Understanding social signals to improve marketing efforts

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Because of the constant introduction of apps in social media, trying to keep up with what’s best can be confusing for business owners. And, some of them prefer to avoid social media altogether. But, while some businesses feel that social media is a luxury when it comes to marketing efforts, the truth is that it is a necessity and has been for some time.

Businesses that already integrated social media efforts with their content strategy see the impact of it in terms of lead generation, referral traffic and revenue. And although some benefits of social media are measurable, the benefits that cannot be measured are just as valuable.

Improved brand awareness, increased customer loyalty and trust, improved audience reach and influence and improved social signals, which are a factor in increasing search engine rankings, are all attributed to social media. The direct impact of social signals comes from the number of people that like your brand on Facebook, the number of Facebook shares, the number of Twitter followers, the number of tweets mentioning your brand name or including a link to your website and the number of people that have you in their circles on Google+.

The best way to build buzz on social media is to get out there and get connected. By sharing quality content, whether original or that from other people, your audience will share it with theirs on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, their own blogs and more and potentially increase the amount of quality followers. A business also has to engage with its audience, which means thanking people for retweets and shares and joining people in discussions. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but ideally you should spend a few minutes a day focused on engagement.

The best way for a business to approach social media is to think of it as extension of its customer service, which means that it should be accessible to its audience in all mediums. Building relationships is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person who reaches out to you. Followers online can be fickle and won’t hesitate to replace you if you disappear for weeks or months.

While Facebook and Twitter continue to be the face of social media, Google+ is quickly gaining steam and now has the second highest number of monthly users at 540 million. With Google using the platform to collect personal information in way of demographics, location, etc., Google+ should no longer be thought of as “just” another social network. It is increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google’s grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalized search experience.

As Google+ moves towards even greater integration with other aspects of the web, as it already did with its foray into local search, its growth should skyrocket in terms of business and personal use. Because of that reason, businesses who find themselves spread thin with their social media efforts will increasingly turn to Google+ rather than Facebook as the closest thing to a “one size fits all” social network.

Another social site that is often forgotten about is LinkedIn, which is the No. 1 social networking site for professionals with over 300 million users. With the launch of its Influencers program, LinkedIn positioned itself as one of the largest sources of content creation and curation for professionals. As it grows and attracts even more users, the advantages of being “linked in” will become enormous for B2B marketers.

Other notable but often overlooked social sites are Pinterest, which continues to shed its reputation as a “women’s only” network and as it becomes an integral part of retailers’ marketing strategies due to a consistent trend toward sharing via image and video rather than text-based content, as well as Vine, Instagram and SnapChat. Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy, forcing businesses to become mindful about the “sharability factor” of photos on their websites, blogs and social media accounts in order to benefit from their social media content marketing efforts.

The most important thing to remember about social media and content marketing is that success doesn’t happen overnight. While it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle, it’s far more likely that you will need to commit to the long haul to achieve results. But, results pay off. According to Hubspot, 95 percent of marketers who use social media at least six hours per week indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses. And, nearly half of the same marketers surveyed saw a benefit of reduced marketing expenses.