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Oh Internet, you never cease to amaze me. Just when I feel like we get each other, you come out with something so inherently ridiculous, I can only shake my head, smile and say, "you do you, Internet; you do you." The latest craze in a long line of plankings, lip dubs, Call Me Maybes, horse heads, and Gangnam Styles (if you want more of these, check out our posts on ROFLcon) is The Harlem Shake. The TLDR overview of this new trend goes like this: Normal situation turns into a weird rave-y dance party with this song playing in the background. But I'm not here to talk about "what" it is. I'd rather discuss "why" it is. Why is some video that started in a dorm room inspiring everyone from frat bros to marketing agencies (see below) to go nuts for, quite literally, 15 seconds of Internet fame? The question may be as simple as "there was a huge blizzard in the Northeast this weekend and a ton of people were bored." However, my guess is that it has something to do with this statement: Never underestimate the human need to be a part of the cultural Zeitgeist. Seriously, we even did one. In our study, "The Psychology of Social" (click here to download), we express that social media placates certain inherent human needs to fit in and have a role within the larger group. In 10,000 BC, each member of a group of prehistoric humans had a role - be it hunter, gatherer, or mammoth stylist (those were things, right?). While human roles and needs have changed slightly over the past few thousand years, the group mentality remains. We are, and always have been, a species built on sharing, connection-development, and esteem building. While we no longer have the need for mammoth stylists (I swear those existed), with our Internet/information-driven society, being the one in your group of friends to find these things, create them, or share them allows you to fulfill your role in the larger group. So, why did THIS catch on? It probably has something to do with the group that the creators of the original video has around them. Things spread more easily when the content gets into the hands of influencers. Mix that with the fact that that there is almost no barrier to participate (a camera phone, a song download, a laptop, some friends) add a little absurdity and a lot of fun, and you've got yourself a engagement-driving concoction of excellence.
BUZZ WORD #1 ' LINK JUICE Lil' Wayne's juice gets him 'crunk,'? which means that after Lil' Wayne drinks his juice, he is able to perform to the masses at an optimal level. Lil' Wayne has been at the top of his game for the past 5 years, and maintaining the quality of his juice will be an integral element for future success. SEO Translation- Get your Website Performing at an Optimal Level: Paid links from 'spammy'? link directories are a thing of the past. Websites now rely on authoritative and highly relevant links from various respected sources. High quality, shareable website content, combined with active engagement and promotion is a key element in obtaining these natural links. The power of these links, which is known as 'link juice,'? is a key element in getting your website stronger visibility across the web. BUZZ WORD #2 ' PANDA UPDATE In 1983, the food court staple known as Panda Express changed the way Americans looked at 'Chinese Food'? forever. Their inexpensive and mostly unhealthy meals have helped contribute to high obesity levels in the United States. SEO Translation - Google doesn't want you eating Panda Express everyday: In 2011, Google rolled out their 'panda'? updates, which consisted of algorithm changes designed to penalize websites that offer low quality content. These updates specifically target content that provides little or no value to a user. In the past, Google users were force fed irrelevant search results from websites that pushed out low quality content in order to achieve higher search visibility. The game has changed. Just as we are seeing healthier food options in food courts across America, we are also seeing higher quality, relevant search results for our everyday queries. BUZZ WORD #3 ' SOCIAL SHARING We all have generous friends and cheap friends. This behavior becomes evident when you gather at a bar for drinks. There is always one guy that is never around when it's time to buy more drinks. Nobody likes this guy, and he is often ridiculed incessantly as the crew gets drunker. SEO Translation - Invest in good content and share it with the masses With search engines increasingly incorporating social media excerpts into search results, it's becoming more important to develop frequently updated, high quality content that people actually want to share through a variety of social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google Plus. This search engine optimized content can be in the form of articles, videos, photos, infographics, and even social feeds. Web users will appreciate your site as a valuable source of information, while search engines will reward you for your high quality content sharing efforts. Search engines don't reward websites that fail to offer valuable content, just like non-giving people aren't rewarded with valuable friendships. BUZZ WORD #4 ' SPIDER ACCESSIBILITY The girl pictured above saved all her hard earned cash to buy her ideal Smartphone. Unfortunately that same day, her significant other made her go on a camping trip in the woods of Maine, where cell phone service is not only non-existent, but also frowned upon! Her brand new phone was completely useless to her at that moment. SEO Translation - Your expensive website might not be functional for search These days, many companies wish to have an attention grabbing website full of images, Flash, and animation components. While the website might look cool to a user, search engines aren't able to interpret any of the content that lives within these elements. It is important to make sure that websites are built with abundant textual components in order for search engines to be able to spider and index the site effectively. Much like the girl who couldn't use her Smartphone, there's no point in having a 'cool'? website if it isn't visible in search engines. BUZZ WORD #5 ' CANONICAL TAGS Remember when you could say that Matt LeBlanc was famous? I know it's hard to remember, but there was actually a time when he was on a level playing field with Jennifer Aniston. Since starring in Friends, Matt LeBlanc's 'illustrious'? credits include Ed, Lost in Space, and Joey- a Friends spinoff that spun off the air immediately. SEO Translation - Matt needs people to focus on his only role that ever mattered Canonical Tags are used with sites that house the same or similar content. In order to avoid a duplicate content penalty from Google, a canonical tag can be put in place to tell Google what the preferred version of the site should be. These tags are especially useful for commerce websites that feature similar product descriptions on multiple pages. They can also be used for websites that have different domains for multiple regions. For example, a business might have 3 separate domains for the United States, England, and Australia. All of the content on these 3 websites is in English, and it is very similar, with only slight regional variations. In order for Google to not penalize this business for duplicate content, the business might place a canonical tag on the United States domain, as they feel the domain in their home country is the most important. If Matt LeBlanc decided to start multiple 'Friends'? fan sites across the world, he would surely place a canonical tag on whichever site featured the largest picture of him with Jennifer Aniston. With this tag, he would be essentially telling Google, 'Since my acting career has been mostly disastrous, I want you to focus on a time when Jennifer Aniston acknowledged my existence.'?
I've spent some quality time with social sharing buttons mostly because of my experience developing a social sharing plugin for WordPress. Most of that time was spent researching best practices and analyzing implementations on some of the more popular blogs I could find. Did you know: Among the 10,000 largest websites, those that feature Twitter share buttons are, on average, mentioned in 27 tweets that contain a link back to the site, whereas those not featuring tweet buttons are mentioned, on average, in only four tweets that contain a link back to the site. via Entrepreneur.com Without getting too much into which social sharing buttons you should be using on your site, I wanted to share some additional insights into how you can make those buttons display faster and how to measure their effectiveness. Sharing Analytics You have a few options when it comes to measuring social media engagement on your website. The easiest being to just look at the button counts of the share buttons on your website and manually tracking their success over time. I prefer a more integrated approach. Google Analytics It's actually not too hard to track social engagement on your site with Google Analytics. The problem is only a few buttons can do it (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus as of when this post was written). Joost de Vaulk has some excellent posts to help get you up and running with trackable social sharing buttons if you decide to go down this road. AddThis AddThis could be credited with starting the social sharing button revolution in my opinion. I remember using their buttons in the early days and watched closely as they expanded the services features to compete with similar services popping up. One of my favorite features they added was analytics which is not only easier to set up than Google Analytics tracking but can also integrate Google Analytics tracking to your AddThis buttons on top of the AddThis analytics. This option definitely seems like a win for everyone. Bit.ly Remember tinyurls back in the day? Well, bit.ly quickly took over with a short but lucrative relationship with Twitter that made it the undisputed king of short urls. One of bit.ly's coolest features has to be it's analytics which come with every URL you shorten and can be easily accessed by adding a "+" sign to the end of your shortened bit.ly link. Many people use bit.ly to measure their social media reach by tracking click throughs on their links. This is definitely a good solution and something we do on top of our Google Analytics integration here at AMP. Optimize Load Time Social sharing buttons can be resource intensive and are the number one culprit of slowing down many website. The easiest way around this is to limit the number of buttons we show which I'll get to in the next section. Assuming you do not want to limit the number of buttons you display it might be worth investigating asynchronous solutions. Asynchronous loading allows multiple files to load parallel to each other instead of the files loading sequentially. Usually this is done once the document is fully loaded and displayed on the screen so the user can begin navigating the page while the buttons finish loading. There are a number of ways you can approach this and most people using WordPress will resort to a plugin that manages the asynchronous loading for them. We use the Socialize plugin here at AMP but there is also Digg Digg. Other solutions include custom implementations of the official sharing buttons as mentioned in this post from w3-edge or using a third party library like Socialite.js. Be Selective As I mentioned earlier, displaying multiple social sharing buttons on your site can have a dramatic effect on your page's load time. Also, displaying seven social sharing buttons with big fat zeros on them doesn't do much to help establish any social proof. Instead you should focus on the few buttons that are actually performing. This will keep your page's load time down and drive more clicks to those services you already have a presence on further increasing your posts reach. Be Aggressive Just because you're being selective about which social sharing buttons you display doesn't mean you can't remind your readers to share your posts in the first place. It can be as easy as a call out next to your social media buttons asking your readers to share and subscribe. Every little bit helps. I also see a lot of blogs abandoning the default social sharing buttons and widgets for their own homegrown solutions that are often smaller and less actionable then their counterparts. I prefer the default buttons with share counts because they are both actionable and people are used to them. Share counts are an important part of establishing credibility and social proof on your blog, and the actionable buttons with share counts are necessary to encourage more shares and increase time on site. Give Us Your Tips I could turn this one post into a series of posts if I wanted to get into all the other ways you can track, measure and optimize your social sharing buttons ... and maybe I will. In the meantime, leave a comment with which buttons you think perform best as well as any other tips you might have for faster loading or better tracking. Image by webtreats
Recently, The New York Times made waves as it became the first newspaper to enforce a paywall, limiting access to content on the paper's website. While it seems the famous newspaper has, at least temporarily, stopped the hemorrhaging of free content via its digital format, the enforcement of the paywall left some scratching their head, or looking for the best hack. For those still trying to catch up with the paywall concept, the New York Times has created subscription levels for a variety of users. Those who pay for a hard copy of the Times receive free unlimited access to all content on the companion website, those who choose not to subscribe to the hard copy are given the option of paying a subscription fee for access to content available on NYTimes.com, and still others are allowed free, but limited, access to content found via search engines. Finally, users who access NYTimes.com content via links produced through social sharing or integration (Facebook/Twitter shares or 'like'? button clicks) are given free, unlimited access to content as long as the origin of the click through to NYTimes.com is from Facebook or Twitter. While on its face this seemingly benign preference for users referred via social sharing/integration might not seem meaningful, the reward of free content for social media users can have huge implications for readers, competing newspapers, and yes, even marketers. So why is the New York Times so eager to give social media all the love? Here are some ideas: Connecting with Who You Want to Reach on Their Own Turf is Important Back in 2007, the New York Times reported on its own potential demise when publishing information from a Harvard study citing an underwhelming 16% of young adults aged 18 ' 30 actually read the newspaper. Though social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were just beginning to build their active users, the newspaper in its print form was already struggling to connect with younger audiences. Today, social media is an inherent part of a young person's life. It seems obvious, in an effort to secure longevity by reaching younger and younger audiences, incentivizing readership and sharing by offering free content would be the way to go. Many have attached the ominous 'for now'?¦'? when describing the Times choice for allowing free access through social links, but to address the potential for what I (and I'm sure others) like to call the '$5 Footlong Phenomenon'? would require a completely different blog post. Let's move on to something a little bit more'?¦ innovative. The Value of a Facebook Like or Twitter Share > $1.25 for a Daily Paper This sounds crazy, right? Just hear me out. Marketers have done some stretching to assign a dollar value to a Facebook user or like in the hopes of turning social media ROI into a finite science. While there is debate as to the validity of a general value placed on a brand's Facebook fan, the New York Times may have unearthed something big by seemingly declaring the value of a social share is worth more than a subscription fee to access digital content. This is a radical change for a company whose health is measured by the amount of subscription and advertising dollars coming through the door. But, in a world where consumer decisions are swayed more by peer recommendation than advertising, and opinions held by a network of friends are more influential than a panel of experts, The New York Times has taken the first step toward leading an industry-wide change of opinion. The progression of the New York Times paywall will be an interesting one. The world is already wagging its collective finger at Rupert Murdoch's facepalm as NYTimes.com site traffic declined by nearly two-thirds after paywall implementation. But, nonetheless, whether the concept of a paywall spreads to other dailies, brings marketers and brands one step closer to determining the value of a social share, or backfires completely, it certainly will be a fascinating story to follow.