Social Computing for Link Building

The term web 2.0 is overused and sometimes misused, but it broadly refers to ‘social computing’ and in particular this article focuses on different ways this can be leveraged to increase potential visitors’ & search engines’ awareness of your website and ultimately increase the amount of traffic you get.

Unless you’ve lived under a stone for the past 5-10 years, you can’t have failed to notice the increasing popularity of social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked In… the list goes on. There are clearly a lot of people using these websites and therefore potential for using this phenomenon to broadcast to a captive audience.

Aside from purpose built networking sites, social computing also refers to the ability for web users to interact by commenting on blogs, discuss issues in forums and generally share content with one another.

This has added a new dimension to marketing using the web – a canny marketer can benefit hugely by taking advantage of this channel, as outlined in some of the following areas.

Social bookmarking

Many social networking websites allow for links to and extracts from articles to be posted by registered users. For example, a Facebook user can share a link to an article they’ve found interesting and his or her friends will then see the link in their recent activity list. To make it easier for visitors to post links to an article, many websites feature links to these link submission pages on popular social networking websites – this is known as social bookmarking. This is a great way to encourage users to spread the word about your content on social networking websites they already use.

There are plenty of free, easily installable widgets in the marketplace that can be added to websites to automatically add this functionality to all pages, by installing once in an omni-present include file or master page. Many content management systems and most modern blogging software will feature plug-ins to make the process even easier.

There are several variations of this, including re-tweeting (to post an existing link on Twitter, with an integrated counter in the bookmark to gauge article popularity) and sphinning (similar, but contributing the link to the Sphinn website).

Contributing articles to authority websites/blogs

Article campaigns are a great ways to spread links to your website, raise awareness of your core business, whilst adding value to other websites and the community. By writing authoritative, useful and unique articles, it’s relatively easy to persuade other high ranking websites in your area of business to publish your content, along with a link back to your website.

Involving users in social networking website communities

Social networking websites make it easy to start micro-communities and groups from existing users. It’s very easy to create a group about your business or website on a social networking website (for example: ITunes downloads half price offers or Dell Computers special offers), and send a link to a list of contacts you have. The nature of social networking sites means that when one person joins a group, his or her friends (who you may not know) are alerted of this and if the group subject is engaging and exciting enough, may also join. This continues to 2nd, 3rd, 4th level connections and so the word spreads. It is then very easy to make announcements (e.g. Take That Circus Album half price download or Dell Inspiron 10% off this week only).

Having exposure on social networking sites is becoming increasingly important with recent advances

Incorporating social networking into a campaign – creating a buzz

The challenge is giving visitors an incentive to join the group and feel like they’re part of a community. The examples above may have worked in the earlier days of social networking websites, but in all likelihood, most users are now wise to obvious marketing offers and will meet with limited success. It’s better to incorporate a promotion into a campaign that will be interesting and exciting to the public – specifically to the audience you’re targeting.

Case study – IKEA Facebook campaign, Autumn 2009

A great example of a social networking campaign that worked well is IKEA’s Autumn 2009 campaign tying in with the launch of a new store in Mälmo. IKEA’s marketing agency created a Facebook profile for the store manager and over a two week period, uploaded 12 pictures of showrooms to his photo album.

The concept was that the first person to tag their name on a product, won it. The pictures spread to thousands of people through their Facebook profile pages, newsfeed & links. This really engaged users, who were happy to promote IKEA personally by passing onto friends using existing Facebook functionality. Users added their names to what was essentially an interactive IKEA catalogue. This campaign contained the essential ingredients: creating a buzz, building excitement and engaging customers – it generated great PR.

Money saving forums to communicate offers

The IKEA campaign described above used a give-away to gather user’s interests. In this case or similarly with an offer or discount you’re able to give on a product or service, a great way of spreading the word is by posting on ‘money saving’ or voucher forums. Millions of users search these websites looking out for special offers and money saving advice, so the audience is ready and specifically looking for what you’re offering. A good example would be the Money Saving Expert website.

Creating a blog-centric community on your website

Writing articles that prompt users to comment by being either topical or provocative is a good way to build up an audience and attract comments. This is a good way to add stickiness to your website and so long as you use a spam filter (and nofollow external links), comments can provide useful additional content, pulling more traffic to your website. Users will start to feel part of a community, coming back to see other’s comments and interacting with one another.

Video as a social marketing tool

By posting interesting or useful videos on You Tube, you can increase traffic back to your website. When you upload videos, be sure to add relevant keywords in the description and a link to a relevant page on your website. The You Tube site makes it easy for users to spread the word and embed your video on other people’s websites. An interesting video can have word spread very quickly, reaching a massive audience quickly. With search engines incorporating videos into results pages and You Tube being a very authoritative site, it’s a good way of generating more interest and traffic.

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