This month, we looked at five different methods I would use to find readers if I were starting a new blog. So far we’ve explored guest posts, advertising and networking – but today I want to turn our attention to the dynamic area of social media.
Social media sites have exploded onto the online publishing scene in the last couple of years and can generally be divided into two types of site:
- social networking sites – where the main activity of the site is to ‘connect’ with others. Some of the most prominent sites in this space are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
- social favorites – where the main activity is the search and sharing of web content through different ‘voting’ systems on the websites. Examples of this type of site are Reddit, Digg and Mix (formerly StumbleUpon).
The above two rankings of social media sites are quite broad – in fact, there are many different sites popping up every week, many of which have elements of both of the above, as well as other features. On Twitter, for example, simply posting links, images and content with your account means you’ve technically bookmarked them, and if you also ‘like’ certain tweets, you can find and come back to them in the future. Pinterest works in a similar way.
The purpose of this post is not to define social media, but rather to see it as an opportunity to find new readers for your blog. The reason I included him in this series is that in recent years I’ve seen several blogs virtually launch themselves through social media sites.
The reason for their success is that social media sites are among the biggest sites on the web today (the volume of traffic they generate is mind-boggling), but that by their very nature they help people discover new parts of the web. (especially social bookmarking sites) – and as a result they are used by people actively looking for web content.
As a result, I would argue that social media sites are a logical place to position yourself as a blogger. Let me say this again:
Social media sites have a lot of traffic and are used by people to find content – why wouldn’t you position yourself on them?
Qualification: let me qualify that last statement before going any further, saying that social media is not the answer to finding readers for your blog. It’s not enough to just promote your content on social sites – but it’s an element that can help you find lots of new readers.
9 keys to using social media to find new readers for your blog
Much has been written about using specific social media sites to drive traffic to a blog. I’ll include some links to things I’ve written about specific sites below – however, in this post I’d like to speak in a more general sense and share some basics of using social media to drive traffic.
1. Be an active participant – it is important to see these sites for what they are – they are social sites designed for regular use and interactions between readers. They are not designed for people to come to spam their own links and leave – they are designed for continuous, genuine and helpful interactions between people. As a result, those who spend time using these sites are the ones who are usually rewarded for doing so in the long run. While there is a temptation to use these sites only occasionally, when it benefits you will find them more worthwhile to visit when you participate regularly and genuinely interact with others.
2. Learn the Rules and Culture – different social media sites have different rules, standards, cultures and acceptable behaviors. This covers things like how you interact with others, the language you can use, and what’s important for this article – linking to and promoting your own content. Some sites allow (and even encourage) you to promote yourself – others don’t. Some may officially allow this, but there will be users who don’t like it and who ‘bury’ their efforts if you do. The key is to participate, observe and learn from their experiences.
3. Find the key players – one of the best ways to learn about social media is to find and get to know the main players on the different sites. Who is using it well? What are they doing? What can they teach you? How can you work with them for mutual benefit? Many social media sites make it easy to find these key players by producing lists of ‘top users’ – these can be strategic relationships.
4. Make friends – extending to this is the principle of making friends with other people on social sites. This is a key part of what they are about and many of these sites make you more powerful based on the number of your connections. So get out there – make friends and interact with your network. From this can come many fruitful interactions. It’s also a great branding exercise to ‘connect’ with people in this way.
I must say at this point that I see people using their ‘networks’ on social sites in two main ways, as natural influencers or in more concerted and coordinated ways. The first (influencers) is about building a network that you interact with naturally and that will notice what you do. This makes you a powerful user both because of the social site that takes more notice of you, but also because others will too. The second is what some users have been doing for a while – coming together to vote on each other’s content. DoshDosh has somein making and interacting with friends on social sites (particularly Digg).
5. Don’t be self-centered “I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth a point of its own. If your primary activities on social media sites are self-centered, you will limit your own fruits. I know several top Digg users and in each case they are some of the most generous and ‘other helpful’ people you will ever meet. They strive to help others achieve their dreams. In doing so, of course, they benefit themselves – but it’s others first.
6. Find what works best for your blog – a regular comment on posts where I write about the power of using social media is from people saying they ‘tried it’ and it doesn’t work. When I unzip these comments with people, I often find that what they mean is that they’ve tried a social media site once or twice – and it hasn’t had much of an impact. Mistakes with this kind of thinking are numerous (i.e. it takes time to get to know a social media site, meet people, etc.) – but one main thing I would say is that not all social media sites work for every topic of blog. For example, I think StumbleUpon works pretty well here on ProBlogger – but Digg works on some more technically focused sites I’ve worked with. The other thing I would say is that sometimes the biggest social sites aren’t always the best to use – but the smaller, more focused ones can have greater benefits. Every week, new social bookmarking sites appear in different niches – research them and focus on those as well.
7. Social media as a branding exercise – while social media sites can send a lot of traffic very quickly, they can also be great places to do branding. Every time a reader or potential reader comes across you on a social media site, the more you reinforce your brand. Get active on a site like Stumbleupon and promote the content others post and you can really get on their radar and end up benefiting in many ways.
8. Convert to Loyal Readers – one thing many bloggers fail to do when they are able to drive traffic to their blogs from social media sites is convert them into loyal readers. Getting readers to your blog is only half the challenge – getting them to return tomorrow and every day after is the other half – it can be the difference between a one-time traffic event and a blog with continued readership growth. I’ve written more about converting unique visitors into regular readers here (and also here).
9. It’s all about the content – one factor that exponentially increases (or decreases) the impact of your social media efforts is your actual content. Without content that engages social media users, you are wasting their time as it will rarely capture their imagination and inspire them to promote it. Writing great content is the focus of the last post in this series tomorrow about blog readership growth – so I’ll say more.
Additional reading on ProBlogger on how to use social media to drive traffic to your blog:
If you’re serious about building an audience for your blog and want to boost your traffic, ProBlogger’s Find Readers Course will give you the roadmap and walk you through 6 clear steps to finding readers.
This article was first published March 15, 2008 and updated February 24, 2022.