Have you ever heard the term social structured data? Probably not, but chances are good that you’ve encountered this issue before, especially if you’re one of the billions worldwide using social media to share links to articles and web pages. If you’ve ever shared a link on your favorite social media platform and found yourself staring at a strange image, wondering, “Where in the world did this image come from? I don’t remember that one on the page!” you’ve just hit upon one of the curiosities of the online world: social structured data.

What Is Social Structured Data?

Websites and web applications are built using various types of code languages and protocols that tell your browser what to show you and how to behave. Sometimes a web platform, such as some social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc., establish their own preferred protocols that it would like website developers to use when interacting with their platform, so that it knows specifically what information is supposed to be displayed to the viewer.

When you share a link from a website on your favorite social media site, these social media platforms looks for that set of structured data instruction in the header field of the website. If it finds it, great — it uses what it finds there to create a rich media snippet, a sort of preview of the article that follows. But if it can’t find it, or if something in the code is slightly off-kilter, the platform or app makes a sort of educated guess about what it should pull from the website link or article.

The result may be just fine, or it may be laughable, like the time a friend of mine shared a business article and the image from an advertisement appeared next to the article instead of the accompanying chart. Apparently the website that published the original article did not have structured data specified for the social media site, and so the site pulled an image of a bulldog wearing a t-shirt into the preview field instead of the graph showing the economic trends for the past quarter. That sure gives new meaning to the term “bullish!”

Why Improving Social Structure Data Is Important for Internet Marketing

Social media is here to stay. Just how many people are using social media these days?  Facebook has over 1 billion — yes, you ready that right, billion with a “B” — users. Twitter has 500 million; LinkedIn has 225 million; Google+, 325 million

Think about that for a minute. With the click of a mouse, you and your customers can share your content marketing efforts, web pages and other online information with a potential audience of thousands, perhaps millions, of viewers.  Yet if the social structure data isn’t pulling correctly, instead of showing an enticing preview snippet, you too could be stuck with a bulldog picture.

If it does pull the data correctly, and if you’ve done a good job of writing an enticing mini-ad to pique the interest of potential readers, you just might have a viral marketing sensation on your hands…or at least some new website traffic!

Your Homework…

Try this experiment. Try sharing a link from your own website on your favorite social media site. If everything displays perfectly, congratulations. If not, call Dashboard Internet Marketing for a consultation. We offer website development and design, usability studies, internet marketing plans and social media plans, all with an eye towards your company’s ROI.  Call us at 800-807-1852 for a consultation today.

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