Test: If you’ve been working in any industry with an online presence, whether as a business owner or a consultant of some kind, you’re likely quite familiar with the major social media sites around (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.). While these sites are important for marketing your business online and establishing beachheads in the social media sectors, when it comes to SEO, and specifically link building, these locations should just be the starting point for your campaigns.
Niche social media sites (social media sites specific to your content/industry) represent opportunities to connect with individuals that:
- Share your (hopefully) passion for your product/topic/industry.
- Are web savvy and dedicated enough to have sought out specific, tailored environments to engage with their subject matter of choice. These people are more likely to tell their friends about you, shop with you, and maybe even link to you!
This deeper level of connection and passion for the topic is what makes these people different from the casual social media user. It’s much easier to gain meaningful interaction with your content from someone who is into what you’re selling, than someone who is simply aware of your industry/product/subject.
Three Steps For Building Niche Social Media links
Building links from niche social media sites is largely about getting you, or your company, in a position to engage with the right audience. The process can be summed up in three steps:
- Identify your market and where they spend their time
- Establish a presence in these locations
The first step I’ve shortened to one word – identification. If you’re not able to identify where your target audience is spending time online, it’s pretty hard to connect with them socially and utilize these connections for links. Here are a few basic ways to identify where your target audience is hanging out:
- Google Searches: Google and other search engines are my default for starting the hunt for niche social media sites. Here are a few suggested searches:
- keyword + “community”
- keyword + “group”
- keyword + “chat”
- keyword + “Forum”
- keyword + “Q&A”
- keyword + “social media sites”
- Utilize Google Discussions and News Searches. Google discussions pulls results from Q&A and other similar sites that have conversations related to your keywords. Google news searches will bring up timely, related, news articles and information that may lead you to great places to engage with your target audience.
- Analyzing Competitor Backlinks: While it’s easy to get lost in competitor backlink analysis, one of the most effective ways of pulling actionable insights from a competitor is to analyze their back links for points of social media engagement. A variety of tools exist to help you pull, sort, and break down competitors’ backlinks. We commonly use Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO. Each system has their pluses and minuses, but generally OSE pulls fresher data, while Majestic SEO allows you access to higher quantities of links and various advanced filtering options.
- Ask Your Current Community Connections: This is easy to overlook. It’s quite likely you already have Facebook and Twitter profiles, so utilize them! These established connection points can help you gather data about customers interests, where else they hangout online, or just about anything else. The new Facebook poll application makes it easier than ever to get some info on those interested in your business that have bothered to connect with you socially.
- Utilize Demographic Information and Related Sites: There are a variety of excellent sites out there designed to deliver you insights into your competitors (spyfu.com, compete.com, hitwise.com, just to name a few), your target audience, and a variety of other important metrics. Quantcast.com is a perfect example. With the ability to sort through a large database of websites based upon certain demographic elements such as income, education level, interests, related site visits, and more, Quantcast can be a very helpful tool in identifying where your target market is spending it’s time.
Utilization combines both the steps of establishing a presence and engaging with your target audience. After your niche social media locations have been identified, you need to establish a presence. At times this might mean representing yourself as your company, and at other times it might mean simply developing a personal profile in the community. Whatever makes the most sense and seems the most natural is usually the way to go. Do make sure you are staying within a site’s guidelines! Establishment usually includes:
- Filling out a profile as completely as possible
- Reading any appropriate rules for participating in the community
- Studying how others are utilizing the community
After you’ve invested the time to establish a natural presence, it’s time to engage. Before diving in however, there are a few questions it might be wise to ask yourself. If you can develop good answers to these, your chances of successfully gaining value from the community are high.
- What makes people interested in my specific product/content/etc.
- How can I help build community?
- What of value do I have to offer?
And the Rubber Meets the Road: Now for the good stuff – just how can links be built in these areas? Here are a few ways we’ve had success gaining links from niche social media engagement.
- Forum/Q&A Link Building – don’t spam your products, services, or content, but do add in links to your information where appropriate.
- Pushing Appropriate Content - some social sites such as gather.com and squidoo allow users to join in conversations as well as publish content. Develop a good article, add in a few links and publish away! Make sure it’s unique and that the site’s article pages are being indexed. Often these communities are perfect places to help push your viral marketing content as well.
- Building Connections – the point of social sites are to connect. So, connect! Get to know individual members and what they do, how could you work on promotional projects together? How could you help them accomplish their goals and visa verse? Don’t be selfish when you do this. This is about growth for both parties. A selfish move might get you 1 link, but a true mutually beneficial relationship can get you an infinite amount.
- Connecting With and Identifying Influencers – similar to the suggestion above but a little more specific. Identify who in the community is a strong influencer. This is especially valuable if you spot people who are in multiple communities you are in. Work through the same through process as mentioned above for building connections.
- Develop a Community on Your Site – While this doesn’t require any identification, developing a community on your own site might be an excellent move. Studying what other communities are doing well and what they’re lacking is a great way to do this. A couple of benefits/ideas for your own community might be:
- Boosts internal linking
- Fresh content/develop content ideas
- Strengthens your fan-base
- Strengthens customer service