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Navigating the Intersection of Social Media and SEO

In Conversation with Coral Norman

For this episode of E-coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Coral Norman, Director of Social Media Marketing Strategy at Pink Dog Digital, a full-service digital agency located in Baltimore.
Coral Norman dives deep into the dynamic world of digital marketing and provides invaluable insights and strategies to help businesses establish a strong online presence.
Watch the episode now for some profound insights!

When it comes to strategy, you just want to make sure that you’re focusing on delivering content that is useful for your audience.

Coral Norman
Director of Social Media Marketing Strategy at Pink Dog Digital

Hey, hi, everyone. This is Ranmay Rath, your host for tonight on your show, E Coffee with Experts. Today we have Coral Norman, who is the Director of Social Media Marketing strategy at Pink Dog Digital, a full-service digital agency. Welcome, Coral. How are you?

Thank you. I’m great. I’m excited to be here. Excited to have this opportunity to sit down and talk a little bit about digital marketing.

Superp. Before we go ahead and speak about digital marketing at large, I request you introduce yourself and Pink Dog Digital to our audiences tonight.

Yeah, sure. Pink Dog Digital is a full-service digital marketing agency. We are fully remote and based out of Baltimore. We handle SEO, PC, CM, and social media marketing. It’s a super fun company to work for. The culture is a lot of fun, very unique. But our main mission at Pink Dog Digital is to help companies establish their digital footprint. We do that mostly through working with small businesses who need some help building their websites, getting a CEO on their websites, and getting a social media strategy set up.

Great. great. Can you tell us about your journey into the digital marketing world? How did you get introduced to digital space and what has been your journey this far?

Yeah. I think my journey was probably a little bit unconventional, getting into digital marketing. I have an English degree. I started as an intern at a digital marketing agency here in Baltimore in 2013, shortly before I graduated. And then within three years or so, I was running the social media department at that company and then moved into another company heading up their SEO and content marketing. And then I moved into some product marketing, which I ended up not loving. I was surprised, but I did some product marketing work. Then in March of 2020, when everything went a little bit haywire, I got back in touch with Gina Ramsey, who I had worked with at the company that I started with as an intern, and found out that she had started her own company and was looking for someone to take over the social media strategy role. I started with her in March of 2020, right when everything got a little bit topsy turvy, and have been with her ever since. It’s been great. I love the opportunity that this company provides. A little bit, I didn’t even realize that digital marketing was a field that I could have gone into when I first got into it.

I was just looking for a writing internship, and the company in Baltimore provided that writing internship, and then I just grew into digital marketing and I fell in love with it.

Absolutely. We land up at places we might not have thought of when we started. Me being an electronics engineer, never thought of being in the digital marketing space myself. Life does strange things to you. Since you handle social media marketing, how does social media marketing impact SEO at large? What strategies can businesses use to leverage social media to improve their search engine rankings?

Yeah. Google loves to say that social media is technically not a factor for SEO. While I guess it technically might be an algorithm ranking factor, social media affects SEO. You can see it, especially with some of the bigger companies where they get lots of likes and shares on their content, lots of engagement on their content, especially where they’re sharing those links back to their website. They’re getting those links from that they’re sharing themselves on their social media or links that they have their consumers or their influencers or whoever sharing on social media. And that’s giving them those links back to their content. And even if those links technically aren’t as strong as ones that you might find on a website with strong domain authority, they’re still going to lead back to the website and give your SEO a little bit of push. They’re going to give you those referrals, which are always great. So while, as I said, it technically doesn’t factor into the algorithm, it’s a big part of improving your SEO strategy. Social signals are very important. They affect the way that people interact with your website, interact with your content. I think that’s where they play the biggest role, social media-wise.

Absolutely. Very well said. When you mentioned technically, it might not, but we have seen over some time, social signals play an important role in overall SEO branding at large. Talking about social media content, what are some of the best practices as per you for creating social media content that is optimized for search engines? How can you ensure that social media content is aligned with their overall strategy?

Overall, the main thing that we always want to focus on when we’re sharing social media content is focusing on sharing content that shows expertise, that’s showing authority, so that when people are getting on your social media, they are seeing that you have the expertise and the authority. Then you’re also seeing when you’re getting in there, those keywords play a role too, because you’ve got those keywords for what you do that is within your social media. As you’re sharing social media and you’re writing those captions, you need to include the keywords that are your main services or your main products for what you do. It’s also becoming more important than ever, right now that content includes all tags on your images so that they’re more accessible because accessibility is becoming such an important part of SEO right now, which is great to see. It’s nice to see that accessibility is becoming more and more important, especially within the world of social media where accessibility has not always played a huge role. The best practice for that is to make sure that you have those all tags to make things easily crawlable. You have the captions there that include your keywords, that include your services.

Then overall, when it comes to strategy, you just want to make sure that you’re focusing on delivering content that is useful for your audience. You don’t just want to be delivering content that is advertising your services. Well, you want to talk about the services, you want to talk about them in a way that is providing value to your audience, So they want to follow you. They want to engage with what you’re doing. After all, they see that you’re providing not only value and not only interest in what you’re doing but that you care about what they’re getting out of it as well because social media is and should be a conversation.

Absolutely. Talking about creating content for the overall consumer journey and the decision-making journey of any particular consumer that happens over any particular client’s website of yours, how do you ensure that content across multiple stages of the consumer journey is taken care of? And how relatable is it to their decision-making process of actually buying the product or the service?

Yeah, definitely. I think that it’s really important to represent the whole customer journey throughout social media so that you’re showing what that journey looks like. So whether you’re product-based or service-based, you can always show what that full journey looks like. A lot of our clients are service-based because we work with a lot of local small businesses. We tend to work with lawyers and HVAC companies. It runs the gamut. We don’t niche down. So it’s a little bit of everything when it comes to services. So you want to show everything from beginning to end. And especially with these companies that provide services that are maybe interesting or that you can show, we’d like to say, list out what are your services, what services do you offer so that people get that beginning of that journey where they see what you have, what you’re offering, what you can give them. Then we like to list out the middle of the journey. What does your process look like? If you’re a hardwood flooring company, can you take a video where you’re laying the hardwood flooring, speed it up, and add it to a reel or a TikTok?

I especially like to reference it right now, for some reason, I get on TikTok and there are these rug cleaning videos. I just love to watch people clean the rugs. I don’t know what it is about watching people do those services and just seeing this ugly rug ending up being super clean and perfect and beautiful, or seeing these hardwood floors that have been in this house for 100 years getting refinished, and all of a sudden they’re gorgeous and you get to see the whole refinishing process and you get to walk through that journey with them, which is cool. And then I think at the end of the funnel, you want to make sure that you’re also putting out testimonials from clients and making sure that anywhere you’ve got Google reviews, Yelp reviews, Facebook reviews that are good, you want to take those, you want to add those into social media. And so especially if the client is talking about here’s what they did, here’s why it was great. If it’s a well-written review, you want to take that, you want to share it, and you want to be like, hey, this is how we’re doing X, Y, and Z.

Thank you so much for sharing this review. How can we help you like we helped them? So I think that that’s a big part where we’re talking about that is just sharing that full customer journey from A to Z and making sure that you’re including those bits and pieces in there where people can see what it is like to work with you at the company so that it’s easier to sell them when they know exactly what to expect.

Talking about reviews, very nicely put when you said describing the journey versus one-liner or two words, brilliant service, awesome service, awesome product. When someone defines their experience of the product or the service, it looks or sounds more genuine. These sort of reviews go a long way in creating that brand trust for your client’s business. Great. Yeah, please.

When we’re working with our clients, we also offer reputation management. When we’re working with our clients on online reputation management, which is also really useful for SEO at that, having those reviews on Google that list your services, and what you do so that it makes it easier for Google to be able to see those. We always want to make sure that our clients know that when they’re soliciting reviews from their customers or clients they know are happy that they’re asking them to include as much information as possible. So that they’re like, for example, if somebody was reviewing us, you want to say, Hey, did we work on your website? Did you work on your social? What can you talk about that we did specifically? What did you like about what we did? And make sure that we’re including all of that information because not only is it helpful for SEO, but it gives us that feedback to add to the socials where we can say, Hey, this is what the end of this funnel looks like for us.

That was a very nice pitch right there for reputation management as a service. Great. Creating content can be very tricky at times, Coral. You would know it better. How does balance creating content that is engaging for the audience relate to the brand as well? And then is optimized for search engines at the same time. What strategies do you use to ensure both aspects of it are addressed?

Sure. I will always say that on social media, engagement is more important for me than SEO. Getting that engagement from our audiences so that they’re able to… If we’re doing polls, if we’re doing reels, whatever it is, we want them to engage first and foremost because an engaged audience is going to lead to more views, which is going to lead to better reach, which is going to in turn lead to SEO. There is that balance there where we want to make sure that everything that we’re putting out has an SEO value to it, where we’re including like I mentioned before, those services, those keywords, that information. But we also want to make sure that no matter what we’re putting out, it’s something that the audience is going to find value in because point blank, they’re not finding value in it, they’re not going to engage with it. The social media platforms are going to push it down in the algorithm and nobody else is going to see it. So first and foremost, before anything else, we try to make sure that our content is engaging.

Absolutely. Everyone has their tricks about going about content. Yours is probably targeting the end user and engaging with the end user to help them make that final decision to either buy the service or the product depending on the line of business of your clients. Talking about social media portals, how do you ensure that businesses use social media to earn high-quality backlinks? What are some of the effective strategies for building relationships with influencers and other websites to earn those backlinks?

As far as building those quality backlinks, we want to be sure that we are sharing content from our website that is fresh or evergreen. So we either want the content that we are putting out to be super on trend, and we want to make sure that we are hitting that one hard and working with people to make sure that they pick up those links. So sending those out to people being like, Hey, we have this information. We might be sending them to PR companies, things like that, sending them. We have PR companies that we try to get to follow our social. We follow other PR companies that they see those things, they pick those things up. And then the other thing we want to do is always make sure that we have super evergreen content because evergreen content is going to be way more shareable than that trending content. So we aim to have primarily evergreen content on our social media that’s pointing back to the website. That way it’s able to be shared to improve that SEO and improve those backlinks. And then as far as working with influencers, I think it’s mostly just about, first and foremost, being consistent on your social media pages because if they’re able to go to your social media pages and see that you are posting consistently, posting valuable content, posting content that they think will resonate with their audience, they’re much more likely to work with you.

And then I think that it’s also important to have those warm outreach instead of cold outreach. Sometimes cold outreach works, it obviously can. But I think most of the time, if you want to work with influencers, you want to be working with people in your community, those micro-influencers who do well in your community that you already might have a relationship with or that you know somebody else who has a relationship with. You can reach out and say, Hey, this is my service. This is my product. Have that conversation. Check out my social, see if you can get resonate with your audience. And then I also think that it’s really important with ecomm brands. If you’re working with an influencer to be like, Hey, I’ve got this thing. I’ve noticed looking through your social media, looking at your audience, that this is something that I think that you would love, that they would love. This is why I think you’d both love it. Here’s the product. Would you mind sharing it on your social, writing the review? Just make sure you open that conversation and let them know why you think that it matters to them.

Then the same thing with businesses and getting those links is building those relationships and then sharing those links and saying, Hey, I have a great story that I think would do well on your blog. Would you mind linking back to me? Things like that, just when you have. But I think that truly that shows in social media where you’re building that authority and that expertise and you’re able to point them back and say, Hey, here it is. I have this in black and white. Here’s my authority, here’s my expertise, here’s why you should share what I’m doing.

Absolutely. Quite a few things that we also do in common with what you mentioned, building those relationships 24/7, 365 days a year versus waiting for that time to come and reach out, sharing knowledge in terms of that topic or the blog or the other things that you want to discuss, and then probably seeking them to mentor client over there or a blog somewhere. He totally can relate to it, the process that you just mentioned. What is your take on video content? Video content is shared a lot and widely on social media. How do you feel businesses can use that engagement to send them their CSU efforts overall?

Yeah. Video content is hugely engaging right now. It is the top place where we’re seeing engagement for our clients. I think that video content can be a little bit tricky, especially working on the agency side, because you have to find… You don’t have to, but it helps to have somebody at the client’s company who is willing to maybe get on camera or maybe do some video shooting for us, even if it’s just with an iPhone or something, and trying to get that video. And sometimes it works great. Sometimes we can get that video from the client. When it doesn’t, we don’t want to ever put them in a position where they’re not getting the value with that video. So at that point, we try to make those little videos. We use an AI video tool that allows us to take maybe a blog article that we’ve written, turn it into a video, and then share that as a Reel or on social media where it still has that value and has that information. We’re just sharing it differently and then pointing it back to the website. And video is so important right now. It is a critical part of any social media strategy because it is getting that engagement and bringing people back to the site. So I think that the main thing for us is just trying to figure out where we can leverage it with our clients and help them create engaging and interesting videos, especially for some of the clients who maybe don’t have the time or the ability to get those live videos to us.

You did mention AI. What is your take on AI content? We are all talking about it. Social media is flooded with everyone talking about it and presenting their version of it. So what is your take on AI content and how do you feel we can effectively use AI for content-related tasks that we all have on our hands?

Yeah. So three months ago, if you would have asked me this question, I would have told you that I will never use AI. No way. It cheapens the experience or whatever. However, I’m a convert.

Over the last month or two, I’ve started using AI, but the first thing I always want to iterate to people is AI is a tool. It is not a replacement for a marketer. It is not a replacement for a good content writer. It is not a replacement for video. It is a tool that you can use to enhance what you’re doing. Like I said, personally, I love AI. It saves me some creative energy when it comes to deploying things, and I use it to help me with social captions, to help me with coming up with ideas, and generating what we can do. But I think that the most important thing to remember is that AI requires a lot of editing. It’s very hands-on. It requires a little bit of background knowledge about AI too. And be aware that a lot of what it’s pulling, especially chat GPT, which is the big one right now, it’s not pulling any information past 2021 at the moment. So if you’re using it, you’re looking at information that is two years old, which, as we all know on the internet, is eons ago, essentially. So we want to make sure that when we’re pulling that information, it is correct.

It is grammatically correct. We’re doing fact-checking, we’re doing all of that. So while I think that it can save time, it can save energy, it’s just very important to make sure that we’re also taking the time to engage with it and use it as a tool rather than using it as a standalone strategy. I think that’s the big thing that I try to iterate to my clients and anyone who asks me about it I love AI because it’s easier to edit than it is to write from scratch. But I also use it very carefully and very judiciously.

Absolutely. Being a product guy myself through and through, I love AI. I love AI and machine learning for that matter. But when it comes to this piece of AI, I also say this to my team, it is there to save you time. That’s about it. It can never be your final product. Even if you’re writing on very simple stuff, then also it cannot be your final product before it goes out of your outbox. You have to go through it, you have to spend time, you have to put that human touch to it. As you mentioned, fact-check it again as well. Things change so dramatically. It can never be your final product. It is there to save you time. You just take the crux and then you build on it. So very smart content writers will use it to their strength rather than just copy-pasting it. So yeah, the tool is there, but you want to know how to use it, right?

And I will say at the beginning, when you first start using AI, it may not even save you time for the first month or two that you’re using it because you have to learn how to properly query AI, how to make sure that it’s spitting out what you want, how to make sure that you know how to use it. I will say the first month or two that I was using it, it took me a little bit of time to get into a group with it and understand how it could help me. But I feel like once you’re in a group and understand what you were talking about where it can’t be the final product, once I think you hit that point, it’s a lot easier to use and it will save you time.

Yeah, absolutely. See, end of the day, it is a product, it’s a tool or software. You want to take time to get hands-on in terms of using the platform. But initially, obviously, it is not going to save you that time because you will need some period to understand the tool and how it operates, what data you feed in, and what input goes in. Similarly, the output is relevant to the input that you push in, the keywords that you put in. All of that when you get a hang-on. Once you are there, then it saves you time. It is a product at the end of the day.

Definitely.

Then Coral, before we let you go, do any tips on using social media to promote your content and improve engagement metrics, click-through rates, time spent on a page, and other metrics that we all look into day in, day out?

Yeah. So I think that one thing we need to be aware of at the moment is that platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are currently in the process of trying to avoid having outside links to websites from the social media platforms. Now, I’m not saying that to say avoid at all costs. I’m saying that make sure that when you’re sharing those links, you’re sharing the most important information that you have, those best articles that you’re writing, and those high values link back to your website. And then checking and making sure that you’re engaging with the metrics properly and that you’re seeing how many you’re checking Google Analytics and seeing what are the click-throughs from social media back to your website from the particular pages, seeing which ones are the highest, which ones are ranking the best, and then making sure that those are the ones that you’re sharing to social. Those are the ones that you’re trying to get people back to. And obviously, the time on the page is great. Looking at bounce rate, making sure that people aren’t bouncing from the article you’re sharing on social off of your website directly. You want them to move to a contact page or move to the next place in the funnel, whatever that may be for you.

And including those links also within your article and making sure that you have a strong internal link-building strategy so that you aren’t getting people bouncing off right away after they’re coming from social because that’s a signal to and we want to make sure that we’re keeping bounce rate down to keep people coming back from social. It’s important too. They want to know that they’re seeing the value there. You want to know they’re seeing the value there and then clicking to the next spot in the funnel to hopefully get them into a conversion.

Great. It was superb understanding from you in terms of how to go about content creation, social media strategy, and all of that. Then before we let you go, we wanted to play a quick rapid-fire. I hope you’re game for it.

Yeah. Superb. What did you do with the first paycheck?

With my first paycheck?

Yeah.

That’s a really good question. Yeah. What did I do with my first paycheck? I’ve been working since I was about 14. Yeah, I have been working for a long time. I think with my first paycheck, I probably bought clothes and then put some money away because I was saving. I was starting to save up for a car. So that was the main thing that I did with my first paycheck was I spent a little bit of it. Then I went and started saving for my car.

Great. Favorite sport?

Favorite sport?

Sport.

Yeah. Swimming.

Plans for your next vacation?

For my next vacation, I wish I had a good answer for that. My next vacation will hopefully be to the beach this summer with my husband and my kids.

Great. And then where do we find you on Friday evenings post work?

Where do you find me on Fridays?

Yeah. I work remotely post you log out, if I may say that.

Yeah. No, usually when I log out, I find myself pretty much on the couch with my kids watching a movie, hanging out, or in my backyard. I just bought a new house a couple of weeks ago. I’m in the backyard with my kids and my dog just hanging out and enjoying my weekends.

Great. Superb. Thank you, Coral, for being such a sport. We appreciate you spending time today with us on the podcast. I’m sure our audiences would have benefited a lot in terms of what we heard from you about social media strategy, content, and digital marketing at large. Thank you so much for your time, Coral. Appreciate it.

Yeah, thank you. It was my pleasure. I enjoyed being here. Thank you for taking the time.

It is our pleasure, Coral. Thank you.

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