Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social media is not always as easy as it should be

Social media and how readers use it within news websites is something I got to thinking about this evening while jogging through my neighborhood in Gladstone, Mo. (aka The Happy Rock).

It probably had something to do with the fact that, while also running, I was pushing The Toddler in a stroller, which was attached to the dog, Gilda, who was trying her best to keep up with The Fearless 7-Year-Old (who I usually call "Bob" even though that's not even close to his real name), who was pedaling away on his bike up ahead.

It was a lot to keep track of when all I really wanted was the exercise after a long day of sitting at a desk. Sometimes I wonder if readers are overwhelmed by the number of social-media options they're presented with on a news website when all they really want is to read the news.

If you like the news, you might Stumble it, or Digg it or email it or just say "Fark it" altogether because there are too many damn options. We want readers to "follow us" or "become a fan" when some of them may still be learning the social-media ropes or are completely uninterested.

I don't think we should assume readers know what all this social networking stuff is about (I can barely keep up myself), and I think it's a good idea to help readers understand 1) what social media services your site utilizes and 2) how and why they might want to use them.

This also provides some search-engine optimization (SEO) opportunities, depending on the site and its core audience. Using one of the trucking B2B sites I work with as an example (again), I recently built my own version of a social media newsroom. It's a very simple page that lists and describes each social media service we use on the site and why readers might be interested in using them. The page, which is titled "Social Media for Trucking Industry Professionals," is also loaded with targeted keywords so that anybody that might be searching for social media for truckers or fleet managers would likely find our page.

I think it's an easy way to gain a little bit of SEO value for your site while also providing a valuable service to some of your readers.

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