Social media is an integral component of online publishing for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to syndicate content and attract new readers. Secondly, it allows you to accumulate trusted social links that shore up your backlink profile and SEO.
So how can publishers fully leverage the potential of social media. Well, it starts with setting measurable user acquisition goals, and it continues with the media integration of APIs.
User Acquisition: Registration & Conversion
Every online publisher has the goal of attracting and growing an audience. But their are three main routes they can take with their content:
- they can charge for it (which doesn’t really work online)
- the can put it behind a free registration wall (in which case they should use first-click-free for SEO)
- or they can give it away for free, no strings attached (the most common route)
But just because a user comes, reads, and even returns, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve converted them. After all, you don’t know anything about them.
Whether you’re publishing to sell advertising or build leads and community, the more user data you have, the more efficient you can be. On the one hand, more user data means you can better target advertising (which means an easier sell for you).
On the other hand, more user data means a better understanding of your audience, who they are, and what kind of content resonates with them. This allows you to refine your editorial mandate, and better serve your community of readers.
So publishers should encourage users to become registered subscribers so that they can collect more data on them. Of course, that begs the question: how do you get users to register for something they might already get for free, never mind offer up all kinds of personal information?
Well, that’s where the social media APIs come in. By integrating social media APIs, publishers can offer users one-click registration and subsequently access the data that they’ve already volunteered to their social network.
Social APIs: Syndication, Registration, and User Data
Most popular social networks offer APIs that publishers can integrate. Through these APIs, users can share content and become a registered user with a single click. This, in turn, offers the user (and publisher) three advantages.
First, it creates a more compelling user-experience by allowing users to interactwith content on their own terms. Secondly, it allows users to easily share content with their personal network, meaning that publishers can syndicate their content across that network, and attract new readers.
Third, it eliminates the barriers to registration. Whether your content is protected behind a registration wall or completely open, it is difficult to get users to complete the registration process. However, if they can register/login with the pre-existing credentials of their favorite social network, those barriers dissolve.
Finally, social media APIs sometimes allow publishers to access data that users would otherwise not volunteer. For starters, there’s the email address. Without social media APIs, you will either have to create another registration barrier by asking users to confirm their email address, or forgo that valuable contact information. Through social APIs, however, you can actually grow your contact list.
Another set of data you might access through social APIs are items such as name and DOB. Users often use usernames/handles and fake birthdays to register for sites. But on social networks, they are more honest because it allows their friends to find them.
The most valuable set of user data, however, is probably their social graph. This represents users’ actual interests and information on their personal network. With this information, publishers can better understand their audience, its interests, and how it can be leveraged to attract new readers — i.e. who they are sharing content with.
It is through the social graph that publishers can (1) better target both advertising and (2) refine their editorial. On the one hand, the more you understand your audience, the more you know of what kind of advertisers to reach out to, and the better you can target their ads — offering them a better value proposition.
On the other hand, with an overview of your users’ demographics, the kind of content they interact with, and who they’re sharing it with, you can refine your editorial. This means developing more of the kind of content that’s popular with users and that they share, resulting in more loyal readers and more user referrals.
Socially Intelligent Publishing
Henry Proctor of Proctor & Gamble once said “I know I waste half of my advertising dollars…I just wish I knew which half.” But social media now allows us to customize a user-experience and collect user data that lets us be more efficient with our marketing dollars.
In this respect, social media can help publishers in two ways. First, it can be used to show advertisers just who your audience is, and control what kind of readers see an ad. More importantly, though, it can be used to better understand your audience, and better server them through better content.
The best decisions are informed decisions. And when it comes to publishing, the more you know about your audience, the more successful both your editorial and advertising offer can be.