates in the social media world.
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