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Blogging, and Twitter, and Readers…Oh My!

This is a guest contribution from Courtney Gordner.

If you want to maximise the potential of your blog, it’s essential that you interact with your followers. And if you want to interact with your followers, you need to know where to find them.

When they’re online and not reading through your latest post, odds are, they’re engaging with social media.  This is exactly why if you have a blog, you should be interacting with your readers on Twitter.

But hang on just a second.  Before you jump right into linking your blog with Twitter, you should take some time to make your blog “Twitter friendly.”  Here’s how this is done:

Creating a Twitter-Friendly Blog

Be Familiar with Your Target Audience and What Interests Them

It’s tempting to think that your blog should be all about your interests, but in reality, if you want to accrue a consistent readership, it’s essential that you write for your audience.

With this in mind, you should develop a marketing persona to understand the needs and priorities of your audience and a social media persona to know where they gather and interact on social media.

Use a Featured Image

Pictures, infographics, and visual aids draw readers in and grab their interest. Pictures should be properly formatted and appropriate for your content. Also, images of people are especially effective, so they should be used whenever possible.

Twitter Tools to Use with Your Blog

Use the Sidebar

Ask visitors to follow you on Twitter in your sidebar. Maximise the value of your blog by getting readers to interact with you on other social media sites.

It’s likely that visitors are already spending a lot of time on these platforms, and if you want to attract more readers, you need to go where the people go.

Incorporate Social Sharing Icons Above and Below Every Post

This is especially effective with your readers who are visually oriented.

Linking Twitter and Your Blog

Develop a Blog Profile

In your blog profile, you should give information about your blog, along with providing its URL, a current description, and gravatar.  The name you use on Twitter should be consistent with your blog.

Make Your Blog’s Brand Part of Your Twitter Image and Background

Since you’re using social media to enhance your blog’s brand, you should make sure that your Twitter profile uses brand elements that identify with your blog.

Enlist the Help of Your Friends

Share posts from your friends on your Twitter page, and have them return the favor by sharing your posts on theirs.

Keep Your Eye on the Competition

Use your personal account to follow and interact with your competition on Twitter.  The benefits of this are twofold:  first, it allows you to develop relationships with people who may be interested in your content; secondly, it gives you ideas for other topics to address on your blog.

Optimizing Your Blog’s Potential with Twitter

Tweet Each Blog Post Multiple Times 

Since people on social media live across the country in different time zones, this helps to ensure that your posts get noticed.

Condense Blog Posts into “Tweetable” Chunks

For more lengthy posts, roundups, and lists, make the most of your content by creating a set of tweets to be posted over an extended period of time.

For Reader Accessiblity, Pre-Format Tweets

This works especially well with quotes and data roundups.  To promote tweeting, use Clicktotweet.

Extend Your Blog’s Reach with Optimal Hashtags

Keep your audience in mind as you evaluate the relevance of the content for your hashtags.  You should use a maximum of three hashtags and keep them separate from the body of your message.

Publish Your Tweets With a Scheduling Tool

Scheduling tools allow you to set the time you want your tweets to appear.

Express Gratitude Towards People Who Share Your Blog Posts

They will appreciate the recognition, and by thanking people, you can develop and strengthen your social media relationships.

Join Pertinent Twitter Chats

Joining chats on Twitter is another great way to build social media relationships.  Consider joining #BlogChat on Sunday evenings to learn ways to optimise your blog and interact with other bloggers.

Interacting with your blog readers on Twitter shows readers that you care about them and value their input.  It helps you maintain your current readership and even allows you to draw in new readers.

So, if you want a widely followed blog that can’t be beat, the answer is clear:  you better start to tweet.

Courtney Gordner is a blogger with a passion for all things internet, social media and SEO. She learned her skills while working for an internet marketing company.

Disillusioned with Facebook: Here’s a Way Forward

facebook-frustration_full

Are you disillusioned or frustrated with Facebook?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard bloggers say that they are unhappy with the changes Facebook have made to their algorithm in the last 12 months – changes that make it harder for those who ‘like’ your page to actually see your updates.

I admit to this frustration too.

12 months ago on a webinar I declared I was considering switching most of my social media efforts away from Facebook to other social networks because I was so frustrated. I’d put years of effort into building my Facebook following only to see the company make changes to show fewer and fewer of my updates to followers.

It hurt to see all that effort seemingly go to waste.

However it wasn’t wasted and rather than giving up I decided to try to understand and work within the changes Facebook had made.

Thankfully that approach has paid off.

As regular readers of ProBlogger know – of late I’ve been investing even more time into Facebook as a place to share the content published on dPS and to build community with our readers.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago in a post titled How I Increased Facebook Reach and Engagement by 200-300% this Week.

I’ve continued to experiment with and evolve the strategies mentioned in the above post on the dPS Facebook page but today wanted to point readers to Facebook’s own words on the changes they’ve made over the last few months – words that I think give some hints as to how a blogger should approach building their page on Facebook.

Towards the end of August Facebook published a post on their Business Blog titled News Feed FYI: Showing More High Quality Content which spoke of the changes that they’d made.

While it didn’t give specific information on exactly how their algorithm decides what updates to show it does give some good hints that I think are worth pondering as a Facebook page owner.

What to Focus Your Efforts On with Facebook

The post indicates there are thousands of factors that determine if someone who has liked your page will actually see your content but that really it boils down to a few main things. Here they are in the words of Facebook itslef:

  • Make your posts timely and relevant
  • Build credibility and trust with your audience
  • Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”
  • Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their News Feeds?”

The concepts here that stand out to me are that for a post to show up in news feeds it needs to be timely, relevant, trustworthy and shareable. Ultimately I think they’re talking about delivering high ‘value’ to those who like your page.

This is common sense on many levels and is similar to the advice I’ve given here on ProBlogger on building an audience of a blog.

High quality, high value content and building trust with your audience.

So what can you do to deliver this?

Ultimately it will different from niche to niche but what I’m attempting to do on the dPS Facebook page is this.

1. Understand My Readers Needs and Deliver Content that Meets Them – Relevancy

My followers want to improve their photography – so the bulk of what I share aims to help with this. Regular content that solves problems is what my main focus is – this is ‘relevancy’. I avoid fluffy and general questions to get cheap comments – but rather keep on topic and focus upon the topic I know those who’ve liked my page want to see.

2. Understand What My Readers Like to Share – Shareable

My followers love to share great images, cool and geeky tips and humorous content. As a result I try to make as many of the updates that I do as shareable as possible.

Posts that link back to my blog always have shareable images in them and I will often put together collages of great images because I know those also trigger shares with our audience.

3. Understand the ‘Rhythms’ of your Readers – Timely

My niche being photography I know that many of our followers are most active in taking photos on the weekend. So we’ve started doing ‘share your photo’ posts on our Facebook page at the end of the weekend (see the latest one here).

I’ve done these the last 3 weeks and already our readers are starting to look forward to them and anticipate us doing them. This ‘timely’ content seems to be driving some great engagement.

I suspect that doing different types of posts regularly would be a good way forward and I’d like to do more of this.

4. Produce Quality Content – Value and Trust

The quality of updates is paramount. Publishing low quality content could at the worst cause followers to react negatively (hiding your posts, marking you as spam etc) or simply make them ignore you (not commenting, liking sharing).

This not only impact whether that post might be seen but goes toward decreasing the trust and credibility of your page!

What to Avoid Doing on Facebook

Also in Facebook’s post there’s reference to negative factors that could harm a status update ranking well. Facebook recommends asking yourself these questions:

  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

These points are well worth considering. I see a lot of bloggers who seem to be posting ‘like my stuff’ type updates or sharing fluffy/cheap quotes and graphics that don’t have a lot of value in them.

If my reading of the Facebook advice is correct – it is this type of update that Facebook is focused upon removing from news feeds and that could impact the trust/credibility of your page.

Perhaps a good question to ask before publishing an update to Facebook is ‘does this update run the risk of annoying my followers?

If you are posting updates that primarily ask for likes or that are after cheap shares or comments (which also have a high annoyance factor) then you might want to rethink your strategy.

Not only will these posts go unseen – they’ll impact the overall trust and credibility of your page which will impact whether ALL of your updates are seen!

I suspect also that the frequency of your updates could come into play with ‘annoying’ readers (and causing people to ‘hide’ your content).

The hard part about all of this is that there is sometimes a fine line between creating updates that are liked/shared/commented upon and tipping into annoying your readers. Really I guess it comes down to monitoring how your readers are responding and tweaking your approach.

One More Tip: Variety is a Factor

A factor that I’m increasingly convinced is important to consider when thinking about your updates in Facebook is to mix up the types of posts that you do.

Here’s why:

A factor that Facebook seems to consider when determining if it should show your update to someone who has liked your page is whether it is the type of content that they’ve interacted with in the past.

For example: if a follower has a history of engaging with images and your update is an image, they’re more likely to see it.

On the other hand if the follower has a history with engaging more with ‘link’ updates on the pages that they follow and all you post is images – then they may not see many of them.

So mixing up the type of updates that you post will mean you are reaching a larger number of your followers.

Typically I try to post at least one image/s post per day, one link post per day and one discussion type post per day.

My hope is that by doing this I’ll be producing content that different types of followers are going to respond to – which increases their engagement and trust with the page (which can only have a positive flow on impact).

I also hope that by mixing up the type of content that readers will be less likely to become bored with the same approach and stay engaged.

Don’t Give Up – Evolve Your Approach

Let me finish with an encouragement to those of you who are disillusioned with Facebook.

I understand your frustration – really I do.

However when faced with any obstacle in life or business we have the choice in how to move forward. We can walk away – or attempt to hurdle it. I think this one is well worth attempting to hurdle and encourage you to spend some time thinking about how to evolve your approach to work with the changes Facebook has made.

While I know some are skeptical about Facebook’s changes and think they are more about trying to force pages to advertise (and there may be some truth in this) I do believe that for Facebook to continue to be sustainable and successful that they need to provide those who use the site with the best experience possible.

Facebook will only continue to be a viable proposition if they deliver value to those who use the social network.

As a result what I see them doing is making changes to their algorithm to ensure that those who use Facebook see high quality content.

This is an opportunity for bloggers who are producing great content!

With almost 1.2 billion active monthly users I think to ignore this opportunity would be crazy!

One Activity You Should Do On Your Blog Every Day

Every DayWhat’s the one thing that you should do on your blog every day (or at least regularly)?

“Create new content!”

Good answer! Without regular new content your blog isn’t really a blog is it?

Another Great Daily Exercise for Your Blog

But other than creating new content – what else should you be paying attention to every day?

I want to suggest a simple activity that I think can be almost as important as creating new content for your blog.

It’s still content related but it’s about paying some attention to OLD posts.

Lately, I’ve been paying as much attention to my archives as I have to writing new content. And it’s paying off driving more traffic to old posts, finding new readers and importantly, improving the quality of content on the blog as a whole.

Here’s what I do:

1. Select a Post

I choose a post each day that is at least a year old. I usually choose one that is 2-3 years old and one that could do with some attention.

My criteria for selection is that it is a post with one or more of the following criteria:

  • It has performed well in the past, in terms of traffic or comment numbers
  • It has dated and needs updating to make it relevant for today
  • It was a good post but for one reason or another didn’t perform to its potential

I usually am looking for a ‘tutorial’ rather than a ‘news’ or ‘review’ type post – because I find these posts don’t date as fast.

2. Update It

By updating the post I mean numerous things, depending upon the post itself. These might include:

Update Content

This can be anything from a proof read through to a larger ‘rewrite’ of the post (or sections of it). I might add updates to make the post relevant to today or even add images/diagrams etc. Ultimately, it is about improving the content to make it more useful for readers.

Search Engine Optimisation

I don’t spend a heap of time on SEO but as I read back through the post, I will tweak it to better optimise for search engines. I use Yoast’s plugin for this and it helps by suggesting areas the post can be improved (heading, titles, alt tags, meta descriptions etc).

I also add links to other relevant posts on the blog. This is not only good for SEO, it’s good for readers too.

Social Optimisation

Posts published 3 or more years ago were published into a very different internet. Since then we’ve seen people sharing different types of content through new social media sites like Pinterest and G+.

One update I like to make is to make posts more shareable. For example adding a good visual or a collage of images can make a post more shareable on Pinterest. Also adding calls to action to share can be beneficial.

Calls to Action

In the same way that the web has changed over the last 3 years, so too have my own blogging goals and monetisation model. As a result, I take a critical look at old posts and what ‘calls to action‘ I’m giving to readers.

For example, 3 years ago I didn’t have any eBooks to sell, today on dPS we have 14. If a post I’m updating is relevant to one of these eBooks I’ll add a call to action to buy it. Other new calls to action might be to share a post on social media, to subscribe to our newsletter, to read another post, to join our forum etc.

3. Share and/or Republish

With the post updated, I then consider how it might be appropriate to give it some more exposure.

Again – there are a range of options available here including:

Republish

I don’t republish every updated post but 1-2 times per week, I will. I usually choose posts that have a proven track record of being well received and the type of content that has been shared in the past on social.

These posts go up on the blog as new posts simply by changing the publishing date to a recent one (note: on dPS I can do this easily as our link structure does not have dates in it).

Social

I also share every updated post on social media, in some way or another. I will tweet links to it but also add it into our Facebook and Pinterest sharing schedule.

Newsletter

At times I’ll also link to these updated posts in our weekly newsletter. I don’t do this for every post but often will add them with a note saying that they’re a hot post in the archives.

New/Followup Posts

The last thing I occasionally do with updated posts is to write new followup posts. This usually happens when I’m doing an update of an old post and realise that there is now scope to extend the idea considerably with a second part to the series. This new post will link back to the old – driving traffic back into the archives.

The Benefits of Paying Attention to Your Archives

The archives of your blog are in many ways just as important as the new posts on your blog.

On dPS we have over 4000 posts in the archives and it’s on these posts that the majority of our readers land thanks to search engine referrals. Updating those posts, in the way I’ve described above, not only helps their search rankings but makes the posts more useful , which means you’re more likely to see the posts shared by readers and more likely to create a good first impression on the readers who find them.

The result is more traffic, more subscribers and followers and hopefully more revenue as a consequence.

Do you update old posts on your blog? What other ‘updates’ would you add to my list above?

Are You Leaving Yourself Open To Social Media Identity Theft?

This is a guest contribution from Amy Johnson.

Social media has become incredibly popular.  Many people have accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or LinkedIn, and many share information, photos, and other things with their friends through these sites. But they may not realise how much they’re sharing or that strangers can access some of this information.

In fact, some people never think to apply some of the basics of online identity theft prevention to their social media posts and profiles.

It’s important to realise that, even if you have restricted your posts to certain people, it may be possible that others can see and access some of your information and use it to steal your identity.

What to Keep Secret

When you sign up for a social media profile, there are some things you almost always have to provide, such as your first and last name, your email, and your birthdate. Most sites allow you to keep some of this information hidden, but you still have to provide it.

However, besides the email address, you aren’t actually required to provide real information. You can use a fake last name or a fake birthday if you want. Just make a note of this information in case you need it later. Most sites will send a confirmation link to your email address that you must click on to activate the account, so you must enter a valid email address.

However, to avoid giving spammers and others your real email, create an email address you use only for things like social media or mailing lists.

Never add your address or phone number to your profile.

Think about your Profile Picture

Posting a profile picture is almost a requirement with social networks now, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a picture of you. You can use a picture of your pets, a piece of artwork you’ve done, or a picture you’ve applied different filters to.

If you have a professional photo that you know is being used elsewhere on the internet, there’s no reason not to use it, especially if you’re creating a work-related profile on a site like LinkedIn.

Here are two things when considering what picture to use:

  1. Does it give away any information about me that I would rather keep public?
  2. Would I want my mother or children seeing this picture?

Privacy Settings

Almost all social media sites have privacy settings you can use to help with online identity theft protection. However, they usually are not set by default.

When you create a new profile, make certain to look at the privacy settings and set them to at least friends-only. You may want to set some items, such as your birthday, to private. Remember that even if you choose not to display your birthdate on your profile, some social media sites will announce it’s your birthday to your friends, so you may need to find and turn off that setting as well.

Do Not Accept All Friend Requests 

It goes without saying that you should never accept friend requests from people you don’t know, but what about acquaintances and friends of friends you might have met once or twice?

If you don’t know the person well enough that you would be willing to share information face to face, you may not want to add them to your profile.

Be Careful What You Post

While it may be very tempting to post about your upcoming vacation, remember that this is telling people when your home will be empty.

Be careful when mentioning things like this, especially if you haven’t adjusted your profile privacy settings or if you have people on your friends list who you don’t know very well.

Protecting your Family from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a trend that has become more and more concerning to parents over the last decade. Instead of teasing or bullying a child in public, kids have taken to using social media sites to do so.

Bullying on social media sites is just as hurtful as physical bullying. While it may be easy enough to block a bully on a site like Facebook, if they have access to your personal information, they may start bullying through email, text, or even appear at your house.

This is why it’s very important for children to understand that they must keep their information private. If you teach your kids online identity theft prevention techniques now, they will habitually use them later.

Check Your Credit

Finally, keep an eye on your credit. The importance of credit monitoring extends beyond keeping your credit cards safe. It can also alert you to online identity theft and help you understand where people are getting your personal information.

Checking your credit score regularly, as well as locking down your social media profiles, are both great methods of online identity theft prevention.

Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances.

Got a HOT Post on Your Blog? Here’s What to Do To Find and Optimise It

Yesterday, I shared a post that analysed 5 posts I wrote in the first year of Digital Photography School, that went on to generate a lot of traffic for the site.

Today, I want to build upon that post and share some tips on how to capitalise on such posts to help you to build your blog even further.

You see, getting a post to the point where it’s generating decent traffic is just half of the challenge a blogger faces. If you have such a post, your work has only just begun!

Any post that is generating decent amounts of traffic, whether it’s temporary (as the result of a social media event or another blog linking up), or whether it’s because it’s ranking well in Google and generating decent long tail traffic, is a golden opportunity.

Every person who arrives on your popular post has the potential to help you reach your goals. They could:

  • Read another post (generate another page view which can be good for advertising revenue)
  • Subscribe to your feed or newsletter and become a regular reader
  • Follow you on one of your social media accounts and become part of your community
  • Buy a product you’re selling or promoting as an affiliate
  • Share the post with other people and help generate more traffic

You can add to or subtract from this list depending upon your own goals and objectives.

The key is to be aware of what posts are doing well for you in terms of building traffic and optimise those posts to help you achieve your goals.

Let’s break that down into two parts:

1. Build Monitoring Post Performance Into Your Workflow

Unless you’re aware of which posts are doing well, in terms of traffic, you’ll never know which posts to optimise.

Most bloggers don’t have too much of a problem with this. In fact, many of us quite obsessive about checking our blog stats! However, there are a variety of things that are well worth keeping track of on your blog. Here are two things I do regularly:

Check Real Time Stats

I love Google Analytics and have loved their addition of Real Time stats.

Optimizing posts google real time stats

This tool means that at any moment I can see a variety of great things about what’s happening on my site, including total visitor numbers but also which posts are particularly hot at any point.

I keep ‘real time stats’ open most of the day and check it numerous times through the day as part of my normal working rhythm.

So if there’s a post that is going viral due to something happening on Facebook or because another blog has linked up, then I can immediately identify that post and think about how I might leverage that traffic.

This is only really useful in helping you to identify temporary rushes of traffic so it is also important to keep checking of long tail traffic that might be slowly building up over time.

For example – yesterday I gave the example of a post on the topic of ISO in photography. This particular post has never really had a day of viral traffic but over the last 6 years it has generated over 2 million page views. It’s simply ranked well in Google which, every day, sends a few hundred visitors to the post.

Digging Deeper to Identify Long Tail Traffic

If I was only ever checking Google’s ‘real time stats’ I might never have noticed that post was doing well – so it’s also important to dig deeper.

So every month I spend a little time looking at what posts have done well on the site. I look at this both to see what new posts have done well from newsletter traffic, social media etc – but also drill down further just to look at search engine traffic.

Here’s a screenshot of last months search traffic to posts:

Search traffic last month

This is golden information to be aware of as it identifies some key posts and pages in the archives that I should be spending time optimising (see how below). Collectively these pages send a lot of traffic over time to the site, if I’m not paying attention to them I’m wasting some great opportunities.

2. Optimising Pages

Once you’ve identified which pages are seeing higher than normal traffic to your blog you then want to turn your attention to thinking about how to leverage that traffic.

How you do this will depend upon your own individual goals for your blog.

Here are a few things that I have done on some of my key pages:

Note: all of these things you should be doing on all of your posts to some degree. Your goal should be to have a blog that will call people to action in all the ways mentioned below – however when you have key pages that are performing above average – you’d be crazy not to spend a little extra time polishing up those posts!

Directed people to my Newsletter

The #1 goal for me when a new person arrives on my blog is to get them to signup for our free weekly newsletter. We do this through a popup that shows the first time that they arrive but on my key posts, I also add a specific invitation to subscribe to our newsletter in the post itself.

At times I do this as an update at the start of the post but often I’ll leave it to the last line of the post when the person has had an opportunity to digest the content and has hopefully been helped by the post.

Interlinking Posts

In most of the posts I featured in yesterday’s blog post, you’ll notice that they link to other relevant posts.

My goal is to get people deeper into my blog’s archives where they’ll hopefully realise that there is a lot of useful content that they should keep exploring.

My feeling is that the more posts a person reads the more likely they are to subscribe and keep coming back. Each post they view is not only an ad impression (which helps pay my bills) but also an impression upon them as a person about the brand of the site.

I will add these links both within the posts, as I mention concepts and topics that I’ve written about before, as well as ‘further reading’ sections at the end of a post (a place that people are looking for something else to do).

Promoting Products

I don’t do this on every ‘hot post’ but if the post is on a topic that is relevant to an eBook that we’ve produced I’ll certainly add a link to that eBook at the end of the post.

For example in yesterdays post I linked to a popular Photoshop post that I’d published in which I promote our Post Production eBook at the end.

Again – I wouldn’t do this for every post, just those that I have a relevant product for.

Opportunities to Share the Post

If the traffic coming into a post is coming from a social media source, and I notice it while the traffic is still coming in, I will often add a call to action to share the post on that social media site.

For example, at times I’ve noticed rushes of traffic coming in from Pinterest on particular posts. In these cases I will often add a Pinterest Button to the post at the bottom of the post (we already have one at the top).

Other times, I have noticed great traffic from Twitter so I’ll add a call to share the post on Twitter.

Optimise for Search

If the post is generating decent search traffic it might be worthwhile spending a little time thinking about how you might tweak the post to rank even higher in search engines.

I use Yoast’s free WordPress Plugin to help with this process and will often tweak meta description, alt tags of images, add headers etc based upon the recommendations in that tool.

I don’t spend a huge amount of time on SEO when it comes to building links to my site (in fact I spend no time at all and concentrate on building useful and shareable content) but if I do see a post doing well in search I will focus a little time on improving ‘on page’ SEO.

How I Increased Facebook Reach and Engagement by 200-300% This Week

Note: This post has been updated with fresh examples including our most seen post ever.

Over the last week I’ve been putting a renewed effort into working with Facebook after listening to a session by Amy Porterfield at our ProBlogger Training Event last week.

While our Digital Photography School Facebook Page is something that I update every day with new posts (and it does pretty decently with engagement and driving traffic). Based on some of Amy’s teaching (you can hear them in the virtual ticket) I decided to mix things up and this week I’ve experimented with a few new types of status updates on the page.

Aside: much of what I actioned I already knew I should be doing (or that I’d done once or twice before)… but wasn’t actually actioning regularly. Isn’t that always the way?!

Here are some of the things I’ve experimented with this week:

Image Posts

I’ve long known that images are GOLD on Facebook and have played around with status updates that are a great image from a blog post and a link in the image description. However, truth be told, I get lazy at times and fall into the trap of just adding a link into the status update area and let Facebook pull in an image automatically from the post.

This week I decided to pull my finger out and stop with the laziness and play with a couple of types of image updates. In doing so I realised that the ‘good’ results we’d been getting previously with Facebook pulling in small images from our post meant that we were well and truly under performing.

Single Image Updates

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 9.57.47 AM.png

Here’s an example of one of these. I chose a visually striking image from this blog post and uploaded the photo to Facebook. I then added a description of the image and a call to action to read the post.

The post got a higher than normal number of likes and shares and drove some really decent traffic to the site.

Collages

I’ve never done ‘collage’ based image updates on Facebook before so this was a very new experiment for me. I’m glad I did it. I used a free web based app called Pic Monkey to create these collages which were a collection of images from blog posts. Here are some examples:

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.01.30 AM.png
This status update was our most popular this week. It was a collage of 16 images that came from this blog post from our archives. This was a popular post that I knew had done well on Facebook last year so I thought it might be a good one to experiment with. You can see it received over 850 likes, 502 shares and had quite a few comments. It ‘reached’ over 80,000 people.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 04 21 AM

I was a little surprised by the above collage update. It was a collection of images from this blog post but I almost didn’t publish it as it wasn’t the most visually appealing collage. The post was quite technical and contained diagrams but no stunning photos. However, you can see that the update also did quite well with loads of likes and shares and driving a lot of traffic.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 09 00 AM

This collage was simply an image and a diagram that showed how the image was lit. In some ways the image actually was a ‘how to’ in and of itself and people didn’t need to click the link in the image description to put the tip into place – but they did click!

I experimented with a variety of other types of collages and they all did well. See a couple more examples here and here.

Albums

I’ve used this strategy in the past to great effect. Instead of uploading a single image or pulling multiple images from a post together into a collage, I upload multiple images into their own ‘album’.

You can see an example of one of these albums here (I literally uploaded this a few minutes ago but it’s already getting lots of likes) – it is just 6 images from a larger image collection post on my blog.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 21 47 AM

Interestingly you not only get people liking, commenting and sharing the whole albumin, you also get engagement on the individual photos in the album.

See other examples of albums that I’ve created in the past here and here.

Interaction Updates

Another style of update that I’ve always done because it gets a lot of comments and engagement is where I ask a simple question.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 45 25 AM

By asking followers what they took photos of we not only get lots of comments but many of those who respond actually upload photos for us to see too. That simple actions gets followers looking at each others photos and commenting/liking upon each others comments (true engagement).

Link Updates

While I’ve tried this week to use ‘image’ updates more than I had previously I am still sharing a few ‘link’ based updates as well.

Facebook have recently changed the way that they display these so that now if you have a large image in the post you’re linking to Facebook displays a larger wider version of that image in the update, making it more visually appealing. Here’s an example of one of these.

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 10 50 19 AM

While the engagement on this type of post isn’t as high I have noticed since Facebook made the change, we’re getting a bit more traffic from these updates as well as a higher number of ‘likes’.

The one tip I’d give on these types of updates is that rather than just pasting in your link and letting Facebook choose what text to display add in an introduction and call to action to read the post.

The Impact of this Weeks Experiments

It’s always a little tricky to tell exactly what impact these experiments have as Facebook made other changes in the last few weeks that will have had an impact too. However, we’ve definitely seen an upswing in engagement this past 10 days.

Here’s Facebook’s summary of our last week (click to enlarge):

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 11.17.01 AM.png

Page likes were up 17.7% on last week, total reach was up by over 200%, post reach up by over 300% and engagement up to just under 300%. Considering that the page was already travelling pretty well – I’m over the moon to see these initial results from these experiments.

Here’s a chart of our page’s ‘likes’ in the last few months:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 05 13 AM

Where a few weeks ago we were seeing a steady 100-300 likes per day this past week we’ve seen that rise to 700-1000 per day.

Similarly the stats are pretty clearly on the rise in terms of likes, comments and shares on posts this past week:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 07 47 AM

As has been ‘total reach’:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 08 49 AM

And the traffic to my blog has seen some improvement (although not the same spikes as we see on the above charts).

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 11 14 42 AM

Lastly, here is a screenshot of the last few days stats on each status update that we’ve done (click to enlarge). You can see in it most of the examples I’ve given above to show you how well they did with ‘reach’ and ‘engagement’.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 11.11.46 AM.png

UPDATE

Since publishing this post we’ve seen a result on a status update that has us shaking our head – our most seen update ever. It has been seen by over 135,000 people, liked 2100+ times, received 180+ comments and shared 805 times in the last 8 hours.

Here it is:

our hottest post on facebook

The update was based upon images in this post on the blog (which was a popular post that we published several years ago).

I think the update has been so successful for a few reasons:

  1. Collage Image – as outlined above – collages have been doing well for us. This one has the added benefit of being pretty much self contained and the image is a ‘how to’ by itself without anyone having to go view the post (although they’ve been visiting in great numbers). I do find that these kind of ‘how to’ or illustrative images do well not only on Facebook but also sites like Pinterest.
  2. Humour – the original post on the blog was quite funny with the author making fun of her bottom being shown in image #2. This has certainly been a feature of some of the comments left on the post. Humor works!
  3. Question – when I scheduled this status update I formatted the description of the image as a question. In fact I asked it twice. ‘Do You Know these 6 Techniques to Reduce Camera Shake?’ and ‘Which do you use?’ People are wired to answer questions – hence the high comment numbers. Effectively I’m combining the ‘image’ strategy’ and the ‘interaction’ strategies mentioned above.
  4. Engagement has been high on the page this past week. I suspect one underlying factor is that we’ve been seeing good engagement on the page this past week due to the above experiments. When you get engagement people are more likely to see your new posts – so anyone who has liked/commented/shared this past week is likely to have seen this post.

DISCUSS: Which Social Network Sends Your Blog the Most Traffic?

At PBEVENT last week I was having lunch with a group of 5 bloggers from quite different niches and for a few minutes the conversation centred around the topic of which social media sites send us the most traffic.

We went around the circle and shared the top sources of social media traffic for our blogs and it was fascinating to hear how for different blogs and niches the answer changed.

I thought it might make an interesting discussion post here on ProBlogger (and might help some of us to work out where to invest more time into social.

Social media traffic

While traffic isn’t the only benefit of engaging on social – I know for many bloggers it’s a big reason to be engaging in social.

So here are my 2 questions for discussion:

  1. what is your blog’s niche/topic?
  2. what social media site/s sends your blog the most traffic?

Let me quickly answer for my two main blogs:

For Digital Photography School

  1. the niche is obviously ‘photography tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was clearly Facebook with Pinterest coming in at number 2 (but not even close to what Facebook sent).

For ProBlogger

  1. the niche is ‘blogging tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was again Facebook – but Twitter came in as a closer 2nd.

Aside: I was actually a little surprised by the result for ProBlogger because last time I checked Twitter was the #1 and I do put more effort into building a presence on the ProBlogger Twitter account than on our Facebook Page (we also have a lot more engagement and larger following numbers on Twitter). It looks like I might need to rethink my focus a little!

6 Essential Twitter Tools to Find and Connect With Influencers

This is a guest contribution from Adam Connell, blogger at Bloggingwizard.com.

In the following post you’re going to discover a wide range of powerful and useful tools that will help you find and connect with the influencers on Twitter.

There have been a lot of great posts here on ProBlogger, a few of the best ones can be found here, here and here.

I’m going to be taking a different look at what is possible on Twitter.

This isn’t going to be just another list of tools that you can use to manage your Twitter profile – we are going to be talking about how to identify and connect with influencers in within your niche.

Before I dive in, I want to give you some background information on why you need to find and connect with influencers within your niche.

Influence Marketing

Influence marketing is all about identifying who has influence within your industry or niche and market directly to them.

Think about it like this, there are influencers within most niches or industries on the web and they have an existing audience so the ultimate aim of using these tools is that you will be able to tap into that audience and use it to market your blog.

You can use other platforms to find and connect with influencers, but ultimately Twitter influencer marketing is much more straight forward and there are enough tools on the market to help you.

Please note that there are an enormous number of tools available that can be used for influencer research and an even larger number of tools for Twitter in general – this is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Twitter Influencer Research Tools

1. Simply Measured

Simply Measured influencer tool

Simply Measured is a social analytics tool that will give you access to an incredible range of reporting and data collection tools.

At first glance, their subscriber toolset is quite expensive, but they do have an impressive range of free reports that you can have access too. They’re not just limited to Twitter either. Some of them include LinkedIn, Facebook, Vine, Google Analytics and more.

There is even a report that gives you a detailed combination of analytics that incorporates both Twitter and Klout data.

Simply Measured’s reporting tools will allow you to identify exactly who has the most influence among your network of followers.

This will tell you who you need to connect with and build relationships with.

2. Twtrland

Twitterland influencer tool Twtrland is an incredible social intelligence research tool that works with Twitter and Instagram. It excels at allowing you to easily find influencers and find market insights.

There is a free option and premium option ($19.99 per month), even the free account is still incredible powerful but you just won’t be able to export reports and lists.

There are a few other restrictions but one of the reasons why I like this is that you can still actually use the free account, most free accounts are restricted to the point where it is pointless even using (and then you subscribe of course).

You will get some interesting data about your Twitter account, but what you’re looking for here is to look at the follower’s analysis.

There is an immediate breakdown of the demographics of your Twitter followers – top followers, countries, cities and skills of your followers but the real fun stuff happens when you click ‘browse all’.

Twitter Land influencer tool

Next, tick the ‘power user’ option under Typecast, select your metrics, skills and other demographics – this will show you an incredible list of all of the people that you need to reach out to and connect with.

3. InkyBee

Inky Bee influencer tool

InkyBee is positioned as a blogger outreach tool but it also excels at finding market influencers.

Whether you’re doing blogger outreach or influencer research, the process is the same.

Add a ‘list’ and name it as the market you’re searching for influencers in then add a discovery job by inputting 3 different terms that you would imagine influencers to talk about in a single blog post.

InkyBee will go out and find blogs from all over the web that fit your search terms and pull in some really useful data that is outlined in the image above.

You can order them by different metrics and then export to PDF or Excel documents too.

The way I usually use InkyBee is to find influencers but also gather data of other influencers that I have discovered using different tools because you can manually add lists of blogs.

5. Commun.it

Commun.it influencer tool

Commun.it is a great tool that can separate out your followers and people you follow into a number of different categories while giving you the tools you need to help build and maintain valuable relationships.

The influencer research is essentially done for you because one of the categories just so happens to be influencers; along with supporters and engaged members.

You can use this to follow and continue to connect with these users and continue to build powerful relationships.

One of the difficulties that people sometimes have is what to do next, who do you respond to? Who do you follow? Who do you engage with?

Commun.it actually lists these all out in a straight forward dashboard so you don’t need to leave the page and go into another Twitter management tool.

5. Followerwonk

Followwonk influencer tool

Followerwonk is bundled in with Moz Pro so it does mean that is a paid tool starting at $99 per month but it also means access to some really helpful tools that go beyond Twitter and even social media.

You can do a bunch of different things like compare users, track who is following you, analyse and sort followers but where this really helps with influencer research is the search function.

Just search for a phrase that is particular to your market and you’ll get a huge list of Twitter users that you can export to Excel and then filter by social authority and the number of followers they have (along with a bunch of other helpful data).

6. Twellow

Twellow influencer tool Twellow is essentially a database of Twitter users arranged by a variety of categories and then by the number of followers a user has.

You can then dive deeper and view a user’s profile which pulls in social profiles along with their website.

There is a search function too so you can find users that talk about the exact topic that you’re looking for.

This platform does revolve mostly around the number of followers a user has, the metrics aren’t much more complex than that but it’s still a huge database that makes users easy to find in various niches.

The important thing to remember is that just because someone has a lot of followers, doesn’t mean they get a lot of engagement; this is why I like to search Twellow for users with websites and add them to InkyBee to get some more comprehensive data.

Summary

You may have noticed that I haven’t listed Klout or Kred as one of the Twitter influencer research tools, and I have my reasons for that.

I have found that these tools are better at monitoring my own influence within particular verticals, rather than finding other influencers. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but as bloggers we only have a finite amount of time to spend on certain tasks so we need to focus on using the right tools for the job at hand.

There are a lot more tools that you could use for this too, but the idea of this post is to make things easier for you, and I haven’t found every tool on the market yet.

So I’ll put the question to you – which influencer tools are you using right now?

I’d love to hear more in the comments below, whether you use them for Twitter or any other social platform.

Adam Connell is the operations manager at UK Linkology. He can be found blogging over at Bloggingwizard.com, where he talks about marketing, social media, SEO and a few other topics. Follow him on Twitter @adamjayc.

Social Media: What’s it Good For?

Does social media drive sales?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times lately from business owners trying to get their head around how to use social media in their online marketing mix. Many of them tell me that they don’t see a direct return on investment from their use of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

In response, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on how social media benefits what I do. Keep in mind,  there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. I know of many online and offline businesses that use social media very differently.

For me Social Media is NOT Primarily about Direct Selling

Perhaps the biggest thing that I can say about how I’ve come to use social media is that I don’t see it as a primary avenue for selling.

I know some online businesses see substantial sales generated directly through their social media pages. In most cases, it is through offering coupons or running discounting sales. That said, the tests I’ve run have not seen a great deal of success.

In contrast, I see the vast majority of our sales of eBooks and events to be the result of our email marketing.

In a recent eBook launch, here’s a break down of where sales came from:

Screen Shot 2013 06 11 at 9 37 08 AM

Interestingly, over the 4 week launch of that eBook we sent/posted:

  • 4 sales emails
  • 3 blog posts
  • 17 Tweets
  • 5 Facebook Status Updates
  • 3 Pinterest Pins
  • 2 LinkedIn Updates
  • 3 Google Plus Updates

As you can see, we promoted the eBook quite a few times to our social networks. Those social networks have a combined reach of over 350,000.

In the same time we sent 4 emails (to around 700,000 people). The ‘return’ on sending a handful of emails far outweighed the effort in social.

That’s not to say we will stop doing sales related updates on social media – (there are ways to use it to sell) – it just isn’t our primary sales avenue.

Social Media – What is it Good For?

So social media hasn’t generated as many direct sales as other channels, and my business relies upon sales to be sustainable, so what is it good for?

I do invest a fair amount of time (and some money) into social media but for me, it is not a direct sales strategy.

Rather social media is largely about:

  • Building the Brand – by being useful, telling stories, answering questions, giving glimpses behind the scenes
  • Building Community and Engagement – asking and answering questions, listening to feedback, supporting the goals of those you connect with
  • Building Trust and Credibility – by showing you know what you’re talking about and an understanding of the niche you operate in
  • Driving Traffic – sharing links to new content (and highlighting the best bits in the archives)

By building a presence in places like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn (and more you) you create relationships with and create impressions upon those you connect with.

Those relationships may not directly lead to a sale but they have other powerful outcomes.

They all have an indirect long term positive impact upon the the bottom line of your business. In many ways, by building brand, engagement, trust and driving traffic you are building the foundations of a strong relationship. Once the time for selling comes, you’re much more likely to see a conversion at some point.

They also make business a lot more satisfying and fun to run!