SOS: Save Our (Organic) Social
Madelaine Kellman Jul 17 2014
It is not exactly breaking news that brand page organic social efforts are being thwarted by Facebook’s algorithm changes, which are making it harder than ever to get your organic social updates seen by your desired audience. But all hope is not lost! There is a strategy that, if implemented correctly, can potentially improve your organic reach and help bolster your overall organic social efforts across multiple platforms. This important strategy is simply ensuring that you have the correct social media metadata coded into every piece of content you post. Social metadata is something that you have more than likely seen across your networks, but never really thought about how or why it appears.
What IS it?
Metadata, as defined by Tim Berners-Lee of the World Wide Web Consortium, is “machine understandable information about web resources or other things.” The key words here being machine understandable. Allowing a machine to determine a piece of content’s attributes leads to improved user experience. Social-specific metadata allows for sharing optimization on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest by specifically defining how titles, images, descriptions, URLs, etc. will appear in social feeds. The more relevant information you give your followers, the more they will want to not only click through to your website, but are also more likely to view you as a trusted source of information. This means that your tweets can look like this one, and who wouldn’t want their tweet to stand out among the rest of the Twitter noise?
Why should I care?
Metadata allows for optimized search results for your brand, both in a search engine and on social platforms. The way it appears in these results can dramatically influence the viewer’s behavior. Our research shows that, typically, a Google user will only look at each result on a Search Engine Result Page (SERP) for ~2 seconds. As such, it is essential to capture the viewer’s attention in order to motivate them to click through to your page. Correctly worded and displayed metadata like titles and meta descriptions, will improve the click-through rate. This same theory and data can be applied to social platforms, which are even more visual and almost require this extra step to ensure your content is being seen.
How do I use it?
There are different steps to take for different platforms. The general process is the same across most platforms: you need to include coded tags into the page source, specifically the <head> tags, for your web pages.
Facebook’s metadata system is called the Open Graph protocol. It allows you to specify what you want your content to look like in a user’s timeline. Without OG, Facebook’s Crawler will not be able to generate a preview of your content and will automatically default to standard metadata, which is more often than not, not optimized for social sharing. In order to turn your content into graph objects, you need to include particular lines of code into your page source so that Facebook can read them easily and accurately. With the simple addition of a few lines of code:
You can create a social post that you can ensure will be optimized for the Facebook platform. With a large image and detailed description, this post has a much better opportunity at being seen and engaged with than a post without any of these crucial elements. Check out this article from Facebook Developers to learn more about what you could be doing to maximize your organic social efforts.
Twitter Cards are essentially Twitter’s version of the Open Graph Protocol. They allow your content to stand out amidst the otherwise hectic and fast-paced Twitter feed. Twitter Cards are a completely separate set of meta-tags that need to be included in your coding. The Twitter Developer Center states that “Twitter Cards make it possible for you to attach media experiences to tweets that link to your content.” This means that tweets about your content will include the optimized formatting for anyone that clicks share, and as such, more likely to be retweeted. With this Twitter Card metadata set in the page source, you can create optimized tweets as seen earlier in this blog.
Be sure to check out this article from the Twitter Developer Team to learn more about Twitter Cards and why you should be using them.
Webmasters have the option to use Schema.org markup instead of the standard metadata or Open Graph tags that Google+ defaults to. It simplifies the process, as you can use it on almost any HTML tag on content already on the page. Google recommends using Schema.org because they also use this micro data to create rich snippets in their SERPs. Unlike Open Graph, which remains in the <head> section of code, Schema.org markup can live in various places within the website. With the appropriate tags in place, you can customize your posts to be the best representation of your content for Google+ users. They even make it easy for you and create the code for you on their web snippet page, all you have to do is fill in the blanks. What could be easier than that? Thanks, Good Guy Google!
Not sure if you used the correct markup for your snippet? The Structured Data Testing Tool will verify your code and provide you with a report on all of the structured data coding on your page in question.
For Pinterest, you have a few options to give your product, article, recipe or place Pins just a little more oomph. You can use Open Graph or Schema.org markup, and for most, this is probably the simplest solution. However, if you have the ability to set up an oEmbed endpoint, Pinterest recommends this method, as it is the most flexible and accurate for your content. oEmbed makes it possible for Pinterest to only look in one canonical place for the information it needs to create a Rich Pin. Setting up oEmbed can be a bit of a tricky process, but the above article from the Pinterest Developers should help clear up any of your confusion.
When it comes to organic social, you don’t need to feel like you’re on a sinking ship because of the platform’s algorithm changes. Including metadata into your social strategy is an incredibly easy win when it comes to boosting your organic efforts. Encourage social platforms to share your content by making it easier for them to display all of the necessary components. You can get your brand, name, product, idea, etc. out there in a more effective way that, in the long run, can save you both time and money.