Like Me? Follow Me.
Of the most recent 140 tweets in the feed at the time I was looking (about 11:45am):
- 13 people plugged their own content
- 27 people plugged random sites such as newspapers, YouTube videos, funny pictures and other amusing "viral" content
- 25 recommended or retweeted content on the most popular SEO/Tech sites (e.g. SEO Moz, Techcrunch, Mashable, Sphinn, etc.)
- only 4 tweets recommended articles on their direct compeitors' blogs - 3 of those four were by the same Manchester SEO person (cheers, BTW, @Psychobel)
Now call me crazy, but there's a huge difference between the way linking takes place within search compared to social, and a different purpose. This type of usage is understandable if people are using Twitter to market their services to customers via Twitter - but most SEO'ers I follow are using Twitter to network with other SEO'ers and industry folk. The value of using social is that you're getting something useful from the people you're following, the maxim I find myself repeating ad nauseum to clients about social is that "you have to contribute to get back" - so why is it that all we're getting off social from our SEO peers are links back to content we're probably already reading?
I contend that SEO'ers still fundamentally don't understand social Media
As SEO consultants our instinct is to get links and more links to our own site(s). We want everyone to see our content and we certainly don't want to pass linkjuice back to our competitors - if a link is a vote, you should always vote for yourself!
However, on social sites, a link doesn't necessarily equal a vote. For starters, the links don't pass PR - so although you may get 2 seconds in a real time SERP, you're not going to boost your listings that way. You may get some trust from Google, if they see social media mentions to back up your other linkbuilding, however.
What you want on social, is to build up networks of friends and contacts who not only like your content, but are willing to recommend it - to retweet, bookmark and plug your blog posts and articles. How do you get this? You have to be willing to give back as much as you get.
Yes, you will be boosting your competitors' blog posts - but if you get in there and make great comments on those blog posts, you get a tasty plug back for yourself in return. You also get gratitude. And when your followers aren't SEO'ers hogging the link love for themselves, they may start passing your content around a bit more - because they like how "social" you're being.
Links (of the non-PageRank variety) are what blogging is all about
In my experience, the best way to get links to a blog is to link out to other bloggers, comment on their posts both on their sites and on your own and generally be generous with link love.
Blogs are designed to be link-friendly by making a Blogroll* of other recommended blogs a standard thing and by offering commenters the option to link back to their own websites. Some of my favourite blogs are the ones that engage with other blogs in their niches, and there is a lot to be said for following one conversation through several sites at once that engage with and respond to each other. It's social. Blogging is social. Social is about conversations, community and other people.
Read: it's not about you.
Wouldn't you be completely turned off by someone who constantly turned every conversation back to himself if you were sat in the pub? Well, how are conversations online any different?
This is the second thing that SEO'ers don't get about social. They consistently don't want to link out - possibly because they don't want to give their competitors a leg up in the SERPs - although this could be solved with use of rel="nofollow" on those links - but more likely they don't link out because they're scared of bleeding PageRank.
Can I just say though, guys, if you're really scared of bleeding PageRank so much that you won't link out from your blog - a format designed for outbound links, a format where if you don't use outbound links it looks wrong - then you need to go back to 2005 and do SEO there because your ideas are well out-of-date.
PageRank is only one small part of the algorithm these days and by linking out a couple of times on a page - out of what, the 50, or 100 you'll have on your pages, a link out, you really aren't reducing the internal juice you can pass back to yourself by much, now are you? Having those links makes you look more legitimate and trustworthy. Not having them is just tight - and reduces your chances of anybody linking back in to you as well.
Stop thinking like an SEO, start thinking like a person
What we as SEO consultants need to remember is that social isn't the same as search and we need to start thinking differently. Sure, using social media wisely can bolster an SEO campaign - however, the way to reap the highest rewards isn't by using social media like an SEO trawling for links by any means necessary, but by using it like a person. Think about what social is for, and how people approach social - and how you would like people to approach you using social media, and maybe you'll start learning to love instead of just link.
*I never said I practice what I preach - I am a (Manchester) SEO consultant after all...