Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WotW: Extend Your Blog's Reach Through Social Media - Part 1

So you've got a blog. You post every day and try to understand your readers. But how do you take your blog to the next level?

This is a question many bloggers face once they get past the early "this is fun" stages of blogging and look to make their blog something bigger, attracting more readers, followers and possibly some advertisers. But how do you do it?

While it would be great if there were a simple one-size-fits-all answer, there's not. There are some definite things you can do to improve your blog though. If you missed some of the earlier posts on Housewife Eclectic on how to brand your blog, review them here.

The first step to a truly great blog is having quality content. By quality, I mean posts that are well written, engaging and on an interesting topic. Having good visuals also helps.

Once you have that idea down, then it's time to look outward. Social media has changed the way we communicate and expand our reach to our friends and people we don't know. Blogs are a part of social media, but if you want your blog to really shine, you need to jump on the social media train and be actively engaged with the major players.

This specifically means your blog should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and maybe even LinkedIn, Digg and YouTube. Now, you may be tempted to think, "Oh, I'm already on all those," and you probably are. But is your blog? When it comes to expanding your blog's reach, you need to have separate pages or accounts for your blog. For instance, on Facebook, you'll have your own account where you post things interesting to your close friends. You will also have a Facebook page for your blog where you will post separate content that is relevant to your blog and its followers.

You may be thinking, wow, that's a lot of work. Is it really that necessary? The answer is yes, if you want your blog to grow. It's a ton of work and coming up with a strategy that works for you is extremely challenging. Companies around the world are scrambling to figure this out and are paying good money to hire people who understand it.

The reason your blog needs to expand through social media is something called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You've probably heard that term before and wondered what this buzzword means. SEO is all about getting your blog noticed by search engines, which means more people will likely come across it, read it and become followers.

SEO is a complex process that takes careful planning. I don't want to get into too much detail on it, but there are a number of things you can do on your blog to increase your SEO. But even if you do everything perfectly, that accounts for only about 15% of your SEO. The remaining 85% must come from external sources, meaning you need to have other sites connecting to your blog.

Bloggers have long been good at this through following one another, sharing buttons and linking back and forth. But the downside of this is you can't guarantee other sites will help you out. With social media though, you can.

One last reason you want to do this is Google is changing how their search engine algorithm works so it places more emphasis on social media, which means the more people engage with your blog on social media, the more likely you are to pull up higher in the rankings.

Building a Social Media Strategy

Before you run off and create Facebook and Twitter pages for your blog and start posting like crazy, you need to come up with a solid social media strategy. This may sound kind of like a business thing, but let's face it, blogging is a business, even if you aren't pulling down a cent. It requires an insane amount of time and effort to keep it running well.

Here are some tips to building a social media strategy for your blog:

1. Figure out what you want to get out of this
You need to have an end goal with getting on social media. What do you want from this? To gain more followers? To improve SEO? To provide interesting content for people to share? To drive traffic to your blog? To build up your blog readership to the point where you can get advertisers?

I can't tell you what your goal should be, but I can tell you if it's not one of your goals to be a real person sharing meaningful content with people and soliciting their feedback, you will fail. Social media is social, so be social.

2. Show, don't tell (and definitely don't spam)
There are three types of people on social networks: the tellers, the showers and the spammers. Universally disliked are the spammers, those who post stuff with only themselves in mind, trying to drum up support for themselves, their business or their blog. You've seen the posts: "I just did _______. Like my stuff."

Why do we dislike spammers? It's human psychology. One of our deepest needs is to feel important and we will do anything to feel important. Spammers do what they do because they want to feel important. But it annoys us because it's so obvious and needy, and because it doesn't help US feel important. Keep that idea of making others feel important in your social media strategy. The faster you master this concept, the faster you'll increase your readership. That may sound manipulative and it is if that's the only reason you're doing it. But if you really care about your readers, why wouldn't you want to make them feel important?

Next, there's the tellers. This is the category many bloggers fall into. They simply spout out something they think is interesting and hope you'll find it interesting too. But there's no guarantee. Tellers post things like links to videos or articles they've read. It's hit and miss as to whether readers will actually engage with this.

Finally, there are the showers. These are the most successful people on social media. They want to show something to their readers. They want to show them something they know is interesting. This means lots of visuals. Images, videos and infographics are a must here. That's not to say you shouldn't write anything, but the more visuals you have, the better. Why does this work so well? For starters, most people are visual. The human brain retains things it sees 20 percent better than things it simply reads. Also, visuals are more fun to share with other people and we can relate better, which makes us feel important.

Pinterest is wildly successful because it does one thing: show. When you post something on Pinterest, you're showing things and if people find it interesting, great. You're not telling people what they should like or be interested in. You leave that up to them.

The moral of the story is show, don't tell.

3. What social media channels should you be on?
Ideally, you should at least be on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. These are the big three. And they're also pretty easy to use to post content. Pinterest is good if you're already really into it. The big question you need to ask yourself is how much time do I want to devote to this? If you know you're going to have a hard time, start simple with Facebook and Twitter. You can always build up from there. It's better to start out with one or two at a time and add, than create accounts on all of them and post nothing. Nobody likes going to a barren wasteland.

4. How frequently should you post?
There's not one right answer here, but think about how often you post on your blog? Probably at least once a day. Then you should at least post once a day on your other social media channels. But beware of how posting is perceived on different social networks.

Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr - once a day is a good amount. More than this and it's considered spam.
Pinterest and Twitter - there really isn't any limit on the posts as long as they're interesting. In fact, these sites are built for rapid-fire posting.

More important than answering how often is making sure you have meaningful content when you post, just like with your blog.

5. Mirror or Original
Finally, you need to decide if you want to mirror your content across all the platforms or share unique things on each social media channel. Mirroring means that what you post on Facebook will be the same on Twitter and Google+. There's not necessarily anything wrong with this and it saves a lot of time. The danger with this is you may have them same followers on all three networks and then it feels kind of like spam or slightly unoriginal.

If you're just getting started, mirroring is a great idea. If you're a little more comfortable with social media, you may want to use each channel for a different purpose. Use Twitter for your stream of consciousness and sharing links. Use Facebook to share things to your biggest audience. Use Pinterest and Google+ to share content that is unique, visual and interesting.

Because you are a blog, you probably want to reach as many people as possible. To achieve this on social media sites, you will do best to share things publicly rather than with just followers or groups of friends.

Maybe you feel overwhelmed with this and don't know where to start. That's natural. We'll get into the details of how to make your social media pages on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter over the next couple weeks. For now, get started by writing up a simple strategy using the five points above. Think of what you're already good at on your blog and how you can extend that further by sharing more on social media channels.
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