Your social media “strategy” is a pile of steaming… social media

Do you remember SEO?  Some people went around “optimising” websites.  Others sold courses on  search engine optimisation.  No, please, try to remember exactly what went on then.  You were a bit vague how “those Google things” worked.   So you outsourced.  Something worked more or less, you didn’t get fired over low rankings.  Probably because your boss didn’t understand SEO fully either.

There is a good reason why this happened.  It is that nobody fully understands how Google works.  It is secret, personalised, it changes often and Google spends a great amount of time and effort making sure it is difficult to reverse engineer what they do.  Through it all, some of us had an attitude that is more pragmatic.  I always said “if you can tweak it that easily, Google will take it into account automatically.”  All those silly tags, the time wasted adding fields, alt texts and gobbledegook for what?  Google does a better job at figuring out which content should be shown to who than you could even imagine.  From phone usage, to browser habits, email content and million of other signals, Google’s algorithms are simply astounding.  And useful.  Yet still some people pay good money learning about SEO.  Which brings me to the current fashion:  social media training.

A whole industry has been built around teaching you “how to succeed on Instagram” or “how to promote your business on a Facebook page”.  Friendly, trendy, graphic heavy sites, emailings, courses and videos with gurus full of a burning desire to help you “get ahead”.  Training in technology was always a challenge methodologically.  In times of rapid change such as these it is damn near impossible to stay current.  Taking a “course in social media” is essentially admission of a handicap.  You have no real projects to learn from, you lack the drive and bravery to put yourself out.   Sure, you can’t improvise with the facebook account of a Fortune 500 company, but you sure as hell can experiment with any number of other ones.  From the school committee Instagram feed to a blog about your kids’ basketball team.  The cost is zero and the experimental opportunities infinite.  Don’t read about it.  Do it!

I started writing this article after seeing a scary directive in a pretty large corporation defining – among other things – the “correct time for Facebook posts” on their official page.  This is an excellent illustration of just how stupid “social media gurus” have made people.  Google it and you will find loads of scientific looking “papers” by “data scientists” claiming to have crunched millions of data points to “prove” when you get maximum traction.  At first it seems clear or even “obvious”.  You want to post when most people are online, more likely to see what you posted.  But wait a minute.  Those two statements aren’t even connected!

You want to post when most people that are interested in your message are likely to see it.  Not even that.  When some people which might actually react in a way that will have a beneficial impact to your brand will somehow see your social media post.  The more you think about it, the more disclaimers you would need in order to even make sense of what exactly you are trying to achieve.  What is your brand?  Which parts of the audience do you think you will reach?  What mood will they be in at one time versus another?  How will Facebook’s algorithms react to your message at that time in relation to everything else going on when potential message recipients log in?  There is only one way to learn and – you guessed  it – that is not by going to a seminar or reading my articles.  Even if you hire me to experiment and measure for your company, as I propose you do yourself, my fine conclusions will have a very limited shelf life.  If anyone discovers a “silver bullet” for getting great traction in social media, by their very design, social media will have killed the opportunity in days or weeks at best.

Thinking, reading, talking to people and going to seminars are all useful idea generators.  I often discover new tools from the fantastic people around me in the real and virtual world.  We all need training and we all need mechanisms to make us rethink what we do.  People like me should be paid vast amounts of money to help others in this noble cause.  We can all improve in ways to test our hypotheses. But there is only one way to take responsibility and that is directly.  Don’t hide behind management gurus for things you can quite easily test out and know yourselves.   Until Facebook, Google and everyone else change the parameters that is.  Which they have probably done 5-6 times in the time it took you to read this article.

My point precisely!

 

 

Don’t spend good money on SEO. Start a blog!

OK, I admit it.  I never liked Flash.  But Apple isn’t killing Flash.  Google is.

Back when I sold ‘real’ animation software I hated it.  Computer geeks idea of making stuff move on a screen really was the absolute worse way of doing it.  I objected to it as an animation tool.  Then I started getting annoyed at Flash as the cause of all those ridiculously complicated websites which took forever to load and didn’t really tell you anything.

I felt the need for content. Content isn’t king, it is our bread and butter.   And while corporate websites got FLASHier (pun intended) they got less and less interesting in terms of content.  It was like a one page brochure on nice shiny paper.  Almost useless, you can’t even use it for starting the fireplace in winter.

Which is why blogs took over.  Google likes blogs better than Flash sites.  And people find content through search.  At least if you are interested in attracting new customers.  Having a flash based website you end up paying for SEO to achieve what? If someone enters your brand name, your official website appears near the top of search results.  Which is like saying that if someone opens the physical copy of yellow pages, when they get to your listing they see you!

What you really need is to appear next to relevant topics.  And Flash doesn’t do that.  Wordpress does.  Or any other mechanism that puts the emphasis on content.  So rather than spending through the nose to try and make your flash website more SEO friendly, just start a blog next to it!

Your flash website is like your business card.  Flashy and almost useless but it gives a better (safer) sense of your brand.  And the blog is like your newsletter.  Less aesthetically pleasing but with more juicy content, worth revisiting.  I predicted the demise of Flash back in 2007 but here I am now in some ways backing it.  There is no good reason to go tearing down work already done on the platform 98% of connected computers use!  Just because Steve Jobs and a bunch of iPhone touting fashion maniacs in California say you should?  (Remember than iPhone penetration is much much lower in most of the rest of the planet.)

I still don’t like flash by the way.

How to lose 90% of your web traffic in one day

Looking through all the analytics since moving www.alexanderchalkidis.com/blog  old stuff to www.alexanderchalkidis.com/dotnet it was obvious that Google bots were not going to figure this out for themselves. First I put in a few links in other blogs to see what would hapen. Nothing. If you search for any older articles on Google, you get the old link. Even after a month! So I put more links in other articles, even really popular ones at http://alexartisia.wordpress.com  and other blogs. Obviously the free version of WordPress behaves very differently to a properly hosted one, SEO optimised and all. So then my new www.alexanderchalkidis.com/blog , which is all properly WordPress hosted and optimized started featuring links to the new location. Still Google bots weren’t picking up.

So I shot off a Joomla website to test out how it behaves.  Completely prematurely and it looked terrible at first . I did not update any indexes or submit anything to Google Webmaster tools and see how long it takes them.  It was almost instant thanks to a few well placed links to older articles.   Essentially, what the machine had to figure out is that any link to my old blog can be easily converted to the correct new location, simply by adding a www.alexanderchalkidis.com/dotnet  at the beginning and replacing the “aspx” ending of the file with “html”.

So: http://www.alexanderchalkidis.com/blog/post/2009/12/Will-Xing%2c-Viadeo%2c-LinkedIn-or-Facebook-win-the-networking-war.aspx  is now http://www.alexanderchalkidis.com/dotnet/www.alexanderchalkidis.com/blog/post/2009/12/Will-Xing%2c-Viadeo%2c-LinkedIn-or-Facebook-win-the-networking-war.html

In bold the bits you have to add or change to the old location to get a new – working – one. My six year old son can probably do this, Google bots can’t.  Then again the whole point of the exercise is to increase targeted results without paying a penny in Google AdWords so maybe they don’t want to!  

While in retail with Public I really got excited about the experimental approach to business. Set an experiment up, test it, adjust, measure, tweak and again. Properly done in retail it is phenomenally useful. Now I am using a similar techniques with SEO. The way I handled this change, total visits to www.alexanderchalkidis.com  fell dramatically. From around 800 on an average day (peaks are 2500, lows are 450) it dropped to less than two hundred!

This gave me a unique opportunity to test assumptions about where the actual traffic is coming from.

1. Several permanent visitors which I thought were regular fans, turn out to be corporate (PR agencies probably) searchers, checking whether I have written something about them every day. From the looks of their queries, this is done automatically. Hey, that’s what you get for writing nasty (though true!) things about people!

2. My main loss is articles in minor blogs or websites which are not following up on their broken links, or not bothering to update them. (And just deleting them as they don’t work.) They were sending me a very healthy 30% of my traffic since several articles were deemed as “unique in their perspective”. These were articles I wrote specifically to examine how necessary a “other” opinion was in the cyber world and how it would circulate. Things like questioning whether eye laser surgery is really worth it which may have plenty criticism in the US but not in the Greek language.

3. Several other websites and journalists have tagged me by topic or category. I am obviously heavily plagiarised, thank you very much for the honour! Most do include a link to the original article. Now if only they would update it…  Google searching for one of my articles is up to 70% of what it was before the switch and rising rapidly.