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.
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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?