Hot topics in digital marketing circles at the moment are social authority or social equity. Yeah sure, it sounds like the latest load of old marketing bullshit right? Approaching the new buzzword in marketing with your cynicism front and centre is the correct tactic – particularly if you’re in the realm of digital / social or search marketing. However, this explanation of it’s importance and how you can harness it will hopefully establish how important I, the monkeys and the wider digital marketing community think social authority is.
What is Social Authority?
Social Authority can be described as a ranking of how authoritative an entity (be it a person, brand, whatever) is, based on how many other entities share, comment on or like the content it produces.
In its simplest terms – if you share this post on Twitter, it demonstrates that I (Jon Payne, the author) and Noisy Little Monkey (the brand with which I’m most closely associated) are a little more trusted than we both were before you shared it.
Why is Social Authority important to Google?
Along with many others, I have been saying that while PageRank (Google's measure of how many web pages link to your web page) may be a key indicator of how trustworthy a website is, it’s been so easy to abuse that Google must find some other set of indicators to supplement it.
If Google can’t trust links, how can it figure out what is trustworthy content? Well, for a long time I’ve been inarticulately maintaining that Google is clearly using social media to see who is most trustworthy and wishing I had the time, expertise and intellect to figure out how.
Then, along comes the super smart Tom Anthony (he’s doing a PhD in Artificial Intelligence) with this excellent article eloquently confirming pretty much everything I’ve been saying. Crucially though, Tom’s backed it up with research and clever thinking.
I’m not going to contradict anything Tom says, but I hope to give you some useful tips if you don’t have a background in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
What does it look like?
Well if a trustworthy link profile looks like this:
The size of the arrow is proportional to the amount of trust passed by the link that points to your site.
Using that model, this is how that trust might be passed back to you or your site when trusted people share your content:
I’ve used some of the people I follow on Twitter to demonstrate relative authority. Again the bigger the arrow, the more authority they pass.
I believe authority might also be weighted by sector. Matt Cutts is hugely authoritative in the online marketing industry (because he’s retweeted by, +1’d by and has his content shared in many other ways by thousands of people like me), but the authority he passes will likely be diminished if he’s sharing content about activities for the Diamond Jubilee in Bristol, whereas mine might be increased somewhat since I contribute to a site about that subject, tweet about it and share stuff on Google+ about it. It might not be a huge change, but I believe that authority and relevance are going to be key as this develops.
Thinking about the relationship between the person and the brand they’re associated with...
Matt Cutts (the hugely respected person who has a hand in tidying up Google’s results and speaks widely on the subject) is tightly connected to Google (the brand which basically owns the internet) is a combo with lots of authority.
Jon Payne (the person who talks about how to market businesses online across the south west of England) and Noisy Little Monkey (the brand which may be the noisiest digital marketing agency in the south west of England), have less authority. But, we will likely be more trusted than people or brands who don’t engage online.
Google, Facebook, Bing, Twitter and pretty much anyone can see who I'm connected to on social media - who I follow and who follows me, who follows them and how trustworthy we all appear to be...
And they can see what we all share on these platforms. We share content from sources we trust. It's really easy for a search engine to spot fake accounts. They don't interact like humans and they aren't trusted by humans (only by other fake accounts) so the content they share is, effectively, devalued.
How can you develop it?
From a marketing perspective you need to create unique, helpful, entertaining content and post it on your blog. I’d recommend WordPress for this, on your domain.
Seed this content socially to encourage shares and engagement across multiple platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Quora, LinkedIn – wherever your target market are hanging out.
From a technical point of view, you need to tie your personal Google+ profile to your blog. Here’s how to make that happen (you might need a web designer for some of the stuff in HTML).