Gandalf Eyes

What do people think social media professionals do for a living? They are not wizards like Gandalf. They can’t raise their staff and command visitors to become permanent residents of a site.

If Gandalf had his way, all visitors would stay onsite

OK let’s say a digital strategist gets the visitors to a site. Good enough. But at that point, publishers shouldn’t complain because now these new folks who have come aren’t suddenly their biggest fans in the world. They shouldn’t be mad because the bounce rate is high. Keeping the folks who arrive at a site isn’t the social media consultant’s job. It’s their job to shunt people over to the site. The rest is the publisher’s job, not the social media professional’s. (although just ask and they might be happy to help you with that)

People referred to a site from Twitter, Digg, Facebook or StumbleUpon do not stay very long to be sure, but their visits have an ancillary effect that causes a site to grow in the long term.

1.) For instance, Digg has a PR 8. If a post becomes incredibly popular there and reaches the front page, that is noted by Google. Therefore, that post may appear high in search rankings. For months after. For years after. A publisher should be happy with that because it is a nice thing.

2.) The post may be linked to other publications. There is a long history of this occurring. Millions of people use all of these social platforms. When a post goes viral on them, it leads to linkbacks if the content is appealing. Here’s the key thing that can’t be said enough. Publishers have to be consistent over a long period of time with utilizing these digital media strategies in order to reap this benefit. One cannot expect these strategies to make a community a paradise of commenting, clicking and interaction overnight. This stuff takes months and months of building. Be patient.

3.) I remember a story that is relevant here. One popular iPhone blog owner told me his reasoning for using Digg and other social media platforms had more to do with greater visibility in Google search results, particularly in news. When relevant search terms brought up his posts that had done well on Digg, they would often, as a result, appear in the coveted news section of the regular search results page.

Regardless, bringing “permanent” traffic is not what social media professionals do. Nor is it something that anyone can promise. Having said that, what they do does cause more people to “favorite” a site. It causes more people to share a site. It causes more people to place the site on their RSS feeds. It causes more people to come back to the site later. It causes more people to know the site exists. If that isn’t good enough for a publisher, then they don’t understand social media, or maybe even the web in general.

“Permanent” traffic doesn’t exist. Even Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, or the Guardian cannot depend on the same people returning to their site every day. Peoples’ attention spans are too short. And the ongoing love that the communities of those publications have for them is hard-won and hard-built over years. It’s not easy. It takes a long time. Social media is just one part of the strategy. Publishers should not get mad because their bounce-rate is high. Take the folks that come to you and make them want to stay by improving the site in question.

Written by John Boitnott
One of a small group of social media consultants with a background in the newsroom, John consults with a variety of sites and publishers on how to build their popularity on the Internet. John has worked for NBC and Village Voice, Venturebeat and Kip Prahl and Associates. John is currently Vice President of Business Development at