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How I’m Using Google+ to Create Content and Collaborative Opportunities on my Blogs

Google Plus has been a medium I’ve had a fascination with since Day 1, but it’s taken me a while to work out how to actually use it effectively in my blogging.

I’ve tried a variety of things, including using it as a blog of sorts (making longer posts), for status updates (what I’m doing), as a pseudo-RSS feed (sharing links to posts I’ve written on my blog), looking for great content that others are sharing to reshare, and much more.

But to be honest, I’ve still not found it to “click” with me… All of this work has been good and benefited what I do, but I’ve not felt I’m really using it as effectively as I could be. That was until last week, when I began to realize that sitting right in front of me was an opportunity that I’d not seen before.

The opportunity was not to drive traffic to content on my blog: it was an opportunity to actually help create content for my blog.

Each day as I sit down to G+ I see the most amazing conversations happening. Each day I see ideas, images, and information being shared by remarkable people. G+ is being used by innovative people who are pushing the boundaries.

As an example of this, recently I was marvelling at the beautiful photography of +Elena Kalis on G+. I was completely sucked into her beautiful images and it struck me that I had an opportunity to connect with her and to even shoot her a message. I did, and cheekily asked if she’d be open to being interviewed by me for +Digital Photography School. She agreed and we published that interview a couple of weeks back.

Then, the other day, I was watching a hangout run by +Trey Ratcliff. It was one of his weekly variety hours, and he had his usual array of guests—people who were clever, funny, and creative. Some of them were reasonably well-known, while others were not (but should have been). All were active on G+.

As I sat there watching the conversation, it occurred to me that I was watching a group of five or six potential guest posters for my photography blog. They were people who knew what they were talking about, who could communicate, and who were obviously trying to get their names out there.

I immediately decided to use G+ to send a message to one of them (+Todd Sisson) asking if he’d consider writing a guest post for me. An hour or so later he’d agreed and we’d decided upon a topic. We published that post soon after.

I also shot another message to two other panelists in that hangout that day. One didn’t reply, but I’m now talking about topics for a guest post with the other.

Over the last two weeks I’ve reached out to around ten people on G+, and five are working with me to create content for dPS as guest posters or interviewees. Another just submitted his second post and is keen to contribute regularly. Yet another is talking to us about a potential ebook collaboration.

All of this activity has taken place in private messages on G+. While this could probably be achieved on Twitter or Facebook, the freedom to write more than 140 characters—or to not have to be “friends” to message someone—is certainly a big plus on G+.

While there are many benefits of using G+ to drive traffic, deepen reader interaction, build your profile, and so on, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the last few weeks by how wonderful a place it has been to build collaborative opportunities and generate content.

How are you using G+, other than to drive traffic to your blog? I’d love to hear about your strategies in the comments.

8 Killer Tactics to Grow Your Blog with LinkedIn

This guest post is by Josh Turner of LinkedSelling.

Is your blog a business, or do you hope that it someday will be?

If you answered yes, then you should consider refocusing some of your social media activities toward the world’s largest social network for business.

That’s right, LinkedIn isn’t just for big companies or finding a job. There are a ton of practical tactics and strategies that you can engage in to build your blog on LinkedIn. Here are eight of my absolute favorites.

1. Join groups where other bloggers hang out

It’s surprising how few bloggers take advantage of the free communities available on LinkedIn. While paid membership sites flourish, completely free membership groups exist within LinkedIn that offer many of the same benefits.

LinkedIn groups

Consider getting involved with groups such as Professional Bloggers or Small Biz Forum.

These types of groups are full of people just like you: they’re eager to build relationships with other bloggers, looking for guest posting opportunities, and engaged in daily conversations about being a small business owner.

2. Use the LinkedIn Share button to promote content

ou likely have Twitter, Facebook, and maybe a couple other social sharing buttons on your blog. If you don’t have a LinkedIn share button, you may be really missing out.

The Share buttonY

Using the LinkedIn share button, you can quickly post and promote your content in every group that you are a member of.

If your content is relevant to your target audience, and the LinkedIn groups that you belong to are relevant, you’ll see an immediate and sustainable spike in traffic by consistently utilizing the LinkedIn share button. The key to growing that audience, as with almost anything, is that you provide great value through the network, and deliver it consistently.

3. Use premium features to discover new influencers

Would you be interested to find out any time somebody added “Community Manager” or “Blogger” to their LinkedIn profile?

With a premium LinkedIn account (about $30 per month) you can save searches such as these, and receive a weekly digest including every person in the world that recently added these words to their profile.

The LinkedIn people search

As somebody who is looking to build a real business with your blog, connecting with these people could be HUGE for your business. Consider that people new to the game are eager to build relationships, for one.

But the real power play here is the ability to identify new managers of larger sites. By approaching them when they are new to the position, you’re going to be one of the first. Tons of value here.

4. Find Strategic Groups to Explore Partnerships

If you’re like most people, you might not have much of a plan for how you’re going to leverage LinkedIn to build your business/blog. This presents a great opportunity for you if you’re willing to utilize LinkedIn to its potential.

One thing you can do to advance your business is to build strategic relationships on LinkedIn. Here’s how you could do this:

  1. Identify 10-20 sites or blogs that could really help to position your blog in the spotlight.
  2. Research who the players are, find them on LinkedIn, and join the groups that they are active in.
  3. Stay on top of their activity within groups.
  4. Engage with them in their conversations.
  5. Build a relationship.
  6. Take it to the next level.

Darren Rowse is probably not reachable through this method, but the people that run his operation likely are. You have to do your homework, but spending some time on the front end could really open some doors for you.

Darren on LinkedIn

5. Demonstrate your expertise to land gigs

There are a number of ways you can demonstrate your expertise on LinkedIn to generate real, paying gigs.

For most of us, it is consulting income or our “real job” that feeds the family.

The wrong way

Consistently sharing your content and engaging people within groups are two of the best ways to do this. Don’t forget, I said consistently. Dabbling won’t get the results you’re after.

Be sure, if this is the type of work you’re after, that your profile clearly states that you are “for hire.”

From there, demonstrate your professionalism and skills, over and over. Be a good person. Build quality relationships. The rest will take care of itself.

6. Use LinkedIn Ads to promote your products or list

If you sell products on your blog, or you have a budget to work with for building your list, consider exploring LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn advertising

LinkedIn’s advertising platform can be accessed with as little as a $10 per day budget. The beauty of the system is that you can target your ads to an exact type of person. Want to position your ad in front of managers, at Los Angeles businesses, with between 10-100 people, and over 35 years old? LinkedIn can take care of that for you.

Whether your offerings have a broad appeal or are more niche oriented, the LinkedIn ad platform could be a great way to get the word out.

7. Use LinkedIn Signal for competitive analysis

LinkedIn Signal is essentially LinkedIn’s search function for the entire network. Enter a phrase that you’re interested in, and you will see every related bit of activity from within every nook and cranny on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Signal

The power of Signal is that it exposes you to people outside of your first-degree connections. You can see status updates for every person on LinkedIn, and group posts for every group on LinkedIn. Powerful stuff.

Signal is a great way to stay up to date on competing blogs, to research new content ideas, and to find new people who are worth following and connecting to.

8. Follow companies that are in your space

If you’re operating within a specific industry, there are certainly hundreds, if not thousands of companies represented on LinkedIn. There are nearly 2.5 million businesses with registered company pages on LinkedIn. Clearly the actual number of business owners with a presence on LinkedIn is much higher.

Consider following the companies that matter to you. This gives you the ability to receive updates from them, stay current with their news, and it creates visibility for you within the company’s network.

Following a company

You should also consider researching their employees listed on LinkedIn. This can be a great way to get in with the people that matter, providing a channel for interview requests, and positioning your site as a leader in the space.

Are you building a business?

If the answer is yes, you need to be on LinkedIn.

Whether you are writing about dog bones, margaritas or minor league badminton, there are some serious tactics at your disposal within LinkedIn. If you’re interested in building relationships, building your list and building your income, LinkedIn should be a major part of your business strategy.

So how about you? Are you using LinkedIn to build your blog?

Josh Turner is the founder of LinkedSelling, a LinkedIn marketing firm that offers training and outsourced LinkedIn campaigns. Get his free 10-part video training series, How to Convert Your LinkedIn Profile Into a Lead Generation Tool.

How to Use Google+ to Update All Major Social Networks

This is a guest post by Alan Cairns of bozboz.co.uk.

We tend to use social networks as channels that feed into each other, with certain channels for posting content and others for re-publishing it. Widgets and apps can help pull a Twitter feed to a website, or a blog RSS feed to a LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile.

The hub and spoke distribution model represents this system, with a structure that resembles wheels on a bike. The hub is at the centre of the model, connected to each spoke. The hub is the source of the data, and the spokes are the individual channels where that data is published. The hub might represent a blog or Twitter feed, and all the spokes separate social media channels.

It’s important to think strategically about how these channels work together, which channel is going to function as the “hub,” and which as the “spokes.” Obviously, creating bespoke content for each social network is the ideal, but bloggers need to be efficient, and using the hub-and-spoke approach is an efficient way of reaching a large audience through multiple platforms.

Social networks are usually happy for users to integrate feeds and streams into their profiles, making import features available or apps for importing content from elsewhere.

Google+, however, does not allow Twitter feeds, Facebook activity streams or RSS feeds to be imported. This reflects Google’s effort to ensure that the content on Google+ is always unique.

This means that managing a Google+ profile or page can require a lot of work, as updates need to be done manually. This is likely to increase the quality of posts on Google’s social network, but for marketers it creates additional work. Why post bespoke messages on each social media platform if the content and its message is the same?

Considering that feeds are a no-no with Google, using G+ as the “hub” makes a lot of sense, with other social networks being updated from a G+ feed. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t even provide the functionality to export a Google+ activity stream as an RSS feed.

Thankfully, several people have found ways to create a feed from a Google+ profile.

Working with Google+

Several services emerged last year which offered to turn a Google+ profile into an RSS feed that can be imported to other social networks. But most of the hacks that were blogged about last year don’t work any more—Google seem to be discouraging users from importing feeds to Google+.

Fortunately, Rob McGee created an easy-to-use service which can feed your Google+ posts directly to Facebook and Twitter.

All you need to do is sign in with your Twitter and Facebook logins, post a validation code on Google+, and then any posts shared with Rob McGee on Google+ will automatically be posted to your Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Something tells me Rob is being added to quite a few circles as a result of developing this handy service!

How does it look? Here’s a Google+ post of mine.
My Google+ Update

Here’s how it looks on Twitter.
Google+ feeds to Twitter

And this is the post on Facebook.
Google+ feeds to Facebook

Remember that Twitter can only re-post updates of 140 characters or less.

Facebook and Twitter will create shortened links to Google+ posts that include videos, but posts with images will not be shared automatically. The only way to share images is to put the URL of the image into the status update, which automatically becomes a hyperlink on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s also important to remember that follow-up comments will only be visible on the social network on which they were posted.

Once Google+ is the “hub” rather than the “spoke,” your Twitter and Facebook statuses can be updated centrally from your Google+ account. You might still need to check both networks, respond to comments, and so on, but Google+ now sits at the centre of your social media presence.

While it could be considered duplication of content to feed updates between social networks, this is an efficient way to communicate with followers, friends, and fans—and to roll out your content strategy across several social media profiles simultaneously.

Alan Cairns is a Search and Social Marketing Analyst at BozBoz, a Brighton-based Digital Agency.

Find Fans’ and Followers’ Pain Points in 5 Simple Steps

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

Social media sites are great for a number of different purposes, including connecting with your readership and establishing yourself as a thought leader within your industry. However, the interactions you have on these popular social sites can also serve another major purpose within your business—providing the market research necessary to uncover your audience’s hidden pain points.

But what are pain points, and what makes these issues so useful from a marketing standpoint?

Essentially, “pain points” are the problems that members of your audience have that they’re actively seeking solutions for. Let’s take a closer look at different parts of this statement to see what makes pain points so powerful:

  • The problems: When you can identify different issues that your audience is facing, you can also identify and provide the solutions they need. Doing so will increase both your reputation within your niche and your ability to market products that resolve these issues.
  • That members of your audience have: As a blogger, you’re only one member of your community, which makes it easy to assume that your audience members are experiencing the problems you expect them to have. Unfortunately, limiting your survey of potential pain points to your own assumptions means that you could miss some tremendous opportunities to connect with your readers over problems you never even imagined they’d be facing!
  • That they’re actively seeking solutions for: Problem-solving is a continuum, which means that people need to acknowledge that they have certain problems and actively seek out a solution before your interventions can be useful.  Approaching readers at the wrong point on this spectrum—for example, before they even know they have problems—can make your marketing efforts less successful.

With all of these different factors in mind, here’s a simple five-step process for uncovering your audience’s hidden pain points and using these problems to connect more effectively through better-targeted blog posts and paid products.

1. Find your audience

Clearly, in order to identify the pain points your audience is expressing on popular social networking sites, you first need to locate your readers!

Now, I’m not just talking about high-tailing it over to Facebook or Twitter, finding a few token users and setting up your pain points marketing plan based on the presence of a few audience members. Instead, what you want to find is the social website where people are actively pouring out their innermost feelings to fellow members of their communities.

Within your niche, this might be Facebook or Twitter—or it might be a forum, message board, or chat site.  Don’t limit the potential of your market research by observing only surface-level interactions or assuming that the top-tier social networking sites will be the best places to understand your members’ inner pain points.

The easiest way to identify your audience’s internet hangouts is to pretend to be an audience member yourself.  Enter questions into Google as if you were searching for the types of information your site visitors are looking for and pay attention to the sites that appear in the natural search results.  Explore these sites and follow any external links you encounter, paying close attention to signs of high engagement (for example, post comments, forum thread views, and social shares).

Once you find the hottest social sites in your niche, take the time to set up a profile for yourself and begin interacting with your audience.

2. Find the keywords they use

As you engage with your potential site visitors on your chosen social networking sites, pay special attention to the way they’re asking questions and the keywords they use to do so.

One of the biggest weaknesses facing bloggers who incorporate traditional keyword research into their website marketing plans is that the data found in these number-crunching programs often fails to tell the whole story about your audience’s actual interests and desires. The result is a blog that’s well-optimized for the search engine spiders, but not your actual readers!

For example, suppose you run a blog in the weight loss industry, and your keyword research turns up good search volume and low competition for the phrase, “easy tips for fat loss.”  However, if your audience rarely uses the phrase “fat loss”—instead, preferring the words “weight loss”—you could be missing a golden opportunity to target your audience’s pain points by failing to optimize your blog for the appropriate words and phrases.

3. Search social media sites for questions and issues

In addition to using social networking sites to uncover potential keyword optimization ideas, you can also search the content that’s been posted to your social-site-of-choice in order to uncover your audience’s most pressing issues.

Continuing with our weight loss blog example mentioned earlier, suppose you determine that one of the best social sites in your niche from a market research perspective is 3fatchicks.com—a popular health and fitness forum site primarily targeting women.  Entering the phrase “help me” (a good signifier of the issues people are actually facing) into the site’s search tool returns the following set of results:

Research results

Many of the threads listed here provide great insight into the pain points your audience is currently experiencing—any of which could be turned into future blog posts or paid products.  As an example, the forum post titled, “help me stop being so addicted to chocolate!!!” could easily be transformed into a “17 Ways to Beat Your Chocolate Addiction” report that you can practically guarantee will appeal to members of your target niche.

4. Ask your audience questions

If you’re having trouble identifying social networking site posts that reveal your audience’s pain points, you can also go directly to the source and gather data by asking your audience leading questions.

For example, consider the following sample questions:

  • What has been your greatest achievement to date?
  • What invention would help you most right now?
  • What one thing would you like to give up forever?
  • What would you do right now if you were handed $1,000?
  • If you could change any one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Just a word of caution, though: for best results, it’s best to use this technique only after you’ve already established yourself as a valuable member of your social networking community. Attempting to ask leading questions when you’ve just joined a new online community can result in either a serious lack of responses or the perception that you’re scamming your chosen social networking site.

5. Develop blog posts and info products based on stated issues

By following the steps above, you should have uncovered a wealth of information about your audience’s hidden pain points that can be directly transformed into effective blog posts and paid products.

However, keep in mind that market research on your audience’s issues should be an ongoing part of your blog’s promotional plan.  Changes occur in every industry, whether in terms of new websites launching, new technologies being released or any other type of innovation, which means that the problems your audience faces will change as well.

For best results, check in with this process frequently and pay attention to the reaction you get to the posts and products you release targeting the pain points you’ve uncovered.  Use this insights to tweak your future launches, and—over time—the insight you gain into your audience’s hidden motivations will make you a far better blogger and a much more respected member of your community.

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency< based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and various other marketing strategies.

8 Ways to Get More Out of Your Facebook Fan Page Today

This is a guest post by Raag Vamdatt of The WordPress How To Blog.

If you have been paying even the slightest attention to the blogosphere lately, you would have noticed that it’s abuzz with talk about the new Facebook fan pages. And there is a reason behind it—the Facebook fan page’s new timeline view is a drastic change from the old fan pages we are used to seeing. These changes came into effect from March 30th.

The changes are far-reaching, and are pushing people out of their comfort zones. Since most bloggers have active fan pages that they use for attracting new readers and for making sales, they have started panicking. However, like any change, you can view this as an opportunity instead of seeing it as a problem.

The new fan pages don’t allow you to use many of the tactics that you might be used to. However, these changes do open up many new possibilities as well. Here are a few things you can do to effectively use the new timeline-based Facebook fan pages to your advantage.

1. Pin announcements or sales pitches

Previously, there was no way you could highlight a post on Facebook. Even if it was an important post, say about an upcoming launch, it would get buried under newer posts. How can a post have the desired impact if it is not even seen by your visitors?

This is a problem from the past, friends! Now, you can “pin” a post, and when you do this, it stays as the first post on you fan page. In blogging terms, you can say it’s a “sticky” post!

This is huge. Finally, you have the freedom to make people see your most important messages, without making them land on custom tabs (which is not possible any more, by the way).

2. Star important posts

There is one more way to highlight posts that need special attention: you can “star” any of the posts on your fan pages.

Doing this makes the post span both the columns of the timeline view, making it quite distinguishable from other posts. Whenever a visitor is scrolling through your fan page, he or she is bound to stop and pay attention to a starred post because of its double width.

This feature can be used to highlight content that doesn’t need immediate attention, but is important nonetheless. For example, if you have a post about contest winners, or about you being mentioned in mainstream media, you can “star” such posts to give them prominence.

3. Use the cover image effectively

Now, you get a huge amount of space—851px by 315px to be precise—to play with for the cover image. The new timeline view has introduced a cover image which appears as the first thing on your fan page. And due to its massive size, it will draw your visitors’ attention as soon as they land on your Facebook fan page.

Before you start getting ideas, let me tell you that this space cannot be used for any marketing messages—you can’t ask people to buy something or to like your fan page, you can’t use it to offer any pricing or discount details, you can’t have your contact details displayed there, etc.

In spite of these restrictions, you can use this space quite effectively. It can be used to brand yourself and your blog—the image you use here can convey a positive message about your blog to your visitors. In fact, you can even use a text-based image here as long as it is not promotional text. You can also include pictures of your products in this space.


4. Using custom tabs to channel visitors

Just below the cover image are small, square images called custom tabs. These are links to your applications. The first one is always a link to your photos, but the others can be customized.

This feature can be used quite effectively. For example, you can have a custom tab pointing to one of your products, and the image for the tab can contain a quick, attention-grabbing call to action.

You can have up to 12 of these custom tabs. Excluding the one for the photos, you have 11 opportunities to channel your visitors to important applications or sub-pages of your fan page.

5. Utilizing the profile photo

The profile photo, which used to be up to 180px by 540px in size, is now reduced to a mere 125px by 125px. However, this photo doesn’t come with any restrictions like that for the cover photo, so it can be utilized in creative ways.

Of course, you can have your picture or your logo as the profile photo of your fan page. In fact, most people would have this type of a setup. But now,you can play with the profile picture and the cover image to create some cool effects.

An aggressive tactic: If you want, you could create a profile image with the text “Like Us”, and an arrow pointing to the Like button. This is not something you can do with the cover photo, but it might help to boost your Likes.

6. Effectively using the new messaging system

The new fan pages now come with a messaging system—anyone who has liked your page can now send messages directly to you! (Please note that the message has to be initiated by the user—you cannot send a message to a fan unless he or she has messaged you first).

Again, this is a massive change, and one you can use to your advantage. You can use this feature for problem resolution—your fans can write to you privately (maybe with sensitive details like their order number), and you can provide personalized query resolution and support.

Of course, if you have a ton of fans, this won’t be feasible for you. But if you are just starting out and have only a few fans, this can be a big image booster and might earn you a lot of praise!

7. Using milestones to your advantage

Facebook now lets you create milestones on your fan pages. Milestones are the events or dates that are important for your page. The best part about milestones is that you can post milestones from the past, with dates from any time since the year 1000!

You can use this to let people know more about your blog or business—when it started, when it achieved some critical milestones, etc. Knowing these things may inspire more trust in your visitors, and could result in a few additional fans.

8. Checking out your competition

This is a neat trick that not many people know about. In fact, I myself discovered it by accident!

When you visit a fan page and you see a box with the number of Likes in it, click on it. What do you see? You see the analytics data (or “insights” in Facebook terms) about that fan page. Some of the things that you can see are:

  • how many people are taking about the fan page
  • the trends regarding new likes and number of people talking about the page
  • most popular week, city and age group for that fan page.

This is really cool! Till now, you could see the analytics for your own fan page. But now, you can also see the highlights of the analytics of other fan pages. This is a great opportunity—you can take a look at the data of your competitors, and use it to your advantage.

How are you using your new Facebook fan page?

How are you using the new features of the Facebook fan page to build your blog’s following both on Facebook and on your blog itself? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Raag Vamdatt runs multiple blogs, and writes from his experiences at The WordPress How To Blog. He also offers a free step-by-step course titled “Make Money Blogging” that guides about starting a blog and making money from it.

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.