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Social media can be a great way to let the world know that your content is out there, and can even be a source of referral traffic in its own right, helping potential customers find you. But social media is still pretty new, and many businesses have jumped into it without really knowing how to use it effectively. The first thing you'll need to do if you want to leverage social media to help get your content out there is to make sure that your company has a presence on at least the top social media networks. We're talking about the ones with the largest number of active users, Twitter Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube.
Every one of these networks is a chance to get your content in front of more eyeballs, attract more links, and encourage more sharing. Once you've established a presence on these networks, you'll want to make sure that they are integrated on the pages that host the content you're creating. Lots of companies maintain a blog with an RSS feed, because it's a great way to get the word out to qualified visitors. They're actively subscribing to your content. You can do a similar thing with social media by placing the various share buttons on your pages, and these allow users to quickly pass on content they've found useful to their own networks.
That said, you'll want to choose your social share buttons carefully. Don't fill your pages with 20 different buttons that take two-and-a-half days to load; you'll want to pick the ones that your audiences are active on. For example, if you've got a strong presence on Twitter and Google+, make sure you put the Twitter and Google+ buttons on your pages. If you're trying to grow your Facebook or LinkedIn following, placing those buttons there might be a good idea as well. But if you don't have a MySpace or Orkut page, and you don't target users of those social networks, you may want to leave those off and make it simpler for your consumer base to make their selection.
Keep in mind also that many of these Share buttons are configurable. For example, you could optimize the default tweet to include your Twitter username, to encourage recipients of that tweet to follow you. On Facebook, you can control which image thumbnails to use as a default. As you build and grow your presence on social networks, you'll find topics that you relate to that are guiding conversations in the social sphere. On Twitter and Google+, hashtags are commonly used to tag certain conversations, and people that are interested in those topics can choose to listen to tweets or posts that contain specific hashtags.
You can find existing hashtags by searching keywords on Twitter about your industry, or by following influencers who tweet regularly, and seeing which hashtags they use. For example, the Web Analytics community uses the hashtag #measure in their tweets. Many of the experts converse and share interesting content with one another using this hashtag. So if you're creating content that fits the bill, you can use that hashtag to get your content in front of a very specific group of people. Remember though, this is a self- regulating community. Your content must be useful and valuable to that group, and if it is, you'll be rewarded with further shares and retweets.
A good thing to do when planning your content strategy is to identify how you plan to share that content across your social network once it's been pushed live. Which networks will it go out on, what will the message say, what hashtags will it use, who is going to do it, who is going to monitor and respond to the activity and keep the conversations going? These are all questions to keep in mind with each piece of content that you publish. Last, the popular social media outlets of today are not likely to remain constant forever. Remember, Friendster, MySpace? How about Netscape and AOL? In this industry, companies rise and fall faster than ever before, and you'll need to keep an eye on the networks that matter for your audience and respond to them accordingly.
Whichever networks you choose, and however you choose to leverage them, spending the time to get the word out about the content that you've worked so hard to create will be well worth the effort.
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