Digging into Social Media Optimization

In this second part of a three-part series, we will continue talking about how to avoid being buried by Digg. Then we will discuss how to create viral applications for Facebook and MySpace and look at the looming commercialization of the art of "friending." Finally, we will look at the commercialization of the blogosphere, which is far more inevitable than the commercialization of other social media, though not necessarily less derided by several "armchair" analysts.

Digging Deeper Into MySpace

From SEO to SMO/SNO: The Big Bang?

The first article I ever wrote about social media was about Digg. It is on SEO Chat and I truly enjoyed writing about it. I made one prescient call when I said that "it could very well become the next port of call for website promoters and advertisers." Then I made a blooper and called Digg a "Social bookmarking" site. Ah, semantics will be the undoing of us all. That is akin to calling a wolf a dog. It just won’t do. Since then, let’s just say things have changed. Social bookmarking is totally different from social networking To put it simply, bookmarks are for insiders to view, networks are for outsiders to view. The two models are totally different. And that brings us to this article.

What started as one article led me to the conclusion that social media pundits are pushing their agenda aggressively, and it seems they are seeing results in their efforts to commercialize the social media networks. Then again, the social media networks, like the search engines, are taking steps to ensure that their media does not turn into the hunting ground of large corporations intent on feeding off of their millions of members (well not all of them, but at least the ones we will be talking about today). 

To all die hard socialmediaholics: please do not crucify me. I don’t have a Facebook profile, a MySpace profile, or an Orkut profile. I do Digg and LinkedIn, if that makes you happy. The point is that I may make a couple of mistakes in describing some aspects of social media and my mistakes should not be seen as a sign of laziness or disrespect (any laziness and disrespect will be revealed by the amount of words I devote to Digg and how much I devote to the rest of the gang, but not by my mistakes). I will again draw on articles in Search Engine Land and also on some experiences I have had in blogging and in researching social media. For details about social media ad models, Antal wrote a very good piece on Facebook’s advertising model here.

Social media optimization is complicated. And like anything complicated, plans for it should be kept simple. New things do not have to be created. Internet marketing already has strategies for attracting people to another web site. Whether it be through SEO or social media or blogs, it is called relevant themed content! In other words, content that attracts links will win in every way when it comes to Internet marketing, whatever acronym it may have.

With readers looking to digest large chunks in small bits, content has to be arranged in a simple form that can be easily absorbed. The format of your content is more important than ever (lists, how-to’s, videos, pictures, and even slide shows). This content, properly arranged, can be leveraged in websites to ensure that they attract attention.

The Power of a Shocking Title

A shocking title will get you far with news aggregators. Here are a few I found on Digg: "Meanest Mom On The Planet," "The Ten Most Dangerous Foods," "How To Make a Billion Dollar Burrito." Definitely not Albert Einstein stuff, but they all made it to the top page of Digg. Of course, some pretty tame titles also made it (probably insiders if you ask me). Some day we will all be insiders and will be able to submit an article called "How To Squeeze Lemons" and get two thousand Diggs. But until then, we better do all that we can to ensure that the content stays deep and useful and that topics are engaging enough to make people laugh.

Staying Away from Spam

In my other article on social media optimization, I mentioned that a blatant advertisement is considered spamming. Social media is gradually getting commercial, with businesses buying (oops, I meant hiring) members with 100+ friends. A sock puppet agent on Facebook is still going for bargain basement prices.

Nevertheless, if you want to build an honest network, consistency and honesty actually work wonders. Do things like add a few friends every week on your network, PM major users to share tips or comment on a post, become a known contributor on a particular topic, and focus on niche industries that fit your profile. Don’t just hyperventilate over MySpace and Facebook.

Spam is a huge problem on community sites, wiki pages, and even forums. Since spam does not offer value to the readers of a site, most community sites are getting rid of spam posts, keeping their website spam free and hiring moderators and administrators by the bus load.

Basically, stay away from spam. Don’t troll; focus and contribute. This is pretty important because people do try short cuts and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But on sites like Digg it does not work. Chris over at www.10e20.com contributed an article to Search Engine Land listing a few things to do for social media in 2008. These include putting in a "2007 in review" for a particular industry. Picking your topic, your theme, and your timeliness will go a long way in determining how attractive you are to news aggregators. 

An overlooked tool is a poll (the more controversial the better). The good thing about polls is you don’t always have to be politically correct. You can then let your inner prejudices out (for example, is Yahoo ever going to catch up with Google’s stock price? Pick yes, no, or maybe). Chris has his article here on Search Engine Land.

Let’s talk about promoting yourself on MySpace if you are a little known brand or company. MySpace is the biggest online community, currently at 300 million accounts. It’s riddled with spam and has "issues" with policing (heck, it’s the size of Pakistan).

Before I go on, let me say that I don’t enjoy MySpace and I don’t have an account on it; however, for the sake of the dollar I have actually (gasp) researched MySpace. Since I already have an avid Internet interest, I go out of my way to avoid community sites (otherwise I may not have time to do much else). But enough of my personal preferences; back to promoting yourself on MySpace.

The Beauty Of Cold Calling

When you are on MySpace you can solicit without permission as long as you are a member. You can add people as friends as long as they are not under sixteen (if you are under sixteen and reading this article, you are one severe geek). Even though cold calling is a possibility, flocking should help a lot more. Participate in their forums and join a group. Even better, form a group in your specific niche or industry.

The trick is that there is no trick; participation is essential. Friend a lot of people and optimize your page for SEO, because sometimes these community pages climb to the top of the SERPs, especially when they break new stories for small web sites.

Your major visitors will be other MySpace users who would rather come to your MySpace page than to your regular web space. Promote your MySpace page on your web page and in other pages.

When you build packages for Facebook using any of their programming languages, you have to design to fit your audience. Testing your application is probably more important than what the application does, since a lot of times programmers design for other programmers and not for non-programmers. It’s similar to the way remote control designers seem to design for other remote control designers (what does that squiggly arrow thing on the left side mean?).

You have to create a program that delivers value to a particular segment of Facebook users, or all segments of Facebook. Once your program is created and tested, it must prove that it’s viral. People should want to send the application to all their friends once they get it. The purpose of testing is to ensure that it is simple and easy to use, but also that it does what it’s designed to do.

Shouting Out On Digg

According to Neil Patel, "A shout is a message that can be sent between two or more users on Digg, making it a very powerful tool for getting many people to take notice of content, and potentially garnering lots of Diggs." Most of what I say about shouting out on Digg will be from his piece.

According to him, you should have at least 300 friends on Digg (probably because that is a large amount, but actually a hundred will do). According to Patel, "Once you submit a story or someone else submits a story that you want promoted, you need to think about the timing. Timing is very important when shouting because the quicker you get votes, the faster you are going to get to the homepage. I recommend shouting right after a story is submitted-and, more importantly, during working hours, because that is when people browse Digg."

Shouting can only be done for a hundred people at a time. This is because Digg has set a limit to the amount of people that you can shout out to. Maybe in the future they will lift the cap.

Digg, MySpace, and Facebook are not the only ways to promote your website in a community. The Payperpost phenomenon has led to the blogosphere becoming a huge way of promoting websites. That, however, will not be discussed in this article.

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