Read Part 3: The Weakest Link.
Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, is the primary instrument for building an audience. But if social networks are tools, they are not tactics; they are a way to do something, not the something something itself. Even those publications whose face-value social media performance is strong—who enjoy high share rates, high numbers of followers, and engage well with fans—may not be maximizing their social media efficiency or translating social media engagement into a loyal readership. A majority of the traffic to successful digital publications is direct, meaning that it’s the consequence of users landing on the main page or navigating with internal links throughout the site. Building an audience is really about building direct traffic, which is really about building a loyal readership, which is really about routing new users to a site and impressing them with the available or visible content. Social media is a useful tool for building an audience because it brings new users to a site, but it’s not a tactic for building an audience. It is not enough to spam Twitter and Facebook with your links or even engage on a superficial level with readers. Instead, social media should be employed as part of segmented tactical programs. One example of such a program, “contact buzz,” is a creative way of rethinking “bad” social media tactics, like link spamming.
Contact buzz is an effect of piggybacking on trends. When a topic starts trending, either on an individual social network, across digital news sites, or in public imagination, it captures the attention of core audiences and peripheral groups. For example, if Nadal is “trending,” the primary audience might be tennis fans, the secondary audience sports fan, and tertiary audiences might include niche Spanish demographics. With relative frequency, a trending topic will push traffic to a site because it has recently published synergistic or related content. The amount of that peripheral traffic might be small, but the aggregate effect of many peripheral traffic streams can be significant. Contact buzz, or traffic that gets pointed into a site from nodes of offsite activity, shuttles new users into a publication’s sphere of influence. Analytics platforms, like Dash, are the only efficient way to render contact buzz visible. It’s one way we advise our customers to get the most out of Dash.
In Dash, the Topics tab lets our clients see what topics are trending on their own sites and web wide. From the web wide page, it’s possible to search your data to find related articles and then to take action.
How do you take action on contact buzz?
1. Highlight trending content: If you do have related content to a trend, tap into contact buzz by highlighting that content on your front page, with increased internal link volume, and with new distribution on social media.
2. Produce new content: If you’re lagging behind on a trend, it’s usually not too late to produce new content on an accelerated schedule. Go to #1. Repeat.
3. Engage on social media: Instead of link spamming, use your social media to talk about trending topics. Ask your frequent and influential followers for their input, and encourage interested users to participate in on-site comment boards.