How many Tweets does it take to impact rank? How important are +1s? Should I care about LinkedIn shares? Are Likes more important than Tweets?
I'm seeing these types of questions again and again and again as people try to understand the impact of social on search. Many seem to think there's a formula. They want to know that if they get 145 Tweets and 62 +1s that their efforts will be rewarded by some specific amount.
These are all interesting studies but do they miss the forest for the trees?
The Social Echo
In truth, it's not about those specific Tweets, Shares, +1s and Likes. It's the echo of those events that is meaningful. It's the fact that someone sees that Tweet, goes and reads your content, finds it valuable and then decides to save, comment, share or link to it.
If a blog post gets 100 Tweets and those Tweets are seen by 100 people each then you've gotten your content in front of 10,000 people. Of those 10,000 people you're hoping that some percentage of them wind up talking about and citing your work.
The strength of the social echo is what translates into search success.
Not Just Links
So the social echo is just about getting more links? No. Mind you, links are important and doubly in this instance because these are the organic links you really want. But the social echo goes beyond links.
Good things happen when your content is shared. More people are exposed to (and will recall) your brand. You'll get more followers and subscribers to your blog or site. People are more likely to talk (in the real world!) about your site or blog. You'll get invited to speak at industry events. (True story.)
It's just good marketing.
A Numbers Game?
If you get more Tweets, +1s and Likes, are you more likely to receive that social echo? Yes and no.
Obviously if you have 5,000 Tweets, some of them are going to find there way to people who will take meaningful actions. So the law of numbers does work when you get to scale.
But buying Likes or getting your 'tribe' to Tweet your content will produce a very low social echo. The motivation behind social action matters! The odds that these types of manufactured events spread to others, create conversation and result in downstream links is extremely low.
Artificially increasing those numbers will not do you an ounce of good. Okay, it may provide you with social proof that could encourage a few other
sheep people to share your content, but that's about it.
Quality over Quantity
I'm not talking about content (though this turn of phrase fits there too) but about followers or fans. Kevin Kelly's 1000 true fans comes to mind, but isn't a perfect match for the social echo. Why? You need to connect with other creators and curators.
The social echo follows the 90-9-1 rule of contribution. Get the right people talking about your content and your social echo will explode. Yes, having a bunch of people willing to endorse (aka Tweet, Like, +1) your content is great. But other creators need to see value in and use your content.
That's when things get interesting.
How To Increase Your Social Echo
There's no formula but there are ways to give your content a better chance of being saved, shared, engaged on and referenced by others.
Being fake isn't going to get you very far in social. Authenticity doesn't mean you're the smartest or that you're 'right' or even that you're original. It means that you're being real.
Pick Your Platforms
You only have so many hours in the day and to remain authentic you need to choose platforms that work for you and your audience. Your audience may be on Tumblr or HackerNews or Inbound.org. Maybe you just don't like using Facebook (or is that just me?) You want depth, not breadth, so pick judiciously.
Produce Great Content
I know you're sick of hearing this but it's true. Not only that, but great has to be defined by others, not you or your loved ones or your employees. Find someone who can tell you that your baby is ugly.
Make Your Content Portable
Reduce the friction to sharing your content. Make it easy to share on your site and on other sites by implementing better sharing buttons and optimizing your social snippet.
Respond to people who comment on your blog. Thank those who promote your work. Discuss your content with people on various social platforms. You need not be present for every conversation but you can't afford to be J.D. Salinger either.
Curate and Comment
It's not just about being active on your own content. Engage in the content of others. Curate and share the best from your industry. Comment on their blogs in a thoughtful way. ("Excellent post" does not count.) This isn't about stalking influencers, it's about following and joining relevant conversations in your area of expertise.
Rinse and Repeat
It won't happen overnight. When you start it'll feel like nothing is happening. You will look at those numbers and feel like a failure. Get over it. Overnight success happens through years and years of work. (And work is never over.)
Success in social is not measured by the number of Tweets, Shares, Likes and +1s but what happens as a result of those actions.