Consider the effects of “walled off” social networks on your marketing strategy. Like Facebook: No matter how much you post, share or comment inside the network, your organic content will never be found by anyone searching outside the network. Only hyperlinks can send visitors from Facebook to your page.
Not your comments, likes, photos or other interactions. That’s a huge loss of search value to yourself – and the rest of the web.
As recently pointed out in a Scientific American article, social networks risk fragmenting the web into separate gardens. This was the original AOL and Compuserve models. Today, the quest to sequester customers is back. This should concern marketers whose companies generate valuable organic that might be less effective in pulling in search-engine traffic.
Especially from mobile search.
This isn’t about Google, per se, which is cut-off from Facebook content; we understand that people spend more time in Facebook than Google. But few of them actually use Facebook to “search” for answers to everyday problems, which is how they use search engines. And especially, how people use smart phones and tablets. Consider how times you’ve been sitting in front of the television, watching a program or commercial, then searching your smart phone or tablet to get more information.
Marketing experts have a new challenge: managing the “accessibility” of content. Extending the value of organic interactions that can drive traffic – blogs, videos, polls, etc – is critical because organic content volume dwarfs pay-per-click ad budgets.
It’s also frequently better at “marketing” than advertising. Customer comments, technical support answers from your company and YouTube videos that are searchable can attract traffic. Often times these interactions are more rich with product information and human knowledge than the best articles, blog entries and knowledge bases.
Everyone enjoys the benefits of searchable organic content daily. Successful SEO strategies target simple word combinations. That’s why conversational content works: we don’t search for “Michelin” but “how to change a flat tire.” Searched is used like a “bionic ear” to listen to the internet’s ongoing human conversation. We’re looking for other people’s everyday words, comments, testimonials, and answers to help us.
That’s where LinkedIn might have an advantage over Facebook for driving web traffic.
Parts of LinkedIn’s network are open to the web. Google and other search engines can spider them. Vast chunks of organic interaction content can become search results. Consider the LinkedIn Answers feature. Companies that answer questions are creating marketing opportunities. They are demonstrating value about their people or products to meet customers’ needs.
Every answer to a question becomes a traffic generator. If someone can actually find them.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re in the digital marketing industry. A potential customer is debating the purchase of a Flip camera. They search Google with the simple phrase: “does anyone have the Flip digital camcorder yet?”
The results look like this:
Notice the first organic result. It’s a link from LinkedIn Answers forum that addresses this very issue. It beat out Flip’s own website in the search results. It’s also from 2008, proving “evergreen value” of open organic content. And the content is open to everyone: You don’t have to be a LinkedIn member, to read people’s responses, one of which looks like this:
This was my answer, from nearly three years ago. It not only provides helpful human content, but includes multiple features to drive traffic to our company. LinkedIn members can connect to me directly, send me an email or review our profile. Non-members can click the hyperlink to visit our public website. Everyone can see we’ve merited “Best Answers” in various categories, which helps establish our credibility and reputation.
The conclusions are huge. Consider how much useful, intelligent content you contribute to social networks every day. You answer questions, make comments, suggest web resources and offer advice. You make customers smarter. For years we did this kind of work on open spaces on the web. Nowadays we do this kind of work on social networks.
The key is to do it on the right social networks.
That means LinkedIn, because of its open accessibility to search engines. Imagine every comment, answer, web link or suggestion to a question driving traffic to your website. Suddenly, spending time with others on social media becomes evergreen value for years, a permanent part of the open, world wide web.
Now that’s a great way to create low-cost, never-ending social and search engine traffic to your website.