- Internet & the Web
Social Networking for Websites to Build Referral Traffic
Social Networking is the interaction between a group of people who share a common interest and share contacts through a network. Most groups using internet network community groups such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Linkedin and MSN to network and communicate with their friends with shared interests, related skills, or geographical locations, gaming and other social groups.
Referral Marketing is a process that maximizes word of mouth potential by encouraging, informing, promoting and rewarding customers and contacts to refer a company, product and service to people they know. Online referral marketing is the online successor that can replace or complement traditional referral marketing. When a customer buys something from you, you would hope that they tell their friends about your product when they ask about it. This is passive referrals.
Optimizing Social Networking on Websites
Active referrals involves developing an incentive based referral system. For example, you could offer a discount of 20% off the next product the customer buys for every 5 customers he or she brings to the site, or offer a scheme similar to an affiliate where both the referring customer and the new customer get discounts. The incentive scheme need to be chosen to be appropriate for your business. Referral marketing works best with customers who are:
- social, with lots of friends that need your products or services,
- excited about your products and highly satisfied with your products and services.
- internet savvy with well developed online social networks
- looking for a discount or a way to make money
How to Foster Social Networking on your Site to Generate Referrals
To keep online businesses up to date and relevant new strategies are needed to adapt to trends in social networking and referral traffic. Recently social feeds have developed that involve live streaming of friends activities that are shared on social networks like Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter. Internet users are increasingly relying on their trusted personal relationships to dictate what they should read, play, see, watch, and search for, and importantly buy online. Even Google is getting in on the act with its new Share option on its Toolbar. Both Google and Bing have recently responded to this trend by incorporating feed content derived from both Facebook and Twitter into their Search results and software for reporting search results. This trend is fundamentally changing how people do searches. Recently many SEO experts were predicting that there was a market for niche search engines on specific topics, because many people were becoming frustrated with the junk and irrelevant stuff dished up by the traditional general search engines These niche search engines would develop because they potentially provide much more specific and relevant results. But this new trend in Social Networking and Referral Traffic has taken over a major trend. The next wave for SEO and SEM for media, entertainment and e-commerce website businesses is develop systems to promote social activity to benefit from the socially referred traffic. There are major benefits from this:
- The volume is potentially enormous and highly relevant and targeted
- Because the referrals are essentially 'word-of-mouth' it also means referral traffic from social networks is of high quality and is likely to be highly focused on your product or niche.
- With social networking sites, consumers can take their friends with them wherever they go online. So, enriching the online onsite experience on your website can go a long way in bringing quality traffic to your website from the group of friends who learn about it.
- Referral Traffic has a huge flow-on effect through the various social networks and acts like a form of pyramid selling - friends tell friends, who then tell their friends and so on. Therefore if you can tap into the network your contacts and referrals are multiplied.
- There are low costs to getting the referrals once your site has been optimized for social networking
- According to recent surveys about 20% of social consumers are now using social networking as their fundamental search tool.
- Social networking acts as a filter tool so that people can quickly find what they are after without having to wade through the vast volume of information produced by the traditional search results. Trusting in the experiences and reviews of their friends or like-minded individuals, consumers are increasingly relying on ‘Social’ feedback when making major decisions. This applies for both personal and commercial decisions. The referred customers are likely to be highly targeted to what you offer. People are often wary of buying goods and services from websites that they do not know or cannot trust. So, people are increasingly turning to their online friends as a reliable and trusted source of information. By using the experiences or reviews of their friends or like minded individuals, they feel confident in using this filtered information when making decisions. The combination of referrals and the trust and reputation about the goods and services, is extremely powerful as a selling tool. In a way it is just what Google is trying to deliver with searches - reliable and trustworthy information as judged by the number of other websites that have referred to it. But this is much more powerful because it is a word of mouth referral and is much more trustworthly as it involves friends.
The gains from these new social networking initiatives are often immediate and very powerful. To benefit from this social networking revolution, companies need to:
- Optimise their connections with the social networking community,
- Continually enhance the on-site social experiences on their websites,
- Analyse the results and adapt their approach to improve their social business strategy and how it is implemented. This strategy is often called Social Optimization of Websites.
- Develop enhancement strategies by offering incentives for referrals and packages for customers to tell their friends about it.
- Because of the viral nature of sites like Facebook, business are using Facebook to get their messages to the masses and promote their products and services. The best way to get exposure is to go to Facebook yourself with your business.
- Facebook (as well as other social networking sites) are also fantastic places to get referrals. If you offer incentives for referrals to customers, they will often brag about it on Facebook or other networks sites and this will get their friends interested.
- You have to be careful about trying to directly use Facebook for promotion. Many people are tired of all the salespeople trying to get them to buy this and buy that when they are socialising. You need to be a real person on there. Tweet about your day, what’s going on in your life or some cool things you found online. Every so often, update your status about a positive aspect of your business (like making $900 online). People will sense that you are genuine and want to know more. Work on getting others to mention your business via incentives and rewards.
- Social network linkages tend to multiply and interconnect with third party sites. Friends tend to go rapidly to other networks via these expanding linkages. The use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin exploded because it initially provided a fantastic tool for groups with existing offline personal networks to connect with each other online. It quickly developed as a system rather than a tool for making new online social networks. Now these networks systems are more widely available to online businesses – through Facebook Connect, and Sign-in with Twitter, among others. These services now offer tools for online businesses to register users using established logon identities. Users who sign up for these services can easily share content and activities on the site back to their friends on social networks via these feeds. Profile information can be gathered and enhance to personalize the site experience for the customers. If you know who your users are connecting to, you can adapt the site accordingly. You can even tap into the networks yourself to learn about them and so provide a more highly developed and personalized social experience on your site. As a result of this response on your part, your users and consumers will be able to take their friends wherever they go online, and your site will be seen as modern, up to date, and aware of social networking. Customers will want to explore your site with their friend and groups, rather than by themselves.
So How do you get involved in Social Networking and Generate Referrals
Your objective is to develop Social Optimization for your Website, which means proactively enabling social participation by users on your site. This tested by:
- counting the number of users who use the tools to register their social network identification on your site,
- assessing the amount of website content and activity on your site that can be shared via social networks
- seeing the amount of time users spend exploring your site while sharing with their friends on the social networks.
The more you optimise your site for social networking, the more your users, and their friends will use your site and the better will be your business outcomes. An effective website that is socially optimized can generate:
- increases in traffic from social networks,
- foster greater sales revenue,
- increase search engine rankings,
- promote better brand or product awareness
- greatly reduce your costs in finding new customers, and
- provided more focused users and visitors, meaning that you site can be better designed for a specific target group.
Social Optimization of your website will require attention on three key components:
► Social Connectivity
► Social Analytics and
► Connected Experience
First Step: Generating Social Connectivity
The first step in evolving and applying a scheme is to connect your website to the social networks in a way that maximizes the number of active participants. Fortunately, most of the social networks are aware the worth in this as well, and most have supplied methods that enable websites to directly connect with them. The APIs they provide and the various routines and programs allow hosting websites to get data from, and interchange information with the social network. These routines are provided for Facebook Connect and there are other programs for Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google, and many others. You should give your users a variety of options to make these connections.
Second Step: Developing or Improving the Experience when Connected
You should greatly enhance the connected experience offered to users of your website by re-designing it for heightened socially-connected participation. This means encouraging your users to register with their social network identification, to share content and experience with their social networks, and to interact with friends while on your website. It is all about how to enable sharing by users. The key points are:
- Keep users on your site for the entire sharing process, by including a sharing dialogue box on each page that can be shared, or the home page. The newest APIs allow users to make the connection and start sharing without having to leave your site.
- Build a sharing experience into the user activity scheme on your site. This includes removing the need for clicks to enable the sharing process. For example, a site should suggest that users to share comments or poll results with their friends as a normal part of the process rather than asking them to click a “share” button. If they are not registered to share, then the website program will bypass this sharing option. This will increase the amount of sharing on your website.
- Allow users to sign-in on the home page with their social network identities. Make the sharing part of the normal log-in or registration process, not a separate extra requirement.
- Make it easy for users to share to multiple networks, simultaneously. This can greatly increase the network audience for your site.
Step Three. Develop advanced social metrics for your site
Businesses need to be able to test and measure changes in connected user activity by social networks, and make changes based on the monitoring information. Some of the major performance measures that you can use are:
- Yearly and Monthly growth in traffic figures derived from social networks overall, and by from each specific social network site.
- Statistics on the numbers of users that sharing content on your website
- Average number of completed shares and responses to shares via messages, status updates etc. per connected user.
- The mean number of referred visits and other referrals
- The specific parts and features of your site which drive the highest volume of sharing activity
Investment in promoting socially-referred traffic should be seen as an integral part of a three-pronged strategy for site design and business optimization along with SEO and SEM. This strategy will drive the ongoing evolution of your website to take advantage of all the new trends in social developments, both technical and cultural.
© 2010 Dr. John Anderson