According to the numbers, over the past 12 months, the number of referrals from social networking sites to blogs has doubled. Social traffic is becoming more important than search traffic according to some. How do WordPress users adjust to this reality and exploit it to your advantage? The core strategy should be to embrace and focus.
Embracing the Social Trend
Some bloggers have shut down their blogs and moved to Facebook fan pages. Others have kept their blog and complemented with fan pages as stop-gap measure. Either way, there is a perceived threat that you are losing traffic to Facebook. It could very well be a real threat unless you embrace the trend and make it work for you.
Focus Your Social Media Efforts
In an effort to please all readers and maximize reach into social networks, bloggers are integrating a plethora of social tools. One favorite is the AddThis plugin which offers some 100+ options for sharing. In my opinion this approach will clutter your site and distract the user. Pick a winner instead. All indicators are that Facebook is becoming the de-facto standard for social syndication.
After their launch of Open Graph in April this year, Facebook has grown from 15% to 35% of all social networking referrals. This assumes that Gawker Media is a good reflection of the industry average. My personal choice will therefore have to be Facebook, however StumbleUpon is another good candidate. Twitter is already prevalent but it is a typically a disappointment in terms of referrals. There are two reasons:
- Twitter is undoubtedly the noisiest channel on the web.
- People in general are not spending any significant time on Twitter.
What are my Tools?
With Facebook, you have some excellent tools. You also have some great plugins for WordPress integration. Most likely you already use several of these tools today. The key is how you use them and how you combine them.
The Facebook Fan Page
The fan page is a great tool for dialog and brand promotion (yes, you are a brand and you should cultivate it):
- Do use the fan page as a personal relationship tool by engaging your audience in discussion and dialog around the topics you are focused on. Use it as a place to share news about you, your brand and your site. The purpose is to create an “exclusive” community where your dedicated followers get the inside scoop on everything you.
- Do not use the fan page to push your RSS feed and manage relationships at the same time. First, your relationship efforts will drown in your content updates. Second, you are creating an intermediate (proxy) between your audience and your blog. Thirdly, the updates are indiscriminatory, lowering relevance which results in fewer revisits to your fan page and web site. Instead use a Like button for your feed (see below)
- Do one or the other of the above.
Get a Like Button for your WordPress Site
In its basic form, the Like button provides a one-time sharing function. There are tools that connect the Like button with your RSS feed, thereby providing a way to connect directly between your site and the Facebook News Feed (no Fan Page intermediary). Explain to the user that you want to connect for updates in conjunction with the Like button. Use a text widget to insert the button HTML on your site. If you want to connect your RSS feed to your fan page instead, Pheedo offers a solution with Dlvr.it.
Get a Like Plugin for my Posts
Let people “Like” your posts. There are WordPress plugins that allow you to automate the insertion of Like buttons. The Like button offers a one-time sharing event. It can also connect with the user for ongoing updates related to the topic of the particular post (a.k.a “Like for Tags“).
We recently did a case study on CNN.com. If they implemented these strategies, they would see 25%-40% increase in page views over time. CNN is already a user of Facebook social plugins but they are currently not using them as described in this article. The increase in page views is significant from a revenue perspective, most likely seven figures.
Note: This article includes opinions of the author based on working with the blogging community to develop social syndication tools. Your reactions to these opinions are greatly appreciated.
This article was contributed by Rikard Kjellberg, a Silicon Valley blogger and co-founder of IngBoo, who works on social syndication solutions for publishers. Rikard also writes on his personal blog (scandihuvians) and on IngBoo’s corporate blog.