How Social Media is Like Sex

How social media is like sexIn the travel industry, agents are flocking to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and even Google+ as these channels become valuable ways to reach new prospective clients, and keep in touch with existing clients. There are likes, shares, fans, +1’s, followers…but what does it all mean? What’s valuable to our client relationships and marketing, and HOW valuable are each of these?

I’m going to use a metaphor we can all relate to: sex.

Facebook Likes

Think of these as PDA’s…a kiss in public. You’ll probably start getting posts from the page you Liked showing up on your timeline, where some of your friends may see it too. And if they think it’s hot, they might kiss them–I mean Like them–too. Really, that’s a good thing. And when someone Likes your page, you now have the ability to target all of THEIR friends through Facebook’s various ad programs, by targeting friends of people who’ve Liked your page. And like a kiss, there’s no permanent consequence in terms of SEO–there’s no link back to your site from it.

Facebook Shares

This is a one-night stand that you then go tell everybody about. When someone shares your post, it gets some attention, and gets you a link (nofollowed, however), but the effects aren’t really very long-lasting, as pretty quickly that shared post (with its nofollowed link) rolls off the end of your timeline where people (and Google) no longer see it.

Facebook Sponsored Posts/Promoted Posts

This is…well, you got some, but you paid for it. Ahem. Legal in Nevada, I guess. With Facebook advertising, like all advertising, you’re paying to get in front of your audience without having to wine-and-dine them, woo them with clever viral content, etc. You just pays yer money and you gets yer action.


So the aircraft carrier just docked, and you and the 6000 other sailors just walked into the local tavern, and you’re all announcing to the world that you’d like to get lucky. And 5995 of them aren’t listening, because…well, you’re not their type and vice versa. Unless you’re someone well-known in your industry, then even though people are following you, it’s unlikely that many of them are actually paying attention. Now, a DIRECT message to someone is different…that’s more like sidling up to someone at the bar and whispering in their ear. That tends to be much more effective. Another interesting technique I’ve seen used is to mention someone’s Twitter handle in your tweet…that’s like you’re at the bar, telling your friend Bill “Hey, that Jennifer over there is hot!” loudly enough that Jennifer can hear you. With tweets, like with Facebook shares, the effect of a link in your tweet quickly rolls off into oblivion as that tweet gets pushed way down the list of past tweets.

Google+ Posts and Shares

Like Facebook and Twitter, except there’s hardly anybody in the bar, so your odds of being heard are better. But, there’s fewer prospects in the bar, so yeah, you’re still going home alone.

Google +1’s

You’re at a cocktail party, and Jennifer (from that Twitter bar) says to a bunch of her girlfriends “yep, I slept with him…and he was pretty good.” Because of how Google personalizes search results, if you’re logged into a Google account (Gmail etc.), if one of your connections in Google+ has +1’ed something, it’s much more likely to show up in your search results for a related topic.

Google+ Authorship

When you list the places you’ve done guest posts, created content, etc. in your Google+ profile–that’s like making a public list of whom you’ve slept with. And each of those sites/pages that you say you’re the author of has the opportunity (through a special rel=author link back to your Google+ profile) to say “yep, I slept with them”. And just like publicizing your list of conquests, this will definitely affect your reputation. But in Google+, it’s a good thing. The fact that other websites will publish what you have to say is a testimonial to your expertise and trustworthiness–and the more trusted (by Google) the website who published your work is, the better the effect on your reputation. Google+ authorship is a very smart way for Google to be able to recognize quality content on the web: if Google can see that the author of a given blog post has also been published on a number of big, trusted sites, then it’s reasonable to expect that this blog post Google is looking at is probably good quality content as well.


Pinterest is a bit like online dating….you wade through a sea of profiles, just looking at their pictures, and not actually reading any of their profiles. (I’m being honest, why can’t you?)

A Like on Pinterest has about as much effect, it seems, as a Wink on In other words…none.

Repinning, however, is a different story…it’s like sending an email on Match. And when someone repins one of your photos onto their board, it carries with it the source link for where the picture came from (although the repinner can change this link if they work at it a bit). While links from Pinterest are nofollowed, like Facebook links, and the Official Story is that nofollowed links aren’t counted in Google’s algorithm–well, let’s just say that’s merely the official story. So, thinking about this a bit more, should you pin photos from anywhere? Or upload them from your computer? Or pin them from your website?

If you pin a photo from your own website, it’ll carry a link back to your website as the source of the image. If you upload a photo…nothing. HOWEVER…edit your pin, and set the source URL for the photo to be your website after you upload it, and now you’ve got a link in there. If you pin a photo from someone else’s website, well, that’s like you just bought them flowers. Nothing in it for you, except the pleasure of making them feel good :-).

Linked In

You’re having sex with people from work. Like the other social media sites, the link to your site is nofollowed…but (my theory at least), that nofollowed link is still worth something. When you share content on Linked In, however, you can get followed links in the content. Linked In is a good place to connect with other travel professionals, and possibly also for potential clients to check you out before working with you. The Linked In endorsements are basically a list of everything you ever did in bed, along with who thought you were good at it at the time.


If someone writes about your website, or a piece of content on your site, and links to it–that’s the equivalent of unprotected sex. If they’re writing from a decent site, it’s like getting pregnant from your little encounter: the offspring will be a permanent link to your site, delivering little blessings to your site in the way of link juice and better rankings in Google forever and ever. If it’s a link from a bad place (say, you’re spamming blogs with comments with links to your site, or buying links), well…you’ll probably pick up an STD, in the form of a Google penalty. And some penalties, like diseases, you can eventually recover from; others can be permanently damaging.

2 thoughts on “How Social Media is Like Sex

  1. Fantastic! Way to drill down the nuts and bolts of the big social media platforms. This analogy will make sense to a lot of marketers, and not just in the travel industry. Thanks for writing.

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