Week 7: Tagging, Folksonomies & SEO

Hey Team,

This week we dove into content marketing.  Next week we are going to follow that up with a discussion around some backend tactics that support our content marketing through social media: Tagging, folksonomies, and SEO.

We are starting the discussion with tagging and its origins in “folksonomies”.  When done properly and strategically, tagging can be a powerful tool for your social media strategy.  As you work to create, launch, and measure your social media strategies, you’ll want to integrate these tactics.  Most of you will be familiar with the idea of tagging. In fact, we spent some time talking about #hashtags in class already.

This week we’ll review it from a historical perspective, position it within social campaigns, and set us up for a discussion on SEO.

The formal definition of tagging is the process of adding free-text descriptors to online objects. Together, the tags that people add to a particular system (such as a website or blog) comprise a folksonomy.

Thomas Vander Wal is credited with creating the term “folksonomy”  (this article is a short look at it’s history).  It is a combination of the words “folk” and “taxonomy.” Clay Shirky’s article “Ontology is overrated: Categories, links, and tags” is a classic, popularly-cited article on the topic. Ideas frequently correlated with tagging can be found in books such as The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and nations, in which James Suriowiecki argues that the collective intelligence of the masses may be smarter than an elite few. The above link to the Wikipedia synopsis of the book is a must read J

If you have time, take a look at this on article on meta-data.   The article is a bit “academic”, but provides some insight into the logic that informs SEO.

Although tagging has been exponentially popular in the Web 2.0 world, the idea has been around for a long time. Folk-based taxonomies, or folk classifications as they are sometimes called, have been created (and studied academically) for years and years in fields such as anthropology and biology. The theory is that vocabulary terms grow organically out of social settings, local needs, and so on.

A big question – just like all other forms of user-generated content – is why people like to tag so much?!. Early researchers and theorists thought that people tag their own documents primarily for their own later retrieval, and the fact that the whole world can retrieve documents based on their tags was secondary. Arguabley, though, tagging makes it a heck of a lot easier to have a conversation!

Delicious is a “social bookmarking” site. It is a general-use site that allows for tagging of websites you want to bookmark. If you like to bookmark sites, the nice thing about Delicious is that you can sign into your account from any computer and therefore access your bookmarks from anywhere. The tags people allow you to see what sites and tags are currently popular; visit the site and you’ll see what I mean. This video is a few years old, but explains the concept of social bookmarking nicely.

CiteULike is a Delicious-like site for academic papers, and last.fm allows you to tag music. Tag clouds, such as this one from the photo-sharing site Flickr, show popular tags, with the larger words being more popular. You can tag photos on Facebook, but you can only tag them with friends’ names.

Tagging has become increasingly important for organizations as they fight for relevancy and space on the web.  Tagging is directly linked to how a website ranks when it’s searched.

This has lead to “search engine optimization” (SEO) as a key strategy for digital marketing.  This Mashable intro on SEO explains the basic idea.  Traditional SEO was largely driven by key tags or search terms embedded on the organization website. However, social media is challenging the traditional model of SEO.

SEO is complex and exciting :).  I’ve attached this beginner’s guide to SEO.  It’s a thick document.  Do what you can before Monday, but do read the entire document at some point!

This week, please read the articles I’ve linked to here and spend some time playing with tags. Think about how you can integrate tags into your social media plant –   Try tagging your blog, your tweets, searching for tags, and observing how others are using tags in their posts.  Integrate tagging as a tool in your social media strategy.


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  1. Week 10: SEO Guest Lecture | MITDCSocialOrgs - November 15, 2013

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