Two weeks ago, I presented a talk at Pubcon entitled “Global Social Media Signals for SEO.” I briefly discussed several methods to “game” social signals.(Click here) It was clear that people were eager to learn more about gaming these signals. Let me tell you more about gaming social media signals without further delay.
Wait a minute! This seems like I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we move any further, I believe we should answer this question:
Why would anyone attempt to manipulate social media signals?
Gaming social media signals can be fun if you’re a massive dork like me. If you have real friends, I suggest that you identify actionable goals for the signals you’re gaming. Otherwise, this could become a wasteful activity. You could push content to in-networks, increase user authority, or even play outside channels such as search results.
A quick note on gaming search results that include social signals: Search engines using social media signals are still very young. We have seen engines use various methods to integrate social signals over the years. Each of these techniques has had varying significance. It is essential to incorporate social signals into a larger marketing plan, including the basics of SEO. Social media isn’t replacing SEO; it’s improving it.
Psychology: Get inside the head of your target
This is your target audience. You must know what motivates them to take action. These are often called “incentives” by economists. These are often called “incentives” by economists. However, we don’t usually use direct calls to action on social media, so they are more like dangling the worm in front of a fish. We’re not telling the fish to eat the worm, but we hope it looks attractive enough to attract the fish.
Abraham Maslow is one of the most prominent psychologists in the 20th century who worked on motivation. Maslow’s “hierarchy” of needs, which he published in 1943 in a paper, is well-known. You can see Maslow’s classification of needs into five sections: Safety, Physiological, and Love/belonging. Esteem is the last section. Self-actualization is the fifth. Although each section identifies a human need, I’m afraid I have to disagree with the hierarchy concept. It implies that they are all independent of each other. One example is that I may want to be self-actualized and crave cheeseburgers. Understanding Maslow’s theory will help you position your content and your sharing strategy to be compatible with your basic needs.
The Journal of Marketing Research published a new study [PDF] that examined which types of content are most likely to become viral. They found that content that evokes high physiological arousal is more likely to be shared and engaged.
Use the Right Content
Matt McGee recently showed us data showing that images get more Facebook interactions than other types of posts. Keep in mind that interactions are not the same thing as content consumption. Video consumption is on the rise. However, social media metrics have a short shelf life. Users might read a blog article or watch a video, but they will be ready to move on to the next piece. Images can be accessed quickly and without the need to click through. This keeps users close to the “share,” ‘retweet, “like” buttons.
While images rule Facebook, animated images have taken over Google+. While some might find them irritating, it is becoming increasingly clear that these bizarre GIFs are extremely popular with “shares” and “+1”s. I received over 200 shares for an animated GIF a few days ago. You can browse animated GIFs that have been rated and tagged the most by GIFBin. These GIFs will be compatible with Google+.
Blog posts can be your cup of tea. Learn how to embed viral elements to increase page sharing. You can encourage more social shares by using uniform image sizes and emphasizing white spaces.
Images, animated or not, can attract a lot of attention. However, other content types are just as effective. Finding (or creating) the best content is critical. My usual method is to troll other networks, such as Reddit and Digg, looking for trending content. Next, I re-post to other networks. This was what I used to call “Retweet bait,” but it can be used anywhere inner-network sharing exists.
How to Identify the Right Signals
Simple Quantitative Signals
Refer to the stream.
Spread/Share Signals – Gaming these signals will help you distribute content to a broad audience and place your name in front of other users, improving relationship metrics and authority. These metrics will help you influence Google’s recent freshness update. Clear calls to action such as “Please retweet,” “Please share,” and any other suitable variants will get you the best results.
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