Note: This article was originally published at HoodWebManagement.com in Nov 2011 and was migrated here in May 2013.

If you’re worried about spending too much time on social media and updating your website, but you know you need to keep your business account active, this is the guide for you. 

Share Great Content

This guide is an in-depth look at how we curate weekly content for my clients’ websites, their Facebook pages, and their Twitter accounts, and how we effectively manage the process in just a few hours each month. I have been using this method for years, and it has been honed over time. If you like it, please share it with someone else by clicking Like, +1, or perhaps you could blog about it using our guide!

Goals of This Strategy:

The focus of my strategy isn’t to attract tons of new Facebook fans or Twitter followers – though you’ll definitely attract more. You’re going to have to get a bit more aggressive to do that quickly. This strategy is focused on helping busy website owners keep fresh content on their blog, Facebook feed, and Twitter feed, so it doesn’t look like the business has shut down. We all see those businesses that haven’t updated anything in 8 months, and we have to wonder what that says about their business? You don’t want to be the guy with no content – you want to be the business with cool stuff being shared for your followers. This is the fastest and most effective way I know how to do that. There’s a side benefit to this strategy: it’s SEO-conscious. By using the blog method below, you’ll steadily add new Facebook likes, Google +1s, and Tweets that all reference your domain. Those are organic search indicators and they help your search rankings. I will also speculate, without any hard evidence on hand, that they increase your trust and authority in the eyes of search engines, especially when they link to deep pages on your site. The key to this method is that you’re going to focus on curating content for your fans and followers. In other words, you’re going to find high quality content produced by other people and share it with them. You’re going to do this using the following 5-step process:

1) Set Up Your Content Stream “Leads” 2) Post it to Your Blog 3) Post it to Your Facebook Page 4) Post it to Twitter 5) Maximize Your Efforts – Get the Most Value From Your New Content Stream

Step 1: Set Up Your Content Stream “Leads”

As I mentioned before, the key to this guide is that most of your content will be produced by other people. You’re going to happily give them credit for their content and use it to keep your own social streams full. You’re going to get your content from a few sources:

  1. Google Alerts
  2. RSS Feeds
  3. Your Own Company

Google Alerts

This is going to be the primary source for your content. You’re going to pick 1 to 3 keywords that talk about what your company is about. If you operate a vacation rental in Maui, then ‘Maui‘ is going to be one of your keywords. If you run a plumbing business in Rockford, IL, then ‘plumbing‘ is going to be one of your keywords, and so is ‘Rockford.’  I also highly recommend that you have an alert set up for your company’s name, such as this option which alerts me to references to my company as well as my domain: “Hood Web Management” OR “hoodwebmanagement.com” Now, you’re going to go to Google Alerts and set up the following alert:

Google Alerts

Create an alert just like this for each of your 1 to 3 keywords

Just like the photo above, you want:

  • Type: Everything
  • How Often: Once a Day (“As it happens” is typically way too many emails for such a broad keyword)
  • Volume: Only the best results (try testing this one if you’re not getting enough good content from your alerts)
  • Deliver to: Your Email Address.

Also, be sure to take a look at the results preview to make sure that you’re getting relevant content. If you’re having trouble getting quality content, or if there’s a bunch of junk mixed in with the good stuff, learn how to use advanced Google queries to make your searches more specific. Every day you’re going to get an email. The email is going to come every 24 hours after you first set it up, so if you set it up at 2pm it tends to come at 2pm everyday. Everyday you’re going to scan this email for anything that might interest your fans. What type of content do you care about? To continue the Maui Vacation Rental example, here’s the types of Google Alerts content that I would definitely decide to post:

  • Awesome photos taken in Maui that are getting popular on flickr or mentioned in newspapers (it happens all the time with newspapers that have a user-generated content section)
  • Post about the upcoming street festival so your guests know what kind of awesome things go on around your vacation rental
  • A recent Reddit thread talking about best places to snorkel in Maui
  • Just to be redundant – anything thing else remotely interesting that mentions Maui

You get the idea – anything about your keywords can be considered. After a few weeks of this process you’ll start to get an idea of (A) what type of content tends to be more valuable to you and (B) how often cool stuff comes along (it may be daily, or it might be every other week). That’s OK if you’re not getting floods of content from Google Alerts, you’re going to fill in any gaps in Alerts content with the next items. If you’re not getting anything good from Google Alerts in the past month, start rethinking your keywords and testing new ones in the Google Alerts preview window.

RSS Feeds

Google Alerts is the most important, but if you have additional time to dedicate to managing your content (or an intern), you’re going to set up RSS Feeds or email updates from a few key news sources. If your business is focused locally at all, you’re going to subscribe to the local blog and/or newspaper updates. If your business is a wine store, you’re going to sign up for updates from each of the prominent wine magazines or blogs, and from your state & area wineries for their updates. Anytime we can feature complementary businesses we’re going to do so, so be sure to think of complementary businesses in your areas (these aren’t competitors – they’re typically businesses that sell to the same demographic) and sign up for their mailing lists and blogs. In your email software – Gmail, Outlook, etc. – set up a folder or label titled Content (or whatever you like) and set up filters so that all of these new emails to go into that folder automatically. For the websites that don’t provide email subscriptions to their RSS feed, use a service like FeedMyInbox.com or RSSforward.com The standards for RSS feeds is the same as Google Alerts – anything remotely interesting that is about your business or that might matter to most of your customer base is worth considering. For example, my customer base is small business owners, so an article about small business marketing, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with my specific services, would be very useful to most of my customers.

Your Own Company

Interesting stuff happens to your company daily whether you know it or not – you’re going to quit neglecting that content. Every time a customer writes a new review, every time an employee has a baby or gets married, every time a cool blue bird lands on your office window and you snap a sweet picture of it, you’re going to twist that into content. So, start taking note of these moments and post them! This is your chance to give customers an inside scoop into your business, which makes them feel like they know you better and gives your business a human touch that most websites just don’t have. If your business is mentioned in the news, on a blog, or maybe you’re interviewed by a reporter, all of those should absolutely get posted as well. The less important examples don’t necessarily have to go to the blog. If it’s just a picture of the bird on the window, post it to Facebook, link to that Facebook post on Twitter, and be done with it. It’ll get a few likes and maybe a retweet or two, and it’ll add one more update to your social streams, which is the goal of this strategy.

Step 2: Post it to Your Blog

You’re going to publish your new found content to your blog in the following format:

  • (A) Good photo that is somehow relevant to the content (you’re going to find that elsewhere)
  • (B) An introduction and commentary on the content written by yourself
  • (C) A key quote from the content (if it’s written). If the content is video or an infographic then you’re going to embed it here.
  • (D) A link to the original content, and credit for the photo that you used.

(A) Find a Great Photo:

To find the photos you’re going to search for Commercial-OK Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr. To do this go to http://search.creativecommons.org/ and type your keywords in to the search box. Make sure the “use for commercial purposes” checkbox is selected – you don’t need to check the “modify/adapt/build upon” box unless you plan to edit the images heavily (which you’re not going to do because it sucks up your precious time). Click on the Flickr box to do your search. Once you have found an image that you want to use, you’ll want to download an appropriately-sized version for your website (500px is a common width for many blog content sections). You don’t want to hotlink to the photo because (A) it might get taken down someday and (B) you can likely snag some Google Image search traffic by hosting the image yourself. You’ll want to rename this image file to something useful – Flickr filenames like 5906108613_b45a038729_b.jpg are total junk – choose something descriptive but not spammy, such as maui-beach-photo.jpg. Be sure to optimize the image alt tag to match the file name, and insert the image at the very top of your blog post. Quick Tip: Adding a comment to the Flickr photo and letting the photographer know that you used their photo for a blog post is a great way to get a quick link from Flickr and it’s courteous to the photographer. Here’s an example for the photo we used on this post.

(B) Comment on the Content:

Think of something witty, useful, or whatever, and use it as an introduction to the content. For example:

Take a look at this article released by the local paper today. They’re suggesting that 35% of visitors to our town who stay for more than 3 days will come back again!

This doesn’t have to be long, but try and make it more than 1 or 2 sentences if you can.

(C) Quote the Content or Embed It:

Use quote marks, make the text italic, and use some sort of block quote formatting like this:

“We’ve conducted a bunch of great research and found out that blah blah blah….”

Don’t quote the entire article unless it’s very short. Try to pull out a couple great paragraphs that show why it’s interesting. If the content that you’re sharing is a photo or an infographic or an embeddable video, feel free to include that here instead. Be sure to format the width to match your blog’s maximum width or smaller.

(D) Link to the Content and Photo Credit:

Underneath the quote, you’re going to put the words “Click here to read the original article at ContentWebsite.com” – the underlined portion will be the link back to the original article. This part is very important, because if you don’t link to the original post, you’re stealing their content. If you do link to the original post (and don’t quote the entire page), then you’re sharing their content, which is the goal here. On the next line, post the credit for the photo like this: “Photo Credit: Flickr user awesomephotodude using Creative Commons License” – the underlined portion should link back to the original Flickr image page. That’s it for posting to the blog. Be sure to think of a good catchy headline, add tags to the post and a category, etc. and don’t spend too long on this part!

Step 3: Your Facebook Account

When you post to Facebook, you’re going to click “link”, add the URL of your new blog post, and then click “add” (you may have to adjust this process slightly once Timelines for Facebook Pages is released). Facebook will automatically select a photo for you – be sure to use the left/right arrows to choose the best image, not the one they select for you. Make sure to add a new unique content that doesn’t match the one you put at the top of the blog post, and click publish.

Tagging Other Businesses:

Here’s one super powerful way to increase the value of this strategy. Let’s say you’re running your Maui vacation rental business, and you post about a set of photos that someone posted on their photo blog, and you notice that they have a Facebook page. You’re going to tag their facebook page in your post. First, you have to like their Facebook page using your Facebook Page (if that sounds complicated, just read this guide). Then, you’re going to tag them like this in the comments of your Facebook page post:

Check out these awesome new photos from @John Doe Photography – we loved them!

Here’s an example of how we tagged the West Seattle Blog in a Facebook update recently:

The @ symbol lets Facebook know you want to tag someone or something – once the blue part hovers below, click on it to make the tag complete

By doing this, your status update will now show up on not only your Facebook page, but their Facebook page, too. This can come off as spam pretty easily, so you have to be a little flattering when you do it, but not only can you develop a good relationship with other businesses by doing this tastefully, you can also get traffic from their fan pages!

Step 4: Your Twitter Account

Posting to Twitter is fairly simple, I use the following format:

Sample Text for a Tweet – Don’t over think this one too much

The first part can say “New Article” or “Just Posted” or “New Blog Post” or nothing at all. Keep the whole tweet as short as you can, and add 1 or 2 hashtags if they fit: #maui or #photography or #whatever. Use a link shortener if you want to track clickthroughs, though Twitter’s shortener (http://t.co) will work fine for most purposes.

Step 5: Maximize Your Efforts – Get the Most Value From Your New Content Stream

Step 5 is about wrapping up loose ends, and making sure you’re not missing any opportunities. I’ve designed this to be a relatively passive system, so implementing these additional tips will pay dividends over the years.

Optimize with Social Buttons

You’d better have Facebook Like, Google +1, and a Tweet This button at an absolute minimum. I like using the counter format like you see at the top of this page, because there’s an element of social proof – if readers see that lots of other people found the content helpful, they’re more likely to jump on board. If you don’t know how to set these up on your own using straight code, just use a WordPress plugin. Depending on your demographic, consider adding Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and LinkedIn buttons, too. At the time this guide was written in late 2011, it is generally accepted that Facebook Likes, Tweets, and Google +1s will all contribute to your organic search traffic. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, so make sure you’ve got buttons in place to maximize the value of your posts. Believe it or not, you’ll keep getting people clicking those buttons for many months, which helps deliver longer term value to your efforts.

Allow Comments

Allowing comments on your blog post will ideally give you a lot of unique text on your page that will increase the SEO value of your post. Be sure to moderate for spammy links and use a spam plug-in like Akismet for WordPress. This shouldn’t add a ton of management time unless you get significant traffic to your blog.

Monitor and Follow Up

Keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter after you post. Respond to any questions or references to the post and click “favorite” on anyone that retweets it. If this is a passive system for you, don’t waste too much time worrying about getting more retweets – those are just a bonus.

Test Test Test!

If you notice one type of content doesn’t work well with your fanbase, use it less and test out other types of content. Don’t overdo it on any one type of content, either (like tons of photos or tons of boring content).

That’s it! Now Rinse and Repeat!

If it sounds too simple, it’s because I designed it that way. This is an easy and effective way to keep your website’s social media accounts active and up-to-date. If you implement it, you’ll no longer have to worry about losing potential customers because your Facebook feed hasn’t been updated since June 21, 2010.

So you got all the way to the bottom, huh? Congratulations! Please let me know what you think in the comments. If you implement this strategy at your business, please let me know!

Photo Credit: Bookshelf photo by flickr user gadl released under Creative Commons license.