As a long time blogger, I know that it can be a challenge for new bloggers to grow their blogs. If you are running a blog and trying to figure out how to drive your social media traffic, here is a step-by-step guide on how to get started:
Step One: Define your niche.
Try to refine your niche to be tightly defined. Larger niches are ok, but it will be hard to compete if your topic is fashion or sports. Find that unique angle that will make you stand out, even if it’s your voice.
Next, research the best keywords that describe your niche. Armed with this list, you can start building your social media presence. If your niche is more spread out, that’s fine – you’ll be casting a wider net, but you’ll also be thinking of the best subcategories for your niche as well. These words will likely form the basis of your search optimization efforts, but for our purposes, this research will help you target your social media audience. That means, rather than paring down the list to best words possible, grow the list to anything that can cover your topic.
Step Two: Select the social media venues that best fits you.
Right now, there are a number of great social media sites you should be engaging on, but not every one of them is the best fit for your blog. Here is a run down of the most popular social media sites as of now, but keep in mind new ones are cropping up every day:
- Pinterest. This is actually one of the fastest growing and, according to social media analytics firm Simply Measured, it is driving more traffic to websites than Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or YouTube. This is one exception to my rule: you need to be on Pinterest.
- Facebook. The network that inspired a movie is still useful for joining groups around a centered niche topic. If you can find one that fits your location or niche, they are well worth the time and effort. Many of these group’s members help each other by participating on each other’s blogs and following each other on social media, and the best ones will provide tips, resources, advice, and opportunities for bloggers. Since it’s so easy to get distracted on Facebook, you may want to schedule a limited amount of time per day to engage on Twitter strictly for marketing.
- Twitter. At 140 characters, or 117 if you include a link, the conversation on Twitter is succinct – and it moves rapidly. If you can keep up and enjoy chatting with strangers, Twitter may be for you.
- Google+. Many people prefer Facebook to this one, but never underestimate G+’s influence on SEO. A few months back, I plussed a post about gluten-free living and afterward, and I was search result #4 on Google for “gluten free” for a number of months.
- LinkedIn: This network, once predominantly for professionals and job seekers, is now becoming more popular with bloggers. It’s worth your while to connect there, as everyone from former employers to current friends can quickly and easily endorse you for skills you’d like to promote as well as connect you to the movers and shakers in your niche.
- Tumblr: This microblogging platform allows you to share data quickly and easily with others. Great for rapidly spreading a meme about current events.
- Instagram: This app organizes and promotes images you snap with your phone or iPad and shares them across your networks easily. A must-have for on-the-go bloggers.
In choosing an outlet, it’s worthwhile to spend time learning who uses which platform. Once you’ve selected which social media outlets you want to target, decide how much time you want to dedicate to promoting yourself on each one and when. According to Mashable, each social media outlet has its own set of “best times” to share.
Finally, find apps and plugins that will help you optimize your social media experience. TweetDeck helps you organize your hashtags and tweets, and HootSuite will keep all your social media outlets organized, allowing you to do things like schedule updates.
Step Three: Build your audience.
Now you’ll need those keywords to start building followers. Start following everyone who has those keywords in their name. Google them, and follow the sites that come up. Next, think of brands and products that speak to your niche and follow them online. You may also want to sign up for their newsletters, as well as attend online events, such as Twitter parties or webinars, that they host. (Note: I’d avoid a Twitter party with a high dollar value prize. This makes it difficult to engage with anyone, since there will be hundreds of people attending to try to win.)
Finally, check for hashtags with your keywords. You’ll need to follow them regularly on Twitter (this is where TweetDeck comes in handy), and you can check them on Pinterest.
Step Four: Promote yourself.
- Make sure your social media is available on every blog post. Look for social media plugins easily integrate with your website, like Sociable or Shareaholic. In addition, download a plugin that will allow visitors to pin your blog images to Pinterest. Check out Smashing Magazines’ list of 25 plugin resources for WordPress.
- For Pinterest, make sure your images are pin-worthy. Use a graphics program such aslike PicMonkey to create border, use an eye-catching font for the title, and put your blog name on your photo for additional exposure. While you can and should pin your own content, get out there and pin others, and comment on pins of people you don’t follow. (You can use hashtags here.) Read “5 Ways to Create Highly Shareable Pinterest Pictures for Your Business” at Social Media Examiner for even more great tips.
- Network like crazy. Blogger conferences and conferences in your niche help are usually worth every penny for the contacts you’ll be meeting as well as great learning provided. I’ve landed some great paying gigs at BlogHer conferences. You should also attend events hosted by brands or look for local blogger groups or groups that are in your niche, to help you connect and find out what other events – such as invitation only functions – you can attend to network. Also, there are plenty of networks that seek out blogger content. One of my groups, the SITS Girls, regularly seeks out posts published on external blogs and draws huge audiences.
- Find your tribe. One of your best bets is to connect with a group of bloggers that have something in common. For example, I work with a Facebook group of moms involved in social media in Philly. Since we have all of those things in common, it’s easy to find bloggers interested in my particular niche who are willing to comment and share, and I’ve had lots of private event invitations.
- Put a hyperlink to your site and a brief descriptive tag line in your email signature.
- Go to great blogs that are in your niche and start commenting regularly. You want to engage in discussion, so don’t just go and write a brief, “great post!” Pay attention to the content and sentiment of the blog post and share your opinion (agree or disagree), your experiences with the topic, and questions for the poster. If you can, add your blog link.
Step Five: Create great content.
Now that you are on your way to building your audience, start writing valuable posts that will draw discussion. That means not only writing about great topics but crafting enticing headlines. (Check out Jerry’s headline writing guides and Headline Hacks for great tips.) Write about trending topics in today’s news. Curate content from other websites, drawing lists of (“Top 25 Plugins”). Be controversial, if you have a thick skin. Make a how-to post with detailed images or share how you solved a particularly tricky problem that you couldn’t find Googling. Give away something great, like a free report on brands your audience uses. Post deals or reviews your audience will appreciate. You can set up days of the week you’d like to post a certain topic (i.e., Friday is for book reviews) and keep up-to-date by scheduling regular postings using a plugin like Editorial Calendar.
Make sure you live where your audience lives, whether that’s on Facebook groups, user forums, conferences, websites, news outlets – anywhere you can hear their comments and question and see the information that is driving them towards dialogue, and create your content around that. Write to those questions.
Your dedication to your topic and keeping your audience informed about it should be your top goals, and working hard at these 5 steps will drive help drive traffic and build your audience.
Mixer photo created by TechCocktail.