13 May 2009

Social Media Matter

Use of social media in the UK has skyrocketed over the past year, and using it wisely can mean big boosts to website traffic, according to presenters at the Digital Editors Network meeting in Preston this week.

One in 10 UK internet users now visits a social networking site -- they have overtaken both porn and shopping! -- and the sites account for about one in every five page views, Robin Goad of Hitwise said. Facebook is by far the most popular, with a 41.2% market share.

Patrick Altoft, the director of search for Leeds-based Branded3, stressed the use of applications such as Digg to boost the number and quality of links to a website. Those links can significantly enhance search engine rankings and overall traffic; for instance, he said, the Guardian has nearly 16 million links pointing to its content.

Altoft, whose DEN presentation is available online, highlighted the emphasis on Digg at successful national news websites such as the Telegraph's; he said telegraph.co.uk gets around 2.2 million users a month -- more than 70,000 a day -- from social media links and another 8.3 million from searches.

Twitter also can be extremely influential. Altoft said CNN.com has 1.4 million followers; other major media, inluding the BBC and the Guardian, have hundreds of thousands.

Being first to post a story makes a difference -- Google News, for instance, includes a "freshness" algorithm that gives priority to the latest version of a breaking story -- but so does promoting it. The first 30 minutes are critical, Altoft said; he urged media organizations to create an automated promotion network that draws on social networking tools to boost visibility and interest.

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