The term “social media search engines” can be confusing. Indeed, when you look for this search term in Google, you’ll find lots of results for so-called “network agnostic” search engines that combine many different social media networks together in their search results.
However, what most businesses look for when searching “social media search engines,” is information on how to boost their visibility on social media. And that’s what this article is all about.
This article is about optimizing each social media network’s “SEO,” on a case by case basis so that you can reach your target audience on whatever social network(s) they like to frequent.
Some marketers wrongly say that social media sites are dying, and that the only way to succeed is to use paid search advertising. They say this because social media ads work really well – not because social networking sites itself are dying.
We strongly disagree with this sentiment. After all, more than 2.5 billion people are using social media networks.
So how can small businesses use social media search engines to their advantage?
Winning on social media at its core is the same as winning on any other kind of search engine. That’s because searching on social media search engines is essentially the same as searching on Google (more about that later).
And just like with Google, content quality is a big part of the search algorithms on social media networks.
There are many different factors that determine social media content quality. Here we lay out some of the biggest ones.
1) Valuable Content
Since a big part of SEO is providing valuable content, naturally, this also applies to social media. Due to the nature of social media, if you provide value, people will listen, follow, and engage with you. Ways you can do this include:
- providing valuable industry resources
- commentating on the latest trends
- publishing or sharing useful and helpful content on a regular basis
Also, keep in mind that people are not in social media to read sales copies. They are usually there to interact with other social media profiles such as that of their friends’, pages’ and brands’ they follow. So your posts should be about helping them and giving valuable information. Establish and create a connection with your audience first. The golden rule of having good content is 80% posting of helpful information and 20% selling of your products/ services.
Afterward, you’ll want to focus on the results (shares, comments, follows) to find the best strategy for boosting your business on social media search engines. And just like with Google search, you’ll need to look at your…
Once you have a strategy, you’ll want to test it and measure the aforementioned metrics. This will let you see if your strategy for social media search engines works.
Also, keep in mind that social media is only half the picture. The other half is your website’s analytics.
On your website analytics, you’ll want to look to see if you’re driving users from your social media accounts or digital marketing campaign back to your website. If so, are they actually engaging with your site or are they simply bouncing off? If they’re engaging, do they explore all of the content on your web pages, and hopefully, click your phone number to make that call?
And so on…
In short, Google Analytics will show you real-time if your social media strategy will translate into real sales and profits.
Images are now a key part of quality social media content. In the past, images were just the cherry on top of the cake. Some even opt to settle for images they find on free photo download and sharing sites such as Flickr, Unsplash and etc. But nowadays there are whole platforms focusing entirely around images so it’s now worth putting most of your focus on visual content.
4) Engage With Your Audience
It should come as no surprise that you must give engagement to receive engagement. But what exactly does this mean in the context of social media search engines?
- Speed: quick engagement with your audience via comments is also crucial, especially on Facebook and Instagram, who use “engagement” as one of the primary factors in determining which content is displayed or not displayed in news feeds. More engagement also helps to determine posts prominence on IG’s advanced search tool- Instagram’s Explore page.
Therefore, you’ll want to have a social media expert monitor and react to new comments as soon as possible. The faster this is done, the more other users will engage as well. But if you don’t engage with users soon enough, the post can easily fade into obscurity.
- Personable: many brands make the mistake of sounding too cold and/or promotional on social media. No one wants to follow a brand like that. They want to follow a person or brand they can connect with. So instead of focusing too much on keywords and risk sounding robotic, try to engage more with your audience. Do whatever it takes to connect with them. Whether that means being funny, or if the situation calls for it, sad or angry.
- Branding on target: if you can comment in a way that’s on target with your brand, and is original/unique enough, then you can improve the brand sentiment of your audience.
5) Connect With Your Audience
Think about this: you wouldn’t write a post or a tweet for a 15 year old the same way you would for a 50 year old. So, you should also know what social media networks the different age groups generally gravitate towards, or where the momentum is going.
Now having said that, there’s no magic bullet list of the best social media search engines. The hot favorite network among marketers changes every few years: first it was Twitter, then it was Facebook, and now it’s Instagram. What’s more important is to figure out what networks your target audience likes to frequent and why.
It’s also important to take a multi-channel approach. After all, most social searchers today use multiple social media search boxes- different networks for different purposes.
But all of this requires knowing your target audience, especially their age. Knowing what networks they like to frequent can help you to determine their average age. The reverse is also true- knowing their average age will give you a good indicator of what networks they will likely frequent.
- Facebook is increasingly being adopted by older age groups
- Twitter is more of a news source, and as a result it’s being adopted by all age groups
- Instagram is for the youth
- Pinterest is mostly women in their 20s-30s
- Snapchat is late teens
When you figure out where your audience is, you can focus on those platforms and connect with your audience more effectively.
Hashtag usage/importance varies by platform and is subject to changes by the platform. For example, LinkedIn only enabled hashtag functionality in their mobile app starting in August 2016. Before that, using hashtags on LinkedIn was largely pointless because it is mainly a people search engine. And in searching a person’s name, hashtags aren’t really that useful.
But hashtags definitely have a place in social media search engines. And you’ll need ideas on how to tag (hashtag) your business posts and updates.
As another bonus, brainstorming hashtags will also help you in brainstorming new search or topic ideas for sharable content.
How you should use hashtags varies among the different social media search engines. The optimal number of hashtags, as well as optimal hashtag character length, differs from platform to platform. First we’ll show you some studies and data from Trackmaven Software research, and then we’ll give you our conclusions.
Hashtag number: 1 is optimal Hashtag length: 18 characters or 3 is optimal
Hashtag number: 9 is optimal Hashtag length: 21-24 is optimal
Hashtag number: 1 is optimal Hashtag length: 6 is optimal
Twitter: Twitter is known for its trending hashtags and for having its own search engine to help users discover what’s currently happening in a certain region. In fact according to BuzzSumo, tweets with hashtags can grow engagement up to 100% for individual users and 50% for brands. But why were 3 character hashtags so popular on Twitter? Because 3 letter acronyms are common for hashtags. So if appropriate, it might be better not to use an 18+ character hashtag if there’s a 3 letter acronym equivalent that your target audience is familiar with. An example would be: SEO instead of search engine optimization.
It’s important however not to use unfamiliar acronyms as this will definitely not create engagement.
Instagram: Why so many hashtags? Similar to Twitter, these networks tend to attract younger crowds that love to use hashtags.
Facebook: Here we see the opposite. Fewer hashtags. We can hypothesize that using more hashtags works better on platforms that attract younger people. Older generations are more reciprocal to fewer or no hashtags at all. Also, in Facebook search tools, most people either use a specific person’s name, brand or product name as a search query instead of hashtags. And as we said earlier, Facebook is increasingly attracting an older crowd that isn’t as familiar with hashtags.
We recommend not discounting the importance of hashtags because they are essentially more keywords for your content to appear for when people use social media search engines.
7) Don’t Forget The Core Essence Of Blogging
Remember that in essence blogging is social. And social media in essence is blogging. Don’t get stuck into the simple mindset that blogging is content marketing only.
Think of your blog as your own branded social media platform. Your audience is on social media, but the better you can integrate social media with your blog, the more traffic you’ll ultimately get. Because if you provide enough value, people will bookmark your website and will always go back to YOU for more.
And speaking of bookmarks, you also might want to consider sharing your content on bookmarking websites such as Digg and Reddit. It helps to know that both of these sites have chrome extensions to make it easier for users to bookmark and share content.
8) Make Mobile Marketing Your Long Term Strategy
A guaranteed way to increase short-term and long-term traffic is to focus on improving mobile users’ experience, especially with your homepage. Eventually, nearly all traffic will be coming from mobile devices.
9) Employ Influencer Marketing
In a 2016 Linquia Study, 94% of marketers said that influencer marketing was effective for them.
This isn’t hard to imagine either, seeing as how some of the world’s major brands like Nike and Rolex rely heavily on influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing will play an even more important role as some internet users have developed “ad blindness,” where they completely ignore all ads entirely. Influencer marketing can connect better with these kinds of people.
Be sure to do research on your target audience. Are they more likely to block and ignore ads? If so, consider using influencer marketing as a supplement or alternative to paid ads.
10) Lookalike Audiences
This term means audiences who are similar in terms of demographics and interests. These audiences are made up based on algorithms developed by the social media search engines. The purpose of lookalike audiences is to help you connect with other similar social media users.
How does this work in practice?
You upload the email addresses of your ideal customers and Facebook will identify others with a similar demographic makeup and interests. Then as a business owner, you can run ads to bring them to your website or social page.
This method will help you grow a decent following over time.
11) Brand Identity
Social network news feeds tend to be crowded places. So, users are often deciding what they do want and don’t want to see in them. Your brand identity must stand above other similar brands, or you risk getting phased out. You don’t want others to see your business as just a derivative of another more popular brand.
How can you accomplish this? Consider the following ways:
- Make your brand identity clear and unique using a variety of different kinds of media. Having a recognized brand will also allow you to boost your social mentions.
- Top marketers rely on many strategies to push a certain worldview that elicits a tribal response from people. This also creates more brand awareness and as a result, generates new business and satisfies followers/the tribe.
- Make people feel good about themselves and your organization on major world events and holidays and/or do a fun weekly video.
As we touched on above, one of the biggest ways that successful businesses build brand awareness is through eliciting a tribal response from people. This can come in the form of strong emotional and identifying language. Examples include “anyone who likes x y or z is awesome!” These types of posts receive more likes and engagement than any other.
The social media algorithms also feed into this. When someone likes a certain brand they will start seeing more and more similar things in their news feed. They will also see more and more specific versions of these things, providing a constant loop of similar content. This fulfills the social network’s goal of keeping users on the site for as long as possible.
So, as a business owner, you should take advantage of this behavior pattern that social media elicits. Think of your brand not as a brand, but as your tribe!
Social media search engines are very similar to traditional search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. But there are some key differences too.
If you need more help giving your social media content the visibility it deserves, then let us lend a hand! Contact us today.