In a survey of their members by the AOP (Association of Online Publishers) social media was ranked as the 3rd biggest opportunity, after mobile and broadband.
With news sites now finding that about 10% of their traffic is coming from social media and many online-only publishers, such as eHow.com, using social media to grow traffic and reduce their reliance on google, now is the time that you should start thinking about creating your own content-driven social media strategy.
Here's some steps to guide you through the process:
1. Create useful content
Always make sure that what you write is relevant, useful, and 'portable', so it works well in small pieces. Don't think about your content in terms of just your own site. Think instead about how you can spread it around the web, putting it where your audience is.
Remember - it's all about trying to raise your profile, not simply growing the traffic on your own site.
2. Post your content on sharing sites
It pays to create profiles on Squidoo, LinkedIn, Slideshare, YouTube, Issuu, Flickr, Facebook, Wikipedia and anywhere else you think your audience might go looking for useful content. Post your content (either unique content or an introductory paragraph or two) and provide a link back to your own site. Also make use of social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, StumbleUpon and Digg. This will drive traffic and also provide you with useful external links.
3. Join conversations and include links
Take part in discussions on relevant forums and LinkedIn groups, post comments on blogs, and post to Twitter. Include a (relevant) link back to useful content. It's important to keep on topic, so it doesn't look like you're spamming.
4. Measure the results
You can immediately track referrals from social media sites using tools like Google Analytics.
As well as sending you direct traffic, all the high pagerank social media sites in turn help your own pagerank, so the indirect natural search benefit can be many times greater than the direct social media traffic. There are other softer benefits such as PR and increasing your influence.
5. Do more of what works
Social media is potentially a very time-consuming activity. The only way to find out the right route for you is to start small (and targeted), keep monitoring what works, and do more of the good stuff. Shawn Colo at ehow.com makes a good point that traffic driven by content is recurring; there is an upfront effort, but that once established, it can develop its own momentum.
I'd be interested to hear of the experiences of other publishers in driving traffic through their content on social media. Please leave a comment below, or join the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn to swap ideas with other publishers.
About Guest Writer Carolyn Morgan
Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, creating practical digital media and marketing strategies for businesses. You can find out more about Penmaen Media here.