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It Takes a Gathering to Build a Crowd

In this guest post Steven Snell (who writes about social media at Traffikd) examines the topic of generating readership for your blog through social media.

gathering-crowd.jpg
Image by shoothead

If you spend much time on social media websites, I’m sure you’ve noticed that you tend to see many of the same websites and blogs on the front page receiving the most exposure. A few months ago I wrote a post at Daily Blog Tips that posed the question Do Small Bloggers Have a Chance with Digg? Through my observations and through the comments from many readers, it’s clear that large websites and blogs have a distinct advantage over smaller blogs when it comes to social media. Obviously, this can be frustrating to new bloggers who are looking to get some much-needed exposure from social media, as it seems to be the rich just getting richer.

One question that needs to be addressed is, what is the most significant factor that leads to the success of these large websites with social media? Is their content just that much better than smaller blogs? In my opinion, many times this isn’t the case. Is it because they have a larger existing audience? I’d say this is often a bigger factor than the quality issue. Very popular blogs tend to do well with social media, and with their incredibly large subscriber bases, they have a distinct advantage.

Take for example the front page of Delicious. Typically it takes about 100 bookmarks within 24 hours or so to get to the front page. It seems like almost every day there is a post from Smashing Magazine or Zen Habits on the front page. With over 60,000 and 50,000 readers respectively, a small percentage of subscribers can easily put these posts on the front page with a bookmark. On the other hand, a smaller blog with only 100 subscribers would need one bookmark per subscriber to make the front page.

So how does this affect smaller bloggers who want to get better results from social media? Essentially it shows that great content alone is usually not enough. It takes a gathering to build a crowd. Meaning, your gathering of existing readers and your network of friends can help to result in a bigger crowd that comes from social media sites.

New bloggers that are targeting social media, or those who have just been disappointed with their results to this point need to focus on building the gathering before the crowd will come. Networking is probably the most significant activity for bloggers in terms of gaining social media traffic. A blogger’s network includes readers and subscribers as well as friends and contacts who are bloggers themselves. Members of your network will be much more likely to vote for you on social media sites, plus you can openly ask for their help when you need it the most.

There are several different ways to get social media votes:

1 – Visitors of social media sites can see your link at the social media site and vote there (example, a Digg user visits the upcoming page, clicks through to your link, returns to Digg and votes for your post).

2 – Visitors of your blog can vote by using a button, widget, or link on your blog.

3 – Visitors can use a toolbar to vote (examples, StumbleUpon and Delicious toolbars).

4 – Social media users can share your post with their friends (example, the shout feature at Digg).

5 – Bloggers can email (or IM) others in their network to request a vote.

The only one of these that is not affected by the existing “crowd” of a blog is #1. Getting votes from the upcoming page is not really affected by how many readers you have at your blog, rather it is affected by how many people see the item on the upcoming page, the quality of the title (in terms of attracting clicks), the quality of the content once people click-through, etc. Certainly there are some small blogs that have success this way without a network, but this seems to be the minority.

All of the other four are affected by how many people are seeing the page and how many people are in the blogger’s network. Let’s quickly look at each one. For #2, the more visitors a page has (which is impacted by the number of subscribers), the more opportunities it has to get votes through a button. If a post only gets 5 visitors, the most votes it can possibly get through a “Digg This” button is five. On the other hand, if the post gets 5,000 visitors, its potential for votes just multiplied by 1,000. The situation in #3, visitors voting using a toolbar, is exactly the same scenario.

Item numbers 4 and 5 are both impacted by the blogger’s network of friends and contacts. If you have a large existing network and you’re willing to ask them for some help occasionally, you can get some quick and easy votes. Whether you’re using a share feature at a social media site or simply sending a private email, your success will depend on the quality and quantity of connections you have made in addition to the quality of the content itself.

I Don’t Have a Crowd. What Can I Do?

Understanding how all of this works is good, but if you’re a new blogger with a limited network and a small base of subscribers it doesn’t help you very much, yet. If you’re looking to improve your results with social media, do what you can to get one step closer to blogs that have a bigger reach than you. Work on building your network and send as much traffic as possible to your posts.

Here are a few tips:
1 – Still focus on content

In order to build your crowd you’ll need to give them a reason to consistently read your blog. Publishing high-quality content is the best way to do this. Although I said earlier that the existing audience is often more important than the content itself for social media success, the content still needs to be of a certain standard of quality.

2 – Dedicate time to networking

Most bloggers network casually whenever it happens. This is fine, but you can step up your network by making it a priority. Use social media sites and other blogs as opportunities to connect with other bloggers and get to know others who share some of your interests. Be active on blogs in your niche and make an effort to get to know those bloggers. Don’t limit your involvement with just A-list bloggers. Make an effort to get to know other bloggers who are at the same stage in the blogging lifecycle as you. In this case you’ll be able to help each other as you both grow your blogs.

3 – Funnel traffic

Most bloggers create posts from time-to-time that they expect to draw some attention from social media. When you have a post that you want to get some exposure, don’t just focus on getting Diggs or Stumbles. You can use smaller social media sites and niche social media sites to funnel traffic to the post. As visitors come from other social media sites they may also Digg or Stumble your post. If you have some other way to get traffic to these posts, such as getting a link from a friend or from a community website, do so. The more visitors you can get to the page, the better your chances will be of getting some votes.

4 – Don’t be afraid to ask for a vote

Some bloggers and social media users don’t like to ask others for a vote. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, I’ve found that other social media users who are legitimately your friends (not just someone you added as a friend at Digg) will be happy to give you a vote if your content is worthy, and you can return the favor for them as well. I get a decent number of requests each week, and as long as it’s from someone I know and not just a spam request, I’m happy to at least consider the vote.

After The Gathering is Built

Once you have built a gathering of subscribers and those in your network, drawing the crowd from social media will be incredibly more realistic. Not only will it be more realistic, but it will happen more frequently, as you can observe from the larger blogs mentioned at the beginning of this post.

What’s Your Approach?

How do you go about getting votes for social media? Is your success with social media impacted by your network?

Steven Snell covers a variety of topics related to social media and blog promotion at Traffikd. You can subscribe to his feed for more on these topics.

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.

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Comments

  1. MrCooker says:

    Thanks Steven for this guest post, you got yourself another subsriber. Nice info you’re sharing here.

    I’m in the middle of the proces of bulding my gathering of subscribers. Hope it turns out well..

  2. Simple Mom says:

    My best social media network (where I get the most hits) is StumbleUpon, followed by Twitter and Mixx. But I’m still such a newbie at it, I need all the insight I can get. I think it’s helpful for me to remember to intentionally set aside time just for networking, to make that part of my blogging process.

  3. Prem says:

    Excellent info mentioned. All are valid and true problems faced by new bloggers.

  4. Steven Snell says:

    MrCooker,
    Thanks for subscribing!

  5. Excellent overview. The times when I’ve had the most success with social media is when I’ve been the most active commenting or otherwise interacting with other bloggers, so I definitely see a correlation there.

  6. jason says:

    Being a Brick and Mortar business owner that blogs to generate student traffic, we have a saying that…

    “Motion causes Commotion”

    We all find that when the studio is packed with students (i.e. several lessons at once, workshops, jam sessions, etc) we always have a ton of walk in traffic.

    When no one is here, we rarely have any traffic.

    Same principle applied with build an online gathering!

  7. teamray says:

    the truth many wont admit about digg is that many of sites on digg top pages daily buy their way to the front

    just a little fyi

  8. suresh says:

    Good to read this post and any way getting traffic from social media is a good idea with general topics and hot topics of politics, wider audience targeted topics,money making..,but not suits for very specific blogs and any way some of them gives good back links.

  9. I do not know if it has as much to do with being a big site as to having a loyal following…some of the big diggs are from Uni sites…with massive frat boy fans…..

    There are also a lot of die hard diggers who are VERY particular about the type of story they will even think about looking at…

  10. A good post, but I did not see my particular situation covered:
    I have a “gathering” of core readers and subscribers, but neither I nor they are very “tech-savvy.” What kind of social media advice would you give in this situation?

  11. Man, I’ve tried everything to generate good amounts of social network traffic but I always end up coming up short. It’s the only type of traffic I can’t attract.

    Organic search and referral visitors has never been a problem so I’m guessing it’s not my content. It really does seem to be the same people and the same websites that benefit from social bookmarking over and over.

  12. Del Sauzo says:

    I’d faced this challenge and I felt I should just forget about exposure for a while and focus only on building my content, but with this I guess I can still put in my best. Thanks a lot.

    How do I find ‘smaller social media ‘ sites. I’d had this idea before but I can’t seem to come across any?

    Thanks again.
    Great post

  13. Tim Kissane says:

    Thank you, sir, for a clear and concise analysis with very concrete suggestions. I’m more of a tech guy. I’m still learning the concepts and practices of marketing my blogs and sites. It’s certainly not a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’. The most success I’ve had from a social media site has been from my account on http://www.cre8buzz.com and by commenting on it’s community blog, http://cre8buzz.com/anthill . I look forward to more quality articles like this one.

  14. Rob Brydon says:

    I find the even though I have a rather small blog, submitting posts to social media sites always gets me a few viewers. Also, every once in a while I get a few diggs.

    If you dont’ have many readers, I find that this approach at least gets you seeing traffic coming from other sites.

  15. Steven Snell says:

    Del,
    If you’re having problems finding smaller social media sites, I have a categorized list of over 400 social media sites that you might want to check out.

  16. Bradley Hart says:

    I had trouble really getting diggs by sitting and waiting so i went proactive and started building a “digg team” which starts by guilting your spouse into signing up gettting friends, digging and shouting. Your friends are a resources and when you reciprocate it works pretty well. I have gone in less than a week from maybe 1 or 2 organic diggs every couple of posts to 30 or more per post they day they are submitted

    My problem now I have to write consistently better posts. I don’t write horrible posts, but I have to rethink some of the SEO filler posts and articles I occasionally use.

    Another thing small bloggers need to think about when it comes to Digg is home page presentation. vs SEO vs Readbility vs your advertising. I am in the process at the moment of writing several versions of my index.php to accommodate a mix of full/partial posts with excepts

  17. Muscle Post says:

    This is some really great information. Most of us don’t have enough of a gathering right now to expect to do very well on Digg and StumbleUpon…so networking is really essential.

    It takes some work and a fair amount of time, but it’s as important as developing good content if you want to be successful.

  18. Starfeeder says:

    Great post

    I love Social-media marketing… it just takes so much time, sometimes more then creating some good pillar articles.

    More and more I’m seeing so many different duties that a main blogger has to deal with, not just writing & SEO, but marketing, advertising, networking, deal making, managing etc etc…

    and to think I was one of those people that thought blogging didn’t take too much effort. X_x

  19. Ryan McLean says:

    THanks heaps for this guest post.
    It was more inspiring than it was anything else. Sometimes when you start blogging you feel as if all your efforts are in vain because you seen no progress (or very minimal progress).
    However, this is a great post because it encourages me that all I have to do is build a small gathering and then it can more easily become a crowd. It won’t be this hard forever, it will get easier as I get more and more people on my side.
    So thanks for the awesome post.

  20. Bash Bosh says:

    Very quality article that will help all bloggers. Specially oriented to blogger beginners. All i have to say that this article is more than useful…

  21. This is exactly the article I was looking for. As a new blogger, I was interested in learning how I could take advantage of social media. This article is a great start. I should also point out that on his website, he has a great list of the social media sites that are out there, beyond the big ones.

    - Dave

  22. Leon says:

    Terrific article. I’ve been trying to get serious traffic, but the most I’ve gotten is about 200 extra hits per day for about a month. Hope this helps me.

  23. I like this knowlegeable post. This provide traffic education to bloggers on social media. Thanks!

  24. Barbara Ling says:

    I now simply do what I have done best over the past 10 years – write great content, take advantage of SEO, offer help whenever possible and let that snowball into an ever bigger following.

    I’m shy by nature and so work much better when I’m able to work within my own parameters.

    Enjoy,

    Barbara

  25. Hemu says:

    Hey Darren, Your Tips are so useful to promote and manage a blogs to their peaks.

    Thanks a lot man. You are rocking.

  26. Ely says:

    Social networking by ‘getting the crowd’ to do something is quite an insightful way of getting traffic to a website. I’ll try it on my own site.

  27. That is a great post and I think the most important point made is 1) quality of the articles/posts on your site and 2) networking. You have to be meeting new people, and exposing your site on other blogs and sites every single day, 24-7. It is the nature of the business. I am constantly amazed at the crappy sites (in my opinion) that have massive readership, diggs, stumbles, etc etc etc. While I can criticize the content, I CAN NOT criticize their successful networking, marketing and promotion that somehow drove that high readership to their site. Now I believe 100% that this high readership will eventually leave if the quality is not there also, but that can be addressed once you have built the base.
    Like many others I am also always trying to build my membership/readership base and think it is the single most important part of what we do as bloggers.


    Political Disgust

  28. DefogMyBlog says:

    Ok, maybe we cannot easily make the front page but having even one digg can be useful when trying to get a site indexed. I have seen diggs pop up on searches and sometimes with another entry for the same page and that is useful. If your digg is in that spot on the front page then your competitor isn’t. So I recommend avoiding a ‘front page on digg or nothing’ approach to this.

  29. Farfield says:

    Interesting post. I don’t really feel like asking my (real) friends for votes. I just don’t want to bother them with that. I’m not sure yet how to use StumbleUpon, I think I’m going to have a look at that soon to see how it could benefit me.

  30. Pentad says:

    Informative post. Thank you. As Farfield, I don’t really like asking for votes. I try to build friends-lists, and be pro-active myself in stumbling, digging, and promoting the work of others. It’s important that good material gets around. Of course, it’s exactly as the author states, the network base has to be large. I’ve actually used more time on the smaller social sites, and submit articles there and build a base. They, too, will grow….even, Digg started out small at one point.

  31. Anne says:

    Formed a group with a bloggers in the same, or related, topics. We Reditt, Digg and Stumble each other’s stories. Today the majority of my visitors come from Stumble, although I’m not sure why.

  32. Bambooclat says:

    The golden rule applies as well. If you want folks to digg you, you have to digg them

  33. Brian says:

    I think you have to take the pulse of the social media site. Digg, for instance, loves techie stuff. Sphinn, ironically wants to be about SEO. as you build up your votes, you need to gather like-minded friends. You will just shoot yourself in the foot, if your friends have blogs that are so different from your topic.

  34. Josh says:

    Steven,

    Thanks for the informative and helpful post you’ve written. It’s quite pertinent as I am grappling with many of the issues you’ve brought up.

    One of the best points I thought you brought up was to be active on blogs in your niche and to try to get to know those bloggers. Also, I completely agree with your suggestion to make an effort to get to know other bloggers who are at the same stage in the blogging lifecycle as you.

    Thanks!

  35. Sketchee says:

    Great post, I’m working hard on my blog. Maybe someday someone somewhere will actually read it!

  36. I’ve observed the same too. Not a day passes by without seeing a post from the bigger blogs on the first page of Digg. It is quite a challenge so far, for some of the smaller blogs like mine.

    I guess I will just have to continue writing good content and maybe check out some of the smaller social media sites as well. Thanks for sharing your tips!