Posted June 11, 2007 9:01 am by with 16 comments

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Ready to get more out of social media? The leaders in social media marketing dish on how to get in on the action–everything from why to where to how.

Rand Fishkin, CEO & Co-Founder, SEOmoz

SMM vs. Viral Marketing
Creating profiles on web 2.0 sites Building content targeted to linkerati
Building friends and relationships. Attract links & traffic

Social media is about making these communities work for me. It’s our job to do this with Google, now it’s our job to do this with others. Viral marketing is about stylistically different communities.

What can SMM do for you? You can rule the SERPs, control your brand, earn link love, show the community you’re a participant (more link love), get traffic, and influence traditional media.

Social media sites in order of value: #1 YouTube—not directly influential in SERPs/rankings. You do get the potential for millions of views (his example had 22 million views in 5 months).
2. Wikipedia (Rand evokes Walt Whitman as he declares, “I will contradict myself.”)
3. Yahoo Answers
4. Yelp (disclosure: they’re an SEOmoz client)—for West coast local reviews, they’re the most popular
5. LinkedIn: personal networking source
6. Flickr (comments not nofollowed. Rand evokes Paris Hilton by declaring “That’s hott!”)
7. craigslist: highly temporal, but best of craigslist is good. Write cool material and get lots of votes.
8. Facebook
9. Amazon (especially for authors, who can have blogs) lists, reviews, etc.
10. MySpace
11. Technorati: People ask if you should be tagging your content? SEOmoz, for the right tags (and tags where Technorati is ranking well in SERPs), it’s good. Their links are not nofollowed.
12. Judy’s book (like Yelp)
13. Newsvine (Good for seeding stuff)
14. Twitter—is not useful. I’m skipping it. Unless you have a community. Danny says it sends you a lot of traffic.
15. CitySearch—a local directory; features user reviews and comments
16. Wikihow

What can viral media marketing do for you?

In Dec 05, what happened that make YouTube the most popular? Lazy Sunday

Viral media = branding (even people who don’t regularly watch TV recognize the Mac/PC ad)
Viral media = search rankings. Why? Write something really good, incredibly valuable: I’ll get something Dugg. Target your keyword in the title.
Viral media = growing your fan base. Linkbait = subscribers.

Where should you do this?
1. Digg
2. Reddit: more politically focused, more real-content-focused
3. StumbleUpon has 2.5 million users: sends traffic and phenomenal links
5. Netscape features more serious news
6. TechCrunch: hard to get on unless you can give Mike Arrington something 😉 phenomenal traffic: 400-500 links
7. Newsvine
8. BoingBoing
9. Fark. Not very serious: immerse yourself in the community first
10. Engadget
11. Techmeme
12. Lifehacker—fantastic traffic
13. Yahoo Picks.

Viral Media Marketing = power

Neil Patel, Author, Pronet Advertising
Rules of social media
From the terms of service: no paying for votes (gaming the system), creating multiple accounts from same IP address, submitting illegal content (porn, how to get free DirecTV/Dish, etc.).

Breaking the rules: Neil did it so we don’t have to
He submitted a story on how to get free Pay-per-view, created 30 accounts on the same IP address, and paid for votes. Digg banned him within hours.

The social media audience is like a baby with a mohawk: they have an attitude, they’re arrogant, you don’t mess with them. Immature to the point of arrogance. The young audience is in early high school. The “middle age audience” is in their early 20s (laughs and groans from the audience). The older audience is 28, 29 maybe 30. Rarity—40s.

Unwritten rules of social media:
No self promotion (submit your own stuff); don’t add biased info (bad title/description); don’t ask friends for votes.

Users are quite rude (he gave an example of Digg comments), especially if you violate these rules.

Neil’s Golden Rules for Social Media

  • Add tons of friends (people who are interested in things you’re submitting)
  • Participate in the community (not just submitting/voting: leave comments, interaction: GET INVOLVED. Email, IM)
  • Become a top user (yes, this is time consuming, you might be able to get away with self submission)
  • Use their features against them (friends, comments, etc.)
  • Create a social brand (create a fake name to self submit. Get icons, brand your user name that way.) For example: Neil’s a top Digger and people on Netscape recognize his name and vote for his submissions.

StumbleUpon example: “send to spam (it’s not spam, it’s actually just sending a message)”: using their features against them. If you send a page to your friends, that will be the first thing they’ll see the next time they Stumble: there’s no way around it.


  • Do what is ethical (you don’t want to do spammy stuff because you’ll have a hard time sleeping—unless you get tons of traffic and links)
  • Don’t jeopardize your brand
  • Think long term. It’s not a drug (quick fix). It can take week, a month, or 1-2 years.


Todd Malicoat, Internet Marketing Consultant, Stuntdubl
He’d just been reading a book that quoted a Rudyard Kipling story about self-made shipping tycoon. On deathbed he said of his competitors:

They copied all they could follow,
But they couldn’t copy my mind,
So I left them stealing and sweating,
And a year and a half behind.

Social media can leave your competitors that far behind.

Social media for strategic linking (outside of linkbaiting)


  • Control over anchor text, body copy, theme
  • Lots of opportunity for links from trusted sites
  • Increased rankings, traffic and sales
  • Example: Todd’s Squidoo page has lots of links to many areas of his site

The can use an “invisible” nofollow: a “hand job.” Doesn’t pass PageRank.

Any search engine will tell you: “Spam is determined by intent and extent.” (Apparently, this was emphasized by the search engines in the Penalty Box Summit very next day.) “Bots are stupid, but engineers aren’t.” If you do these maliciously, they’re not gonna work very long.

If you’re a large brand, you can get away with a lot more than if you’re a small brand:

Small brand Big brand
“cloaking” IP delivery
Cross linking Cross promotion
Link buying Strategic media placement
Doorway pages Landing pages
Reciprocal links Co branding
Social Media Spam Social Media Optimization

Big brands get away with it. Determine strategy on how big you are & if you can handle the fall out


  • Build reputation neighborhoods: reputation management. Create something positive, if it’s justified & unique content
  • Building hubs with social media links

See Gray Wolf’s tips for controlling the top ten.

  • Sign up to everything you find
  • Test the sites
  • If they pass PageRank, get some links
  • Build a neighborhood of sites
  • Interlink them within reason
  • Vary anchor text and copy
  • Can be used for person, company or products

Sites: Squidoo, Naymz, Netscape, LinkedIn, Tagalag, Bill Hartzer’s 130 social media sites on WebmasterWorld (sub req).

Building a hub on a social media site works well for movies and timely content.
Movies have begun advertising their MySpace pages. This gets them on SERPs faster than starting their own site ( versus

How to find social media sites
Search Google dorks for examples of creativity, using different Google commands to find different types of sites. Use keywords “profile,” “web 2.0.” Go to directories: .

Testing sites

  • Is it indexed? (The site and its pages.)
  • Do the pages rank?
  • Is the theme good?
  • Placement (how many links?)
  • Does the page pass link juice? Most difficult to test.


  • Run a site: command search on similar pages on the site. For example, — profile pages are indexed
  • Build a page on the social media site filled with nonsense
  • Link to another nonsense page on your site

(see case studies on Wolf-howl)

Benefits: Social media is another tool for linking. Know how to use it and know what’s best for your goal.
Caveats: Size matters, as do intent & extent.
Use techniques and strategies.

Cindy Krum, Senior SEO Analyst, Blue Moon Works Inc.

Social media for brand awareness and brand management

  • Ubiquitous web adoption demands a higher level of interaction with brand
  • Social media is the fastest way to move brand forward, or change its image
  • Social network advertising spending is expected to triple by 2011 but the cost for participation on social networks is expected to remain free
  • Social media provides a unique opportunity to encourage customers to incorporate your brand with their identity both on and offline.
  • Appeal to a peer set which then influences people.

Securing your social presence

  • Research relevant social networks: major social sites, niche/vertical social sites
  • Social local sites (like
  • Blogs & forums, wikis

Identify existing networks for your brand or your industry
Have a strategy: how many profiles do you need? Where should you direct traffic?
Determine who gets social profiles: brands, products, company icons (people/mascots)

Consider social profiles as portals to your brand

  • Fosters a sense of shared experience & belonging
  • Spend time on design & maintain brand standards
  • Keep info fresh—weekly updates
  • Manage multipile social profiles in centralized locations: photobucket/flickr for images, centralized control panels like (but you do want to have some unique content on each profile)
  • Leverage email functionality, blogs & billboards

Create SEO’d profiles
Follow traditional SEO best practices
Focus on brand keywords (maybe ones that aren’t “okay” on your main site)
Interlink brand profiles to one another, and to the main site
Initiate friending campaigns
Drive traffic to the profile: natural search traffic, from your main site, PPC (complicated), PPP, banners, offline
Good MySpace profiles can pay to be featured profiles (ex: True dating service profile)

Manage your reputation
Use SEO to push detractors out of top positions
Send traffic to positive press
Participate in forums & groups for detractors & supporters: diffuse adversarial rhetoric, move conversations to a private sphere
Prevent problems: preemption, engagement, diplomacy
Address problems: transparency, candor, humility

Empower Brand Evangelists
Give them cool stuff: widgets, layouts, desktop themes, graphics, games, videos, podcasts, interactive surveys, customizable HTML & brand apps, promotional codes & deals, info on brand

Examples of MySpace layouts: Starbucks, True & LOST. There’s already a community in place for these brands. They’re building on that.
Starbucks features a widget to invite someone for coffee, desktop layouts, location finder, monthly featured beverages.
True has fun games (create-a-date, mixboard for love music) and a fortunes widget
LOST has wallpapers, skins, secrets from shows, interviews.

Embrace Convergence
Leverage existing marketing efforts
Overtly send TV, radio print traffic to profile pages
Release, promote & link to commercials on your profile pages: submit TV commercials to YouTube & other video sites; submit TV/radio to SingingFish or MySpace music
Link to information/press about the campaign from the profiles
Use profiles to get feedback.

Direct social network traffic
Direct traffic offline: host local meet-ups, in-store only coupons, use social profiles and integrate offline & online brand interactions: video uploads, scavenger hunts & offline games. Get people to participate in offline communities around your brand. Have them post results online & link there.
Direct traffic online: create a social media section of your main site. Link to all profiles from main site. Encourage visitors to add you as friends on your main site, encourage visitors to participate in forums & groups. Send them to your site to get promotions.

“Successful brands get into the mind slowly. A blurb in a magazine. A mention in a newspaper. A comment from a friend. A display in a retail store. After a slow buildup, people become convinced that they have known about a brand forever.” (Laura & Al Ries)

You’ve shown the profiles for those companies, but the LOST one was by Sky1 (UK television channel that it airs on). If you’re a reseller, would it be possible/ethical to “hijack” the community?
Rand: Riding on the coattails of a brand is fine. Hijacking, maybe not. This is subjective, but it’s potentially dangerous. For example, if I made a “Rand’s speaking at SMX” MySpace page: that’d be dangerous, if I were successful. There are legal ramifications, as well as partnership ramifications.
Cindy: On the other hand, people can create branded profiles out of enthusiasm for the product.
Neil: Make it the “unofficial” profile.
Todd: It’s the intent/extent thing. If you do it, don’t let it work too well. Then people will copy you & it will tamper your success.

If I were to promote my most bizarre content, that would get the most links/love? (a product reviews site)
Rand: When you start this process, you have to ask how are you going to use social media. I tell my clients, before you start submitting stuff, you are required to spend 2 weeks there reading what they submit. Understand the community; know what they promote and like. If you invest that time, it’s the best time to figure out the space. I wish we could just tell you what to do.
Neil: Bizarre is better for the young audience, but older audiences (Netscape, Newsvine) like appropriate reviews better.
Todd: Even if you’re getting bad press, the anchor text can great (“worst product reviews” has 2 good words…)
Neil: It’s not necessarily your real title: it’s submitted title. Make sure your website title has keywords, though.
Cindy: Plan ahead if you’re using the bizarre stuff. It’s not just what you do, but think about the next step.
Rand: A lot of people shy away from the space because it can’t be controlled. But the good thing there is that we, the small marketers and small and medium brands can own that space. We can outrank them there.

Would you equate social media to old school forum links?
Rand: It’s similar. You remember the Slashdot effect? Well, now you get tons of links because of blog proliferations in addition to traffic.
Neil: Like with the forums, you don’t really care about that direct link, but what you care about is the traffic and the people that will link to you.

If you have a fan that’s built a fan profile, does it behoove the company to build an official site? Or should they feed the fan site?
Cindy: Evaluate the quality of the profile and the person keeping it up. You can get burned either way. If you endorse them & they become official, you have less control. But if you try to displace them with an official site, you could offend the existing community. It’s a face-to-face, one-on-one thing.
Rand: Let’s say there’s a crazed, rabid fan who’s going wild over your brand. I think that, yes, it pays you to create your official page and also to link to them. Say, “Man, we love this.” That fan will be so encouraged. You don’t even have to be a big brand. Endorse them, leave blog comments, etc. This is thrilling to them.

See the Barack Obama affair for an example of how it can go wrong.

Cindy: Having the “unofficial” fan site and your official version can be good for SEO; interlinked profiles.

It seems like a lot of the conversation is focused on links. What about widgets? What do you see as opportunities on Facebook platform? Isn’t that the better way to get distribution?
Todd: With us, it’s always about the links. The indirect benefit: relevant targeted traffic from SERPs. Links-traffic-sales. Now it’s one step further: social media-links-traffic-sales. I think there’s huge opportunity for widgets-links-traffic-sales. I’m all about the little guy.
Cindy: The widgets are cool and get the links, but they also get you brand recognition. That’s just so viral.
Neil: Links are great and all, but it’s very effective for branding. If it’s repeatedly popular, lots of people come back to your site and become readers. Make widgets hot somehow and use social media to push it out & get more visibility.
Rand: With widgets, think about why a user would do that. You need to have something a user would want to share. Best examples: something that people want to proclaim. How can I do this? An example: the SEOmoz Page Strength Tool badge. Play into people’s desire to proclaim their own greatness. (Also, the Web 2.0 Awards.) Lulu linked back to us in their header—now it’s on every page of the site. They’re proclaiming “That’s me!!”

There’s a rumor that Digg’s getting harder to linkbait. Why? Where should I go?
Todd: You should be genuine when you linkbait. If you do it a lot, people say that you’re linkbaiting constantly. Like I was hacked a while back and people said I did it as linkbait.
Neil: I’m personally a whore. You can’t target all of them with one piece of content. Network with top users and craft content specifically for their community. Make it useful content, enduring content.
Rand: if you can build up good relationships with prominent bloggers. they’ll put great content out there about/for you.

Shouldn’t it be related to your business?
Rand: I wish that it could be. That’s very traditional media. Now you have to think about also how can I get people who’d link to my site to my site. You’re getting it for branding and for links. That Apple campaign is a great branding campaign. It’s small, targeted, local businesses.

Who are these people and what have they got to do with my clients’ and customers?
Danny: Quick poll: How many of you equate social media marketing with Digg? How many of you use MySpace profiles? How many are totally hip—you use everything? (A few raise their hands each time.) There is a spectrum that’s out there. We’re getting more and more specialized social media sites. Shouldn’t Petco want to participate in Dogster? (Someone says they are.)
Neil: Social media can work for B2B, even Digg. You’re not trying to relate to those audiences, that’s okay. You don’t have to feature it on your site. I’ve been on Digg many times and even if 0.01% of that traffic/those links is/are actually on target, you’ll still get enough traffic and sales from that.
Todd: Digg’s not my audience, but if these young techie males can enjoy this content, I can get the links I need to bring my content to the correct audience.