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About Clare Lancaster

A trained designer, Clare became an accidental marketer in 2001 when she fell into the world of SEO and has worked online ever since. When she's not on Twitter or writing for women in business, Clare reviews blogs and works with passionate online business owners to overhaul their business results.

2010: The Social Media Year in Review for Bloggers

2010 will be remembered as the year that social media made a big splash in the lives of business owners.

If you’re someone who runs an online business, you’ll have realized that social media has joined the ranks of SEO as a must-do activity (and, for some, has started to rival the number of traffic referrals sent, too).

While many people made mistakes as they tried to cash in on the next phase of the Internet, it was those who embraced the social element of social media who forged alliances, and built audiences and sustainable businesses.

Are you participating?

If you’re not participating in social media, you’re missing out on a lot.

The New York Times reported that Americans are spending as much time online as they are in front of the television set.

People are watching 2 billion videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily. In fact, every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube.

Facebook served over 500 million active users, and 50% of those users log on to Facebook in any given day. The average user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 pages, groups, and events. If Facebook was a country it would be the third-largest in the world. Do you have a presence there?

Let’s not forget about Twitter—the social networking platform is on track to serve 200 million users by year’s end. I’ve got to ask you the same question: do you have a presence there?

Of course, people aren’t just networking and connecting online, they’re publishing too. As of December, 2010 there are over 32 million WordPress publishers.

Personal influence and reach is easier to build than ever before, and it’s more powerful than you could imagine. People’s purchasing behaviors are changing, as are the ways they find and consume content.

An introvert who spends most of their time on a computer in a basement can influence a network of thousands. What if they visit your blog and like what they see? You’ve got ways for them to share your content with that network, don’t you?

The bottom line

The way we use the Internet has changed, and social media simply reflects this. If you aren’t taking part, you’re getting left behind.

Have you actively used and experimented with social media over the last year? How have you fared?

The 5 Critical Errors Most People Make When they Start Using Social Media for Business

For most businesses, participating in social media is unchartered territory. When there are no examples to follow, the only way to learn is to experiment. Over the last 18 months, I’ve been observing what’s worked and, more importantly, what hasn’t.

Here are the top five ways a business can alienate people and waste time using social media.

1. Use social media as a broadcast medium

The beauty of social media is that they permit a two-way conversation. They lets us communicate with individuals in a way that mass media cannot. Participating on social media is not the same as booking an ad space—don’t treat it that way.

For the first time in history, individuals have their own voice and platform and they’re not afraid to use the power that comes along with it. Use your platform to communicate with individuals and build community. It’s not only the “new” way to do things—it’s fast becoming the only way you should operate online.

2. Sound like a robot

When someone is considering following you or liking your page, they’ll check out your profile and what you’ve said first. If it’s repetitive, self promoting or sounds like an automated feed, people won’t feel a connection to you, and they won’t want to connect with you.

The increase in spam bots that are infiltrating social networks means that people are becoming more cautious. You need to use a human voice (more casual than corporate) if you want people to connect with you.

3. Only focus on work topics or yourself

Sometimes I feel like people forget about the social part of social media. It’s important to think about what interests your audience members have in common, and talk about them. For example, I know that my audience are women in business (or women who want to be), but they also have a universal love of design, travel, and organization.

Know what current affairs, movies, TV shows, music, magazines and other cultural activities your readers have in common. Ask their opinions about them. Start conversations.

Not sure what they’re into? One way to find out more about their general interests (outside your blog) is to look at profiles of people who follow you. Check out their blogs, and see what they’re talking about and linking to. Talk about what they like. You’ll find that if one person in your audience is into something, there are bound to be others who are too.

4. Grow your network too quickly

This one is self-explanatory, and relates to Twitter specifically. If you’re following 500 people and you have 46 followers, you’re trying to grow your network too quickly and you’re wasting your time.

Cull your numbers. Focus on connecting with the people who are following you first and then gradually add to your network.

5. Don’t start conversations

This is such a common pitfall. You start up an account and wait for people to start talking to you. No one does, so you give up and think, “this social media stuff is a waste of time.”

Don’t wait for people to come to you. Start conversations and dip in on conversations that you can contribute something useful to. Share a link and ask a question about it.

What are the things holding you back from understanding social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

9 Practical Ways to Start Attracting an Audience to Your New Social Media Account

Last week we talked about what type of social media account you should set up. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll want to start building an audience straight away.

Remember, the value in social media is the depth of the personal connections you make, not the number of people who you’re connected to. You don’t want to get followers quickly—you want to build an audience. They are two different approaches with two different results.

How to start building an audience on a new social media account

1. Add social media icons to every page of your website

Just as your mailing list signup form appears on every page on your website, so should links to your social media accounts. People who are using social media will look for the icon that represents their preferred networking platform.

There are plenty of free icon sets for you to use if you search for them. Group the icons together in an obvious place and include links to each of your accounts.

2. Add social sharing buttons

Add social sharing buttons to your blog posts (e.g. the Facebook Like button or Twitter tweet button). These allow readers to share individual posts with their networks, helping to grow awareness of your blog and your social media presence.

3. Leverage your existing audience

We’re big fans of leverage here at ProBlogger. When you’re starting to build an audience on a new account, the easiest way to do it is to leverage your existing audience.

Write a blog post inviting people to connect elsewhere and add links to your social media accounts in your newsletters. If you’ve already built an audience on one platform, invite them to connect on other platforms too.

4. Add links to your social media account to your email autoresponder

Whether you add a dedicated email to your email autoresponder sequence or simply include links in your automatic welcome email, make sure to invite your subscribers to connect on their social networking platforms of choice.

5. Link to your accounts from your guest post bio

When I was deciding which links to include in my bio, I thought about which would give me the greatest long-term value. Connecting on social media allows your guest post readers to get to know you and create a long-term relationship. Choose to link to the account you are most active on.

6. Include a call to action at the end of your blog posts

Add a link to your most frequented social networking account at the end of each blog post with an invitation to connect if the reader liked what they saw.

7. Add a call to action on your About page

The about page is typically one of the most popular pages on a blog. As the reader learns more about you, be sure to invite them to connect on other social platforms.

8. Add a link to your email signature

Most of us send a lot of email daily. Make the most of that effort and add links to your accounts to your email signature.

9. Highlight your social media accounts regularly

Attracting people to your social media accounts should be considered a meaningful transaction. As with all meaningful transactions, you need to promote this one regularly. Once you start to build an audience, keep leveraging new connections by regularly linking to your other accounts and inviting them to connect there too.

My most important tip?

Go and do these things now. Reading articles alone isn’t going to help build an audience on your accounts. Jump in and use what you’ve got now to build a better blog business in the future.

Next week, I’ll look at the most common mistakes other people make when they start participating in social media for business—so that you don’t have to.

Personal Or Business Social Media Accounts: Which Is Best for You?

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when you start using social media and participating in social networking is to choose your username.

It might seem like a simple question, but the username you decide on will be closely linked to your branding, how people perceive you, and your brand’s future worth.

Your final decision will depend on the answers you give to the following questions:

  • Do you blog for fun or profit?
  • Is your blog a hobby or a business?
  • Are you building a personal brand or a business brand?

I’m sure you’re wondering which is best for your business.

The right answer may not be what you think

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and there are benefits and disadvantages to both personal and business branding within the social media space.

I chose to register my primary social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) under my personal name.

I wanted to establish myself personally in my industry and niche, and position myself as the owner of a portfolio of online businesses.  I didn’t want to tie my name to one business alone. My reputation is of the utmost importance to me—it’s my trust currency, and I want to leverage each of my business actions as much as possible.

What should you do?

I’ve launched three businesses using my personal brand. However, I’ve recently separated my womeninbusiness.com.au brand from my personal brand. One of the reasons I did this was so I could present extra value to potential advertisers by offering a more targeted social media audience. I was also conscious of my (eventual) exit plan.

My answer to the personal vs. business social media accounts question was to register—and maintain—both. I built my reputation on my personal account and created a new account for my blog once I had an audience that warranted the separation.

Of course, I have thousands more social media connections on my established personal brand account than I do on my business account, but like I said, I’m fond of leveraging my actions.

Next week, I’ll tell you about the best ways I’ve found to attract an audience to new social media accounts. In the meantime, let us know how you have handled the personal vs. business brand question in your social media accounts.

How to Use Social Media to Attract a Higher Advertiser Rate

This post is by Clare Lancaster, of WomenInBusiness.com.au.

As a blog business owner, your brand needs to reach beyond your blog.

Your presence on social media is a valuable one. In some ways, it’s the ultimate opt-in. When someone follows you on Twitter, subscribes to your YouTube channel or likes your Facebook page they’re making a choice to connect with you—and are receptive to your message.

These communication channels become assets for you to cultivate loyalty, relationships, and importantly, influence.

These assets are valuable not only for you, but for advertisers also. More and more, my advertising leads are inquiring about social media reach. They don’t just want a banner ad on my website—they want their brand exposed to my social networks.

There are creative ways to add more value for advertisers (in exchange for higher rates) without being spammy. You don’t want to sell your soul and lose the trust that you’ve built, but there’s no reason why you can’t monetize the attention of your audience beyond your blog.

Ways to use social media to offer more value to advertisers

  • Publish a blog post to welcome a new sponsor and tweet about it.
  • Publish a monthly “Editor’s picks” post including from your advertiser’s products/service range.
  • Continue this by linking to a page within an advertiser’s products/service range from Facebook.
  • Add a page to your Facebook account detailing monthly special offers that you’ve negotiated with your advertisers.

Make sure in all cases that the line between all advertising/editorial is clearly drawn and appropriately marked.

Add your social media statistics to your media kit and include any extras that advertisers will receive when they choose to book a campaign with you. You’ll get extra dollars for minimal extra work, and your advertisers will receive extra value.

Haven’t separated your personal social media accounts from your blog’s yet? Next week I’ll explore the pros and cons of doing just that.

Clare Lancaster offers blog reviews to help improve the business performance of your blog. She is passionate about helping people make their own path in work and life and can be found on Twitter most days (@clarelancaster).

How to Use a Manifesto to Spread your Blog’s Message

This post is by Clare Lancaster, of WomenInBusiness.com.au.

Ever since I read Chris Guillebeau’s manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success, I’ve been inspired to create one for my own blog. The way that it communicated the message of his blog, packaged in an attractive, shareable, valuable asset that cemented his place as a niche leader, was enough to make this blogger gush.

After nine months of blogging I decided to create a manifesto for my blog. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve done.

It’s helped me:

  • communicate the purpose and mission of my blog (which has helped keep my posts consistent in their message)
  • attracted the “right” people
  • built community and solidarity with those “right” people
  • spread my message to the networks of “right” people, attracting them to my blog.

It’s been blogged, shared, tweeted, emailed, and printed out. I’ve received emails of thanks, one woman wrote to tell me she had printed it out and given it as a gift to her (all female) staff.

So, what exactly are blog manifestos, and should you create one for your blog?

What is a manifesto?

A manifesto traditionally communicates the values and beliefs of a group of people or organization. The most common form of blog manifestos are ebooks.

A manifesto that offers special value for your readers can act as a viral marketing tool for your blog. It gives the reader an idea of the bigger picture and purpose of your blog, and empowers them.

A manifesto is a method of structuring your message in a way that your audience finds relatable, desirable and, most importantly, attainable. It communicates a set of ideals and invites a reader to join you on your journey.

How to create your own blog manifesto

Like any trend, the more popular manifestos get, the harder it is to break through the noise. Look to see what’s being produced in your niche and do something different. Be original: think about what your particular audience wants, needs, and will find irresistible.

I created my manifesto as a one-page poster designed to be printed and stuck to a wall. Find the best way to communicate your message to your audience. It doesn’t have to be an ebook. It doesn’t have to be a long story. It just has to have impact.

Give your manifesto away freely—you want it to spread. You also want it to be linked to your blog, so brand it strongly, but not obtrusively.

Don’t forget about your own assets when promoting your manifesto. Link to it from your email signature, add it to your navigation bar and your mailing list welcome email, and blog and tweet about it.

What’s your message?

Here’s the catch; you need a strong message before you even think about creating a manifesto.

If you haven’t already, taking the time to think about your message will improve:

  • your branding
  • how your audience relates to you
  • your value offer and niche positioning with your readers
  • your editorial direction and overall purpose

So my question to you is: what’s your message? How does your message help your readers? What’s going to make them share your message with their network?

Clare Lancaster offers blog reviews to help improve the business performance of your blog. She is passionate about helping people make their own path in work and life and can be found on Twitter most days (@clarelancaster).

The 5 Foundations of Social Media Success that No One Talks About

This post is by Clare Lancaster, of WomenInBusiness.com.au.

As I was sitting down to write my first social media column for ProBlogger I was thinking about the best place to start. Should I do a run through of the basics or jump right into reporting on my latest experiment?

My sense of flow and logic won over and here we are at the beginning, a very good place to start.

The rave, by leocub

I could talk about the things we’ve all heard before. Such as how important it is to observe the etiquette on social networking platforms—to behave like you’re at a friend’s cocktail party, not a sales conference.

Or the fact that you should build your network slowly, with focus, and engage people in conversation—not drill out your sales message and expect people to pay attention.

Or that networking platforms like Twitter are a communication tool—not a marketing tactic.

But that’s not very exciting, is it? Instead, here are 5 foundations of social media success that no one talks about.

1. Nice guys finish first.

Just as building your blog business is a marathon, not a sprint, so is your path to social media success. Resist the urge at all times to automate your network building. People want to do business with people they like. Be a nice guy and help people out. Answer questions generously. Connect people who would benefit from knowing each other.

2. People like people who like them.

This one’s all about ego (theirs, not yours). The first thing businesses want to know when they come to me for advice is, “How can I get the attention of my audience? No one is talking to me.”

I say: talk to audience; don’t wait for them to talk to you. Notice individuals and what they’re doing before you expect anyone to notice you and what you’re doing. Don’t just notice them, promote them.

3. Transparency isn’t everything.

There’s a lot to be said about transparency. Again, something we’re told all the time is that transparency and authenticity are key to social media success. Yes, people like to see behind the scenes of your business and what you’re creating. Yes, they like to know the human side of your brand. No, they don’t want to know what you had for breakfast. Or that you’re broke. Above all, don’t be boring.

4. Position yourself.

We’ve established that people do business with people they like. So does your network know what you do? You want to position yourself to be top of mind for a topic, and the easiest way to do this is to live and breathe it. If you’re blogging about your passion, this will come naturally.

5. Pay special attention to your fans.

Do you know who your fans are? Now before you get all Rock Star on me, I mean the people who comment on your blog and your Facebook page, retweet your posts and always open your emails. Know them, connect with them, and make them feel special.

So how did I go? Are there any questions you have about the basics of social media? Are there any topics you’d like me to talk about in more depth? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Clare Lancaster offers blog reviews to help improve the business performance of your blog. She is passionate about helping people make their own path in work and life and can be found on Twitter most days (@clarelancaster).