Quality Begets Quantity in a Social Ecosystem
Sunday, June 17, 2012
About a year ago search engines drove more traffic to TheAtlantic.com than social media. Social actually delivered the least amount of referrals when we analyzed data from search engines, typed/bookmarked sources, referrals from other sites, and social media networks. Today, the communities on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and LinkedIn drive more people to our flagship site than all portals combined, providing more than one-third of our referrals and making it the biggest contributor of traffic.
This social success is not a result of dumb luck or a secret algorithm our web editors have concocted. As even classically defined “influentials” are using social systems more to connect with each other in a variety of ways, they want to share information that’s smart, new, and entertaining. And they want to share it from a source that reflects well on them (i.e., a source that is trusted). It’s the same thing that drives the success of high quality, original content creators on platforms like Flipboard and Zite.
In the world of likes and tweets and votes, the better the idea, the farther it travels, making quality a powerful tool and a lucrative commodity. How do we monetize it?
The easy answer is that the more visitors coming to a site means there’s more inventory available to sell. But selling and serving more IAB standard ads is just the tip of the iceberg and it’s not really where it’s at.
The current online culture gives publishers an opportunity to develop unique programs that integrate social media, producing a user-friendly experience that also can provide an additional revenue stream. As an industry, we have only recently started to explore how to use these powerful tools.
At The Atlantic, we see that the marketplace is demanding quality custom content that people can and want to share, and our custom programs involving social media are already having success. They ensure we don’t have to rely on ad networks or low-cpm fire sales to make the most of our inventory.
For instance, the marketing team incorporated a social strategy into a campaign for “Innovation and America’s Future,” an underwritten event that live streamed the day’s discussion on a custom destination page on TheAtlantic.com. Day of, my team went to Twitter to spread the word in real-time. We not only drove users to the sponsored page, but took the conversation from the social media sphere to the special landing page on TheAtlantic.com. This by far became one of our highest performing live streamed events and exceeded our client’s expectations by more than 300 percent.
This kind of performance and engagement allows us to avoid a race to the bottom on cpms and other pricing mechanisms. Strong custom work that rises above the banner and box and finds many ways to engage and attract readers “naturally” commands a premium price – yes, even on the Web.
The virtuous cycle in all this is that quality rises to the top. In a world that’s not about gaming the ‘bots but attracting discerning readers, we must deliver quality. And that will beget quantity – in traffic, happy customers, and, ultimately, revenue.
min's Social Media Guidebook
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