Making friends on the internet with humans and robots

Making friends on the internet is a lot more complex than adding a couple of like and share buttons to your site. The prevalence of social media in our lives has created a currency that values your content based on relevance and popularity.

Getting friends online does not work like The Secret and there is no mathematical formula to getting fans, likes, share, tweets, pins, vines, branches and whatever you call posts on tumblr and Pheed – just to name a few. Most of the work is done with interesting content.

The other extremely important factor in helping boost social content is to ensure that it’s optimized for each social network’s feed and search engines – and that is something that I can help you with.

I’ve recently had to get my self schooled in the implementation and creation of social content and I was really surprised by how much SEO and the varying content requirements are key drivers in their success.focus on SEO and relevant content is crucial.

The Big 4 and some

Here’s a run down of the major networks that you should be considering and what they have on offer:


People have become so accustomed to the like button it’s a permanent feature on pretty much all sites.

The Facebook ‘LIKE’ button has been through many iterations since it first launched. The latest Facebook approved version is a combination of Like and Share. When a user clicks they will counted as a ‘LIKE’ on the page and at the same time a comment box will drop down for them to post the content to their wall. The post will pull through an image thumbnail, page title, page description and the page URL from the Open Graph tags which I will run through later.

Google can’t see Facebook likes as the counter is printed using JS so the content people posted or shared is more relevant. Of all Facebook metrics shares is the most highly ranked in Google.


More and more Google+ is becoming a mandatory for your share toolbox because it’s included in Google’s search algorithm. This article featured in Fast Company last year oulines the Google+ strategy to lay the foundations for the future of search and aggregating content to include more personal and social information.

Google+ Authorship is widely embraced by online writers and bloggers to assist in SEO ranking. Whilst there has been no official confirmation that Authorship and Author rank factor into SEO rankings –  Eric Schmidt has alluded to it becoming more relevant in the future.

When that day comes if you’re a writer you want to already be inside the circle.

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

(an excerpt from the recently released The New Digital Age from Eric Schmidt)

If you’re a writer or blogger you can sign up for Authorship to link all the articles or posts you write back to your Google+ account.

Google are trying hard to become competitive with Twitter and Facebook an you’ll notice a lot more sites offering login via Google+ as well as the already popular sign up with Twitter and Facebook.

With complete control over the algorithm you can bet that Google+ gets a weighting and with the ability to share all types of content to your Google+ feed it’s recommended for all sites.


Twitter has an activer flock of over 500 million users, with 58 million tweets being posted at day. As a result of Twitter the online writer conscious of their social presence will keep their headlines to fit within 120 characters.

It used to be that Twitter only gave you 140 characters to work with and of that you had to save 20 for the shortened URL. Recently they launched Twitter Cards allowing you to embed more content within the feed. This is significant for brands to provide users with a taste of your content in the feed as opposed to click through which may have been a deterrent.

The cards available are:

  • Summary Cards (inc Large Summary Card too) allow you to share preview content for your article or post include an image and text.
  • Photo Card allows you to share a photo that users can preview in the feed
  • Gallery Card allows you to embed a gallery of images and would be perfect for sharing look books.
  • App Card allows you to pull in information about the app directly from the app store including the icon, description, price and rating.
  • Player Card allows you to embed a video or audio media player in a users feed; so for example you can embed a YouTube video or a SoundCloud mix.
  • Product Card that will pull in the image, information about the product such as price, location, stock and a product description.

Twitter Cards are fairly new and several of the cards require authorization by Twitter.


Earlier this year Linkedin reached a user base of 200 million making it the largest professional network and putting it in the same as leagues as big players like Facebook and Twitter.

Linkedin allows you to share all types of content but is not really optimized for images – they will be cropped to be the same size as supporting images.

Recommended for News sites, Professional Industry blogs


The popular photo sharing network is the youngest of big social networks but already boasts a highly engaged and active user base of close to 50 million.

With the majority of of activity being repins it’s important  to make sure that your text description is clear and includes keywords that you think people would be looking for in pinterest. For example all recipies should include key ingredients, locations should include the name, city and country, etc.

Pinterest is recommended for sites and blogs where images are your hero content such as cooking blogs, design, home and garden, travel, etc.

And a few more…

A couple more to keep in mind are:

–       Tumblr – currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity especially with younger audiences. The Whilte House also recently released a Tumblr featuring everything from official news from the White House to animated GIFs and memes about the Presidential lifestyle. Tumblr is a great way of documented short posts (images, text and most famously animated GIFs).

–       Pheed – Launched recently with a massive celebrity presence and has been billed to be popular with younger audiences

–       Vine – Who would have thought that 6 seconds of video could spark a new genre in film making. Vine was a hit the day it launched  with it’s ability to easily accomodate creative story tellers.

One thing I’ve completed left out is social networks for discovering music like Spotiify, Rdio, MySpace, Soundcloud and the list goes on. I’ll be doing a separate post on these and the changing structure of discovery another day.

It’s all about location

Make sure that your social toolbox is in a prominent place for users to access; either at the top or bottom of content. If you’ve got a lot of long form content that you’d like users to share it’s important to place the share buttons at the start and at the bottom of the article.

It’s also important to always use a counter for you network buttons where possible. More and more sites will display social media likes and shares in the preview of the articles as users will use this as an index for whether it’s worth having a read.

When it comes to creating your social toolbox of icons keep in mind the type of content you are trying to promote and your user’s social media behaviour.

Technical Implementation

 Open Graph Tags

Open Graph tags is what is commonly used by the social graph to index and share information about your site. Popularised by Facebook, now all major social networks will pull in from this source on your page.

The Open Protocol site lists all the tags available as well as tips on implementation.

The fundamental tags that should be included are:

  • Title – the title of your website but can also include a call to action
  • Type – what type of content is being shared. This is what will appear when a users likes your content; i.e. User name likes this article or video
  • Image – the URL for the thumbnail image you wish to use to represent your post
  • URL – the URL that you would like the counter to attribute shares and likes too
  • Description – a short (1 – 2 sentence) description of your page or content
  • Site name – is only relevant if your site is part of a larger site so you’d want to pull in the overarching site name
  • Video or Audio – include a URL to any complimentary video or audio content

The title tag is what gets pulled through as the title of your post. There are recommended character limits for this but it’s actually truncated based on pixel width so stick anywhere from 50 – 70 characters. Linkedin offers you up to 200 characters for the title but best to stick with the lowest common denominator.

The description copy is again various lengths across the networks, here is a breakdown of the main four:

  • Facebook: 300 characters (inc spaces)
  • Linkedin: 225 characters (inc spaces)
  • Google+: 200 characters (inc spaces)
  • Twitter (Summary Cards): 200 characters (inc spaces)

To be safe keep all your important contents within 200 characters.

Optimising Your Content

I don’t want to be cliché so I’ll say  –  ‘Content is Queen B’ when it comes to optimizing your content. Here are some pointers on how to optimize your site or brand content for sharing.

Keyword littering

Your social description copy is extremely important in not only maximizing SEO rank but also allowing your brand to stand out in a typically cluttered space – a user’s feed.

When writing copy remember that your audience is not just humans but also Google Search bots so using relevant keywords where possible helps with conversation.

All of your text base sharing content should be littered with your keywords. Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great place to start to get a list of search terms where you site or brand appears. It’s also good to think about the searches you’d like your site to appear in and where possible weave these in. For example if you are a recipe site all your social description copy should include the cuisine, the dish name and key ingredients as this is how users search for recipes. Whilst words like ‘delicious’ and ‘tasty’ are good adjectives – they are not as specific to your content and so not as effective.

Users will often search networks using popular hashtags and sayings so where appropriate add these into  your prepopulated share content to extend your reach beyond just your followers. For example if your tweeting about the AFL – include the official game hash tag.

You’ll notice that I’ve emphasized to only use key words where possible. Your content should still remain compelling and readable to the human eye too.

Optimising images for social

Having a compelling thumbnail image to share is extremely important as a call out when a user’s is scanning through a social media feed. However with each social network having it’s own image size and dimensions  you need to make sure that your image will look good across all of them.

Here is a breakdown of the requirements for each that I’ve managed to pull together after a lot of googling.

Images as supporting content – by this I mean images that accompany articles as opposed to being the primary content of the post.

Social Network Image Dimenstions
Linkedin 180 x 110
Facebook 100×100
Twitter Summary Card Min 60×60 and images over 120×120 will b resized.
Twitter Large Summary Card Min 280 x 150
Google+ Min 75 x 75 to max 150w

When images are the primary content that users are sharing such as travel images, fashion, food, etc.

Social Network Image Dimenstions
Twitter Max (375 x 435)/ Mobile (375 x 280)/ Mobile Retina (750 x 560)
Google+ 497 wide with variable height
Linkedin 180×110
Facebook 400 px with variable height and users can click to the large version

Also keep in mind when naming images that if possible add in the image keyword. So for example if your image is of a travel destination add that into the image name and alt tag.

Optimising Video

Video is an extremely compelling and engaging way to get your brand around the world faster than the fastest plane if you can get the right mix of content and timing to go viral.

I can’t offer you any tips on content creation but there are a few other things you can to make your video more SEO friendly.

If possible always use a video service that already integrates with social sharing like YouTube or Vimeo.  Google own YouTube and the YouTube player already integrates with the new Twitter Cards API so is a good choice.

Make sure you include keywords throughout all the below elements when uploading your video:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Tags
  • Categories
  • Annotations
  • Closed Captions
  • Engagement within YouTube

Closed captioning is probably the most important on this list. Not only is this good for users with hearing impairments it also means that search engines can read the content of the video.

Also once you’ve added in closed captioning YouTube is able to offer subtitling in 155 languages so your opening up your content to an international audience.

There are tools to help you do this – most posts suggest not to use Youtube’s automatic voice recognition software as it can be inaccurate.

Vine is also a great avenue for sharing small snippets of video content that can be embedded into social feeds and sites so don’t discount the value you can add in 6 seconds. Several brands have been taking advantage of Vine such as:

–       Wolverine Trailer

–       Lowe’s Tool Tips

–       Marc Jacobs Looks

Okay I’m nearly done…

Make sure that your building inherent value in your social content to give it the best chance in the big wide world.  If you don’t optimize for each network’s requirements and search engines the ultimate cost is irrelevance.


One thought on “Making friends on the internet with humans and robots

  1. Pingback: Making friends on the internet with humans and robots | The Next Big Thing

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