Most of the questions that I receive by email from readers and from other bloggers have to do with the basics of getting better results with social media. Most bloggers want to tap in to the potential of social media sites as a source of traffic and new readers, but I get a lot of comments from people who are struggling to put it into action.
While social media marketing and optimization provides an incredible opportunity for website owners who want to make a big impact without spending a lot of money to advertise, using social media with the wrong approach can easily result in a lot of wasted time, and in some cases it can even do more harm than good.
I’ve had a few requests from readers who wanted a step-by-step guide for marketing a site with social media, so I’ve decided to put together a small series of posts that will explain the approach I would recommend to those who are looking for better results.
The focus of the series is to break down the steps that are necessary in order to get a blog or a website noticeable results within a month. There will be four parts to the series and each will look at the steps that should be taken in a particular week.
The activities of each week will be broken down into specific action steps that can be taken regardless of the content or niche of your blog. Additionally, I’m assuming that readers don’t have endless amounts of time, so each week’s activities are very realistic.
The idea here is to create a basic plan that anyone cal follow for real results. New bloggers can use it to get their blog off the ground quickly, and others who have been around for a while can use it to start getting the results they’ve been after for a while. Let’s get started.
For the first week it’s important that we establish a strong foundation for the efforts that will be taking place in future weeks. If you compromise and rush through these activities, chances are your results will suffer. There’s not a whole lot of exciting action taking place at first, but it’s necessary to get things moving in the right direction.
1. Decide What You Want from Social Media
The first thing that you should do is to come up with a specific idea of exactly what it is you hope to gain from social media. In most cases we associate SMM with generating a lot of traffic, but traffic in itself is worth very little. Ideally, this traffic will be converted into something useful, such as subscribers, inbound links, branding, name recognition, or even sales (of course, some things are more difficult to accomplish than others).
Without know exactly what you hope to accomplish you’ll be unlikely to accomplish anything significant. Everyone’s approach and reasons for marketing a site are different, so there’s not a right or wrong answer, you just need to know what you are working towards. Take a little bit of time to think about your own situation if you’re not already certain about what you want to accomplish.
2. Pick Two or Three Social Media Sites to Target
One of the biggest reasons for failure with social media marketing is being spread too thin. If you try to use a whole bunch of different social media sites, you’re unlikely to get decent results with any of them. My advice is to pick one or two of the major social media sites to target (StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Delicious, etc.) and one or two niche sites or smaller second-tier media sites (like Mixx).
Most people tend to gravitate towards Digg because of its popularity and reputation. I don’t suggest targeting Digg unless you have a lot of time to spend building a profile or a large and well-established network of friends that use Digg. My recommendation is to make StumbleUpon your first priority with the major social media sites, and pick one or two niche sites (if they exist in your niche).
StumbleUpon is much better than Digg for the average blogger, because Digg is all or nothing. If you’re not on the front page with Digg, it’s not going to do anything significant for you. On the other hand, StumbleUpon has big potential, similar to Digg, but there’s also a middle ground for pages that can still produce considerable results, unlike Digg.
With StumbleUpon it only takes a few thumbs up to get some decent traffic, and the algorithm loves new sites. Each time a StumbleUpon user gives a thumbs up to a particular site, it will gradually have less and less impact. As a result, new sites can fairly easily get a lot of traffic because everyone that gives a thumbs up to one of its pages is doing so for the first time, and that carries more weight with the algorithm.
Additionally, StumbleUpon has so many different categories that anything can have a home there. Digg and some other major social news sites have a lot of different categories, but not nearly as many as StumbleUpon.
3. Start to Use These Sites Everyday
Once you have you targeted sites identified, create accounts if you haven’t already. Get in the habit of visiting these sites every day. Visit the items that are listed there, vote for what you like, leave comments if that is an option, and add some “friends” and interact with other users. Some sites, like StumbleUpon, have toolbars or other useful resources that can be used to make it easier. Take advantage of what is available.
At first, don’t worry about submitting a lot of content or getting traffic to your own site. The most important thing is to get involved at your targeted social media sites, make yourself visible by voting and commenting, and pay attention to the types of content that are generating a lot of interest. If you do submit items right away, it’s usually best to submit content from other sites at first, rather than submitting your own the moment you join the social media site.
As you’re visiting these targeted social media sites, evaluate the popular content for the following items:
- Content type and subject matter
- Who submitted it?
- How many votes are required to become “popular”?
- Is “popular” content being self-submitted (person owning the website is submitting his/her own content)?
- What type of comments are being left?
Getting to know the sites you are targeting is critical to your success. Without knowing the audience, what they like, and what is appropriate to market there, you will just be throwing out blind submissions, and loyal users of the sites may even feel like you’re spamming if your submissions aren’t in line with what usually happens there.
As you’re using these social media sites, try to pay attention to see if your blogging friends or others in your niche are using the same sites. If so, there should be opportunities where you could help each other to promote content. It may even be a good idea to get in touch with other bloggers in your niche to ask them if they’re using the same social media sites, and send a link to your profile. Building a network of other users can help you at any social media site.
4. Brainstorm for Post Ideas
The last thing that you should do during your first week is to start brainstorming for post ideas that would target the audiences of these specific social media sites. Since you’ve spent some time this week getting familiar with the sites and their users, paying attention to the content that has done well, you should be able to apply this knowledge to come up with some post ideas of your own.
Ideally, you’ll want to find some topics that will generate interest for social media audiences, but will still be highly relevant for your blog and help you to work towards your goals. In other words, don’t go way off subject just to create content that will appeal to social media users if it has nothing to do with the topic of your blog.
Dedicate some time to just coming up with lots of ideas, don’t worry about writing the content at this point. For more on brainstorming, see 3 Ways to Develop Unique Blog Post Ideas, and Idea Development: The Most Important Phase in Social Media Marketing.
Next week I’ll post the second part of the series and we’ll get into some more details about creating content and starting to see results.