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Social Media Success Can Be A Poisoned Chalice

Organic traffic is a healthier goal

26May

Having spoken to many digital marketing executives, it seems commonly accepted that it is fundamentally difficult to gauge the efficacy of a social media post. Likes and shares are obviously positive, but they don’t suggest any real long-term engagement with the publisher or the brand itself. Shares are more useful, but all too often a user will take little more than a cursory glance on their news feed, leading to no long term engagement. Follows are something of a holy grail - they offer the publisher the opportunity to continually feed a user content - but a follow doesn’t necessarily equal engagement or loyalty.

Yet we live in a world in which social media is, for many, one of the key points of exposure. There is a temptation, then, to focus on vanity metrics such as likes and shares and subsequently to chase what worked in the past. If a particular campaign or angle resonated with a wider audience, marketers cannot be blamed for trying to follow a similar model. What this can lead to, though, is a fundamental digression from the original message of a brand or publisher, a race to the middle that has already seen so many publishers posting very similar content.

Quick gains can be positive. Sites that look to create viral content as a go-to might see fast growth and impressive reach, but the long term strategy is inherently lacking. Instead, publishers and brands should stick with what they do best. In a digital space that is so desperately oversaturated with publishers all looking to go viral, quality, thought out content that engages with a select audience is valuable. The numbers may not be astronomical at first, but building up a loyal following that actually appreciates your content is far more worthwhile than chasing a fleeting viral hit.

Earlier this week, we spoke with Derek Flanzraich, founder and CEO of Greatist, the fastest-growing publisher in the digital health space. As it stands, Greatist relies on social media for only 25% of its traffic, a healthy figure compared to many other digital publishers, something Derek is palpably proud of. By sticking to its niche, Greatist now sees a great deal of hits from search and direct, with an average on-page time of around seven minutes.

Greatist’s success in this area stems from Derek himself. During our conversation he admitted a level of paranoia regarding the reliance on one social media platform. It’s an entirely rational fear. Initially, Greatist grew quickly on Pinterest, before expanding away from the medium where it had established a strong readership. Derek was careful to reduce dependence on one social media as quickly as possible given the uncertainty that comes with relying on an ever developing medium for traffic. Facebook, for example, has made several fundamental changes to the way its news feed works in recent years, some of which have slashed the reach of certain publishers and altogether forced many to reassess their digital strategies altogether.

Organic traffic doesn’t carry this risk. By building a brand with a genuine niche that enriches the lives of its readers, Greatist has managed to develop an audience independent of platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. Derek’s own commitment to his brand’s identity has kept Greatist from straying from its original goal, and it is reaping the rewards of an adherence to quality rather than instant reach. A quality over quantity approach has paid dividends both in terms of output of content and social media posting - this is something all digital marketers can learn from. 

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