The name “Social Media Examiner” sounds like a nod to newspapers, but you’re not really a news site. Do you consider yourselves a blog, an online magazine, an aggregator or something else entirely?
The reason we call ourselves an online magazine and not a blog is because we knew that when we launched, the business world was not completely familiar with the word “blog.”
In addition, our site features deeper and richer articles than a typical blog. All of our articles are at least 1000 words. We publish once a day, 24 articles a month, which is essentially the same amount of articles that are in a print magazine.
You’re the first person ever to tell me that we have a newspaper type of name. The name “Social Media Examiner” sounds like it’s socially important, it sounds like it’s established and that it’s been around forever.
The site has a particularly memorable look, with its jungle-themed design and cartoon illustrations. Where did that come from?
The site definitely has a unique visual display. Our mascot is this little guy named Scout, named by our user community in a contest during our one-year birthday celebration.
I wanted to have a site that was visually stunning, looked very professional, and that when people came to it they just assumed it had existed forever. In reality, even though we have more than 100,000 e-mail subscribers, we’re only 22 months old.
Many of your headlines include a question, a number (“4 Tips,” “5 Steps”), or a “How to,” making them very SEO-friendly. How much do search engines factor into your editorial process? Do you create content based on what people are searching for?
No, we do not. We only get 15 percent of our 900,000 page-views per month from search. We do not try to make things that appeal to search engines. We don’t ignore search engines, but it’s not our primary focus. Our primary focus is to appeal to people.
I have a background in copywriting so I know what a good headline is. We write headlines that people want to share, that people want to click through on Twitter or Facebook to read.
SME went from 0 to 100,000 subscribers in 20 months, and it’s all from social media. Our articles have titles that are designed to really draw people to the content. We’re about people optimization, not search engine optimization. We’re trying to optimize for the human mind.
In your latest book, Launch, you discuss the “elevation principle,” which goes something like this: Great content + other people – marketing messages = business growth. Why are “marketing messages” subtracted from this equation?
Edelman did a study and found that only a third of people trust businesses, meaning that 66 percent don’t. In the book, I postulate that part of the reason is that people think businesses are just out to take their money.
Everywhere we go, all we see are marketing messages. It’s permeating our culture and people are tuning out.
If you want your content to be received as a gift instead of a lure designed to convert someone into a prospect, then you need to put away those marketing messages. I don’t say “don’t do marketing,” but what I do say is not to embed those marketing messages into your content.
If your content has ads all around it then what you’re doing is sending people away from it, or you’re telling the people that all you really care about is getting conversions, not providing great content.
You practice what you preach because Social Media Examiner is an ad-free space. Of course, that brings up an obvious question: How does Social Media Examiner make money?
You’ll only see one ad on our site, which is for our own events. Once people receive our content and decide to sign up for more via our e-mail list, then they’ve opted into a secondary channel, which I call the backchannel. Through that channel I can embed some marketing messages. That’s how we grow our business.
We send out a daily e-mail blast to 100,000 people, 6 days a week. Inside that e-mail we have a 70-word description of the day’s article with a link. Underneath it we’ll have ads; some are from sponsors, others are for our own events.
Our sponsors are mostly social media-related agencies. Anyone who wants to be in front of social media marketers is the ideal sponsor.
How do you get people to sign up for your mailing list?
There’s a sidebar on the homepage where you can input your information. We also have a cookie mechanism whereby first-time visitors are prompted to subscribe with a one-time pop-up.
Chris Brogan says that “e-mail is the golden ticket,” and that’s true because a large e-mail list is more important than followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook. People have given us permission to communicate with them. E-mail is still the secret magic bullet.
No plans. We’re new media in every way. Even our events are completely online. We don’t do anything in the old media kind of way. For me it makes no sense to go backwards. There’s a place for print, but not in my company.