April 23, 2014

Should You Explicitly Target Social Media?

Targeting Social Media

When most of us first encountered social media websites and recognized the huge potential for traffic, chances are we started submitting our content to the major social media sites, regardless of how well that content fit with the audience. Anyone who does this will quickly learn that not just any blog post will draw votes and traffic from social media users.

As you look around the popular items at various social media sites you’ll notice that many of the popular items have certain things in common. For example, you may notice that breaking news frequently draws a lot of attention, or you may see a lot of popular posts that use humor, controversy, resource lists, etc. In most cases, this isn’t by chance. Because of the incredible power of social media, many website owners and bloggers intentionally create content to target these types of audiences .

It only makes sense that if you want to appeal to social media users that you take their interests and voting habits into consideration when creating your content. On the other hand, some bloggers and readers hate content that targets a social media audience. So what should you do?

I think your approach should depend on your strategy and plan for social media marketing. If you plan to rely on this type of traffic as one of your leading sources, you should probably cater to the users and give them what they want. On the other hand, if social media is more of a supplementary source of traffic for you, you may be able to achieve this by creating content without considering social media and letting things play out on their own.

Here are some factors to consider:

We’re all creatures of habit

You can learn a great deal about social media users by studying what types of content tend to do well, and what types tend to flop. Some bloggers feel like studying a social media site will be too time consuming, so they simply don’t do it. Actually, it doesn’t really need to be very time consuming at all, and once you learn a few recipes for success you can use them over and over again to create popular content.

Certain types of content can turn off some readers

Depending on the type of audience that you have, publishing a lot of link posts and other typical social media-targeted posts may do some harm to your current reader base. Some readers prefer to have other types of content, and they may not appreciate the fact that you are targeting social media users. This is something that each blogger will have to evaluate for himself/herself. In most cases, I think audiences generally appreciate or at least tolerate this type of content, but there are some exceptions.

How does the content affect your image?

Most bloggers are very conscious of the image and reputation that they are building through their blog. Some types of content for social media may do more harm than good for your image, and if this is the case, the traffic usually won’t be worth the price.

Timing

Once you see the power of content that effectively targets social media users, it’s tempting to take this approach with every post. From my experience it’s best not to go overboard here. Most of your readers aren’t going to vote for your blog posts on social media sites every day, but they may vote once a week, or once a month. Personally, I try to spread out these types of posts a bit so that each one can have a significant impact. (For more on this subject, see How to Target Social Media with Specific Posts ).

The end result

Your blogging goals most likely involve much more than just getting a rush of traffic. Maybe you want to increase subscribers, develop name recognition, or produce more income. How does the content that you are producing help you towards achieving those goals? It’s very possible to use social media to help you accomplish all of these things, but it’s also possible to waste your time chasing social media traffic in ways that won’t get you to your goals.

What’s Your Opinion?

Do you create content that specifically targets a social media audience? How do you feel about the issue?

About Steven Snell

Steven is a web designer, blogger, and freelance writer.

11 comments

  1. I do 60/40. In 60% of cases I have a specific audience on my mind, like the SEO industry (Sphinn), early adopters (Mixx), general Internet users (StumbleUpon), noobs (Google), horny frustrated geeks (Digg) ;-)
    In 40% of the cases I just don’t care. I write for my blog subscribers and regular readers.

  2. I’m quite similar to Tad, I sometimes write with a slight stance to doing well on certain communities, but titles for those communities are generally what people want to click on anyway.

    Nice overview Steven

  3. Tad and Glen,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m pretty similar. I think it’s most healthy for a blog to have a good mix, but that’s just my opinion.

  4. When I first started out I would submit a ton of my articles to social media sites. Other than a couple of big draws from StumbleUpon, this was in large part a waste of time for me. Unfortunately, sites like Digg are more based on the number of friends you have than the quality of your content.

    Now, I will submit an article to StumbleUpon if I think it’s one of my better articles and it will take off and bring in some good traffic levels. But I don’t spend too much time on these sites.

  5. I don’t really have any blogging goals(thats an thought, maybe I should), so I really don’t create content for social media. But then again perhaps I should.
    I don’t think it is a bad thing to target Social Media, as it will only help you to create good helpful content.

  6. To say you’re targeting “social media” is like saying you’re targeting television viewers – i.e. you’re not really targeting at all.

    Not that I’m trying to twist your meaning Steven – I’m not – it’s just an important distinction to make.

    Social media is good for extending your “reach”, but extending that traffic into incremental long-term, valuable traffic is where targeting needs to come in. Traffic from StumbleUpon is often garbage when measured against real-world metrics like incremental revenue generated by the increase in traffic. Same with Digg.

    Before creating a piece of social media content, I use http://www.tribalfly.com to find niche social media sites topically related to the content I’m creating. That way there’s at least a good chance of creating a message-media match which will translate into metrics that matter on your blog like revenue, subscribers, etc…

  7. Muscle Post,
    From my perspective there’s a difference between targeting social media and submitting your posts to social media. You can submit anything you want to a particular social media site, but that doesn’t mean it was written with the intent of appealing to that audience. If that’s the case, the results will often be sub-par.

    Adam,
    I don’t think you necessarily should target social media. It’s just a matter of your approach. If you have no reason to, than there’s no harm in ignoring that audience when writing your content.

    John,
    I would disagree that saying you’re targeting a social media audience is like saying you’re targeting tv. Social media users tend to have certain things that they like when it comes to content, which I think you would agree based on the last paragraph of your comment.

    The typical posts that’s written with this audience in mind can be much different than your average blog post.

    I completely agree with you that it’s a good practice to target a specific niche or a specific social media site rather than just social media users in general. And really that’s what my question is getting at. Should you consider specific social media audiences when you are creating content, or should you just create whatever content you want and let things play out as they may?

  8. I don’t think you should keep a specific social media site in mind. But do have goals, and write with a purpose. Depending upon your purpose, the post may appeal to certain SM audiences more than others.
    I would say writing a post to target SM audiences in general is not a good idea, as they can spot content that was made especially for them.

  9. Adam,
    I agree that SM audiences can often spot an article that was intended for them, but if they like it, is that really a bad thing? On my primary blog I often create posts with the purpose of drawing bookmarks on Delicious and making it to the front page. The way I go about doing that is by providing as much value in the post as I am able to. If it’s good enough people will bookmark it and everyone will be happy. It has worked very well in terms of bringing visitors, links, improving search traffic, and it’s helped to to build a bigger, more satisfied subscriber base than I could have otherwise.

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