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Twitter for Beginners – 5 Things to Do as a New Twitter User

Yesterday I added all 538 Twitter users that submitted their details in our Social Media Love In. It took me a couple of hours to do – but I’m glad I did it because already there have been some wonderful conversations emerge.

As I was adding new people to follow I noticed that there were a real range of people in the list. There were Twitter users with thousands of subscribers and others with 20 or so.

Among the list there were quite a few who had literally just started using Twitter in the last 3 days (they’d started because of the Love-In itself).

I’ve had a number of these people contact me to ask me where to begin as a new Twitter user. As a medium it can be a little overwhelming to know how to use it – so I thought I’d put together this list of things to do as a new Twitter User (this is definitely pitched at the beginner).

update: Check out my new Blog TwiTip for more Twitter Tips.

1. Work Out Why You Want to Use It

One of the key things to do early on is to work out what your goal is. It could take a little while to work this out but the sooner you nail down what you’re going to use twitter for the better. There’s no right or wrong with how to use Twitter – your focus might be:

  • to use it on a personal level to share what you’re doing with real life friends and family
  • to build up you and your blog’s profile in your niche
  • to unwind and have fun with new friends
  • to build up your network in a niche

The list could go on (and it could include multiple goals) – however knowing them up front will help you as you explore how to use it.

2. Start Tweeting

One of the things that I noticed yesterday adding all 538 twitter users is that a number of them had only ‘tweeted’ once or twice (and a couple had never tweeted at all). I asked one person why this was and they said that they wanted to build their follower numbers up before they started using it.

The problem with this thinking is that one of the best ways to build your Twitter network is to be active. Your Tweets are your best advertisement for people to follow you – if you don’t have any (or many) what reason do people have to follow you?

So start updating your Twitter account. Don’t just write about anything – remember that every Tweet you make can either take you closer to or further away from your Twitter goals.

3. Start Following Others

I spoke to one new Twitter user yesterday who told me that the ‘Love-In’ had brought them over 100 new followers – but that they’d increased this even further by finding other interesting people to follow herself.

This user had discovered the power of adding followers on Twitter. She’d invested time into seeking out other twitter users who were Tweeting interesting stuff.

This process is a bit of an experiment and involves following people and then seeing if their tweets ‘resonate’ with you. Sometimes it means you’ll follow someone for a while and then unfollow them – but you’ll eventually find a group of people that you enjoy conversing with. Which leads me to my next point….

4. Get Interactive

OK – so you know why you’re using Twitter, you’re actually tweeting, you’re following what others are tweeting – the time now is to start reaching out to others and getting a conversation going.

This happens on a couple of levels:

Firstly it’s about writing things that others will want to interact with. The best way to do this is to ask a question. People are wired to reply to questions so start asking some. Keep them relevant to your goals and be willing to reply to people’s answers.

Secondly it’s important to respond to what other people are saying. The ‘reply’ feature on Twitter is key and should be used regularly, otherwise your use of Twitter will be quite one sided.

After a while you’ll find that the conversation becomes quite natural as you get to know others that you mutually follow and track what they’re doing, what your common interests are etc.

The beauty of being as interactive as possible with other Twitter users is that you’re talking to them in public and you’ll find your other followers and their other followers will chime in and make the conversation a little more multi-dimensional – it’s a great way of finding new friends to follow also.

5. Don’t Spam

Another thing that I noticed happening with a few of those that I added yesterday is that the only thing they were using Twitter for was to promote their own content. While it’s possible to do this I wouldn’t advise it. I do promote my posts on Twitter – but I try to balance them with other natural and organic conversation as well.

Another tip is to not just promote your own links, promote others. Keep them on topic and interesting and your followers will thank you for the links that you suggest.

But Wait – there’s more…

There’s a lot more that can be said about using Twitter – but I want to keep this as basic as possible for those just getting into the medium. Start with these five basic things, work on them for a week or so and then you’ll start discovering your own way.

For more reading on using Twitter you might also like to read my previous posts on the topic:

Follow These Twitter Users – They’re Just Like You

ProBlogger reader – I’d like to introduce you to some new friends – around 700 of them (and counting).

Over the weekend, on a whim, I started the ProBlogger Social Media Love-In as a way of linking you as readers of this blog together via social media. In that post I invited you to submit your social media profiles in comments and then to start be-friending one another.

The response was swift and overwhelming with around 700 people participating.

Reports started tricking in of people getting a lot of new friends and making all kinds of useful connections. The ProBlogger community spun out to all kinds of places as people began to connect and start working together on sites like Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, Myspace, Pownce, StumbleUpon, Digg and more.

As I began to watch what was happening I began to ask myself how I could make the long and scattered list of profiles more helpful. Some readers were content to surf down the comments list and start adding friends – but could the information be presented better?

I got in touch with Lara and asked her if she wanted a couple of days work to organize the lists. She agreed and today we’re rolling out a group of Twitter users (the most popular profile link left).

Lara has created a page of 538 Twitter profiles here.

Yes – that’s 538 ProBlogger readers who want to connect, work together and learn from one another.

As I was scanning down the list today it struck me that almost everyone on this list has a blog and as a result the collective influence that we have as a group is quite amazing. If on average we connect with 100 people a week each we’re influencing 53,800 people each week. I suspect the number is far greater than that because there’s some pretty significant bloggers on the list.

As I’ve mentioned on the twitter list page – over 500 people is a lot to follow on Twitter so you might not end up following them all – but do try to add as many as you can and see which ones connect with you most to stick with.

In the coming days Lara will compile more of these lists (one for each type of social media and one more miscellaneous list) so if you’re not a twitter user hopefully there will be a great list for you in the days ahead.

Missed Out On Submitting Your Profiles?

If you missed out on the 24 hour window where we allowed people to submit profiles don’t worry. The beauty of this project is that by befriending others who did you’re still going to make some great connections. We might open this up again at some point in the future but in the mean time I’d start with the lists that we’re publishing this week.

Social Media Love-In: Phase 2 Coming Soon

Social-Media-Love-InWow – when I posted an invitation this morning for ProBlogger readers to promote their social media profiles on this post I didn’t know what would happen – but I suspected it would be fun.

It’s been almost 9 hours since the post went live and over 280 readers have participated and I’m getting emails and tweets from people saying that they have had more people follow/befriend them today than they’ve ever had before (update: Lara just told me that she started getting friend requests minutes after adding hers).

The Next Phase of the ProBlogger Social Media Love-In

In another 15 hours from now (24 hours after the post went live) I’m going to close the comments section on the previous post. It’s not that I don’t want this to continue – but it’s going to enable me (or rather my good friend Lara from Anubis Marketing) to make this ‘Love-In’ even more useful.

You see Lara is going to spend tomorrow compiling everyone’s submissions into lists of the different social media sites so that instead of everyone having to trawl through every comment looking for the social media services that they use you’ll be able to quickly add everyone from your services quickly from the one list.

We’ll start with Twitter (it seems to be the most popular) and make a page with just all your Twitter profiles and go from there through the other services.

This means that we’ll end up with a directory of social media accounts from ProBlogger readers.

Why the Love-In?

As I said in the launch post for this Social Media Love-In – my hope is that this will help the ProBlogger community to grow and make it’s network stronger and more useful. While you’re all blogging on a lot of different topics – you’re all bloggers and the potential for you to help one another grow your blogs is quite massive.

You won’t find everyone that you add from these lists helpful – but hopefully they’ll give you a head start in finding other bloggers like you who are interested in putting themselves out there to connect.

What comes from it is really up to you and how you choose to use the compilations of profiles that we collate over the coming days.

So Add Your Profiles

As I write this you have less than 15 hours to add your profiles to the launch post (not this post). The comments on that post will be closed at 5am tomorrow (Melbourne time) to enable Lara to get the lists together. Depending upon how this goes we may have a 2nd round of submissions – but there’s no guarantees so add your profiles to make sure you’re included.

Just make sure you use the words ‘social media’ in your comment or we can’t guarantee it won’t get sucked into our spam filters.

Thanks to everyone for participating – it’s been a lot of fun already and I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes us.

Update: Okay, comments are closed on the other post. I’m working hard at compiling everything into lists, and we’ll update you soon on how that’s working out! Thanks everyone! - Lara

Welcome to the ProBlogger Social Media Love-In

Social-Media-Love-InImage by Mandala

Update: This will close after 24 hours – read more about why here.

Today I want to try something a little different and want to invite you to share your social media profiles with us (please read the ‘rules’ below before participating).

  • Are you active on social media sites?
  • Do you want to find more friends and followers?
  • Do you want to find other bloggers to follow and network with?

If so – you’re not alone and I want to give you an opportunity to do just that.

Today I want to do something that could get messy (I reserve the right to close this down if it does) – but could also be a lot of fun.

In comments below – leave links to any of your social media profiles that you want to promote. Once you’ve done so – start adding others on the list! This will only work if people make connections rather than just promote themselves.

I don’t know what will happen when we do this but I do know that we all have one thing in common here – we want to build better blogs and we all read ProBlogger. So why not build on this and see if we can work together on social media?

The ‘Rules':

  • You must include the word – ‘social media’ in your comment. This is simply so that we can find any of your comments that get caught in our spam filter. If you don’t include it your comment may not appear.
  • You can use html in the comment to make your links live (this will make people finding your profile pages easier)
  • So that we keep some order to this – please limit your links to 10

My Links:

I’ll kick us off with some of my own.

Some are more active than others.

Now it’s over to you. I hope this works!

Update: WOW – this IS getting crazy. Please be patient with me as I work through all the comments in the spam filter. We’re getting there! Do remember to add others that you find and also include the words ‘social media’ in your comment so we can make sure everyone is added.

Update 2: Due to the popularity of this I’m going to close it after 24 hours and then compile all the information into some pages that will make befriending people easier. Read more about that here.

Update 3: If you guys could just post the URLs, that would be great. I’m essentially copying and pasting, and you cut my time by 50% if you post just the URL (ie. Don’t bother writing “Twitter” and linking it, just post your Twitter URL). It’ll automatically link it for you if you make sure you’ve included the “http” part right through to the end. If you’ve already posted, please don’t repost, but if you haven’t posted yet, I’d really appreciate this! :) - Lara

Update 4: Okay gang, there are nearly 700 comments! I’ve spent almost 5 hours this morning creating the Twitter page, and still have more to put up there. I’m not sure how we’re going to work out releasing them, maybe one network a day or something like that. Darren and I will work that out in a few hours when he wakes up, and I’m sure he’ll update you on that. Thanks to everyone who has commented and been patient with us getting you out of the spam folder! More updates coming soon. – Lara

Does Twitter Distract From or Inspire Your Blogging?

Sarah from Blogversary emailed me earlier today with a question/observation about some people and their use of social messaging tools like Twitter and Plurk. Her email included:

Do think Twitter has had a negative impact on some folk’s blogs? As in, they are blogging less?

My initial reaction to her email was to think of a number of bloggers who’ve all but disappeared from their blogs since discovering Twitter. The ‘distraction’ element of Twitter has been profound for them.

But as I began to think about it I realized that there’s another group of social messenger users that have been energized in their blogging by Twitter and Plurk. I’d consider myself to be in this group.

I personally find that Twitter informs and inspires my blogging. The interactions that I have, the conversations that I see others having, the questions that I’m asked and the answers that other users of Twitter and Plurk give me are constantly feeding me with ideas to blog about.

So my question for those of you who are social messaging users is this:

Does social messaging distract or inspire your blogging?

If you’re one of those bloggers who is inspired by these mediums – I’d also love to hear your reflections on how you keep it from being a distraction and how you shape your use of the mediums to inform and inspire your blogging.

A Blogger’s Guide to Branding with Social Media

This is a guest post from Steven Snell. Steven writes about social media marketing at Traffikd.

As the number of blogs online continues to grow rapidly every day, the need for effective branding is also constantly increasing. Branding allows you to stand out from others in your niche and show your readers what you’re all about and why they should pay attention to you. There are any number of different methods that you can take for branding yourself and your blog, and social media is one of them.

Why is Social Media Marketing and Excellent Opportunity for Branding?

It’s Free

Social media marketing doesn’t require any financial investment, something that most bloggers are concerned about. Of course, there are plenty of consultants and marketers that are willing to do much of the work for you if you’re willing to pay, and if you have the money it may be worth considering. However, anyone can be effective with social media, it just takes some time and effort. When you consider the impact that social media can have for a blog, it’s incredible that you can create those kinds of results without spending any money.

Unlimited Potential

The impact that social media can have on your blog and how you are branded is just about endless. Some very successful blogs have been built primarily on posts that have taken off with social media. It’s not the shortcut that many bloggers think it is, but there is plenty of potential if you’re willing to use it effectively.

Large Audience

Each of the major social media sites has an incredibly large audience on its own. Small sites may not have the same impact individually, but the social media audience as a whole makes up a large, and growing population of internet users. Niche sites are even contributing to creating a more diverse audience of social media users. Any blogger could find a way to benefit by reaching this audience.

Success Can Be Achieved Quickly

Branding yourself through social media will not happen by getting one post to the front page of Digg, but it can happen relatively quickly, especially when compared to other more traditional marketing methods. Even new blogs can achieve a strong level of branding through social media in just a few short months.

Other Perks

With social media marketing there are plenty of other good things happening while you’re branding your blog, including lots of new visitors, building links, gaining subscribers, and developing content that will draw search engine traffic for years to come.

Why is Branding Important for Bloggers?

Well, in the first paragraph I mentioned that branding is critical for blogging success, so let’s take a look at some of the specifics.

Too Much Competition

Although other bloggers in your niche are not really competition, if they’re getting all the attention from readers and you’re getting none, they basically are competition until you can start to make some progress. Simply put, there are too many blogs in most niches these days to get noticed and retain loyal readers without branding your blog. Those who are able to stand out from the pack in one way or another will excel, and those that don’t give any thought to branding will be held back.

The Personal Nature of Blogging

Because blogging is so personal, effective branding can help readers to connect to you and understand where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do through the blog. When readers are able to develop a strong connection to you, you’re on your way to success.

Long-Term Readers

Blogs that are branded effectively will be much more likely to retain loyal readers indefinitely. Readers are not going to give up on you because of a few sub-par posts if the know what to expect from you in the future.

Security

Long-term, loyal readers give you a certain level of security as a blogger. When you have an established audience you don’t have to worry about your blog experiencing big ups and downs. Well-branded blogs are seen by readers as being valuable for a specific reason, and that helps to make you a bit more secure as long as you can hold that reputation.

Action Steps for Using Social Media to Brand Your Blog

1. Know How You Want to Be Seen by Readers

The critical first step of branding is to know how you want to be branded. What do you want to be known for? Without having a clear goal you will just be using social media to pad your stats with very little long-term relevance. It’s possible that your branding will change with time, but for now you need to decide how you want to be seen.

2. Develop Posts with this in Mind

Now that you know how you want others to see you and your blog, you can work backwards and develop posts that will put you closer to making it happen. Write on topics that will build your brand, and use a style and an approach that will work with your goals. Of course, since you’re trying to use social media for the branding, you’ll also need to consider the social media audience when you’re developing content (not every post, but some). Ideally, you’ll come up with some ideas for posts that social media users will like that will also help to establish your image.

3. Focus on Specific, Well-Targeted Social Media Sites

In order to have the best results with social media you should be focusing on a few specific sites, rather than spending a small amount of time trying to use a hundred different sites. A few months ago I wrote a post here at ProBlogger about targeting the right social media sites. You can refer to that post if you’re unsure of how to find the right sites for you.

Focusing on just a few specific social media sites doesn’t mean that you’ll only be able to have success with those sites, actually it can work the opposite way. By spreading yourself to thin and taking an unplanned approach you’ll have a low chance of success with any social media site. By focusing on getting to know the audience of a specific site and creating content accordingly, you’ll have a good chance for success, and the traffic from that social media site can result in even more votes at other social media sites.

4. Be an Active User of Social Media

It’s hard to effectively optimize and market your blog through social media if you rarely use it yourself. By staying active you’ll learn all about your target audience and how you can create content that they’ll appreciate. You don’t need to be active at a large number of sites, just those that you are targeting.

5. Network with Others in Your Niche

By being active at your targeted social media sites, you can build strong connections to other social media users and bloggers that may benefit you in terms of getting your content noticed. Getting to know others in your niche (for mutual gain, not just for your own) is one of the best things you can do to help your chances with social media. People tend to vote for others that they like, not just for content that they like.

6. Prioritize Branding Over Traffic

Social media marketing can be difficult because the numbers and the potential for traffic can lead you to make decisions that aren’t in the best interest for your long-term blogging growth. Many times you may have an idea for a post or a method of marketing that can generate some impressive numbers, but it may not be a good fit with your overall branding goals. If you’re concerned with branding your blog through social media, drawing the most visitors shouldn’t always be the priority.

7. Repeat Topics and Cover Them In-Depth

When you’re trying to develop your brand and position yourself as a leader or an expert on a certain subject, you need to be willing to go beyond the scope that any other bloggers are covering that particular subject. I’m not suggesting that you duplicate content or post the same thoughts repeatedly using different words, but make sure that you are covering every aspect of the subject as thoroughly as you can.

A good example of this is Courtney Tuttle. Court’s goal with his blog is to be the top source of internet marketing content. Several months ago he published a post on what he calls keyword sniping that drew loads of interest from readers. Since them he has covered the subject extensively through a series of posts where he completely walked readers through his process. He didn’t unnecessarily repeat the same thoughts, but he covered on aspect of internet marketing in-depth and it has had significant impacts on the branding of his blog.

8. Focus on Building Links

Referrals from other bloggers are extremely valuable for branding, and of course this usually comes in the way of a link. When other bloggers link to you, mention one of your posts, or recommend you to their readers, they are endorsing you and the work that you’re doing on your blog. Ultimately, the opinions of readers and other bloggers will determine how well you are branded. Social media has been used for link building for several years, and that’s because it can be very effective.

9. Pay Attention to What Others are Saying About You

Because the opinions of others are so influential to your branding success, knowing what is being said about you can be very important. Last year Darren wrote a post about why you need to have a vanity folder in your RSS reader to keep an eye on your reputation. The vanity folder isn’t just to make yourself feel good, it’s also to spot situations where others may be writing something that could be potentially damaging to your brand. Staying on top of the issue will keep you in tune with what is going on around you and it will give you a chance to put out fires that may arise from time-to-time.

10. Build Your Profiles

The majority of this post has addressed social media by referring to social news and bookmarking sites like Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon and Delicious. However, social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can be extremely valuable as well. There are also niche specific sites like Virb where you can connect with others that may have similar interests. These sites won’t send you a huge amount of traffic like Digg would, but they can be useful for gaining some exposure outside of your blog and creating the image that you’re after.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you consider branding in your approach to blogging and social media? How do you approach the subject and what have you found to work well?

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

Plurk 1 Month In – Small Can be Good

plurk.jpgI’ve just celebrated a month of playing with Plurk (join here if you’re not already a Plurker) over this last weekend so I thought it might be a good opportunity to spend a little time analyzing my experience with this new(ish) social messaging tool.

Summary of My Experience

Let me cut to the chase – While Plurk is smaller… for me it has been more effective at driving traffic to my blogs, the numbers and quality of interactions has been high, there is real opportunity to build profile and it’s becoming quite feature rich. Read on to learn more.

The decrease in performance and lack of new features at Twitter has caused many of it’s users to explore different social messaging tools like FriendFeed a smaller group have run to Plurk. The weight of numbers using the service is considerably smaller from what I can see – but it’s an enthusiastic community and I’ve been enjoying engaging with them a great deal.

Traffic

I am always asked about how much traffic these sorts of sites send to my blogs so lets start with this one. Over the last 30 days here is how many unique visitors Twitter and Plurk have sent to ProBlogger.

plurk-traffic.jpg

I should make a few of observations to give these stats a little more power.

1. The Twitter figure will be actually higher than this as it only measures people arriving from twitter.com and not any of the many Twitter clients that are out there.

2. On Twitter I have over 7600 people following me – on Plurk I have 865 ‘friends’ (meaning we mutually follow each other) and 579 ‘fans’ (meaning they follow me). So in total Plurk has 1444 followers (less than a fifth of Twitter).

3. I’ve included ALOT less links to ProBlogger on Plurk than Twitter. Every single post I do automatically goes up on Twitter – probably about a tenth of these go up on Plurk.

So all in all I’d say that Plurk probably does better at driving traffic.

The community there seem to love the sharing of links. The cool thing is that when you share links discussions often pop up around your links also. For example – this plurk had almost as many comments on it as the post it linked to here on the blog!

Interaction/Conversation

Social Messaging sites area all about networking and conversation. So how does Plurk do on that front?

I’ve written previously (and given an actual example) of how Plurk differs from Twitter in it’s conversations (ie that Plurk tends to be more interactive between one persona and a group of people on Plurk as followers interact with each other as well as the Plurker). I still find this to be true.

On average I’d say that when i post a question Plurk AND Twitter that I get more responses on Plurk despite having less than a fifth the followers. This is because conversations on Plurk tend to stay alive longer as they are put on your followers timelines not only when you write them but when people respond to them (a feature called ‘new responses’). This means people tend to reply or comment not only once on your initial plurk but later on as others comment.

I have to say that having each plurk and it’s responses contained into the one thread of conversation is gold when it comes to referring back to previous conversations.

Size and Key Influencers

I have heard a few people critique Plurk for not having ‘key influencers’ and for being ‘too Small’. Twitter and FriendFeed have their Scoble’s while on Plurk Robert Scoble has a lot of fans and friends but has only plurked twice since June 10.

While it’s true that there might be a few less ‘cool Web 2.0 kids’ on Plurk there are still some amazing people. I actually find that the quality of conversation, wisdom and expertise on Plurk is as high as it is on any other social media site. People are people and while there are fewer numbers I actually enjoy the intimacy of Plurk – something that perhaps would not be achieved if all the cool kids brought a huge influx of numbers over.

That’s not to say that some bigger personalities wouldn’t be welcomed on Plurk – but just because they are not active doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

Update – The lack of ‘key influencers’ and smallness on Plurk also leaves more room for others to fill their shoes. I’ve seen a number of Plurkers really take on leadership in that community over the last few weeks. The Pond might not be quite as big but they’ve made a name for themselves and are leveraging that profile really well. I suspect that on Twitter they may have become a little lost.

Features

I’m enjoying the development of Plurk in terms of features being rolled out. With Twitter the emphasis seems to be on keeping it running rather than breaking new ground. There is some great development happening around Twitter by developers (I’ve recently loved playing with TweetDeck for instance) but Twitter itself has had few new features added to it. Plurk on the other hand has had new features being added every week (if not every day or two). It’s not perfect and still has bugs from time to time (and I wish it’d release an API to let developers build tools for it) but there’s an energy and feeling of excitement about it that I really enjoy.

Conclusion

Plurk has not replaced Twitter for me and I don’t foresee that it ever will. However for me it’s been a rich source of ideas, community, connections and conversation. I’m finding new ways of using each social media tool that I interact on every day and see real potential in my continued use of Plurk. Yes it’s smaller than some other social messaging options – but size doesn’t always matter….

How to Monitor the Quality of StumbleUpon Advertising Campaigns

In a guest post Neil Matthews of ClickQualityConsultant.com writes about how we can monitor the quality of paid visits from a StumbleUpon advertising campaigns.

Darren advocates using paid advertising from StumbleUpon in his post Run a StumbleUpon Advertising campaign for your blog, as a way to build your blog’s audience. In this post I would like to expand on this and talk about how to monitor the click quality of your paid Stumbles to see if this type advertising is the correct fit for your blog.

What do I mean by click quality? I mean that the clicks are bringing a return on the advertising investment you make. This will vary from blog to blog. You may be after an increase in subscribers, for people to click more often on ASsense ads or that they contact you for consulting services. If you are spending money on StumbleUpon clicks you need to know how the campaign is performing and if this type of advertising works for your blog.

Firstly a quick recap on StumbleUpon (SU). I like to think of SU as TV channel surfing for the net. The Stumbler installs a toolbar into their browser, sets the type of site they are interested in and begins to stumble. SU selects a site at random from their database which matches your likes and sends it to your browser for your surfing pleasure. If the site is of interest you, you may engage and begin reading more deeply, you can then grant a thumbs up or down to the site to show if you approve of the content of not. The other option is just to skip past the site surfing for a new channel.

Running a paid SU advertising campaign, you pay 5 cents per display to have your site presented to the Stumblers in the demographic group you select. Your daily cost is set by the number of displays you want per day. For example 500 displays per day will cost 25 USD.

Stumblers are notoriously fickle, and if you are paying for clicks, it is important to check if the campaign is producing quality clicks, or are people just clicking away from your site. SU has its own quality check, it shows how many people have given you the thumbs up or down, this is reliant on the visitor, we need more quantifiable analytics to see if this form of advertising is bringing you any return on your investment.

The first thing to do is to highlight which referrals from SU are paid and which are organic. To do this, I amend the landing page of my campaign by adding a parameter to the end of the landing page URL for example:

http://www.clickqualityconsultant.com/?source=su

Note that I use su rather than stumbleupon. Using the term stubleupon in paid ads is against their editorial policy and your ad will be rejected.

Next I analyse that traffic with an analytics package. For the purpose of this post I am using Google Analytics, it is free and very simple to use. Installing GA is relatively simple. To collect metrics you will need to create an account and then install a piece of JavaScript code onto every page you want to monitor. I have the code installed into the footer of my wordpress theme so that every page is monitored. Please refer to the Analytics site for details on installation.

Once my SU ad is running and I have collected a decent enough number of clicks for statistical analysis (a couple of hundred should suffice) I move onto the process of identifying the quality of those clicks.

From the analytics package I can get an overview of the landing pages on my site, as we can see from the screen dump I received 179 clicks from StumbleUpon

stumbleupon-advertising.jpeg

Drilling down into this metrics I am presented with the behaviour of the visitors from the stumble upon source

stumbleupon-advertising-2.jpeg

This give me good and bad news, only 12.35% of the visitors are bouncing away from my site immediately, there is a certain level of stickiness about the page and people on average are spending 41 seconds on my landing page. I am getting the engagement I was looking for, the disappointing side of this campaign is that nearly 90% of the visitors are reading one page and then leaving, there is no depth to their visit. That is the area I would focus on improving.

I think my problem is that I am sending Stumblers to my home page rather than to a specific landing post which can draw readers in more deeply.

Do I think I was getting good quality clicks from SU? Not really, the action I want is for visitors to move from the content into my consulting page. I would probably be better served sending traffic directly to that page rather than the home page.

Using this information I could the split test another landing page with a different source parameter and see how the two stack up against one another.

How do you decide if SU works for you? I would say the following metrics need to be analysed for your campaign:

  • Bounce rate – are visitors staying or moving on straight away. A sub 50% bounce rate is good
  • Length of visit – How long are people engaging on your sit, if it is only a second or two, less than the time it takes to read you posts, this is a bad sign?
  • Depth of visit – Are people reading more than one posts, have you caught the readers attention?
  • Goals – Google analytics has the option which allows you to set goals, in this example the goal was to move from the landing page to my consulting page. My research suggests that a 1% conversion rate of visits to goals is the minimum you should look for.

I have used this method across a number of different platforms including Facebook social ads, and when I buy advertising banner space. Monitoring and testing the quality of your paid advertising is the key to a good return on investment. If you don’t get the quality you need from that advertising source, drop the campaign and spend your money on quality clicks. If SU is poor consider Adwords, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace or one of the many other paid internet marketing programmes.

Can I add a caveat to close this post? You may be tempted to use this method to reconcile the number of clicks paid for to the number of clicks received, but I would say that Google Analytics data can be wrong due to people running their browser with JavaScript disabled. If the code on you page is not activated, then no visit data will be captured. Click fraud investigations require log file analysis tools to ensure the validity of your claims.

Test your quality, make incremental changes and test again. This is the way to get the best bang for your buck.

Social Media – Should You Use it Or Focus Upon Building Your Own Properties?

Steve Rubel has a thought provoking post today asking the question – should you rent or buy social real estate?

In it he explores the idea of using a service like Twitter (where you ‘rent’ and build up a community on someone else’s property) versus having your own blog on your own domain (buying).

My immediate reaction to the post was that it’s not about renting OR buying but for me has always been about renting AND buying (something I think that Steve really is arguing for also as he embraces both philosophies).

I hear bloggers who argue strongly for only building your own web properties (building a blog on their own domain on their own hosting on a platform that they have complete control over) and while I completely agree with their reasons for taking that approach (ultimately you have complete control and flexibility) I have found a lot of life in building a presence in other ‘rented’ online spaces also.

Twitter would be the primary example of this (and more recently Plurk). While I understand I have less control and flexibility with both of those social messaging services they have been invaluable for me and have helped me achieve things that I’d never have been able to do by solely focussing upon my own online properties.

I’ve talked about some of the benefits of Twitter for Bloggers and some of the features that I like about Plurk so won’t rehash them all here (many of the same benefits apply to FriendFeed also) – but wanted to make a few extra points.

3 Tips for Renting Social Media Properties

I think the main tip that I’d give with exploring any sort of ‘rental’ approach to social media is to enter into it with clear goals, realistic expectations and balance.

1. Goals

I explored the common criticism of Twitter in my post Twitter is a Complete Waste of Time! and shared how unless you work out WHY you’re using it you will often be wasting your time. For me I’ve played with many types of social media and in every situation had little idea what I was doing in the early days. However my goal is always to quickly work out what it’s strengths are and to find ways of using them to achieve my overall goals as a business person.

I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t need to have strict and formal goals written out next to your computer – but don’t just aimlessly wander around social media sites with no purpose. Take the time to identify what you want to achieve and work towards that.

2. Realistic Expectations

It is well worth keeping in mind that there is no perfect medium or platform and that each one has it’s weaknesses. When your expectations are too high for anything that you invest time into you could be setting yourself up for a fall.

Recently I spoke with a blogger who six months ago had quit blogging to put all of his efforts into Twitter. He made a big bet that it would be the next big thing and that he was going to position himself for that. Over the last month or two of Twitters growing problems with their architecture this blogger has come to regret that decision. It’s not that Twitter is bad or finished – it’s just that his expectations of that service were too high.

3. Balance

The retrospective advice of the above mentioned Blogger Twitterer was to not give up on one medium to focus upon another until you’re absolutely sure that the new one will work. He wishes he’d worked hard to build his Twitter presence AND his blog and had used each one to grow the other. I think a lot of bloggers could learn from this – I see many bloggers running from one thing to the next to be a part of the latest big thing. The result is that they really don’t build a presence of substance in any place.

Sure explore different social spaces – but don’t put your eggs all in one basket AND don’t spread yourself too thin (no one said that ‘balance’ is easy).

My approach to using ‘Rental Properties’ to Build My Own

Let me say up front that my approach is not the only one that works – but here’s the way I am using Twitter, Plurk, Facebook and other social spaces:

Steve makes a good point in his post – “Twitter has community built right in.”

The thing with successful social media sites is that they are where people are gathering – in numbers. The numbers are way beyond what most bloggers could hope to interact with on their own blogs.

I’ve written about my philosophy of finding readers for your blog many times. The first three steps in that process are:

  1. Define Your Target Reader
  2. Identify Where and How they Gather
  3. Join their Established Gathering Points

When I do step 1 and 2 on this process when thinking about my blogs I come up with a target audience who are gathering in social media sites like Twitter and Plurk. This leads me to step 3 – joining and participating in those space.

Now this is relevant for my blog but not everyone’s. You see not everyone has a target audience who use social media. However the same principles can apply….

For example – I was chatting with a craft blogger recently who was struggling with growing her readership. I asked her to go through the above three steps and she defined a group of readers who were gathering in craft forums. When I suggested she should go participate in them she asked whether it was a good use of her time to participate in other people’s online properties instead of building her own (sound familiar?). I suggested that she do both – participate where your potential readers are already gathering but also work hard to build your own properties.

Concluding Thoughts

My take home advice is that there’s nothing wrong with rental properties and there’s nothing wrong with buying them. In my own personal experience with actual real estate I’ve done both at different times in my life. In fact I always treated renting as a good stepping stone to getting into the market myself. We found properties that were affordable enough that we could save a deposit for our own place.

Perhaps there’s something in that for us all – participate in the social space and other people’s web properties in a way that gives you a leg up to build your own.