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November 16, 2011

The Endurance Contest: Tips to Maximize Social Media Staying Power

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If the name of the social media marketing game is to reach as many people as possible in a number of communities, then the strategy must include maximizing the longevity of that content before it is forgotten and relegated to the past.

To say that things move fast and people and brands share a lot of content online is an understatement. The question, then, is not only about the longevity of content, but where to put it and how to maximize its endurance.

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasIt was Hunter S. Thompson who wrote in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “It was time, I felt, for an agonizing reappraisal of the whole scene … It was no longer a race; now it was an endurance contest.”

It’s true that Hunter S. Thompson was writing about a motorcycle race at that point in the book, but the principle as it relates to social media and sharing content are the same.

Social media is not a race. If content delivery was boiled down to winners and losers solely based on who shared content first, then the Internet would exist in stark contrast to what it is today. Social media and content delivery are about who has the staying power, in other words, endurance. When deciding where to share content online, take into account these three considerations to help optimize your media’s lifespan.

Which Social Platforms Lend to Long Lasting Content?

We all know the obvious answer when it comes to content delivery. Because of the sheer number of people on Facebook, it has become the de facto network in which brands can engage their audience. Marketers will naturally aim for the biggest target. Considering 50% of the US population has a Facebook page, sharing content is a no-brainer. But Facebook isn’t the only player sitting at the Poker table with a pair of aces to boot.

Facebook fulfills the criteria of providing a platform to share content, but can content last? Twittter functions much the same way when it comes to content, except in a much more frenetic way. If you’re like me and follow a lot of people, tweets leap up my page like frogs in a dynamite pond. With most social networks transitioning to a feed-style interface, information happens at a rapid pace. In other words, if you share content, most of the activity comes at the 2 minute mark.

Obviously, any content syndication strategy must include targeted media sharing across a variety of social networks because, while people may revert to one as their main site for media consumption, they will use different sites for different reasons. Let us not forget Linkedin, Google+, YouTube and MySpace. Understanding the nuance of each site will help you target your audience, even though the reach of the content might pale in comparison to the number of friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Social Bookmarking as an Endurance Driver

One  category of social sites that cannot be overlooked is social bookmarking like Reddit and StumbleUpon. And much like Linkedin and other smaller, more targeted networks, they do not have the user base that Facebook has, individually or collectively. As I said before, the fact that Facebook or Twitter has so many users can become a liability for content syndicates. Content comes at user fast, which doesn’t help part of the real reason content is shared in the first place: engagement objects that drive traffic to your site.

Our friends at Search Engine Land uncovered a recent infographic from StumbleUpon, which makes a strong case for sharing content on their site. It seems that StumbleUpon shows the greatest longevity for content shared on their site as opposed to Facebook and Twitter.

According the infographic, the half-life of a link, meaning the point at which a link will garner half the engagement it will ever achieve, is astounding. Facebook links have a 3.2 hour half-life and Twitter links have a 2.8 hour half-life. A page shared on StumbleUpon has a half-life of 400 hours. Which one of these things is not like the other?
StumbleUpon logo
Do not mistake this for a commercial for StumbleUpon. Certainly we can take that figure with a grain of salt. I am merely advocating a sometimes-ignored resource that could be a sustainable long-term traffic driver to your site.

And isn’t that really the goal, from an SEO perspective, at least — to achieve an increased amount of traffic? This is why StumbleUpon reports 50% of all referral traffic from social media sites.

Think about it this way. It’s like a long-tail keyword. You know that Facebook will drive a certain percentage of traffic to your site based on the amount of people your content can reach, but that influx of traffic is short lived according to the research we’ve seen. Placing content on sites like StumbleUpon (in addition to Facebook) will allow you to not only maximize content reach, but also to deliver sustained traffic increases.

On the Flip Side, New Content is King: Google Gets Fresh

Google recently released an update to its algorithm in the past few weeks unofficially dubbed the Google Freshness Update. The update effectively rewards sites based on the newness and relevance of content as it relates to trending topics, recurring events, and frequently updated information.

This is another fine-tuned attempt to provide more relevant results to a search query relative to a particular population of sites. In a perfect world, we would hope for Google delivering the best product it can. Though, in Google’s attempt to create that perfect search world, they’re holding content creators’ feet to the fire by requiring a constant flow of new content. Earlier this week, a list of 10 major changes to Google’s algorithm, including the Google Freshness Update, was released to the public.

evergreen contentThis brings to the forefront a number of possibilities, both in the creation of content and its delivery and syndication. Yes, you can and should create new content to drive traffic, but you should keep in mind that content can be designed with algorithmic immunity. In other words, create content around topics that don’t change or change very little over time. Consider reincarnating old content, updating the information, and syndicating it in different forms. Yesterday’s blog post could be today’s infographic. This is the essence of evergreen content.

Content creation and syndication doesn’t have to be a one way street. Content is cyclical, rather than linear. It can be re-purposed and redistributed using social bookmarking as a springboard for sustainable, long-term traffic increases as a part of an overall social media strategy. Old is new, as they say. Fortunately for those of us in the SEO industry, change is the currency of the land, so there’s no shortage of newly created content. If you’re not creating content at a pace relative to your competitors about the topics of the day, then may Google have mercy on your soul.

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4 responses to “The Endurance Contest: Tips to Maximize Social Media Staying Power”

  1. wog writes:

    You have good ideas here. Aside from maximizing the longevity of the content, social media must be integrated. People have a lot of social media options. But they should not simply utilize everything. Individuals or businesses must choose what are the types of social media that are helpful to them. Then integrate those social media. For companies, they can also integrate social media to traditional media such as TV, radio and print.

  2. Rich Reader writes:

    Positioning, persistence, originality, and delivering value to the audience are key objectives in an efficient/effective social media strategy. Support it with a permanent program, not a half-hearted 90 day campaign.

  3. Mark Johnson | SEO Packages writes:

    I can attest to the longevity of content on StumpleUpon. I’m still getting traffic from content that I posted four years ago on the site. Another site that has consistently generated traffic for my sites month after month for years now is Yahoo Answers. I’m sure there are other sites out there but these two are winners when we start talking about content or link endurance.

  4. Matthew Young writes:

    wog – I agree, social media is essential considering its integration with search. Pretty soon, you won’t be able to tell where search begins and social ends, especially now that local reins supreme. If businesses don’t have a Google+ brand page, I suggest they get one, pronto!

    Rich Reader – Right on. Endurance is the name game here. Social as a means of online marketing, and online marketing in general, have moved far beyond novelty. It is a real economic engine. Constant and consistent engagement is the real difference maker which separates the pretenders from the professionals.

    Mark Johnson – Thanks for the comments. I had not thought about Yahoo Answers as a driver for traffic, in the sense that I just take it for granted. Good suggestion! Social media allows us to get creative with how we engage different types of audiences. It all adds up to trust!



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