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Using Social Media to Grow Your Blog’s Readership

Blog-Promotion - Social MediaThis week we’re looking at five different methods that I’d use to find readership if I were starting a new blog. So far we’ve explored guest posting, advertising and networking – but today I want to turn our attention to the explosive and dynamic area of social media.

Social media sites have exploded onto the online publishing scene over the last couple of years and can generally be divided into two types of site:

  • Social Networking Sites – where the primary activity of the site is ‘connecting’ with others. Two of the most prominent sites in this space are Facebook and MySpace.
  • Social Bookmarking – where the primary activity is the finding and sharing of web content through different systems of ‘voting’ on sites. Two examples of this type of site are Digg and StumbleUpon.

The above two classifications of social media sites are fairly broad – in reality there are many different sites appearing every week, many of which have elements of both of the above as well as other features.

The point of this post is not to define social media but rather to look of it as an opportunity to find new readers for your blog. The reason that I include it in this series is that over the last year or two I’ve seen numerous blogs virtually launch themselves via social media sites.

The reason for their success is that social media sites are among the largest sites on the web at present (the volume of traffic that they do is mind boggling) but that by their very nature they are about helping people to discover new parts of the web (particularly social bookmarking sites) – and as a result they are used by people actively seeking 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 it again:

Social media sites have a lot of traffic and they 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 by saying that social media is not THE answer to finding readers for your blog. It is not enough just to promote your content on social sites – but it is one element that can help you find a lot 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 a few 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 principles of using social media to drive traffic.

1. Be an Active Participant – it is important to see these sites for what they are – they’re social sites which are designed for regular use and interactions between readers. They are not designed for people to come to to spam their own links and leave – they’re designed for ongoing, genuine and helpful interactions between people. As a result those who spend time using these sites are the ones who generally are rewarded for doing so over the long haul. While there is a temptation to only use these sites on occasion when it benefits yourself you’ll find them more fruitful paces to visit when you regularly participate and genuinely interact with others.

2. Learn the Rules and Culture – different social media sites have different rules, standards, cultures and acceptable behavior. This covers things like how you interact with others, the language you can use and importantly for this article – linking and promoting your own content. Some sites allow (and even encourage) you self promoting – others do not. Some might allow it officially but will have users who don’t like it and who will ‘bury’ your efforts if you do. The key is to participate, observe and learn from your experiences.

3. Find Key Players – one of the best ways to learn about social media is to find and get to know key players on the different sites. Who is using them well? What are they doing? What might they be able to teach you? How might 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 to have.

4. Make Friends – extending upon this is the principle of be-friending others on social sites. This is a key part of what they are all about and many of these sites make you more powerful based upon 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 these ways.

I should say at this point that I see people using their ‘networks’ on social sites in two main ways either as natural influencers or in more concerted and coordinated ways. The first (influencers) is about building a network that you naturally interact with and who will take notice of what you do. This makes you a powerful user and both by the social site taking more note of you but also as others will do so also. The second is what some users have been doing for a while now – joining together to vote up each other’s content. DoshDosh has some great tips on making and interacting with friends in social sites (particularly Digg).

5. Don’t Be Self Centered – I’ve mentioned this already but it’s worth a point of it’s own. If your primary activities on social media sites is self centered then you’ll limit your own fruit from it. I know a number of top Digg users and in each case they are some of the most generous and ‘other serving’ people you’ll ever meet. They go out of their way to help others achieve their dreams. In doing so of course they themselves benefit – 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 people saying that they’ve ‘tried it’ and it doesn’t work. When I unpack these comments with people I often find that what they mean is that they tried one social media site once or twice – and it didn’t have much impact. The mistakes with this kind of thinking are numerous (ie it takes time to get to know a social media site, get to know people etc) – but one main thing that I’d say is that not all social media sites work for every topic of blog. For example I find that StumbleUpon works really well here at ProBlogger – but that Digg works on some more technically focused sites that I have worked with. The other thing that I’d say is that sometimes the biggest social sites are not always the best ones to use – but rather smaller and more focused ones can have bigger benefits. Every week new social bookmarking sites appear around different niches – search them out and focus on them too.

7. Social Media as a Branding Exercise – while social media sites can send you a lot of traffic very very quickly they can also be excellent 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 that others publish and you could actually get on their radar and end up benefiting yourself in many ways.

8. Convert to Loyal Readers – one thing that many bloggers fail to do when they succeed in driving traffic to their blogs from social media sites is to convert them into loyal readers. Getting readers to your blog is just half of the challenge – getting them to return tomorrow and every day afterwards is the other half – it can be the difference between a one off traffic event and a blog with an ongoing growth in readership. I’ve written more on converting one off 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 efforts in social media is your actual content. Without content that engages social media users you are wasting your time as it will rarely capture their imaginations and inspire them to promote it. Writing great content is the focus of tomorrow’s last post in this series on growing blog readership – so I’ll say more then.

Further Reading at ProBlogger on using Social Media to Build Traffic to Your Blog:

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.
Comments
  1. Awesome post Darren.

    I especially dig the tip about “Social Media as a Branding Exercise”. I believe it’s something that many bloggers overlooked. But as time goes, their blogs can benefit really well from creating their own brand and promoting it through the social media sites. After all, it’s FREE:)

    But, it’s sad to see that more and more bloggers turn into spammers trying to promote their own blog in the social media sites. Because of this, it’s heart-breaking to see more and more moralistic bloggers not getting their deserving share of the pie.

    Cheers!

  2. thanks again, very useful info.

  3. I just got on to the front page of del.icio.us this morning and I think it’s on its way out. I wish I had read this post sooner!

  4. yea… these sites are helpful when you are a genuine interested member. I have experience. I like SU more than digg.

  5. Very informative post, thanks for sharing some points on how to use these sites properly.

    nhick
    http://www.itrush.com

  6. I have yet to figure out a good way to balance “being an active member” versus effective use of time. I have gotten thousands of visits from SU, Digg and Reddit and have yet to see real results–they come, they see, they leave.

    Yeah it strokes the ego, but not the bank account. As a work activity it had virtually no value.

    This is in spite of me actively participating in the groups, commenting on other people’s submissions, favoriting their posts and profiles, etc.

    I did get a few back links for posts–but only the posts that were provocative and not particularly helpful for any of my market niches.

    I would be open to anyone who has a successful strategies for generating value visitors from social networking sites.

  7. Social media can be a great way to kick start a blog. SU is best friends with small blogs. Digg not so much.

  8. Great post once again Darren :)

    The best in this series for me!

  9. Social media can be an excellent way to promote your blog – some niches work better than others. However, please be careful how you define “social bookmarking”. Digg is NOT a bookmarking site it is a social NEWS site. An example of a bookmarking site is delicious (no i dont remember where the dots go!).

    These are very different. With social news sites such as Digg you are offering your content to the other users of that site and thus you need to ensure that it will go down well with those users. Digg is typically young, tech savvy and sometimes a little hostile.

    Social Bookmarking on the other hand is just that – a place to store your bookmarks as an alternative to your browser bookmarks. They are publicly vieweable which is why we call it ‘social’ bookmarking but the big difference is that other people don’t have to like your bookmarks or approve of them. They dont need to get voted up to do well. Bookmarking can be an excellent source of backlinks and I have a post that lists 24 do-follow bookmarking sites:

    http://www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog/do-follow-social-bookmarking-sites/

    Social news sites on the other hand tend to be able to drive floods of traffic *IF* and only if the users like your content and vote it up.

  10. I find that it’s a lot easier to use sites like Stumble Upon where even minimal votes can earn you a portion of traffic guaranteed rather than submitting it to Digg with the slim chance of any traffic happening at all if it doesn’t touch the front page.

    A lot of the smaller networks which are easier to get on allow you to leverage off of your success there as many people are registered at a multitude of sites rather than just one. If you hit the front page of a 1,000 view social bookmarking site and one of those members is a prominent digg or stumble upon user it allows you to ride a rollercoaster of traffic from many different social media sites with minimal effort on your part rather than one sprint-and-bust from one big one.

  11. Yeah, forget Digg… but the other social media sites are GREAT!

    Jay
    DatMoney.com

  12. I used to be really interested in social media, but I’ve recently decided to not worry about it anymore. If someone wants to submit something, fine, but I’m not going to waste time trying to optimize my posts for it.

  13. Wow, I’m impressed. The information here is great. It’s exactly what I’m looking for. To find interested readers, to discuss my ideas and to learn new ideas! I’ll definitely try to work with social media.

  14. Great post! I definitely agree that too many people use one or two key social media sites, and say that it didn’t work. It’s like building a business… it’s a constant task that must be done for weeks or months before any real results appear.

    I also think people go about it the wrong way. They want to make these friends for their own benefit, and they often appear to spammy for most people’s taste. I know that I don’t add people who look like they are only promoting something.. I’d rather make friends… isn’t that what social media is all about?

  15. I have yet to take the plunge into social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. I know some other bloggers in my niche who have done so with excellent results. One of my concerns has been determining the type of content I would share through social media that would be different than what’s already on my blog. I don’t think duplicating content in either place would be constructive.

  16. This is a solid breakdown that everyone working on their social media strategy should read. From this list I’d put the most emphasis on working to consistently create great content and highlighting the work of others. Look to see how you can serve the community, not how the community can serve you.

  17. This is a great post. I bookmarked it.

    I don’t know nearly as much as I should about social media but it seems the time has come for me to take it seriously.

    My site http://www.TheMaskedMillionaire.com is a perfect fit for social media.

  18. I’m really liking this series of posts… Anybody who follows these 4 (soon to be 5) tips will definitely see an increase in both, visits and readership.

    Great stuff, thanks !

    Regards, Pete

  19. I couldn’t find a good social bookmarking site for my niche blog, so I created one just over a year ago called Value Investing News. It was really hard work getting it going, but now the site is fairly lively and a great source of new readers, revenues, and personal connections.

    One of my users at Value Investing News just told me he used my site to join another social network that then eventually led to a job interview. He’ll be finding out soon whether he got the job. I have my fingers crossed for him.

  20. What timing! I finally started advertising with social networks today! Im excited to see how it develops. Thanks for tha article.
    http://www.hideNsneek.com

  21. I have found a blog that is a great example of creating customer loyalty and great content – Adversity University. Stephen does an excellent job.
    http://www.adversityuniversityblog.com

  22. Making friends is definitely key for sites like Digg. No way your site will ever get noticed if you don’t have a few good friends to help along your submissions.

    Great post!

  23. Awesome… post… It’s true that “Social media sites have a lot of traffic and they are used by people to find content ” however “social media is not THE answer to finding readers for your blog. It is not enough just to promote your content on social sites – but it is one element that can help you find a lot of new readers.”
    well, social media definitely helps in bringing good amount of traffic, but it also depends on how much are you engaged in social activity… and also pagerank of the site is a major source of traffic. And point 9 “It’s all about the Content ” – this is something that impacts a lot.

  24. I can only claim to be a half assed user of social media. I do participate some but mostly for my site’s benefit.

    Even at this level, the stats show a steady and rising flow of visitors from social sites. It is enough that I am adding some time to my schedule to be a more sharing participant.

  25. Can you elaborate more on what sort of blogs are best suited to particular social media sites? By technical blogs and Digg, what exactly do you mean?

  26. good information, thanks for describe it clearly, sure i will try.

  27. It’s still too early to tell how helpful it is yet, but I’ve been using MySpace for a few weeks now as a way to gain exposure and targeted traffic for my site. It’s great since I’ve already connected with a lot of people suffering from digestive ailments, BUT it is also a huge timesink to constantly manage friend requests, prune inappropriate comments, etc. at more than one location (I’d rather be doing it at my site from one convenient admin panel).

    I was considering also adding Facebook to the mix, but that would take away even more time from my researching/writing, so I’ll be holding off for now. I do agree that they can’t be ignored, however!

  28. Thanks for the information about growing a blog. I just started and I think using social media will help in the long run.

  29. Will Google ban this?

  30. Why will Google not ban this?

  31. Social media is a great idea and it’s time has now come. Kudos to internet marketing!

  32. You are right! Activity is the key to success in social media. Those, who uses social media only to promote their own sites, always ends up in failure. Because, you can’t form a society alone!

    Thanks for your thought provoking points.

  33. Hi Darren!
    I’d like to use social media sites to gain more traffic and especially more loyal readers, but there are two main problems:

    1) I have few time to use social media sites, so it’s difficult for me to submit a new blog article on 6-7 different ones.
    2) I dont’ want to make “real” friends using these tools.

    How can I achieve my objective while solving these 2 issues? Thanks in advance.

  34. I often wonder if one must maintain the same “face” across all of the social sites. Does the facebook profile pic have to be the same as the mybloglog, youtube, blog photo? After all, most of the people you meet in cyberspace won’t necessarily recognize your face from different angles. This is something I struggle with, I can’t seem to settle on a picture!

  35. I am a young college student looking for more advice from experienced bloggers across the web. My blog is to help small businesses across the nation and I would like to spread the word. If you have any tips please let me know. I do have it promoted on facebook.

  36. What a great tips! I’ll try these tips for increasing my blog. Thx, Darren!

  37. Thanks for another great post. I have just started out in November and I have only played with Stumble. I do not have a clear understanding of how to proceed. Your post will give me a good start. Thanks.

  38. Great post. Making readers come back IMHO is the most important part with social networking. Thanks for posting those other links to posts on the topic. :-)

  39. I will have a try in my blog . Thanks

    IMO “Convert to Loyal Readers” is a very good method to contact our readers.

  40. Problogger is the real good samle for good media use, :)

  41. Darren,
    WOW, I have honestly spent HOURS on your blog the last 3 or 4 days. Having just started my own blog, I am look and researching the best info I can find when it comes to the world of blogging. The funny thing is, I am always led back here.
    Keep up the good work, I along with all others I am sure appreciate all the advice.
    Cheers
    JoE
    http://www.joesperspective.com

  42. Another A1 article Darren. Thanks for your generosity. I know generous people are blessed so much so are you. Keep it up. You really put your heart into this thing.

  43. This is a great post. I was wondering if you had any comments on PR or how to approach the media for free feedback in the newspaper, not just the web.

  44. I totally agree with the concept of making friends. Some of my best progress over my web career has been a result of the friends I made, whether they be other web consultants for exchanging ideas, potential customers, designers, or programmers.
    Thanks,
    David

  45. Social Bookmarking is a really niche way of getting people visiting your site. You can increase your readership by commenting on other blogs in your niche too.

  46. Hey Darren,

    I had a questions, to network with popular bloggers means to write about something if their interest, while making money online and blogging and web 2.0 are the most popular nlog themes for others like us its a tough fight.

    What do you suggest for bloggers who do not write the popular topics

    Thanks
    Adi

  47. Thanks for the very informative post Darren! Very helpful for a new blogger like me looking to increase readership and comments on my articles.

    Looking forward to more of your articles.

    Cheers!

    Brian C.

  48. I’ve just started using social media and I keep learning something new each time I return. This information is perfect for a beginner like me.

    Thanks,
    Clams
    http://www.EducationalToys4Tots.com/

  49. Great info on social media sites. I have heard plenty about the benefits of social media but have never used it on my blog. I will apply the knowledge soon. :)

    http://seventoten.com

  50. I liked this article…but I’ll dive into something that has helped me get more traffic to my blogs…

    Add your blog’s RSS to Squidoo lenses, Hubpages.com hubs, and even to your Facebook profile. There’s an add-on for Facebook called ‘Flog Blog’ that lets you slap your RSS feed on your facebook profile page.

    As long as you keep making friends in your niche on these social networks, you should get some extra traffic.

    Since you can’t post your feed to myspace….I simply copy my blog’s content onto my myspace blog, take the RSS feed for it, and ping it like I normally do for my real blogs.

    Crazy enough, I get 10 sign-ups a day to my email newsletter from this, as I have an opt-in form on my blog. I have one for my email newsletter and for my blog’s updates.

    Mr ProBlogger, keep it coming. I’m subscribing to your feed today. Maybe you could make me a guest poster after you check out my site and its content.

    T.M. Harris

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