By Hannah Johnson
Last week, Internet gurus and techies gathered in San Francisco for the Web 2.0 Expo, co-produced by TechWeb and O’Reilly Conferences, to show off their social media savvy, present their new startups, and to learn about the latest thinking in Internet culture.
Web 2.0 explores the nitty-gritty of owning and running a Web site, managing a social media presence, and building business strategies that complement Web 2.0 technology. From concrete tutorials on getting Facebook fans to engage with companies online to loftier presentations about using open business models to increase revenue, this conference should be on the calendar of any publisher looking to overcome the “digital talent emergency” (reported on by eBookNewser) that book publishing is facing.
Publishing is increasingly a business-to-consumer industry. Instead of dealing only with printers, distributors and booksellers, publishers are increasingly aware that readers and consumers want their attention — and that there is a lot of value in giving consumers attention.
So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of interacting with consumers online. Here are ten actionable steps you can take to improve your Web site, social media presence, and clout with your community — as recommended by the speakers at Web 2.0:
Social Media Strategy
Social media is the driving force behind the web 2.0 revolution, and expectations are increasing, not only from consumers but also from upper management, for companies to create a fantastic social media presence. At this point, we all know the basics, but how do you really optimize it? Aliza Sherman held a workshop session to answer that question.
- Who Are You Trying to Reach?
- Think of Social Media as a Conversation Platform
- Reward your Super-Fans
- Optimize Content for the News Feed
- Let Your Fans Decide
- Create a Custom Landing Page
- Think About Tags
- Create More YouTube Videos
- Build Links “Manually”
- Write Link Bait Articles
This is not an easy question to answer, especially in publishing. But identifying who your target audience online is will go a long way towards determining your success rate, said Aliza Sherman. If your target audience is romance readers, it is a good idea to spend more time talking to readers than to other publishers online.
Ultimately, businesses are using social media to sell more stuff. So when upper management asks why Twitter hasn’t generated more sales, what do you do? Jeff Widman of BrandGlue.com argued that social media is not a sales platform or a content distribution platform, but rather a conversation platform. By talking with people, sometimes about your products and sometimes about other things, you are building trust. The next time someone is looking for a new book to read, they might look to you first.
In every community, there are people who never interact with you, people who occasionally interact, and then there are super fans. Companies should focus on these super fans (read the 1,000 True Fans argument for more info) because they do more marketing for you than you ever could on your own. Find them, praise them, promote them, and give them things. You won’t regret the extra investment.
We all love Facebook. Young people love it. Old people love it. All the people in between love it. Facebook is beating MySpace and Twitter in terms of usage. It is a very worthwhile investment for companies to nurture their Facebook pages. The following advice comes from speakers at the Facebook Fans session on Tuesday, including Jeff Widman, Victoria Ransom and others.
Facebook’s News Feed algorithm exists to filter out irrelevant content for its users. Content appears in the feed when more users have interacted with it or an individual has interacted with that brand on Facebook before, either by “liking” it or commenting. Create status updates with a call to action. Ask your fans to “like” your posts or to comment. And don’t feed content automatically into Facebook. The feed algorithm is more likely to filter it out.
Facebook users love to give you their opinion and share their interests with you. Contests and polls are great ways to get your fans to interact. Ask them to submit photos or stories for a contest and reward the winners (and make it easy to win!). Ask for their opinion on company decisions. Should we use this book cover design or that one? Do you want our author to come to your city?
Facebook allows companies to create customized layouts for their page. You can even specify what a user sees if that user is already a fan or new to your page. Use your customized design to highlight special content or prompt users to take a specific action, like becoming a fan or taking advantage of a discount.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those things that most people would rather pay someone else to think about. Isn’t it more fun to create a video or post some tweets rather than research keywords? Well actually, videos and Twitter can boost your SEO considerably. Authors Rand Fishkin and Stephan Spencer gave two presentations with some great advice to follow.
What comes between the title tags of your Web pages is extremely important for SEO. Instead of calling your next blog post “What I Read Last Night,” use the author’s name and book in the title. Also, use the most important words in your title first. Search engines truncate longer titles, and words at the end of your title might be overlooked.
Don’t neglect your picture tags either. These tags are another way for engines to find and display your content. Spencer recommended adding as many relevant tags as you can to your posts and pictures.
Spencer also told the audience that YouTube is now the second largest search engine. Getting your content on YouTube, tagging your videos effectively, and creating a customized page for your videos are great ways to build up what he calls “link juice.” The more relevant incoming links you have to your Web site, the higher up in Google’s search rankings your site will be.
But of course, in order to get lots of people looking at your videos and clicking through to your Web site, your videos have to be compelling. The most viral videos on YouTube are creative but a little unpolished. Professional content tends to garner less traffic than the more homemade stuff.
Google gives you more “link juice” if the links to your Web site are coming from relevant and influential sites, and if those links do not appear to be part of a “link exchange” where two Web site owners agree to link to each other just to improve SEO.
If you have written a great article or created a cool video, email or call people you think will be interested in linking to your content. It is easy to assume that outreach can be better achieved with algorithms and targeted email marketing, but even the tech folks agree that making a personal gesture is often much more effective.
Don’t do this all the time, but once in a while, it’s not a bad idea to write something that you know will get a lot of traffic. Spencer said the magic formula for the title of a link bait article is the following: some number + crazy adjective + key phrase. Try it out and see if it works!
WATCH: Videos from Web 2.0 in San Francisco
EXPLORE: News coverage of Web 2.0 from other online publications