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Question: How Do You Beat the Social Media Monster?

Over the last couple of days we’ve looked at various tactics that bloggers are using to gain traction, grow followings, and generate blog traffic on:

I’m sure that these posts gave you some great ideas for developing your interaction with fans and followers on these social networks. But I also know that social media is one of the key distractions that bloggers face.

Without a solid strategy or approach to social media, you can end up feeling like you’ve wasted time, fragmented your following, and—in some cases—created a social media monster that just wants to suck up more and more of your waking hours.

What’s your strategy for beating the social media monster?

I’m interested to hear how you choose to spend your time on social media. How important is this tool to your blogging efforts? Do your audiences congregate on certain networks, and ignore others? Have you had to change your approach over time as social media and its users have evolved?

My own approach involves three components:

  1. Audience: I focus my engagements on the social media I know are the most popular with my blogs’ readers. Primarily, this is a simple time-cost tradeoff. I don’t have time to try every new social network that pops up, so I focus on those where I know a lot of readers hang out, and I’ll get the greatest possible return (in terms of engagement) on my time investment. But my audience also helps me understand how I need to evolve my social media usage. That’s why I was so eager to create a following on Google+ when it was launched: because I knew from talking with my blogs’ readers that this network would be big with them.
  2. Goals: I control my time on social media by keeping my blog business goals top of mind. Every so often while I’m using social media (and throughout my day in general) I’ll ask myself if the way I’m spending my time is moving me closer to my goals. If it’s not, I check what I’m doing, and refocus on something that will. My goals also dictate a baseline for social media interaction—for instance, they helped me decide to auto-tweet the articles we publish here at ProBlogger, and help me choose what to add to the ProBlogger Facebook page. Finally, my goals also help me to choose which new networks to try as new options come onto the market.
  3. My schedule: Social media can swallow up a lot of time, and as a blogger there are many, many things I need to do each day. So my social media strategy is also limited by my schedule. I can only give social media so much time out of each week, and I try to streamline that time as much as I can so that I can achieve as much with social networking as possible.

That’s me—but what about you? I’d really love to hear a bit about your social media strategy in the comments.

How conscious have you been about creating a strategy for your social media interaction? Have the articles we’ve published in the last few days given you some new ideas to try? What else is working for your social media engagement? Don’t forget to link us to your social media profiles so we can check them out and see what you’re doing for ourselves!

Google+ Tactics of the Blogging Pros

Over the next couple of days on ProBlogger, we’ll be taking a look at key marketing tactics bloggers are using on Twitter and Facebook.

Since we covered Pinterest recently, I thought I’d explore Google+ today, and check out the approaches some of the A-list bloggers are using on this network.

Tactic 1: Cross-promote a particular offering

Gary Vaynerchuck might have become famous for his books, but he’s been vlogging since 2005, so its no surprise that his Google+ page is dominated by video posts. In fact, he appears to use Google+ primarily as an outlet to cross-promote his YouTube channel and associated videos.

This is interesting, because Gary has a lot of different projects on the go (notably, his agency VaynerMedia, as well as writing and speaking), but he’s focusing his Google+ engagement on his videos.

A similarly focused strategy might be suitable for you if you feel that some aspect of your blog offering is particularly appropriate for the Google+ audience, and you want to see how much traction you can get from the network for that particular offering.

Tactic 2: Day-in-the-life reportage

Deb Ng, Blog World Expo’s community director, and Sonia Simone, the self-proclaimed “Pink-haired tyrant of Copyblogger Media,” both use Google+ to engage with followers on a combination personal-and-professional level.

Have a look at their Google+ profiles and you get a feel for them as people, but you also gain insight into what they’re doing for the brands they work with. Both use Google+ to mix personal interests with family, home, and work-related content. They regularly provide glimpses behind the scenes of their work on brands that are extremely important to many of us in the blogosphere.

While Deb has her own blog, Sonia doesn’t, so this approach can either complement your other online offerings, or be used independently. But in both cases, these Google+ pages give us an insight into what makes these guys tick—something that I expect is pretty valuable for people wanting to engage with Deb about Blog World, or with Sonia about Copyblogger. I imagine more than a few bloggers have tried to get inside the heads of these A-listers by putting them into circles on Google+.

This tactic might be a good one for you to use if your followers and readers would appreciate an insight into how you operate on a professional level, behind the glossy front of your blog’s brand.

Tactic 3: Personal brand miniblogging

Anyone who follows me on Google+ knows that my own approach has been to adopt the forum as a sort of all-encompassing miniblog.

I have branded Facebook pages for ProBlogger and Digital Photography School, and separate Twitter streams for each, but on Google+ I combine those brands under a kind of personal brand.

I see it as a location for rich exchange with followers who want to engage with me as a person, rather than simply with ProBlogger or DPS. In this way, Google+ has become a personal branding outlet for me, and has helped me strengthen engagement with readers and followers significantly since it launched last year.

I think that Google+ allows for a broad reach and a richer kind of interaction with those who have me in their circles, which is why I’ve made it a key part of my online strategy.

Tactic 4: Close curation

Serial entrepreneur and ideas woman Gina Trapani is always re-sharing other people’s Google+ posts. She also spends a lot of her Google+ time sharing content she’s found herself, that she feels others will appreciate. This approach turns her stream almost into a curated newsfeed: it’s cultivated, professional, and targeted.

After decades in the industry, Gina knows her audience well, and knows what they like—and as the host of This Week in Google, she can be sure that a large portion of her tech-savvy audience is using Google+ heavily.

If you’re in the same boat, you might take a few ideas from Gina’s approach. Of course, in any case, re-sharing is a good way to provide valuable information to those in your circles and to support and encourage those peers you admire. How far you take that curated approach will likely depend on your niche and audience, but the sky really is the limit.

How do you use Google+?

This list represents just a handful of approaches used by bloggers, but I’m very interested to hear how you use Google+ in your social media strategy. If you don’t use it, why not? If you do, what tactics and techniques are you using to build and engage with your following there? Let us in on your secrets in the comments.

The Grace of Communication

This guest post is by Lisa Johnson of LisaJohnsonFitness.com.

Social media has changed my life in a fundamental way that I never saw coming. My first innocent forays onto Twitter had not prepared me for the ride I was about to go on.

Through social media I have started a new career, grown more close to my husband, been able to spend more time with my son, and still managed to help provide for my family.

But those are the perks to what I do. They are not why I do it … there is grace in communication.

As a Pilates Instructor I live for those moments that seem to descend out of nowhere. I’ll be teaching a class and we’ll all just click, every movement has flow, my voice allows my students to focus more deeply, and we dance in a way, their bodies and my voice weaving together intricate patterns. The sweat builds, hard bones and sinew become fluid, and an awesome, amazing thing happens: my class and I find grace. It’s powerful to all of us.

It brings me to tears and embarrassed giggles. My students know what I mean, and then hurry out into their busy lives. It’s why I’ve taught Pilates for longer than I’ve ever done anything in my life—fifteen years now—to hit those random moments of grace, of being able to give my clients a small taste of empowerment.

Social media is often maligned by the uninitiated as a place of misfits and people who can’t have “real relationships” in their “real lives.” I suppose for some that’s true, but that hasn’t been my journey at all. I have found it a place of true connection.

Keyboards click, screens flicker and millions of people pour a torrent of words into the stream. Most of it washes over us in ones and zeros, never recognized into existence.

But then a stray comment will catch an eye, a conversation will start—maybe it’ll be a cascade of back and forths, or maybe it’ll be a few comments here and there over time. But there is a connection.

I have my people on social media that I depend on for a joke, a pick-me-up, or a kind word. Sometimes I don’t even know their real names, just a Twitter handle and a sentence or two of biography. I try to give back in the same way with an atta boy/atta girl or a warm phrase when needed.

I have experienced everything through social media: humor, fear, failure, redemption, even death, have all come at me through the screen. I have made real true friends and been humbled when I was able to help someone. Many of these connections have spilled into “my real life”—and these are people I would never meet any other way.

There is grace in that. Our disconnected lives, blown apart from generational family ties, have found a new way to connect, to find a tribe, to belong.

Social media has evolved into a business. The software companies are our conduits, advertising the currency, and brands online jumping up and down for attention, looking to win eyeballs and wallets. But it is still all driven by humans, sorting ourselves by hashtags and groups, by geography and hobby. So we find our people and connect.

How brilliant is that? How truly, truly brilliant?

It’s magical that we tap keyboards and stare at screens and find humans tapping back at us. Have you reached out and found a connection waiting for you? Have you been changed, even in a tiny way, by your social media life? How do you tap your connections?

Lisa Johnson went from Pilates studio owner to one of the top fitness people on social media with her popular blog, LisaJohnsonFitness.com. She balances teaching at the studio with working with social media clients through Healthy Dose Media, a company she founded with her husband, Greg Wymer. She is frequently found on Twitter @LisaJohnson.

Pinterest Basics for Bloggers

This guest post is by Yang of ChilliSauce.co.uk.

Does your world only revolve around Facebook and Twitter? Now it’s time to move on: in case you haven’t heard, Pinterest is the new rising star of social media!

Pinterest was developed in December 2009 as a closed beta that was released within a restricted group of individuals. After it opened registration to everyone in 2010, the Pinterest boom began. On August 16, 2011, Time magazine named Pinterest among the “50 Best Websites of 2011”.

Pinterest has dominated the headlines in Mashable, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and many other websites. The world seems to be going Pintereset crazy.

The Pinterest home page

So what is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a visual social network. Every time you come across pretty or eye-catching images online, you can “pin” them to your Pinterest bulletin board, where you can share and organize them into various categories.

For example, if I see a pretty wedding dress, I will pin it to my “wedding ideas” board, which is full of images of my favorite wedding-related ideas gathered from various websites.

Pinterest boards

Image 2: Pinterest Boards

Shareaholic compiled a Referral Traffic Rrport that looks into various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Youtube, and so forth. Their findings, based on aggregated data from more than 200,000 publishers that reach more than 260 million unique monthly visitors, show that Pinterest has driven more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined!

Shareaholic Referral Traffic Report

So what are you waiting for? Let’s start mapping out Pinterest strategies for your site!

How can you use Pinterest on your blog?

To get started, you need to register for your own Pinterest account.

Take some time to fill out your bio, as this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself or your business to the masses of Pinterest users. Then you are ready to start pinning!

A good place to start is by following other popular pinners and “re-pinning” their images onto your board. Browse through the categories on the network that interest you (see image below), such as “Art, Design, DIY & Craft” and so forth. When you find an image you like, you can pin it to your boards.

Pinterest has more than 30 categories

Bloggers can make use of these “clickthrough images” to attract more people to our blogs. Set up your bulletin boards and pin images from your site. Then, when other users click on an image, they’re taken to your site, where that picture is located.

Take my favorite chocolate bars, for example: I saw this yummy Snickers bars under the “Food & Drink” category.

Clickable Snickers bars image

When I clicked on the image, it immediately led me to the How Sweet It Is website, where that image is hosted (see below).

The landing page of that clickable Snickers bars image

Scroll down and there’s the image, pinned to my Pinterest board

6 tips to kickstart your Pinterest campaign

1. Pin with discernment

Every time you pin or re-pin a picture, it shows up on the Pinterest community boards. Here, all the pinners can see your pins, which gives you exposure to the public. So pinning quality images from your site to your boards is a must.

But don’t spam the community boards with your pinned images. Remember that Pinterest is public and social; I’m sure you don’t want to brand yourself as a spam artist. In the following example, I just pinned a yummy Snickers bar and my pin immediately appeared on the whole community board.

Start pinning!

Your pins show up on the Pinterest community board

2. Pin quality images

Pinterest taps into people’s love of “visually sumptuous eye candy.” Therefore, when you’re blogging, try to attach interesting and high quality images to go with your articles.

If your pictures are not clear or look dull, then don’t waste your time on Pinterest. The whole point of the network is to use images as “bait” to attract more people to your blog. If your images don’t stand out in Pinterest, then people are not going to click through.

3. Track recent activity from your account

When you’re logged into Pinterest, the top-left column, labeled Recent Activity, shows who has re-pinned, liked, or commented on your pins. In social media platforms, social always comes first. So do these people a favor: browse their pin boards, and re-pin or comment on their images as well!

Being social and showing them your appreciation will help you become popular on Pinterest. I still get a little buzz every time I see people re-pin my image, and I always visit their boards and show them we share the same interests.

The Recent Activity column

4. Use watermarks

Try to add watermark with your blog’s URL to your original images. Then, no matter how many times your images have been pinned or re-pinned, readers can always see the image is originally from your site, which gives your blog maximum exposure.

Add a watermark to your images

5. Add catchy descriptions to your images

Try to craft catchy image descriptions that include key words or tags that are likely to be searched.

To make them more engaging, express yourself and your sense of humor here, to provoke a response from other pinners. Or simply ask a question as the description, such as “Who wouldn’t love a yummy donut like this?”

6. Speed up pinning with the Pin It button

Don’t forget to add a Pin It button to your bookmarks on Pinterest: go to About in the main navigation, and click Pin It Button. Then, drag the white button to your bookmarks bar.

Now, the next time you come across an awesome image, you can just click the Pin It bookmark, choose the picture that you want to add to your pin board, add an engaging and interesting description, then you’re done! Easy!

Add a Pin It button

Drag the Pin It button to your Bookmarks bar

Can’t wait to try it? It really is easy to get started! I look forward to your comments about your experience with Pinterest.

Yang manages the Chillisauce.co.uk website, who specialise in organising corporate events.

Have You Set up Timeline on Your Facebook ‘Page’ Yet?

In the last day Facebook have rolled out Timeline for Facebook Brand pages. There’s been a lot of talk about whether people like them or not, but the reality is that they are here, and in a month they’ll be rolled out on your Brand page whether you like it or not.

facebook-timeline-brands-page.png

I’ve just pushed out version 1 of my own ProBlogger Facebook page here (I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it in the coming days but it is live), and I’d love to see what others are doing.

Have you activated Timeline on your Brand Page yet? If so, share a link with us in comments below so we can get a little inspiration for what you’ve done.

Use Social Sharing’s True Motive For Better Traffic

This guest post is by Shakira Dawud of Deliberate Ink.

You’re getting regular traffic, but it’s flatlining. The regular crowd is still with you, but your subscriber base is fluctuating. And you’ve noticed you’re not being shared on social media very often.

If you were to ask, you’d hear all kinds of reasons why, but I guarantee you the basis of all of them is always personal.

There is no way around the adage, “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Your blog is serious business. So why is it we’re told not to take business personal (and business between friends is retold as the stuff of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado“), when every single business decision comes from a personal place?

You need that personal place to get the following and response you want from your readers. Find it and put it to work building your blog’s traffic in the following three steps.

Step 1: Complete the picture of your existing following

I’ll use Twitter as an example. I seldom follow people with just the hope they’ll follow me back (although that’s a reason, too).

I want to take part in their Twitter banter, find likeminded people, siphon useful information from their posts, get them to visit my blog, and build relationships I deem important. I unfollow only after I’ve lost hope of getting those things. Sometimes I lose hope sooner, sometimes later. I know I’m not alone in this.

If we don’t follow our followers, we’re blind to too many quality people who’ve made it a point to follow us. So make the most of your social relationships by finding the real and active people connected to you on each platform and reciprocating, before they lose hope in you.

Step 2: Unravel a “thread of discontent”

Start listening to your crowd closely. Watch the comments they leave on posts and blogs, and note what they share most often. In a recent post, Derek Halpern introduces the concept of the thread of discontent. He encourages being the “pebble dropped in the pond” by creating “ripples” in the standard.

Derek’s point is well taken. But before you become a pebble, I advise that you pick up that thread and unravel it to its origin. I bet you’ll find it’s ultimately a personal one. Something based on their values, beliefs, or experiences. You may even find more than one thread. Once you find out what it’s made up of, hold onto it. Now it’s time for the final step.

Step 3: Provide content they want—but not like you have been

“That’s all you got?” you’re thinking. “Lady, I’ve been creating content out the wazoo, every day for months–and it ain’t too shabby, either!”

No, that’s not all. Let me explain with an example.

Listening in on a webinar for email marketers, I noticed the presenter played up the rivalry between marketing and sales departments. He dotted his discourse with pointed statements like: Salespeople are only interested in their numbers, not our strategy… They asked for all the hot leads we could get, and then let them go cold… So much of our hard marketing work is wasted on the sales end.

On the individual level, marketing employees who’d been frustrated by salesepeople were remembering those feelings of futlity, concern for their careers, and even a bit of self-righteousness. You can be sure he had our undivided attention when he explained how we could refine our strategies to build the credibility of our numbers, and waste less time and energy—in spite of those pesky salespeople. This was personal.

Superglue-strength loyalty

So you see, to be worth sharing, you can’t just deliver consistently high quality content. You don’t have to rock the boat (although it will give you quite a boost). You do need to produce content that provides the value readers can carry out with them in a package that confirms their personal reality.

Subscriber loyalty will grow to superglue strength, and what you write will demand to be shared with more and more likeminded people. Without any further ado, perfectly targeted, better traffic will pour in.

How have you used these ideas to your advantage? Can you share any examples?

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.

Your Social Media and SEO Game Plan for 2012

This guest post is by Herman Dias of SEOsoeasy.com.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the Google Panda update and what it did to many low-quality websites last year. It was more like a Google sniper attack on all the spam and rubbish sites. Honestly, this does not seem to be the end of the Panda: there is more to come, and we need to watch out.

The whole reason Google made these changes was to give Google users a good experience when they use Google search, and why not? When I look for something on Google the last thing I would want to see is rubbish information.

That is why, as SEO marketers, we need to take a different approach to ranking on Google and driving free organic traffic to our sites. If you have done any kind of SEO, you know what the key principles of ranking on Google are.

  • choosing the right keywords
  • building a well optimized site with good content
  • building quality backlinks.

These are the core principles of SEO, and they may get you on page one of Google, but you won’t stay there for very long. You have to do more and more of what the big G wants.

Google has started giving social media a lot of importance. It rewards sites that incorporate the core SEO principles and social media strategies by ranking them on page one and keeping them there. In fact, I think last year was the start of the cleanup process by Google. So if you think you got away without incorporating social media to rank on Google, you’d better make the change now or you may be surprised.

Incorporating social media into SEO

In the near future, you won’t be able to just pick keywords, optimize your site, and build links, and expect to rank on page one and stay there. Your site probably will rank on page one, but it won’t be there very long.

You really have to incorporate social media into your SEO efforts to rank and stay on page one. Here’s how you need do it.

  1. Select keywords with good commercial intent and good search volume, and build your main site and sub-pages around these keywords.
  2. Have the best content on your site, and optimize your site as per Google’s requirements.
  3. Make sure your subpages are interlinked with one another to create a strong internal linking structure.
  4. Create a Google Plus page and give your visitors something free to subscribe to your page. Make sure this page has a link to your main site.
  5. Create a Facebook page and give your visitors something free to become a fan of your page. Make sure this page has a link to your site.
  6. Create a Twitter page and link it to your site as well.
  7. Create Youtube channel with a link to your site.
  8. Bookmark your main site, and sub-pages at social bookmarking sites.
  9. Choose between three and five blogs in your niche to write good articles and submit a guest post to them, these posts will have a link to your blog and sub page.
  10. Get links from authority sites like .edu and .gov sites, news sites, or high-PR sites.
  11. Submit press releases to top press release distribution sites. Make sure your releases include links to your main site and relevant sub-pages.
  12. Submit articles to at least five article directories. Make sure these articles include links to your main site and relevant sub-pages.
  13. Share your content through sites like Tumblr, Livejournal, Weebly, Squidoo, and so on. Make sure the content contains links to your main site and relevant sub-pages.
  14. Tweet interesting, relevant links your main home page and sub-pages on Twitter.
  15. Share your blog entries on your Facebook wall and Google Plus page.
  16. Prepare videos and post them to your YouTube channel.

These steps will not only help your rank on the search engines fast—and get traffic from them—but they’ll also help you attract traffic from social media sites. These visitors will then have the option of liking your page on Facebook, tweeting your post, giving your page a +1 on Google, subscribing to your YouTube channel, and commenting on your blog post.

This process plays a very important role in ranking on the first page of Google, fast. It will not only create extra traffic and user-generated content, but it will also create backlinks naturally, as well as a community of people who will visit your site often.

This is exactly what Google is looking for. It wants to see activity on your sites; it wants interaction between people; it wants to see fresh, good-quality content; it wants to see quality sites backlinking to your site; it wants to see how long people spend on your site.

Your three-month plan

For this entire process to work successfully you need to create a three-month plan and execute it carefully.

  1. You need to have a three-month (90-day) content strategy. For example, you need to have about 45 good quality blog post ready and set up in WordPress to be posted every other day.
  2. You need to have content ready to submit to article directories, press release sites, those social sharing sites, and as guest posts. You should do these tasks at least twice a month if not more often.
  3. You need to prepare at least one video every week for 90 days and post it on your YouTube channel. If you haven’t tried this tactic before, you’ll be surprised to see the traffic you get from YouTube.
  4. You need to publish each blog post to your Google Plus page, Facebook page, and Twitter page, over a period of time. Slowly will start to get links and visitors from each of these sources.
  5. You need to bookmark all the pages on your site at a steady pace over a period of time using social bookmarking sites.
  6. You need to follow steps 8 to 16 consistently for at least three months. Then you can lower the pace—or increase it—depending on the results you see.

Please note there are many more backlinking sources you can use to build backlinks—consider directory links, blog contextual links, blog comments, and video directory links, for example. You don’t need to stick to the ones I’ve mentioned above.

But make sure whatever method of backlinking you choose, you use it consistently. That’s why I prefer picking a few sources that have worked for me and using them for about three months. Then I introduce the other back-link sources.

Now’s the time to integrate social media into your SEO plans. If you follow this process, you will see some good ranking in Google and other search engines—as well as decent traffic from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and YouTube.

Here is a live free case study were Herman Dias shares the exact same method of How to Rank on Page One of Google in 15 days . He also likes writing on topics related to SEO Tips, blogging, list building, traffic strategies and other Internet Marketing Topics.

Social Survival for Bloggers: a Peek from the Inside

This guest post is by David Leonhardt of Zoomit Canada.

Zombie accounts at Reddit are increasingly frustrating content creators on the internet. A “zombie” account is an account that appears to be active to the user, but to nobody else, usually as a punishment for that user submitting his or her own content.

The user submits, and he sees his or her submission. S/he comments, and sees the comment. S/he thinks s/he has an active account, and can go on for months thinking s/he does. But nobody else reads that person’s submissions or comments, and his or her up-votes are generally nullified by automated system down-votes.

No social bookmarking is so cruel as Reddit. I mean, this is downright mean. And no site is so easy to cross, because self-promotion (submitting your own blog post) is frowned upon in almost every way. I’ll bet that the zombie accounts at Reddit outnumber the real accounts by a gazillion to one. Okay, perhaps that’s just a bit of an exaggeration…

So what is a blogger, video maker, infographics publisher or other content creator to do if we wish to legitimately spread the word about a blog post? How are we to know where we can submit our own content and where it will just get us banned? Let this post be your guide.

The following sites frown on any form of self-promotion.

  • Reddit: No self-promotion allowed.
  • Newsvine: No self-promotion allowed.
  • Stumbleupon: Self-promotion is frowned upon, but if you don’t overdo it, you should be fine.
  • Mixxingbowl: Self-promotion is frowned upon, but if you have a non-commercial site with news or blog posts, not too many people will despise you.

The following sites welcome self-promotion on any topic.

  • Digg: Well, not officially, but it has been a long time since they seem to care, mostly because you just won’t be very successful if you are too self-promotional. It’s in the algorithm.
  • Olddogg: Submit anything.
  • Delicious: Submit anything.
  • Dropjack: Submit anything.
  • Snagly: Submit anything.
  • Cloudytags: Submit anything.

The following sites welcome self-promotion, but you’d better be on-topic.

  • Bizsugar: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit about small business.
  • Tipd: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit about finance.
  • Fwisp: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit about finance.
  • Pfbuzz: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit about finance.
  • Zoomit Canada: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit about Canada or a Canadian site.
  • healthbuzzing: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit about health and fitness.
  • Newsmeback: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit newsy, informational items.
  • Blokube: Self-promotion’s okay, assuming you submit on topics related to blogging and making money from home.
  • Politicollision: Although the site is very new, they seem to welcome any political news, including your own content.
  • Serpd: Self-promotion’s okay, as long as you submit about online marketing.

The following sites are harder to classify—see the notes for each to get an idea of what you can and can’t submit.

  • Buzfeed: It is more the quality of the content than the source that they seem to be interested in. (Yeah, I know. All the sites say that.)
  • Blogengage: Any submission is welcome, as long as it is a blog post. Any topic. Any quality. But they will be brutal if you actually promote your post.
  • chime.in: Too new to tell.
  • Pinterest: Too new to tell.

This listing reflects just one user’s observations. There are actually official terms of service at each site, and other users who might have different observations. The thing about “social” sites is that so much depends on people and their judgments, not just the terms of service. Hopefully this guide will help you decide where you feel like being self-promotional, and where you would prefer to keep your hands in your pockets.

Ultimately it is up to you to get a good feel for the site and for what is generally accepted before you submit your first item. And as a newbie, it’s worth erring on the side of caution; your account will likely be held to stricter standards than those of people who have already proven to be community builders.

If you’ve had any difficulties sharing your content on any of these—or other—social sites, let us know in the comments.

David Leonhardt is a social bookmarking addict and also an SEO professional, who—not surprisingly—runs his own social bookmarking website at Zoomit Canada.

What’s the Secret to Monetizing Social Media?

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

Have you been able to make money from social media? Has your effort and time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and your own blog paid off?

If you’re like most bloggers, you probably realize it’s not so easy. However, no matter how difficult it seems, it’s not impossible.

Just like Darren Rowse of Problogger, there are people and companies out there who are turning a profit with social media. Let me introduce them to you and show you how they do it.

Step 1: Build brand awareness and traffic

I love what Gary Vaynerchuk says in this interview when asked, “How do you monetize social media?” His answer: the same way you monetize any other media.

Vaynerchuk says that from newspapers to magazines, to blogs and commercials, advertising has been the backbone of social media monetization. However, he points out that you shouldn’t even be thinking about monetization until you’ve built up traffic and brand awareness.

Fortunately, when it comes to traffic and sales, the news is good for you. In a study done earlier this year by HubSpot, they discovered that blogs with at least 51 posts see 53% more traffic than blogs with fewer than 50, but more than 20 posts.

Furthermore, you’ll see three times the traffic if your blog has over 100 posts. Two hundred or more posts? You’ll see almost 4.5 times the result.

So, your first step to monetizing your blog is to drive adequate traffic to it, which as the HubSpot report showed comes down to consistently producing good content, whether it is interviews, podcasts or useful copy on a daily basis.

Step 2: Build audience engagement

Social media is all about conversation. Companies who think that the conversation is one-sided and do nothing but pump out sales promotions tend to look at social media as a necessary evil. In addition, they don’t tend to be as profitable, which just re-enforces their bad attitudes about social media.

But running an effective social media campaign is all about creating engagement with your audience. If you don’t have that engagement, then trying to monetize it will not work.

One company who is doing social media right is PETCO. They have a really strong presence on the social web with their Facebook page and YouTube Channel. Both these channels generate a lot of comments and discussions.

PETCO is generating all of this engagement by asking their audience specific questions about their pets, their pets’ diets and other concerns pet owners might have. Why are they going through all this effort to engage their audience?

Well, as you get to know your audience, you can start to give them more of the content they care about. As you give them the content they want they become more engaged. And it’s a whole lot easier to promote a product to an audience that is engaged.

Step 3: Monetize with online advertising

Once you’ve built consistent traffic to social media sites and built up your brand and credibility through meaningful conversations, you can start thinking about making money with advertising.

The most basic form of advertising is simply to put ads on your website. According to the 2011 Technorati State of the Blogosphere, of the bloggers who put advertising on their blogs, 60% use self-serve tools, while 50% have affiliate advertising links on their site.

Want an example of what this looks like? This is the Problogger sidebar:

If you don’t like the idea of displaying an ad across your website or blog, you could offer an advertiser a page devoted to their product or service.

Still another way you could make money is to charge for a membership into a teaching series, club or software, like SEOMoz and Copyblogger do.

Or do it like Darren Rowse does and create information products that people buy, like his popular 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Of course these options only work if you have highly engaged, consistent traffic coming to your site, so don’t jump the gun. Get the traffic first, the trust second, and then sell your audience something.

Step 4: Monetize with applications

Another monetization, traffic-building trick is to offer apps.

Some people generate income through their social sites by building software apps to sell. But if you think about, providing free apps is a great way to drive traffic to your blog or Facebook page.

The best apps are those that have a purpose or solve a need. For example, ROI calculators and keyword research tools are popular apps that solve meaningful problems. People will come to your site to use them.

A lot of well-known companies use apps to interact with their loyal customers. For instance, through Gucci Connect loyal customers used their smart phones and tablets to see a Milan fashion show from the comfort of their homes. They could watch runway footage live and behind-the-scenes videos. Live chats were included through Facebook and Twitter. Throughout these experiences Gucci exposed its audience to offers, making money off of all that traffic.

Wordstream uses its AdWords Performance Grader application to drive traffic to their site and capture leads. This app promises a week’s worth of analysis in less than 60 seconds. The goal is to get you to come to their site, use the free tool and then consider buying their PPC management software.

You can also give away basic plans for applications to drive traffic and capture leads, like Survey Monkey and KISSinsights do. These limited plans drive traffic to their sites through social media, leading to future sales as they send promotions to these users.

So whether you give away the app to build traffic that can lead to sales from other products or sell the app itself, software applications offer you the opportunity to monetize your social media. Let’s look at another example.

Step 5: Offer special promotions

Some companies monetize social media traffic by tweeting deals to their audience. An operator of luxury hotels in California called Joie De Vivre  tweets exclusive deals every week to their Twitter. These followers only have a few hours to act on these deals. How well does Joie De Vivre do with this strategy? They typically books about 1,000 rooms that might remain vacant.

Even large companies like Virgin use social media effectively. For example, the fourth-highest sales day for Virgin America came when they tweeted, “$5 donated to KIPP Schools for every flight booked today.”

Offering special discounts is really easy to do. Here are some ideas:

  • Post on Twitter and Facebook that you’ve dropped the price on your ebook to 99 cents for the weekend.
  • Go on a guest posting spree teaching people how to use web analytics … offering half your consultations fee in your byline.
  • Build an email newsletter list that promises special discounts on the products that you sell to subscribers.

Can you think of any other ways to share special promotions via social media?

Step 6: Retain customers through social media

Finally, while social media is really easy to monetize once you’ve got the engaged audience, don’t forget that you should also use social media as a customer service tool. Just because you’ve closed the deal doesn’t mean your job selling is done.

See, it’s also about keeping all those people who are buying your products happy after the purchase. It’s about keeping them loyal … and you do that by retaining and increasing mind share of your brand through good customer service.

In fact, notice the top three interactions users want from social media are incentives, solutions to their product problems and to give their feedback on your business:

In other words, people expect you to use social media to answer customer service questions.  In fact, according to Debbie Hemley and Heidi Cohen, you can actually enhance your customer service through social media in 12 ways:

  1. give business a human face
  2. listen to what customers are saying
  3. proactively engage with prospects and customers
  4. provide additional product-related content
  5. answer product-related questions
  6. supply alternative contact channel
  7. give customers a channel to talk to each other
  8. share customer feedback
  9. celebrate your customers
  10. show customers behind the scenes
  11. make special offers
  12. create new purchase options

When you provide an excellent customer service experience through social media, you will continue to build traffic to those sites as people go from being prospects to customers to rabid fans. Monetizing your social media will only get easier.

Conclusion

In the end, you can make money from social media when you have an integrated strategy that includes building traffic to your site, developing your brand, choosing the right products and advertising channels, offering promotions and enhancing your customer service.

What methods and tools are you using to make money with social media?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.