The rise of social media link building

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  • February 22, 2012
Mark Bowering

Mark Bowering

Content Strategist

Social media is responsible for many interesting cultural changes, most notably the way in which people now interact with each other.

The boom in popularity of social networking sites over the last decade means that a staggering 1.2 billion people around the world now log into them to keep in touch with friends and family, chat with likeminded people, keep abreast of local, national and international news and to offer their thoughts and opinions on pretty much anything and everything.

It’s the most popular online activity and it’s hardly surprising that more and more businesses are placing a greater emphasis on link building using social media, and are working closely with companies within the SEO industry to help them to capitalise on the opportunity to increase brand awareness using sites such as Digg, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Twitter and YouTube.

With search engines paying more attention to social signals and social noise when it comes to determining rankings and domain authority, social media has become an incredibly powerful factor, and one that can ultimately have a significant impact on how a brand performs and is perceived by the public online. It enables companies to connect with customers, enhance visibility and increase sales revenue.

Being successful in crafting link bait that gets shared by a lot of social media users has the potential to generate an increase in site traffic and build a high number of backlinks from blogs and websites, as well as establish authority in a particular niche market. In a perfect world this would have a sizeable impact on conversion rates, but even if this does not happen immediately, a seed has been sown that could ultimately come to fruition at some point in the future.

Shareable link bait can come in many different forms, from an interesting infographic packed with new and original data to something as simple as a funny picture or a series of light-hearted pictures, like this humorous blog post on how not to clean windows that attracted over 470,000 StumbleUpon hits.

Even content about social media can go viral on the different social media platforms as an infographic about the history of social media published in January 2011 was posted on Twitter over 10,000 times from the original source and received over 3,500 Facebook likes, highlighting how much exposure link bait can receive.

Here are three examples of link bait that have been successful in different ways:  – Page Authority: 49, Linking Root Domains: 44, Total Links: 130

Thirty pictures of weird and wonderful wedding cakes from around the world featured in an attention-grabbing blog post on the dating website – and it generated an astonishing 1.2 million hits on StumbleUpon. It was also tweeted over 3,000 times and received 38,000 likes on Facebook, reports The Marketing Resource Index. This type of content really seems to capture the imagination of social media users of all ages and the fun element widens its appeal even further.

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Page Authority: 85, Linking Root Domains: 750, Total Links: 13,560

The issue of eating sustainable fish is an emotive one, which probably explains why the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List advising people which ocean-friendly seafood to consume hooked so many people. The downloadable free pocket guides tell you which varieties of fish to avoid and which varieties can be considered the ‘best choices’. At the start of January, 365 Online ran an article in which the total links were just over 9,000 and reported that there were 631 linking root domains. Over a month later, those figures have altered as the link bait continues to be shared, while the iPhone app has also reportedly been downloaded 300,000 times.

The Print Effect – Page Authority: 56, Linking Root Domains: 75, Total Links: 217

For the perfect example of interactive link bait look no further than The Print Effect, an innovative app produced by Cartridge Save that gives you all sorts of interesting random facts determined by how active you and your followers are on Twitter. Simply enter your Twitter username and seconds later you’re faced with a whole load of stats and snazzy graphics to answer their intriguing question – “Ever wondered how much it would take to print your entire Twitter timeline?” Well, wonder no more and the page has been shared 2,700 times on Twitter.

Different social media sites open up different opportunities and here are a four more ways in which companies have used social media to their advantage in their brand-building efforts:

Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts became one of the first brands in the UK to use promoted tweets to publicise the launch of the FIFA 12 computer game last September – to much success. According to stats published by Marketing Magazine, the EA Sports FIFA Twitter account received a 25% boost in followers to 105,000 following the promoted trend and promoted tweets, with that figure currently over 140,000 some five months on. The promoted trend also had an engagement level (be that clicked on, favourited, replied or retweeted) of 11%. To put this engagement level into some sort of perspective, Twitter’s average benchmark for trends is 3-6% engagement.

Sony Electronics

Competitions are always a good way of generating brand awareness and engaging with the public, as illustrated with the #CatchTheTablet contest run by Sony Electronics in 2011. The giveaway allowed people in America to get their hands on the new Sony Tablet S as Sony gave away roughly 60 via Twitter and Facebook. The campaign was a huge success. Marcy Cohen, the Head of Social Media at Sony Electronics, told TNW Social Media: “It was definitely our most successful campaign in terms of participation. We had just under 10,000 contest entries, increasing our Facebook fan base by 8%, and our Twitter following by about 4.5% just through this campaign.”


The powers that be Google got in on the act of creating viral videos in January 2010 to coincide with the launch of the Google Nexus One smartphone. Google enlisted the help of Canadian film maker Patrick Boivin and the resulting video, Ninja’s Unboxing, has been viewed over 2.6million times on YouTube, was the subject of over 3,500 tweets and received over 2,000 Facebook shares, according to figures published by Acquisition Engine.

Old Spice

A viral video campaign that started with The Man Your Man Could Smell Like revived the Old Spice brand in emphatic style in 2010. That particular video has since been viewed over 39 million times on YouTube and it spawned a response campaign comprised of 186 videos that saw the hunky lead role replying to individual people who posted questions on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The videos were uploaded to YouTube and a week after launch the whole project had been seen 40 million times, while the Twitter following increased 2,700% and traffic to went up by 300%, causing sales of Old Spice to rocket, most notably in July 2010 when a 107% sales increase was reported. Old Spice also became the most-viewed branded channel on YouTube.

These are just a handful of the countless social media success stories to emerge over the past few years – and no doubt many more will hit the headlines in 2012 as social media campaigns become fully integrated with branding, marketing and SEO!

Get in touch with the social media and SEO experts at Branded3 if you’d like any advice or help with how your brand is perceived online.

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