This post was first published by Blaise Lucey on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
Google has essentially become the Gamemaker of “The Hunger Games” and every piece of content is a Tribute trying to survive the search environment. With a sweeping change to the search engine’s algorithm, Google can instantly transform promising pastures into volcanic wastelands, burning old search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to ash.
Did you see what that poison fog did to Katniss in “Catching Fire”? That’s what Google can do to the content you’ve tirelessly spent creating and optimizing for search.
That’s left brands in a bind. Google is the only logical choice when you’re trying to build your company’s presence in search. No matter what Bing and Yahoo try to say, Google has about 68 percent of total U.S. search engine share. That number is growing, too, which means the search giant is only getting bigger.As Jonathan Gebauer of The Social Marketers points out, “anything related to search engines makes you depend on one single company: Google.”
He’s got a point: while there’s still competition between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social sites, Google can change algorithms whenever it feels like it and everyone who depends on Google for traffic (and, consequently, business) has to either adapt or see their website disappear overnight.
SEO is a crucial part of your business, because a lot of prospect research still starts out with by searching for things like “cloud computing solutions.” But, in a world of disruptive and often uncategorized tech solutions, there’s something to be said for building a strong social presence.
One Cat Video to Rule Them All
What do you think of when you hear “viral social content”? It’s probably one of Buzzfeed’s dizzying lists of GIFs or, of course, a video of a cat. The stereotype is true. Marketo found that cats and bacon account for millions of searches and social shares each month.
Some businesses are starting to adopt these tried-and-true viral icons and seeing a lot of success. According to Marketo’s research, Cravendale Milk made a commercial called “Cats with Thumbs.” The video got 7 million views and sales increased by 8 percent. A single picture of a cat was so popular that a website (Cheezburger.com) was made with the picture as its foundation. The site received $32 million from investors and gets 3.6 million readers a month.
The most recent example was covered over at Contently.com: online pet product retailer PetFlow curates 90 to 100 YouTube videos and stories a day and shares them across social networks. As a result, Contently research shows that the 4-year-old company is “the most talked about the most talked-about retail and consumer brand on Facebook—more than PetSmart, Amazon, Nike, Target” and other companies.
The crown jewel of the PetFlow model is the blog, which now gets two to 4 million pageviews… a day.
Audience + Content = A Social Network
These numbers may seem surreal in comparison to a B2B tech company’s traffic. Not just surreal, but unrealistic. You’re not going to see Microsoft start sharing cat videos in hopes of boosting traffic and lead generation. SAP won’t be posting about something like “Adorable Owl Gets His First Bath And Blowdry! ADORABLE!!” on the company blog.
There’s a decided lack of socially optimized content for most B2B companies. That’s led businesses to proclaim that Facebook is terrible (even though most B2B employees and buyers and prospects do in fact have a Facebook) and Twitter is a waste of time.
But are B2B companies and tech companies really even trying?
It makes sense that cat videos are popular, because they’re popular by default. But what if you sell something like marketing software or an IT monitoring solution? Does that really mean you’re only allowed to write about marketing tech tips or IT monitoring tips?
Everyone’s been told that they need to “know their audience.” True engagement, though, means knowing the audience so well that the content is entertaining or compelling enough that prospects won’t just read it and start getting interested in the company, they’ll share it with friends.
That’s the part that a lot of B2B companies are missing today: they’re creating helpful content, but not necessarily the kind of fun, exciting, gratifying content that will really help businesses survive the Hunger Games of SEO.
Part of this is a channel problem. Pinterest and Instagram see some of the most engagement out of any social network, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many B2B companies with a presence on those channels. But that doesn’t mean Instagram is ineffective or Pinterest is pointless. It means B2Bs haven’t figured out how to use them. Even YouTube is still a place where B2Bs tread lightly and keep the content safely corporate.
Without a real strategy to connect content to the things that matter to your end users, there’s no reason for them to share it. When your cloud storage company writes an article that doesn’t just help a prospect but encourages them to share it with someone who doesn’t know what cloud computing is, then you know that you’ve made a truly socially optimized piece of content.