Social media is one of the greatest resources a blogger has at his/her disposal. Success with social media can lead to quick growth and name recognition and it can also help to build links which will increase click-through traffic and search engine rankings.
Why Do You Need a Plan?
Great content without a plan is likely to get some attention from social media, but an effective plan can maximize the traffic volume and help you to reach readers that are more targeted. A plan will help you to know what type of content to develop, what type of readers you want to see it, where to promote it, and how to keep the momentum.
Developing Your Plan:
1. Look for social media sites that focus on your niche
When most new bloggers start using social media they go straight to the major sites, like Digg. While Digg is great for sending huge amounts of traffic, it’s basically an all or nothing thing. You can have a much better chance of getting some exposure and drawing traffic on smaller, niche social media sites. Niche sites will send higher quality traffic than most major social media sites (see my categorized list of social media sites to find some in your niche).
Of the major social media sites, StumbleUpon is the best starting point for new bloggers. With SU, great content can get plenty of traffic, regardless of how established your blog is or how many friends you have. In fact, from my experience StumbleUpon likes new sites and they actually seem to get more of a traffic boost.
2. Find social media sites that your blog readers most likely use
Ideally, you’ll want to be targeting the same sites that your readers are actively using so that you can increase your chances of getting votes. Whether your readers use niche sites or major social media sites, you’ll have better results if you can earn the support of your existing readers. You may want to ask your readers which sites they actively use, or you can just observe their habits as far as where they tend to vote for you.
3. Once you’ve identified social media sites to target,
Look for ways to add elements to your pages
Voting buttons and widgets are popular and they can be effective if you are targeting the sites that your readers like to use. Sometimes it is just a matter of reminding readers that they can vote for you if they like the blog post.
Start being an active user
Social media isn’t all about how much traffic you can receive. The best social media marketers are very active users themselves. By being an active user you will learn a lot about how social media works and how you can make your content more appealing to social media users, plus you can build a large network of friends and contacts that can help you to promote your content (and of course you can help them as well).
Build relationships and network with other users
As I just mentioned, building a network is important if you want to have success with social media. Focusing on relationships should be one of your priorities. Some social media sites have better networking features than others, but you don’t need to limit your networking to within the specific sites. Spend time developing relationships with other bloggers and most likely you will find that they use some of the same social media sites as you.
Study the sites to see what does well
Each social media site has its own particular audience that prefers specific types of content. What does well at one social media site may do very poorly at another. Study the specific sites that you are targeting and try to find patterns and tendencies. Once you know what types of content most users like you can use this information to help you create content that is more attractive to users.
Consider asking others for advice
Do you have friends or contacts that have a great deal of experience with social media or with a particular site? Consider asking them for some pointers about how you can be more effective with social media. I frequently have conversations via email or IM with other bloggers that benefit both of us. Many people will be more then willing to help point you in the right direction, especially if they already know you.
4. Creating the right content
One of the most important aspects of marketing your blog with social media is content creation. Not just any content will do, and people aren’t going to vote for sub-par content. Once you’ve studied the social media sites that you are targeting you should have a good idea of what will do well and what won’t. This gives you a good starting place from which to build your content. Of course you don’t want to copy the content that you have seen others do well with, but you want to create something that users are likely to appreciate.
Brainstorming can be an important part of the content creation process. By brainstorming you can do a better job of coming up with ideas and concepts that will translate into successful articles. Content creation should be one of the most time-consuming activities, so don’t rush through it or else your results will suffer.
Avoid the weekends
Most social media sites will experience reduced traffic over the weekends, so for the best results you’ll probably want to publish and promote your content from Monday to Thursday. This doesn’t mean that you can’t publish content on the weekends, but if you have something that you are expecting to do especially well with social media, avoiding the weekends is a wise decision.
Leverage your network if needed
Don’t be afraid to share your content with friends to ask for votes. This is a common practice and most of your friends will be willing to help, assuming you don’t go overboard and flood them with requests. Of course you’ll want to be ready and willing to return the favor.
Have follow up content ready
One aspect of social media marketing that many bloggers overlook is the follow up. They’re able to create a post that does extremely well with social media, but then they forget about the importance of the follow up content. A big hit with social media will probably bring you some new subscribers and it will lead to increased traffic for a few days. This means that the next few posts you publish will be seen by more people and if you hope to retain the new readers that you just found, this content should be high quality. I’ve found that it works best if you can have your follow up content planned in advance or even written in advance, if possible. That way you are not under as much pressure to quickly create a post, and you can avoid publishing something that isn’t up to your quality standards.
With social media marketing it can often be tempting to stray off your normal topics to create something that will create a lot of buzz and traffic. In order to achieve the best long-term results avoid this temptation and stick to creating focused content that will bring the right type of visitors to your blog. You may have to spend more time to brainstorm and develop this content, but it will help you to become recognized as a leader in your field.
Make it scannable
Social media users will not have much of an attention span when they visit your blog. Even those that like your content will probably not read it word-for-word. They are much more likely to scan. Help them to be able to scan your posts and find the most relevant points by using lists, headers, whitespace, short paragraphs, bold text, etc.
Keep the content high on the page
Because social media users are going to be impatient, don’t make them work any harder than necessary to access your content. Content that starts high on the page rather than forcing users to scroll down tends to do well. Allow users to see the post title and, if possible, the first paragraph above the fold.
5. Know what you want to gain
In order to achieve real results with social media, you need to know specifically what you are after. Otherwise you will look back and realize that you had a few bursts of traffic, but nothing real to show for it. Do you want to gain subscribers, inbound links, sales, name recognition, etc?
Getting results with social media traffic is not easy, but if you know what you want and you create content to achieve that goal and you set up your pages to encourage visitors to respond in a specific way, you can achieve a lot with social media. Lead visitors to the action that you want and give them a reason to do so.