Note from John: This is a guest post from my friend Mack Fogelson over at Mack Web Solutions, located in beautiful Colorado. I first met Mack at Linklove Boston in April 2012 and then had the pleasure to have more conversations with her at Mozcon. She’s a bright mind with a bright attitude and it’s a pleasure to have her guest posting!
We work in a pretty amazing industry. It is full of remarkably brilliant people, cutting edge knowledge, and never ending challenges. It’s also really competitive. You definitely have to do your fair share of the hustle in order to make a name for yourself as an SEO. This is where social media comes into play.
There are three reasons that you should care about building a social presence as an SEO:
- You know that social signals may be contributing to better rankings, so there’s no point in avoiding it any longer.
- There’s no way you can feel confident about recommending content and social media marketing to your clients if you don’t even use it yourself (ouch).
- And most importantly, social media allows you to connect with other humans. It’s a great way to meet people, maintain friendships, and foster business relationships.
Like anything in SEO, building and maintaining a social presence is hard work. And also like SEO, it can be incredibly rewarding.
Set some goals
One of the main reasons SEOs (or anyone for that matter) have difficulty effectively building their social presence is because they try to tackle too much, can’t maintain the efforts, and then give up as a result. You don’t have to be on 57 social media outlets. You just have to pick a few that align with your target audience, goals, and personality.
There are many exercises that you could work through or questions you could answer to begin developing a content and social media strategy for yourself.
You could even develop some personas for your target audience just as you would for a client.
But if you’d like to keep it simple, I’d just answer these three questions:
- What are your objectives with your career as a SEO?
- Who is your target audience (for me it’s clients, colleagues, and thought leaders)?
- Who do you want to be when you grow up (a.k.a what is your personality)?
Based on your answers to these questions, you can make educated decisions about the social media outlets that are a fit for you and your goals. It will also help to keep you grounded as you become more involved in social media (it’s easy to get caught up, spin your wheels, and lose sight of your goals).
No matter what your goals with social media are, if you’re willing to put in the work, provide some value, and engage, then it’s going to help you build lasting relationships and open up some great opportunities.
Take it from me
I’ve been working on building my social presence in the SEO community for the last several months. Since April, I have increased my followers on Twitter from 30 to more than 350 and have gone from 15 to 165 people having me in their Google+ circles (and it’s only been 5 months).
I’ve earned all of these connections with good old fashioned hard work that has involved a lot of solid content (some of which has been published on SEOmoz…which helps a lot), some conferences (like LinkLove and MozCon), and the support of my amazing team.
Here’s how I use them:
Good morning, Twitter
When I get to the office, I get on Twitter. I read, read, and then I read some more. I get so much good content from the people I’m following on Twitter that I don’t have time to read it all (so I put it in my Pocket for later). As I read, I focus on retweeting (RT) or sharing articles by quality authors that I’ve come to know and trust who always provide a lot of value. But even if I trust them (and especially with people I’m not as familiar with), I always make sure to read the article first before I RT.
In order to leverage my efforts, as I’m reading the articles coming down the pipe on Twitter, I’m thinking about which one(s) I may want to share with my audience on Google+ and LinkedIn.
I could spend all day on Twitter just reading, but I’ve got a company to run, so I give myself a window (some days it’s an hour, some days it’s 20 minutes, some days it’s none) and then I get off. Throughout the day, if I have the chance, I’ll go back to Twitter (if I’m at the office, I leave Tweetdeck open on one of my screens) and engage (as opportunities arise). But really, you could spend your whole day on there and not get any work done, so you’ve got to be disciplined and have an exit plan. By far, Twitter has been the most valuable tool in growing my knowledge in the industry as well as growing my social presence (which is ironic, because I used to be a skeptic).
I l-o-v-e Google+ (and I’m not afraid to admit it).
Google+ is the perfect mix of social and business. It’s great because I’m long winded and I can’t always say what I really want to on Twitter. So I use Google+ as an extension of Twitter to encourage engagement and build relationships.
I have found it easier to connect with thought leaders on Google+ than on Twitter. There are many people in the industry that I admire greatly that don’t follow me on Twitter, but they follow and engage with me on Google+.
Google+ is great for social not only because it integrates with search, but also because of the tools it offers. You can use Google+ hangouts to maintain contact up close and personal with industry friends or even clients. You can easily record video and post them on your wall (instead of writing a blog post). There is a lot of potential with Google+. I’d highly recommend making it part of building your social presence.
Since MozCon, I’ve been trying to boost my following on Google+ simply by migrating some of my followers from Twitter. This has been working really well as I usually get couple new people circling me on Google+ every day.
As an experiment, I’ve been using Google+ kind of like it’s a mini-blog (I try and post at least one thing a day, and also share other valuable content). I’ve also learned a lot of great formatting stuff from AJ Kohn that I’ve been integrating into my Google+ posts. I have been receiving some type of engagement with my posts on Google+ normally 3 out of 5 posts.
Here’s what I’ve been trying:
I figure out something that I want to say on Google+. Not just “What’s your favorite color?” and no shameless self-promotion (ok, sometimes). It’s got to provide something of value to your target audience.
Lately I’ve been having some positive response from posts where I’m really transparent (i.e. talk about a challenge with the company or something that’s inspiring me). In these posts I feature a quick write up of a couple of articles that were awesome and that fit under one theme. I circle the authors in (which often prompts engagement) and then I give my two cents (which helps people to learn about me). Win, win, win.
After it’s posted, I get the direct link to the post so that I can share it on Twitter.
Then I go to Twitter and think of a clever teaser.
And engage with people who’ve come over (or that were already there).
Give it a shot and let me know how that’s working for you (share your news with me on Google+!).
Giving some love to LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a good one to keep on your radar, but it moves pretty slowly and I haven’t experienced a whole lot of engagement on there. I try to keep an eye on it, but it’s not a place that requires a great deal of monitoring for activity. It is a good place for researching clients and people you might want to connect with on other social media outlets.
As I mentioned above, when I find a good article on Twitter or Google+, I log in to LinkedIn and share it there with a unique teaser. It’s been my experience that when you do share on each of your social outlets, you want to use a different take. Don’t just duplicate the same teaser in your post. There are different audiences on each, so it’s important to respect their needs. It seems to make a big difference in how the posts are received.
One thing I will say about LinkedIn is to connect with everyone that you meet (digitally or in person).This is a very simple and easy way to build your community. If you’ve had some success chatting with someone online, go to LinkedIn and make them your friend (while your name is still fresh in their head). Do this directly after conferences and meet ups as well.
If you’ve found some gems for getting engagement out of your LinkedIn audience, let me know.
Optimizing & maintaining your presence
Before you test out some of the stuff I’ve described with your own social presence, make sure you’ve optimized your accounts (as well as your website or blog). When you make a conscious effort to actively engage on social media and build your community, you want to make sure that you don’t have any dirty laundry laying on the floor. You want to look really good when driving traffic your way.
Certainly you’ll want to make sure that you’re optimizing your social media profiles for SEO, and you also want to take advantage and leverage everything that is available to you on each of your individual social media accounts (more on this below). Keep in mind that optimization is going to look different for every social outlet. Optimizing your profile and building your brand on LinkedIn is going to be different than Google+, Twitter, etc.
Here’s some basic things to keep in mind for optimizing and maintaining your social presence moving forward:
Don’t be lazy
When you’re creating your account, be sure to complete all of the fields available so that you’re leveraging your social profiles as much as possible for SEO. With Google+ make sure you get rel=author set up properly so that you’re getting credit for all of that great content you’re going to be creating.
As for your bio and photo. Make sure you have one. With your photo, it doesn’t have to be a professional shot (but check out Cyrus Shepard’s experiments on that). If you want, you can use the same photo on all outlets (that’s my preference; it’s just easiest). It’s also ok to match your photo with the atmosphere of the social media outlet (there’s definitely a different vibe on Twitter than there is on LinkedIn). Just remember your audience here. When they see your photo, will it represent you well?
Note: If you’re new to the industry, you may also want to try using http://knowem.com to register your brand. This will help you to secure your name (or company name) for your domain and social networks.
Part of establishing and maintaining your presence in the SEO community is being the person to come to for good content. This helps to establish your credibility. The biggest thing to remember is that you don’t have to self promote to get people to know who you are and what you’re capable of. They will get that from the good content you’re sharing. Over time, and as you build your community, make sure you’re also sharing your unique content and you’ll find that it will get shared more and more, helping you to build your social media presence.
Also, mix it up a little. Make sure what you’re sharing is not all about work (which I’m often guilty of). In other words, share useful SEO and industry related articles (and some of yours, too of course), but also share stuff that shows your sense of humor and aspects of your personality.
Remember, it’s not social media if you’re not engaging.
Make sure you get in there. Make some friends. There isn’t a formula for this, just don’t be a dweeb. Engage for the enjoyment of it, not just for the gain (just set aside some time for it every day or every couple of days). Remember that these people are your colleagues and they’d appreciate your support as much as you would theirs.
Most importantly though, go to meet ups, go to events, go to conferences…in person. You’ll build better relationships if you engage online and in person.
It’s ok to have a voice, and even disagree, but don’t be a jerk about it. It’s easy to get comfortable online (or hide behind your computer) and forget that you’re dealing with real people. Keep yourself in check and be professional.
Also, offer some value with your engagement. It’s great to give a RT, a +1, or a like, but putting yourself out there with a comment is what people will value and remember (and hopefully will return the favor).
Making the case for a social presence
I’ve been in this industry for almost 10 years, but it’s only been in the last year that I’ve made a conscious effort to become part of the SEO community. Clearly this has created a lot more work for me, but it has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done in the last decade. And, most importantly, it has truly changed my company.
There is so much to learn in our industry. Social media makes it possible to get your hands on all of that juicy knowledge. A social media presence can help you drive a magnitude of traffic, open up prospective client opportunities, and provide validation and support from your peers. But even more rewarding are the friends that you’ll make for a lifetime.
SEO is an ever changing field and it’s virtually impossible to be an expert. As soon as you feel like you’ve got one thing down, Google changes an algorithm or the industry shifts into something entirely new. Being social and involved in the SEO community helps you to absorb the challenges and shifts. Making friends and building your brand brings countless benefits and opportunities. You won’t regret it.