Should you repost your social media content all the time?

Why repost the same content on social media?

Why do you see popular brands and influencers recycling their material in the span of hours?

It’s not because they’ve run out of content. It’s because of churn.

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In social media (and digital marketing), we churn two things most: attention and audience.

Attention churn is the amount of attention any of our content gets. Take a look at this chart below of one of my more popular tweets:

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This tweet reached half of its lifetime audience in 65 minutes, and reached 80% of its lifetime audience in slightly more than 10 hours. If this content were an important selling piece for me, I wouldn’t even get a day’s use out of it. That’s attention churn, the speed at which your audience moves onto new things.

Audience churn is the constant change in the makeup of your audience. Every day, you lose audience members. Every day, you gain audience members. Below is an example from Facebook of Net Likes, which are the Likes you get minus the people who Unlike your page:

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Even in your web analytics, you’ll see this. Below is the ratio of new users to returning users for just visitors to my website from social channels in a 30 day period:

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This proclaims that 2/3 of my audience which comes from social media hasn’t seen my website before. That’s a staggering number, especially if your business relies on repeat customers.

What does this mean for us?

We can’t count on our audiences having seen things that are old hat to us. We can’t count on them knowing what they should and shouldn’t do once they become a part of our community. This is the epitome of the curse of knowledge. We see what we share every day. A new audience member has seen almost nothing. What’s boring to us is fresh to them.

If your analytics look anything like mine, take three basic tactical steps to ensure your audience is always being welcomed and is always seeing the important stuff.

Ensure your properties all have welcome messages of some kind. You could put something as simple as a link in your profile, or share a daily welcome message. My daily welcome message makes up almost 5% of my campaign-based website traffic:

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Make clear your top calls to action in your website design. New audience members should have no ambiguity about what you want them to do:

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Consider reposting your best content on a regular basis so that different parts of your audience see it. I’m about to embark on a new organic social campaign that will share links to my latest book on a very regular basis over 30 days, to see what happens. There are plenty of software platforms and companies that will offer to do content reposting for you (for a fee, of course). You can also just do it manually, by sharing the same content at different times of day.

Audiences and attention are churning all the time. Who you talk to today can differ significantly from who you talked to yesterday. Don’t assume that everyone has seen everything you have to offer!


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How to fail or succeed at social media hashtags

I was asked recently, “How can I make a hashtag go viral?”

That’s like asking how you can make a file folder in your cabinet go viral in the office. After all, hashtags are tags. They’re a way of categorizing information, a way of retrieving it. They’re not super exciting.

Hashtags are the Dewey Decimal system of social media.

For most marketers, hashtags are also self-serving by nature. They’re for the convenience of the person transmitting information so they can go back at a later time and find out what happened with the tag. Do they benefit the audience? Only if the audience is looking for that specific piece of information.

So how do you make people want to share something that’s both boring and benefits you? The same way you make people do anything that benefits you: make it benefit them, too.

Libraries made the Dewey Decimal system (which benefits the library) powerful and useful to its audience by creating a standard and predictability. You know that martial arts books are going to be in 796.815 fairly consistently. You know that photography books are going to be in 770.

Likewise, if you consistently publish content to a hashtag around a specific theme, that hashtag becomes associated with your brand to your audience. For example, almost every weekday morning, I publish 5 interesting reads under the hashtag #the5. I’ve been doing this since 2009. What happens with consistency? People start picking it up:

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The most influential sharers of #the5 according to Sysomos MAP.

They share and reshare until your content reaches millions:

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The number of times #the5 has been seen and shared in the last 6 months.

The hashtag fulfills its purpose as a categorization system and an information retrieval system.

Compare this with how the average marketer thinks about hashtags. They see them as one-time use throwaways, part of very short-sighted, campaign-centric thinking. Hashtags are a checklist item at the bottom of the marketing plan. They don’t “go viral” because they don’t live long enough for people to see them and pay attention.

This is how to fail at hashtags; imagine a library that threw out catalog numbers every time you checked out a book. The next time you came back to the library, you’d have no idea where the book was. That’s what you do to your audience when you use hashtags only inside of campaigns.

Asking how to make a hashtag go viral is the wrong question. Ask instead how to be known for the content you create and share that incidentally also has a consistent hashtag.


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Social Media SEO Signals are Drowning in Ice Cream

Social media does not drive SEO.

At a recent PR News SEO and Google Tools Conference, several of the presenters made reference to studies done by SEO tool vendors about social media driving search results. These studies are surveys of SEO professionals; SEO folks are asked what they believe are the most important contributing factors to a site’s organic search performance.

By itself, there’s nothing wrong with the data. Here’s one example from SearchMetrics, in which 7 of the 10 top ranking signals are social media-based:

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What conclusion might you draw from this? At the conference, presenters on stage and members of the audience drew the conclusion that social media drives search traffic. They drew the conclusion that to rank well in search, you must post your content on social media.

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Yet Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, openly said that social media signals are not taken into account in Google’s search algorithm.

So why the confusion?

This is a clear case of marketers not understanding correlation. All these studies are correlations only. Before we dig into why the conclusion is wrong, let’s revisit ice cream and drowning. If you were to look in any public health database, you’d notice a strong correlation between the amount of ice cream people eat and the number of people who drown. The surface conclusion you might jump to is that ice cream causes drowning, right?

Of course not. Common sense says there’s an underlying variable: temperature.

As temperatures go up, people go swimming.
People eat ice cream.
The more people swim, the more people drown.

Very few drowning deaths occur in the middle of winter.

You could likely find similar data that shows a strong relationship between deaths due to hypothermia and hot cocoa consumption.

Let’s revisit social media ranking signals. What might be the underlying variable that we’re forgetting? The currencies of SEO are inbound links. The more high quality links you get to your website, the better you rank. Is it reasonable to assume that high quality content gets great links? Yes! Is it also reasonable to assume that high quality content gets shared? Yes! Does that mean social sharing drives SEO? Absolutely not. It’s just an indicator of quality content.

The lesson that attendees at the conference should have taken away was to create content so great that people can’t help but link to it and share it vigorously. Disabuse yourself of the notion that social drives SEO in any way until we hear the official word from search engines to the contrary.


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