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Home Bases and Outposts – How I use Social Media in My Blogging

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of October 2008 Featured Posts, Social Media 0 Comments

Lately I’ve been pondering the part that social media plays in my blogging business.

This post is an attempt to make some sense of it. I’d value your thoughts in comments to help me take these half thought through ideas to something more concrete.

Those who have been following me for a while know that I not only spend a lot of time on my blogs but also invest significant time on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn…. (the list could go on).

What’s my strategy? Why invest so much time into sites that I don’t actually own?

To be honest there are days when i wonder if I have a strategy at all. There’s so much I don’t know about social media and how it fits into what I do – some days it just feels messy. However in the midst of it all there are moments of clarity.

Home Bases and Outposts

Home-Base-Outposts
Today I was watching a video of a presentation by Chris Brogan and a short segment of it resonated strongly and put words to the way I use social media. He talked about:

  • Home Bases
  • Outposts
  • Passports

He’s used these concepts numerous times on his blog before (here and here for example) but today it got my attention a little more than previously – particularly the idea of the ‘Home Base’ and that of the ‘Outpost’.

A home base is a place online that you own, that is your online ‘home’. For me I have two home bases – ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. For me my home bases are blogs but for others they will be other types of websites.

Outposts are places that you have an online presence out in other parts of the web that you might not ‘own’. I’d previously being using the word ‘satellites’ to describe this but I think ‘outposts’ works better.

Outposts will mean different things to different people and businesses. Here’s how it looks for me as I think about my home base of ProBlogger.

Problogger-Home-Base-Outposts

As you’ll see, most of my ‘outposts’ are social media sites – however for others an outpost could also include forums, other community sites and even the comments sections of other blogs.

Each of the outposts that you see above are places that I have accounts and am attempting to grow my online presence (some better than others). These ‘outposts’ are sites where I:

  • add content
  • build relationships
  • test ideas
  • grow a profile
  • listen
  • experiment
  • make connections
  • try to be useful
  • play

Out of this combination of activities many things come. Relationships, ideas, traffic, resources, partnerships, community and much more emerge from the outposts – much of it making my home base stronger.

Two Way Streams and Outposts Taking on a Life of Their Own

The outposts do drive some traffic back to the home base, but many of the benefits are less tangible and have more to do with building the brand and influences of my blogs.

Also worth noting is that the outposts don’t just feed the homebase (it isn’t just a one way thing)- but the homebase feeds the outposts and sometimes the outpost seems to take on a life of its own and becomes the real place of action where without really trying a community emerges.

For example this week I discovered that a small (but growing) group of ProBlogger readers had been interacting with my content and one another on my Facebook Profile – despite the fact that I’d not spent more than 20 minutes on Facebook in the previous three months. Just the fact that I link to Facebook and pull in my Twitter activity means that the ‘community’ there has sprung up (now that I’m aware of what’s going on I can participate and feed the community.

This Post is Half Finished

I laugh when people occasionally refer to me as a social media expert.

You see while I’ve managed to grow a reasonable social media presence over the last few years there is still much to learn. As a result I’d love to here your thoughts on what I’ve written and how you see and use social media in your blogging and business. Your comments will take this post a step closer to completion – looking forward to how it ends!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Where would we be without the social media? Another fantastic post Darren. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep stumbling you!

    The Daily Minder

  • GREAT post, Darren. My blog is very niche blog – an entertainment and news blog for the community I live in (South Walton County in the Florida panhandle).

    I am somewhat new to social networking/social media (I am on Facebook and Twitter right now) but I can’t believe the success I’ve had in building exactly what you are talking about in this post – a community within a community of sorts. The outposts and home base for me have definitely been a two way stream – people that find me on Facebook and Twitter come to my site and vice versa. People are connecting through connecting through me. It’s an absolutely amazing thing to witness. I suppose because I am such a niche, it works in a different way than a more global blog??

    Some have questioned why I spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter – my response to them every single time is “why aren’t you?”

  • I’m starting to realise that social media only suits certain blog niches. It seems that ‘how-to/tech’ blogs have the best vantage point – fashion, marketing and pop culture blogs also have a way in. I’m trying to figure out how a ‘place blog’ fits in all this. Any clues?

  • Cool post. I joined them all and mostly use them to let off steam and look for new friends and people to help just for the hell of it.
    I’m starting to like facebook because of the ease of it.They do need some live chat rooms like the old AOL days that would be cool.
    Another timely post as I’m trying to streamline my efforts and focus on one or two sites.I’d like to invite any and all hard working active bloggers to “our” new group on FB called BLOGGERS see you there
    http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?src=fftb#/group.php?gid=41776560518
    Thanks

  • As one of facebook people, let me chime in with why I like to interact with your content there. A while back I unsubscribed from your feed Darren because it was simply too much information and there was simply no way I could follow through on all the tips coming from your blog! I also had 100 other sites in my feed reader and it simply put was hindering my productivity.

    With twitter, it seems there’s a lot of shouting back and forth and it’s difficult to follow a stream of comments. On facebook though all the comments get listed together and we can see who said what and reply. Plus, when I’m on facebook I’m usually there to waste a few minutes so catching a useful tip is a bonus!

  • Just in case you’re not seen so often in your blog, your social media presence can be a sign that you’re still “around” :)

  • Darren,

    I have often wondered what the hell I’m doing on some of the social media sites. This post helps me establish perspective and look at goals more closely.

    Jeff

  • I started a Twitter account to promote the MaineBusiness.com site. But I quickly started twittering links to business resources I didn’t have time to include in my blog. There is some ROI in that some followers have add to the site. But I think I am developing a parallel community on Twitter.

    This seems to be the outpost model you are explaining. My Twitter activity is building a brand name and engaging people. I’m not sure where it’s going but it’s a fun ride.

    Now if I can just figure out what to do with the Facebook outpost.

  • Darren, all your posts have value and I enjoy reading every one. But some stand out as ‘extremely useful’ to me and this is definitely one of them. Eric.

  • I think social networks are a good way to help market your articles and build relationships with others that are interested in the same kinds of things that you are

  • Social media marketing has a large amount of flexibility and with the increasing amount of niche social media sites soon I believe that every type of blog ones which may not fit in to the Digg market may fit in to their own niche social media market instead.

    Sites like “Sphinn” for Internet marketing sites is a great help for increasing traffic and introducing your site to social marketing.

    I believe social marketing is more important and essential within the early days of a blog and this is where you put most of your time however when your blog becomes more developed I think dedicated readers may do this for you.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Definitely a required tool for successful blogging these days. Each one is like it’s own feed that will reach people in different ways. I am also trying out Flock after I saw your tweet about it. Still undecided on it but liking what I see so far.

  • Good article. I think social media can be overwhelming as if you want to make friends it takes time. The best social media I ever had was years spend on the q/a board of ebay. It built community and depth. The twitter expience is good and it is great for exposure but to get more involved takes time or to at least join one of the groups.

    I guess I use social media as much as it uses me… For me whenever there are people gathered I like to be there and make friends. Although with Twitter this year I joined strictly as a trial to networking contacts for trying to blog (which is moving more toward article writing only.)

  • Darren–
    I think your best posts are the ones where you share with your readers your learning process! Ever since BlogWorld, I’ve been making an effort to check in regularly with Twitter and Facebook, and I still get so excited when someone links to me, or comments on my blog from one of these places.

    Now I just have to figure out how to boost awareness of my business through these channels.

  • I use social media a lot, in fact I just record the all time high traffic today, all through social media.

    With social media, you actually convert to right group and they will respond back. well not every one.

  • Social media is a useful tool to tell people you are around, when you have not updated your blog.

    I use Twitter only to interact on my blog. But in sometime I’ll also use Facebook.

    This was an excellent blog post.

    Thank you Darrwen.

  • You’re dead on with this. I wrote a free ebook about getting started in sm and I use the ‘home base’ idea. I think a strategy has to be in place for it all to work out and fit. I love the graphic, but I wish I could think of a better way to show that these sites should be inside a strategy, not just links to random profiles. Staying with the map illustration, the home base and outposts should all be inside a town/city/community. They are linked for a reason, but each does it’s own thing for the bigger picture.

  • Thanks Darren, I started using Twitter and now I have more people following me, plus with the WP-plugin my new posts get tweeted automatically. Good post by the way.

  • Great Post! Social Media is tough because there are so many different options that you can spend your entire day on. I use Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, Myspace, and of course Digg. I think the most important part of using Social Media is knowing how to segment your time on each. All can be very effective in promotion once you get the hang of it (still getting the hang of them all….lol)

    Thanks for the article!

  • Very insightful. I’ve always seen social media like the “tentacles” that pull in readers and friends from all corners of the net into your central “body”, or whatever you’re trying to promote.

  • Very informative.. another great post, Thanks!

  • Wow! I am new to these terminologies – but I love them. I think we all had an understanding and have been doing this to a degree, however seeing it visually, etc. makes it more illumined, I think.

  • Darren, I agree that social media is important especially for popular sites like DPS. The effect will be even greater if it is focused on a niche.

    At the end of the day every small bit counts. In Maltese (Malta), there is an expression, every drop counts. A lot of small drops will eventually fill a bucket.

  • I use all of this, but never looked at it in this fashion. Great way to map it all out!

    I know it would help me to keep track of all of outposts I’m using, so I don’t neglect any.

  • interesting post – my “outposts” also include forums in my niche; when i first started, i connected with others interested in my subject on message boards. this really helped me to propel my website(s) forward. now that i’m more established, i have to admit, i’ve let those interactions drop off a bit. my challenge is finding the time for social networking…does anyone have reasonable solution for this? do you engage social media a few times a day? i just get distracted if i try to do it randomly throughout the day…but when i try to stick to specific times, i feel like i’m “missing” out on things!!

  • and that reminded me of dog whisperere group and how I never even told them I started http://pampered-puppy.zlio.net/ a store for dog stuff. sheesh.

  • Well, add Mixx to the list. Someone liked your article over at Mixx (where all the people who are sick of Digg go, like me) and that is how I found you. Currently Digg will get you a lot more traffic, like StumbleUpon, than Mixx will. But if you are interested in a community where the conversations are really interesting, unlike Digg, then Mixx is the best place.

    I will be waiting for the next part to this post,

    Thanks

    ~ Jim

  • I do not agree that you cannot use social media to build all of your readership. I think if you continue to just write for social media users then they will soon become avid readers of yours. Basically you just have to experiment with social media to find out the best ways to get that traffic to your blog. Trust me, if people from the social media site keep getting pointed back to your blog and they will sooner or later subscribe and become a religious reader of yours.

  • I like the outpost/home concept. Curious why you don’t use (or at least didn’t mention) squidoo and hubpages as outposts.

  • Only half finished and one of the best posts I feel we’ve seen lately (not that the others weren’t good) I just happen to think this one has a great concept!

    It’d be interesting for me to develop my own diagram of outposts and then go through the list and see where I can improve.

    Thanks again Darren

  • Very interesting post Darren. I am quite new to your site but I do find you offer an excellent insight into blogging and making a living from online activity. This is something I am currently doing myself through a number of websites.

    Blogging is something I have toyed with in the past, but never spent too much time on. I am getting into it much more and finding that writing is a great way to get things off my chest! Hopefully I will also be able to offer advice and help others along the way.

  • Somewhat like Jeff Johnson feeder sites, but you use web 2.0 as your feeder sites and draw traffic to your site.

    Web 2.0 is better because it allows you to interact with your readers / visitors, and you can build a strong community relationship with them, while normal feeder sites is to tap into search engine traffic only…

  • it easy to promote blog/website using social networking. but i still dont know how to use it for communication with other blog reader. what i do is, i make sure that my blog exist, and for first few days they are coming, happy though see traffic.. but then after that they start to go away.. reason.. because my friends in facebook or friendster not interested in what i write.. so i think do i need to find friends that have same interest.. so how on earth i gonna do that.. that what i thinking right now.. how possible can i do that.

  • Social media as a stand-alone activity may be quite time-consuming. Darren, it works if you have already made a name for yourself — you yourself said you have hardly spent 20 minutes on FaceBook in the past three months and there is a community discussing your content. This is because you are already so famous and your content gets ample exposure.

    A person who doesn’t have such a strong presence, who has other jobs to attend to, would find it extremely difficult to devote quality time to so many social media websites.

    Personally I would suggest the path that you have actually taken: when you were getting stronger in blogging there were no social media and social networking websites. There were blogs, comment sections, and online forums, and as Leo (of Zen Habits) demonstrated, guest blogging. This way you could devote all your energies to blogging and take your blog to a level where it is now. I have observed people doing scores of things and in the process achieving nothing. So instead of focusing on so many social media websites, for a person who does not have a strong presence on the Internet, I would suggest, first use a definite platform (blogging — content generation and promotion), grow your brand, and as people begin to know you/your content, you start putting in time in other sorts of marketing platforms such as social media marketing. Otherwise, if you can afford, you should hire a social media marketing company or consultant for the job and completely focus on your work.

  • My major form of networking is still email and IM I like instant gratification. I don’t like to wait for people to log back on and then answer my question hours later.

    I think social networks can be amazing tools, but they take a lot of time to develop and therefore are on the backburner for me right now.

  • I really think a lot of the benefits of the various social media apps are over emphasized, with regards to generating website traffic (Blog or otherwise). Your diagram seems to indicate a sphere of influence centered around your home base, but do you really think this is so? It certainly extends to your existing readership that also dabbles in social media, but this does not appear to be the predominant user of social media; a decidedly non-web-junkie group (my observation only).

    I think I’m following a similar strategy of trying to feel my way around social media. So far, it has been great for networking and increased interaction – but mostly on “their” terms, which is understandable.

    Cheers,
    Roy

  • One thing we need to remember is that it takes time and p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e when using social media to expand your network.

    Maybe we’ve gotten spoiled by the instant connectivity of all our devices, but actually connecting with people takes time. It takes much *less* time if you’ve already built up a significant readership or network somewhere else (Chris Brogan’s “home base” idea).You and Chris both have significant readerships, and Chris beats everyone I know for actually getting out there in real life and making significant (in all senses of the word) connections.

    The people saying “it only works in these niches” are more likely saying “it works more logically in these niches”. Trust me. I write a blog about…nothing! Well, it’s not nothing (I hope), but it’s a blog about change and personal growth using creative non-fiction (what non-fancy types used to call “essays”) as the method. Not exactly a hot niche, right?

    Despite that, I’ve got a pretty good base of people on Twitter. I wasn’t exactly aiming for it–I was using more of the “testing/experimenting/play” intentions. But I committed to it fully, and damned if it didn’t work in spite of me.

    To people just getting started, I’d go heavy on “experiment” and “listen.” Social media sites are different, and they move quickly. It’s like stepping into some crazy, rushing river, or being dropped in the middle of NYC with nothing but your native wit and a crappy map.

    You can do it; you just need to move slowly.

  • Darren/ All,
    Any thoughts on the best “mix” for investing time & effort into Home vs. Outposts? (particularly from a large brand perspective)? One of the things I struggle with, is recommending whether we spend more time creating content on our home site or more time interacting with others on “outposts” as it is difficult to justify resources (at least at my Big Co) to do both effectively.
    Alan

  • Social Media has one problem for small blogger getting small traffic – To get traffic from these site, the blogger requires a lot of followers that will be worth spending time so that the blogger receives traffic from these sites.

    Basically, it is the small bloggers that requires tips for traffic, so i think social bookmarking sites like digg, delicious, yahoo buzz, etc is a much better friend to small bloggers and sites like facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc are for bigger bloggers.

    http://www.blograzy.com

  • I have often asked myself why I invest so much time on my outpost profiles but you have just answered that for me. Great post, really helped me understand what I am trying to do… I think.

  • Sometimes using social networking is work , sometimes is not.
    The basic is to create communication with the reader, and it’ll gain a lot of traffics. Thanks Darren

  • Just made a similar post on my blog :)

  • This is where I’m at too–trying to decide my own strategy for social media. Thanks for an informative post!

  • Darren,

    Good post. I like your honesty in admitting you are ‘social-media challenged’ as I am. And coming from someone with considerable success in the blogosphere I find it very refreshing and encouraging.

    It tells me that there is hope for me. My blog went live a few days ago, prior to that I had set up sites or accounts at Twitter, Digg, stumbleupon, linkedin, writerscafe.org, Facebook – which I have had for several months – and http://www.poeticspace.com the first ‘outpost’ where I dared to post poetry.

    As you can see I have a very diverse and impressive ‘footprint’. However I do not know how to leverage these resources to create ‘word-of-blog’ buzz for myself.

    But that is where your honesty serves me well; it tells me hey I am not in a bad position and need to work at this some more.

    Great post.

  • Darren,

    The submission side of social media takes a lot more work than the browsing side, and my young blog is learning that. Submitting a post to Digg outside peak hours has yielded little response, though I’ve found some success with StumbleUpon and Reddit.

    I love the model of a home base and outposts. I would consider any forums on which I regularly post another one of my outposts, and one of my most successful ones, given that the relationships are typically closer there.

    Great post, good advice.

    http://www.2lincolns.com

  • 90% of my traffic comes from Digg and Stumble. Don’t know what i’d do without social media

  • I’ve been following this blog for a couple of months now, but this is my first time commenting.I find myself a passive reader for the most part, but find certain types of posts engaging. I think that these posts create a sort of outpost in the comments section,where readers can evaluate the various comments and then choose to click on the blog of the person who left and insightful comment,to see what other insights they may have to offer.

    As for social media, this is something I’m trying to figure out myself. My twitter account seems to be a bit of a shot in the dark,with random people following me who aren’t even in my niche. I’m wondering how much time it takes,or the best ways of actually finding people on twitter with similar interests.

  • I am new to social media and blogging, have just started a blog and am about to join linkedin. I’m not sure how to play this ‘game’ but just know you have to start playing anyway. My blog currently is ‘storytelling’ – sharing a bit about me and why i have a blog, soon it will be posts that add value to my readers – bosses who want to be amazing ones. My blog will help me ‘change the world’ in my own little way, in my niche of improving workplaces.

  • Without social media it would take one a long time to reach the multitude of contacts that one can reach with it.I really like they way you used the homebase,and outpost graph to show how it all works.

  • Tim

    hi darren
    i wrote a post and published just a few minutes after this one that attempted to explain the same thing
    http://www.spyjournal.biz/node/927
    maybe theres some ideas there you can leverage off
    cheers
    tim