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

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.

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Comments

  1. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks all for your comments. I am on the road today and on my iPhone which makes it hard to respnd to you all but enjoying your feedback and experiences. Thanks!

  2. I like the concept you use with the home base and the outpost. It brings to mind that to be successful at this social media you must be strategic and always working your plan.

    Thanks for the new slant on things today. Because tomorrow always is something new on the internet.

    Gary McElwain

  3. Mike says:

    Darren,

    I wrote you a short time ago requesting a post on this very topic. Thanks for obliging!!!

    I like what you’ve done so far… but it feels somewhat incomplete. I think if your followup included some tips on which SM venues serve which purposes and how one ‘builds a community’ as you’ve put it would be very engaging and helpful. I’ve often struggled with how to start from scratch in so many different arenas.

  4. Ari Herzog says:

    The fact you laugh when people call you a social media expert, Darren, is more ironic when you reply to comments, like the one you did two comments above mine.

    Social media is about the dialogue between two or more entities. In the space of five words, “Thanks all for your comments,” you engaged with everyone who previously commented – and that is social media at its essence.

  5. Ben Moreno says:

    Excellent point Darren. I too have recently building my profiles a lot on social media sites.

    Twitter and Digg have been pretty interesting lately.

    What do you think about “dofollow” bookmarking sites?

  6. Scott Denney says:

    Thank you for the great post. I have also been struggling with the value/usage of social networks in regards to my own site. You have cut through the clutter and given some clarity to what has been in the past, a fuzzy path. I instantly started giving my networks a second look. Keep up the great work!

    Scott

  7. VeRonda says:

    This post is a monster! There is so much to digest here. OMG! Okay, I’m back… Thanks and I don’t think you have to worry about whether you have the strategy thing down… LOL!

  8. Anna says:

    I found it interesting to see that I’m not the only person who rarely visits the Facebook Profile – but with 20 minutes in three months, I think you’re ahead of me. This post reminds me of how disorganized and far behind I am in regards to some social media accounts. I haven’t even fully understood their interfaces yet.

    But another thing I have realized is that, in some cases, this is not necessarily wrong.

    I think there are three basic stages for any online endeavor. Its not necessarily linear as you are always doing a bit of all three of them.

    But I think we progress through concentrating on one, then the other, and then the other (if all goes well). I am realizing this more as I read your post and write this comment so I will write it down here.

    They would be:

    1. Learning

    This could be rephrased as “figuring out what you are doing” and includes everything from learning how to build a website to learning more about your niche itself.

    It includes the research that goes into creating a site or online presence of some kind, (starting with keyword research, choosing a domain name, etc) as well as study and research on Blogging, Internet Marketing, and all those millions of things that one can study and learn about (in millions of eBooks, blog posts, courses, etc.)

    It includes the study of the technicalities – html, php, different types of software, and the like.

    We are always doing this, but I think in the beginning stages of a marketer’s life (or of the life of a particular niche) there is a lot more time spent on this, than there is later on.

    If you are creating an info product or the like, this step also includes the actual research on what you are writing or speaking about (or where to outsource it).

    2. Building

    Building your site, messing around with your themes, adding all of your main content, organizing the concepts that your site.or blog or whatnot is built around.

    It would not only apply to a website, but also to the creating of any product, such as an eBook, a course, a newsletter, etc. This encompasses design, technicalities of construction, et al.

    3. Promoting.

    Article marketing, social media, commenting, directory submissions, advertising, driving traffic. You would continue to build on or improve your site or product or whatnot during this phase. But I believe we can spent a lot more time on this once (and do it more easily) once steps 1 and 2 are relatively under control.

    Who wants to spend all day every day building backlinks to an incomplete site or a one-post blog? But once you have created a valuable entity which is complete in itself (though growing) you can enter into the phase of promotion.

    Of course, this sequence isn’t perfect and some parts overlap. And we also cycle through them. We reach a point where all three steps have been done and, and in some cases steps 2 and 3 are continuing on their own. Then we go back to step one to see how we can take it to the next level.

    But if I look at my niche right now, for example, it is mainly in the step 2 phase, and this might have something to do with why I have not yet fully contemplated the Facebook Interface. Once I get into step 3 on that, I will be able to sort these things out more carefully and really utilize all promotional tools.

    Well, I feel better now. Thank you for this post – I think you helped me sort something out in my head!

  9. Given only about less than 4 hours to work on anything online, I’d get to use them mainly on cleaning up clutter on my blog, and the rest on Twitter, Facebook, and StumbleUpon. Oh and not forgetting the good ol’ email. :)

    The outposts image reminded me of how I played real time strategy games where I’d be the one expanding out fast enough to get my buddies to grow with a higher focus on certain units to gain victories.

    Okay that last paragraph was so totally out of place (maybe).

    Great post!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Thanks Darren,
    This post made me feel better about all the time i’ve been spending trying to develop a presence in social media. Sometimes i feel like i’ve just been “playing” for a few hours.

    I think you’re right about the eventual payoff of social media, but it sure is hard to see the big picture sometimes. I was originally taught things like adwords where the payoff (or lack thereof) is instant. With a little patience, it has been rewarding to me to see the eventual payoff of social media.

    There’s no better way to develop great relationships that can benefit everyone personally and financially for years to come.

    Jennifer

  11. Thanks for the clarity of this post. Sometimes I am left to wonder what my activities on sites like twitter, propeller, and Facebook yield in terms of ROI for me.

    You used the same and biggest social sites that I also use. One of the big things I’ve found is to choose one or two sites under the outpost category where you’re going to have a massive and ubiquitous presence.

    Form deeper and lasting connections with the members of those sites as opposed to scattering your self way too thin attempting to keep up with 10, 20 or 30 sites and just scraping the surface on those.

    I am a very visual person’s so your graphs were of great benefit to me.

  12. Kimmie Smith says:

    I like the Home Base/Outposts line of thinking and it makes sense and will actually help me in terms of restructuring and fine tuning things that I want to do. Thank you for sharing!

  13. swar says:

    i agree the most important thing to building profiles a lot on social media sites is worth.

    nice graphical explanation than words….

  14. MLRebecca says:

    I’ve never really thought of social media efforts as outposts before. In response to your comment about not knowing if you have a social media strategy, I would say that your very presence in these outposts is a strategy. Your presence on these sites helps builds a community, which in turn results in more traffic for you. Great post!

  15. Green says:

    It’s amazing you are willing to share so many of your thoughts and greatly appreciated. The explanation and graphics were helpful and helps to clarify what you were trying to explain. This is probably the best article I’ve ever read explaining the basics.

  16. I agree with Amrit Hallin, it’s great if you are allready established and have a loyal following. But for new bloggers like myself it takes a lot of time to get involved with social platforms. I barely have the time to interact in FaceBook or twitter or any other SN-Site. That being said you cant ignore them, I have links and SN feeds on my site and allways try to put one or two comments on Delicius & SU.

    Thanks for the post, Hunk Dory!

  17. leahmarie says:

    Thanks darren for this wonderful post. Now anyone will know the power of social media in blogging and promoting a site. Thanks. I’ll be expecting more great stuff from you. Keep up the good work

    - Leah Marie -

  18. Parag says:

    Hi Darren,

    Very nice post. I especially like the image of homebase and outposts.

    Recently I was thinking of something very similar. While planning to post some content I was thinking if I should post it all on my website or on other community websites. I concluded (without any scientific evidence :-), that if I posted relevant content on other community sites, it will help me connect to people who frequent those sites. I may not have been able to to create a connection with these people had I stuck to posting on my blog only.

    However I am debating if I should have one meta blog where I cross post everything I post anywhere else on the net. The purpose is not as much to own the content, but to ensure that everything is backed up in the meta blog even the other community sites go down. The meta blog can also serve as a huge archive of all my postings.

  19. Social medias do help blogs to find their own visitors and their post spread throughout the net, they provide free charge help for bloggers like we are to get exposure

  20. Mr. P says:

    This is the first time I have ever read your blog. I’m building a site and getting ready to build another site (community) and this blog post has really helped, thanks.

  21. Mr Javo says:

    Social Medias are an important aspect for any blog. Through they, your online presence start growing more and more each time someone shares a post of yours with its friends…

    May be a good strategy is to be friendly and helpful in that kind of websites, as Chris says…

  22. Joni says:

    I have separate accounts for my personal life and my business life. I find it unprofessional to be blogging about personal things when I have my business hat on. When I’m just “me,” though, I let my hair down. I don’t do this so someone won’t find the “bad girl,” but just to have some sense of professionalism for the biz and to also allow you to get to know the real me. Make sense? I have dual accounts for Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. The only place where I have just one identity is LinkedIn.

    It turns out Twitter was invaluable to me during Hurricane Ike (I live in Houston, which took a pretty direct hit). The news media were twittering the night away and in the days following, were instrumental in pointing out what areas had power, which were still flooding, where we could get ice, gas, etc. I have new respect for it since that time.

    My business partner and I use Facebook as a viral marketing tool to some extent.

  23. I’ve been shying away from social media, mostly because I can’t shake the thought that I am wasting time that could be invested in writing, researching, reading other relevant blogs, and commenting to share ideas.

    Perhaps I need to rethink that belief. Thanks.

  24. Joni says:

    @Blue Duck Copy … I used to think that too, but I’ve made some really interesting connections on FB and Twitter that ended up leading to jobs or at least some nice referrals. So .. yeah, you CAN waste time on there, depending on what you’re doing, but you can also look at it as just another way to press the flesh so to speak. :)

  25. Young Che says:

    Everyday I learn so much about social media and the rabbit hole its created. I’m baffled by how much there is to experiment with and never run out of more goals to “accomplish” or things “to do” in order to be truly “effective” in this realm. Then I talk with a “real person” who hasn’t bothered to give any of this a second thought. We must really be from the future.

  26. surendera says:

    Social media is the best way to get traffic.Right?

  27. اناشيد says:

    Social media is the best way to get traffic.Right?

  28. Lee says:

    It’s hard to keep track of the outposts. Like staying interested in twitter and plurk and all of the other places.

    I find myself interested in spurts, and then having my interest wane.

  29. Dimitri says:

    This such a great post! I’ve used Web 2.0 tactics for some time, but it was connecting everything into one base that brought the most success. Thank you very much…

  30. Carole Cohen says:

    The graphics you used are fab and ‘This Post is Half Over’ had me spitting my wine lol. The outpost/home base makes a lot of sense.

    The only thing I would add from my experience is that I tried to put about 15-20 spokes er, outposts on that social media amoeba but in reality I can only successfully work about three and peripherally about two more. I’m still signed up to about 30 of them but i am lucky to even remember their names! And I also found that two years ago the outposts were different. The only constant for me is LinkedIn and a Real estate network; I have a feeling Twitter is a keeper and I get the feeling Triiibes may be too.

    It sure is exciting to watch it all progress.

  31. Sachin says:

    very very useful post indeed

  32. I learned a lot from this blog about home bases and outposts. As a new blogger, It sounds complicated to me. I hope I can apply all the ideas in this blog, The more experience I have as a blogger, the sooner I will be able to apply the social media to increase traffic in my blogs.

  33. Hey Darren,

    Aside: We may have come across a few of the same folks in Toronto.

    This is a great post. The model really matters for all corporations and individuals, as increasingly, perception emanates from scaled up forms of social capital (i.e. social media) rather than broadcast and off line word of mouth.

    I hope that you will download my recent ChangeThis manifesto and ebook at: http://socialcapitalvalueadd.com/about-scva

    It seems to me to be a continuation of this blog entry. I would be grateful if you reviewed SCVA on your blog.

    Cheers,
    mc

  34. Pam Abbazia says:

    I love the way you put this: “Relationships, ideas, traffic, resources, partnerships, community and much more emerge from the outposts – much of it making my home base stronger.”

    At DBE, we’ve been encouraging clients to think of social media properties as “Digital Outposts” so they can protect, fortify and build their brands in the social media sphere. For further reading, here’s a blog post from Niki Fielding which uses Digital Outposts as a framework for understanding social media marketing: http://dbesem.blogspot.com/2007/10/digital-outpostsa-framework-for-web-20.html

  35. uwak says:

    very useful learning…..thanks for great posting

  36. Yemoonyah says:

    I also heard Chris Brogan use the term “outposts” and it makes much sense to me as I use my social network sites the same way.
    And now with services like http://ping.fm and http://pixelpipe.com, the friendfeed facebook app etc, managing all these different outposts becomes much easier.

  37. Neal Wiser says:

    Great post. really helps to put the various tools and types of services we use into perspective. However, I’d like to paint a slightly broader picture of the Social Profile and add:

    - TouchPoints: such as various Instant Messanger and Email Accounts.
    - SIGs (Special Interest Groups): Such as the various groups one might belong to in LinkedIn, for example.

    Each ToucPoint and SIG helps to play a vital role in my online profile and are vital tools I use to keep in touch with different groups.

    Thanks,
    Neal

    Find me online at:
    - My new Blog: “HyperTense” at: http://www.nealwiser.com
    - Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/nealwiser

  38. Excellent post, loved the visual – this is exactly what I have been working on for the past few weeks, and your post helped me fine tune my approach. Very helpul, thanks!

    Joni

    (All of my connections are here:
    Forum Communications
    http://www.jonihubredgolden.com)

  39. frank says:

    Having a solid outpost in Twitter has helped me a TON as I’ve launched a new blog with the company I work with. The relationships and network of people I’ve built on Twitter have been very supportive and helpful. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but i bet at least 30% of our current traffic is based on sharing via Twitter.

    linkedIn is a distand second and facebook a distant third.

    What I’ve found to be most effective in an outpost strategy is to:

    1) Figure out where the people are that you need to be reaching with your blog

    2) Create accounts in the places you identified based on #1 above

    3) Once you are set up with your account spend a LOT of time watching what is going on, listening to people that are already there and researching things to see what people have found to be effective/ineffective.

    4) Once you have spent a good amount of time listening start sharing, engaging, talking to people – all with the intent/focus on helping others and adding value to those who listen to you.

    If you can start out this way things seem to start to fall into place and the outpost becomes a place that will not only drive traffic to your blog it will also become a place where you gain a lot of insight/knowledge to make your blog content even better!

    http://twitter.com/franswaa