How social media can drive traffic for online publishers

Most publishers are aware of the growth of social media and feel sure there is potential to harness it to drive traffic to their site.  The AOP recently surveyed its big publisher members, and social media was ranked as the 3rd biggest opportunity, after mobile and broadband.  News sites now find about 10% of their traffic comes from social media. Many online-only publishers, eg, have used social media to grow traffic and reduce their reliance on google.  But how do you go about creating a content-driven social media strategy?  Here’s some steps to guide you through:

1. Create useful content

As a publisher, you should have this stuff in abundance.  Make sure it is relevant, useful, and portable, so it works in small pieces. The shift in thinking is not just to hoard it on your own site, but to spread it around the web, putting it where your audience is.  You are trying to raise your profile as an expert in your field, not simply grow the traffic on your own site.

2. Post content on sharing sites

Create profiles on linked-in, slideshare, YouTube, issuu, flickr, facebook, wikipedia and anywhere else you think your audience might go looking for content.  Post up your content and provide a link back to your own site.  Participate in 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, answer linked-in questions, post comments on blogs, and post on twitter.  Include a (relevant) link back to some useful content.  It’s important to keep on topic so it doesn’t look like spam.  Take a little time to work out which are the influential forums in your market, as this can be time-consuming.

4. Measure the results

You can immediately track referrals from social media sites using Google Analytics (even if you are a small business).  E-consultancy have a helpful article on how to create social media as a separate channel in Google Analytics. As well as the direct traffic, all the high page-rank social media sites do help your own page-rank, so the indirect natural search benefit can be many times greater than the direct social media traffic.  However, some publishers have found that the direct social media traffic doesn’t convert to as high value sales as search. See a social media case study by econsultancy.  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, eating up staff time even if at first sight it seems to be “free”.  Each business is different, and 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 made 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.  Do comment on this blog, or join the Specialist Media Network on linked in to swap ideas with other publishers.

Carolyn Morgan

Penmaen Media creates practical digital media and marketing strategies.  If you’d like to discuss how you can use your content on social media to drive traffic, please contact us for an initial discussion.