Monetizing Social Media Traffic

[People are seriously mad about the lack of WiFi in the session rooms. This means in order for the livebloggers to give PubCon all the awesome press it deserves, we have to make a mad dash to the press room in the 0-5 minutes we have between sessions, wait for the incredibly slow speaker/press WiFi to load, post the entry, and then try and get back to the sessions before we miss anything. Crazy, right? Yeah. We all think so too.]

Okay, onto the topic at hand. The always adorable Rand Fishkin (who accused me of not loving him earlier. Blasphemy!) is moderating the Monetizing Social Media Traffic panel with Vanessa Fox, Michael Gray, Alexander Barbara, and Laura Fitton. Vanessa just made me promise to be nice. I don’t know what she’s talking about. The Lisa is always nice!

Up first is Vanessa Fox. Yey Vanessa. We all love Vanessa. Vanessa is pretty. (Is that enough nice?)

Vanessa says that page views don’t mean anything unless you’ve manage to set up a CPM ad model. If you have, that’s awesome. A lot of times with social media, you get all these page views of people coming into your site and then leaving. If you focus on page views alone, you can lose sight of the importance stuff.

Vanessa shows the page view stats for her sites. On September 6th, her page views skyrocketed. She was excited but it turns out what happened was that was the day the Vanessa Hudgens scandal broke. People were looking for naked pictures of Vanessa Hudgens, not Vanessa Fox.

Vanessa says the best thing to do is hook ’em and keep ’em. Create something viral that draws people in but have something else that keeps them there. Make sure the viral piece of content you have is interesting to the type of people who are going to visit your site. You want to attract the kind of people who are going to stay.

Turning visitors into customers

  • Keep your viral marketing relevant for your site.
  • Make it easy for visitors to see what your site has to offer.
  • Provide multiple links to other pages on your site.
  • Think about what your goals are and funnel users into a conversion path.

Social media users won’t convert as well as search users because the users’ reasons for visiting are totally different. Search users came because you were relevant to their needs. Social media users came because of link bait.

Next up is Michael Gray. Watch out.

Using social media for sales and conversions is an advanced tactic. It should only be attempted after you have a solid understanding of the intricacies of how social media works.

What types of Products Work?

  • Products (physical or virtual) generally do better than services.
  • Consumer goods almost always do better than B2B products.
  • Impulse purchase.
  • Low or "door buster" prices.
  • Technology related items.

Examples of Social Media for Products:

  • ThisNext: They have products on their blog. They created a gift guide.
  • TechieDiva: Targeted Cybowe Monday.
  • Style Dash: Tells you how to get the same clothes celebrities wear for less. Links to actual shopping pages with affiliate links.

Some pitfalls involved in monetizing social media: Not being clear about your offer, especially restrictions or quantities. Not anticipating demand and having inadequate stock levels. Failing to deliver your product. Not monitoring what people are saying about you.

Manage expectations for long term success. Decide if a hybrid or dedicated delivery channel is optimal. What is right for your audience? What will they expect? What will they stand for? Let customers choose method of delivery. Use trends and current events.

Use video and podcasts. Try and experiment, but be sure you understand the space before you get started.

Up next is Alexander to present a case study.

The site he marketed on Digg was a brand new site. It was a few months old when they started marketing it. It’s a site in the health and wellness niche targeted towards females. They put together a targeted campaign with list-type articles and targeted it towards Digg and gave it their all.

They submitted articles on a Wednesday afternoon and a Monday morning. It took 38 Diggs to make the first one popular and 57 Diggs for the second one. The first one got 28,000+ over five days, the second one got 19,000+ hits.

One of the things to think about is can your site handle the traffic? When you get on the first page of Digg you’ll get 60-100 hits per second! A lot of Webmasters, if you’re on a shared host, they’ll freak out and shut down your site because they think someone is trying to attack your site.

If you have a problem with your server, he recommends redirecting your traffic to other sources. Use mod_rewrite a temporary redirect to send traffic to a static page. You can take a tremendous amount of traffic that way. The other thing you can do is link to the Google cache. This means you’ll have to post your content a week or so ahead of time. A third option is to use Coral Cache, a free caching service. They crawl your site when you first visit the URL.

[Rand is making silly faces and bopping in the background. I have no idea what he’s doing. It’s distracting and funny.]

Digg users don’t click on ads so it’s not worthwhile to put ads on your site when you first submit. He recommends pulling ads for a day or two and then putting ads back on your site on day three. You’re likely to convert better.

He offers up a graph of the RSS subscribers on his site. When his story hit Digg, his RSS subscribers increased 5x over. Most of those subscribers left after a day or two, however. It’s a very unique behavior.

When it comes to monetizing traffic, you can try and do it directly or indirectly. If you do it directly, you can try targeted offers like AdSense, but the CPM model really is best. He thinks indirectly monetizing traffic is the way to go. You’ll get more subscribers and more traffic coming to your site. Not to mention all the links.

What We Learned:

  • You need to understand your audiences – the Digg audience and your site audience. Find the commonality in order to tailor your content to appeal to both groups.
  • Choose your monetization method wisely.
  • Be prepared for the traffic.

Next to present is Laura Fitton. She’s going to tell us how to build lasting value through social media.

She says that ads are ailing. Right now a lot of people make their money selling or helping people sell. In the future, you’ll make more money helping people buy. The reason social media is working for her business is because she’s helping people understand what she can do for them. When they want to buy, they can find her.

The most important thing for people to learn is to listen. Markets are conversations. Conversations suck if you don’t listen. If your brand has any kind prominence, people are talking about you somewhere. Are you listening?

What if people are out there saying your company sucks? Well, if they’re saying that you suck, then you need to know and you need to fix it. Set up Google Alerts to monitor the conversation,

Social media drives traffic, but it’s not necessarily the boon people think it is. It’s also beside the point, because if it’s just curious traffic, they’re not there to buy. They’re just there to see. She doesn’t know anything about SEO or SEM. But just the fact that she’s always out there has helped brand her.

Social media makes money, but more importantly, it builds value and business. What value does your business bring to the world and how can you enhance it in social media? It’s the "teach a man to fish" game. If you gimmick people into visiting your site, that’s great, but then its over.

She says that social media is nothing new. It’s a lot older than any of us. And understanding it not just as a technology. Twitter is a group of friends of hers.

There are no tips, tricks or shortcuts. Gaming won’t pay. In social media, your customers are the ones writing the rules. If you piss them off, they’ll go away.

She talks about Facebook Beacon. They’re the poster child of social media and yet they messed up by making it opt out instead of opt in. They pissed off everyone, including Move On, Charlene Li, their channel partners, everyone. Someone went through and found out Facebook was violating all their partners Terms of Service and now they’re going to get sued. Good job, Facebook.

You have to focus on what really matters and what really lasts. Be useful. Help others. Love matters. Love lasts (aw). That’s why Perl didn’t die. Because its users love it and they love the connection they have with others because of it. Building love around what your value is will last.

[Rand, seriously, what is with the faces over there?]

Learn to seek control, don’t be afraid of it. People are already saying you suck. Control it. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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