Did you know that the percentage of search engine results affected by social networks have risen from a respectable 5.3% in 2009 to an impressive 7.22% in 2011?
Even the likes of domain level brand metrics and the keyword agnostic features have fallen behind the impact that the current social networks have had on search results. In fact, as far as most experts are concerned, the influence of the social networks is only going to get stronger and that is exactly why you need a social networking strategy for your business NOW!
What is Social Networking?
In the simplest of definitions, social networking is mingling with friends, family, colleagues, business associates, and people with similar interests/backgrounds; via social networking websites like Facebook, Myspace or Twitter. Apart from its most primary feature, which is of course intermingling of individuals and groups, social networking websites have also become a new form of public media (known as social media).
Through sharing of ideas, experiences, news, encounters, events, products and even businesses; people come to know about new things everyday on these sites. It is for this reason that a social networking strategy is necessary to utilize this new form of media in such a way, so as to increase the traffic on your site. You can utilize these sites to connect to relevant people (people who at least have a real link to what your website is about) and get them to give you feedbacks in the form of comments while reading your posts. One should also note that reaching out to interested people in this way will moreover increase the chances of a conversion (finding a customer).
Why is Social Networking Important?
Website owners are often skeptic about implementing a social networking strategy because analytics show that traffic from social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ and such do not usually spend a lot of time on the landing page. This of course affects both browsing and conversion rates in a negative manner; especially when compared to the traffic which is directed to the landing pages from ads, referrals or even organic searches. However, what most fail to understand is in spite of this, social networks are quite important because they serve a different function altogether.
In order to understand WHY a social networking strategy is important and exactly how it helps, take a look at the model conversion funnel .
The steps on the funnel are representative of the different stages that lead to the final action, which is conversion or buying. People usually browse around the internet indefinitely until something manages to catch their attention (discovery). Once something does manage to generate significant interest, they will then feel a longing or realize the need to get it (realization of need). After this, they will browse the internet once again to consider the best options according to their requirements (consideration). After this part is over, they will take the most important decision, which is buying (conversion). Each and every step that leads to the conversion is important and this is where social networks come in.
The very first step towards conversion is discovery or exposure to the product in question and social networking sites are perfect for exposing their users to these products/services. The reason as to why social traffic is not converted into buyers at a more impressive rate is because it is not supposed to. Visitors are rarely converted into buyers if it’s a product/service that they are seeing for the first time, but one does need to see something for the first time to become aware of its existence and this is exactly what social media does; it exposes people to new things and in that course of action, creates prospects for future conversions.
How to Begin [Social Networking Strategy] ?
Before beginning to implement a social networking strategy, one must understand the importance of developing one, rather than blindly following the plans of a company that achieved success earlier. The reason behind this move is the fact that different businesses demand different kinds of steps and plans while devising an adequate social networking strategy. Just because something worked for a particular type of site, it need not be necessarily suitable for your website as well.
The first step is to realize which social metrics to track in order to discern relevant data regarding your site’s social impact.
Traffic data is of course the first and the foremost social metrics to track as it will let you know how much of the total traffic owes itself to the social networking sites and which one is contributing how much.
Followers/subscribers/fans, whatever you call them, it is important to know if their numbers are increasing or not; also, what is catching their interest more than the others.
Data regarding social interactions is important because it will let you know if your information is interacted with and shared frequently by the visitors on their home pages and ultimately to thousands of people on the social networking sites that you could not reach out to directly.
Finally, the performance data, which is the data that determines the total performance level of the content that you will be using on social networking sites in order to promote your cause.
Here are a few tools that you could make use of in order to track your social metrics:
Crowdbooster – Suited adequately for Facebook and Twitter in particular, Crowdbooster is a great time saver and data tracker. Not only will it auto post content on these sites, it is also quite capable of tracking the number of subscribers/fans/followers and the share/re-Twit count. Furthermore, Crowdbooster will also suggest the time of the day at which you should post your content by determining when followers are the most active.
This little app will also ensure that you do not miss out on the chance to interact with any person who is willing to have a relevant conversation about your product/service by keeping you reminded of all unanswered responses.
PostRank – Another great tool for tracking is PostRank, which also works with Google Analytics to provide you with accurate traffic stats. You will either have to rely upon manual entering of the pages to get the stats or you can always opt for a RSS feed.
What one needs to remember is that irrespective of what you are offering, if you are not aware of how your visitors are reacting to your product/service, your chances of success will only go down. Keep it in mind that the feedbacks are of the utmost importance because they will allow you to understand customer behavior and make necessary changes accordingly. You need to use a social networking strategy and utilize the social media for understanding WHAT the customer wants and mend accordingly, because without them, of what use is your website?