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Tuning Your Content: Social Media for Content Publishers

  |  April 27, 2011   |  Comments

As you continue to build, refine, and optimize your content streams, you need to tune your content publishing as well as your content presentation.

In past columns, I've written about techniques that use insights gained through social analytics, content monitoring, and social graph analysis. In this column, I'll feature some of the tools that extend this, enabling you to tune your content streams in real time by picking up on trending topics to build traffic and boost visibility.

Social analytics and listening starts with tools like NetBase, Radian6, or Alterian's SM2. Using these tools, you can quickly identify posts that warrant your attention and then use what you learn to not only refine your response strategy but to tune your future posts. (Disclosure: I am on the marketing advisory board for NetBase.)

Combining content tools with social analytics gathered around the profiles, connections, and content posting habits of individuals is also very useful. Using a tool like BuzzStream, or the influencer widget in Radian6, helps you build your outreach programs. This in turn makes it easier to identify and connect with the important content producers (like bloggers) that write about your business or your market.

The next step in the progression toward an optimized content flow is being smart about how you present your offers. Customized landing pages triggered by search-related display advertising have always been part of your toolkit, but there's actually more that you can do if you know more about the sources of the traffic to your site. Using tools like Smart Content, you can tailor your site or landing pages based on the source of the traffic - differentiating between Facebook or Twitter - when someone else posts about your offer. Each step that helps you tune your offer can be measured, and tools like Smart Content have robust measurement built right in.

Beyond listening and the use of social analytics tools that monitor content and influencer characteristics, what can you be doing to improve visibility and traffic to your site? Consider that the techniques referenced so far are based on traffic arriving at your site, on optimizing your site based on the specific interest, or other attributes of that traffic. What about the content that you are publishing? Tuning your content for increased traffic depends on that as well, and you can again tap the social channels to do this.

Consider a typical content publishing application, where you are writing about personal growth, or coffee or travel or health or home improvement. Some of what you write about - whether in your articles or in the shorter tweets or posts that help bring others to your articles - will naturally be picked up and passed around more than other content. The first step, then, is continuously monitoring your content stream to spot your most popular items and then taking steps to selectively amplify those items.

The word "selective" is important here: on the social Web, it's all about relevance. Relevance, expressed in quantitative terms, comes down to one simple measure: your signal-to-noise ratio. Using automation tools that blindly pump content onto the Web (think about those Twitter users that push out some "quote of the day" every 37 minutes) is not the way to build a following. Sure, you may attract robots, but robots don't buy shoes. Building a real following is all about publishing high-valued content: tuning your published stream toward signal and away from noise is exactly the way to do it.

How do you determine "signal"? Look for the items that you've published that have been retweeted, reposted, passed around, commented on…and then focus on those. Recalling the expression "There's gold in them thar hills!" that focus goes beyond looking at what was popular and creating more like that. While this is in and of itself an obvious best practice, using your "hit songs" as templates for future posts is not the only thing you can do. You can also repost those same posts, the same way a radio station plays the hits more often. I know what you're thinking, but read on.

Why would you repost the same content? Doesn't that just drive up noise? No, and here's why: given the number of content sources that most people follow - multiple blogs, dozens of industry experts, hundreds of friends, and thousands of "followees" on Twitter - most social content streams, when looked at from the perspective of the content consumer - look an awful lot like a stock ticker. Think about how a stock ticker works: there's a basic alphabetic listing that scrolls past, punctuated by the occasional breaking news item. You watch the ticker, see a handful of trades scroll past, and notice the ones that matter to you. Then you bend down to tie your shoe. In that moment, you miss whatever is scrolling in front of you.

The stock ticker keeps moving, though, and in a moment or two the trades you missed - updated - reappear. That's not what happens on Twitter. On Twitter, if you blink you miss it. So what about that great tweet of yours that got retweeted more than your others? Did all of your followers actually see it? If you're Oprah, it probably doesn't matter: so many people are retweeting celebrity content that for those posts, the social Web does function like a stock ticker, continually presenting and representing that celebrity content. But what about "normal" publishers or niche content plays? How do they amplify - in real time - the content that they created that was more favorably received? How they do tune their content flow?

Enter InfiniGraph: I was first alerted to InfiniGraph by my friend and colleague Susan Bratton. I talked with InfiniGraph CEO and co-founder Chase McMichael, saw how the toolset worked, and was immediately hooked. InfiniGraph watches your posts, spots the popular items, and then selectively reposts those items. Suppose you have a set of posts that were really popular during the week: InfiniGraph will spot them, and then schedule them for, say, a weekend delivery, when traffic is lower and the people who missed them the first time stand a better chance of seeing them. InfiniGraph will also look for other trending items that are related to your content - using the same keyword filtering as you're already familiar with - and then blend these items as retweets into your content stream to drive additional interest around your content by stimulating activity in your preferred channels.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the picture traffic chart shown here is worth a thousand dollars, or more!

complextrafficincrease

Complex Media Network deployed the InfiniGraph toolset to tune its content, and the results speak for themselves: a significant boost in visits was positively associated with the use of the platform when compared with the use of content feeds alone, no content feeds at all, and the combination of content feeds and the real-time tuning of those feeds using the InfiniGraph toolset.

When frozen yogurt chain "Golden Spoon" put InfiniGraph to the test during a recent Facebook promotional program, the results were similar: click-through rate was up by 6 percent, "liked page" up 51 percent, and (drum roll please…) conversion to buy up 18 percent with same store sales up 13.7 percent during the promotional period. You can read the complete case study on the InfiniGraph blog.

As you continue to build, refine, and optimize your content streams, it's a given that knowing your visitors and building content based on their needs and interests is a best practice. But remember, too, that not everyone sees everything you posted: you need to tune your content publishing as well as your content presentation. By selectively amplifying the content that people who are interested in what you offer really liked or found especially useful or relevant, you can positively impact your signal-to-noise ratio, and dramatically boost traffic as a direct result.

This column was originally published March 2, 2011.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Evans

Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.

Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.

Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.

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