Close
Close

The 3 Essential Components to My Online Publishing Business: Blogging, Social, and Email

As bloggers, we’re always under time pressure to do more. Whether it’s releasing a product or engaging with users on a new social network, the blogger’s task list can seem overwhelming sometimes.

I think some of that overwhelm comes from the granularity with which we tend to look at our work. While breaking big challenges down into littler ones is a good way to tackle things, focusing on the little bits and pieces of our work can stop us seeing the bigger picture, and the natural connections between the individual things we’re doing.

Recently on #blogchat we had a discussion about where social media fits into blogging. If you look at that question on a really granular basis—”What will my next status update be about?”—then it can be difficult to see where social media might or might not work well. But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll probably be more likely to ask, “Where doesn’t social media fit into blogging?”

Of course we need a bit more direction than that to work out how best to spend our time as bloggers, so today I thought I’d explain a bit about my approach to linking blogging, social media, and email.

Freeway cloverleaf

Image by Phillip C, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Blogging

Blogging is at the heart of what I do. My blog is my home base and is where I put most of my efforts. My blog is a place that another company like Twitter, or Facebook or G+ can’t take away from me if I break their terms of service or if they change their approach. It’s in my control and it’s where I ultimately build my brand and community.

My blog is a place where conversation and conversion certainly happens, but if I had to name my primary focus for my blog it would be that it is a place which I use to produce content that’s useful to my readers.

My hope is that every single day on my blogs, I help solve problems big and small for my readers through the content I produce there.

My blog is a place that is often the first point of contact with people. It’s a place where I hope I’m able to create an impression upon them that will drive them to connect more meaningfully in some way.

2. Social media

Social media is a place which I primarily use for conversation and community. While these things also happen on the blog in comments, I find increasingly that people want to connect and converse off my blog.

I tend to focus on Twitter primarily, but Facebook has increasingly become a place where my photography blog readers go and G+ is also growing for me in this way.

I do use social media for other purposes—I use it to drive traffic to my blog for example, I occasionally produce content on it (particularly on G+ where I often think out loud), and I even promote my ebooks on it from time to time too (although I find it doesn’t convert anywhere near as well as email—more on that in a moment).

All these things can be done on social media, but for me it is more a place for conversation and interaction.

3. Email

I’ve written about the importance of email many times on ProBlogger—it is the single most important element I’ve added to my blogging since I started out ten years ago.

Email does many things for me—it’s a great way to drive traffic, it can help with building community and driving people to points of engagement, it can even be used to deliver content. But for me its stand-out benefit has been around driving sales: conversion.

Check out this graphic which shows where sales of our ebooks come from.

Email conversions on dPS

You can see here that:

  • 87% of our sales come from email
  • 7% come from our blog posts
  • 3% come from social media
  • 3% come from our affiliates.

Since we started to publish ebooks, I’ve tried many ways to promote them, but the top-converting method every time I’ve tested has been email.

3 Kinds of media working together

Blogging, social media and email have all  become really important aspects of my business. I can’t imagine leaving one of these elements out.

Each of them is useful in a variety of ways—in fact, I often use each of the elements to promote the others, as I find they really work well to reinforce one another.

For example, when someone signs up to our newsletter on dPS they get an email shortly after that tells them about our social media accounts. From time to time on our social accounts we promote the email newsletter, and we regularly promote the blog posts we publish there, too.

In sending people back and forth to the different elements of what we do, I find they become more integrated into the community. The brand’s popularity grows among a broader audiences this way, but individuals’ connections with the brand deepen, too.

In taking this discussion a step or two further, tomorrow’s post looks at some great case examples of the ways email and blogging can be integrated to support a successful product launch, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of those approaches.

And next week, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at how bloggers are using social media—specifically Pinterest—to support their blogging goals.

The integration of social media and email with blogging is a pretty topical dilemma for a lot of people, so let’s hear your views in the comments.

Keep Your New Year’s Resolution: Set up a Social, Search-optimized WordPress Blog … Today

This guest post is by Marcela De Vivo of Gryffin.co.

Recently ProBlogger discussed how to brand your blog, how to find your voice, and how to build your authority.

Mouse

Image courtesy stock.xchng user panoramadi

These articles are powerful, but often I find myself speaking with people who don’t have a blog yet, or are using Blogger or custom made, cumbersome platforms. Just this week alone I went through these steps with four different people who want to jump on the blogging bandwagon.

In this article we will go back to basics for those who haven’t started their blog yet, or who are on platforms that are hindering their progress.

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to improve your blogging presence—or start a new one—read on!

We’ll go through a step-by-step process, including tools and resources for each step, to set up a WordPress blog that is optimized for social and search marketing success.

Setting up your WordPress blog

WordPress is currently the most popular content management platform.  It can be used for static pages or as a blog.  You can add plugins for a shopping cart, image galleries, and much more.

Here’s how to set it up.

  1. Register your domain with sites like Register.com, Godaddy.com, or Enom.com
  2. Create a hosting account with sites like BlueHost.com, WPEngine, or HostGator.  If you would like to do more research on hosting companies, check out WhoIsHostingThis.
  3. Select a WordPress theme. I personally love using StudioPress as the themes are clean, functional, and easy to work with. Search for a responsive theme so your blog will be accessible to mobile users.
  4. Is your site running on a different CMS or platform? Consider using a blog migration service, such as BlogWranglers, to move your current site over to WordPress. Hundreds of thousands have done it, with no regrets.
  5. Upload WordPress to your hosting account, and customize with your relevant theme.  If you are not a techie, this is the part where you’ll need some help.  Check out Elance.com, Freelancer.com, or a site like Craiglist.org to find someone who can help you set up and customize your template.
  6. Install WordPress plugins.

Let’s take a deeper look at the plugins you’ll need.

Setting up your plugins

Social media

These are the social media plugins I recommend you consider.

SEO plugins

My favorite SEO plugins include these ones.

Usability

Usability plugins can be a huge help. Consider these:

Doing keyword research

To gain exposure from search engines, you need to have your blog focused on a theme. Select a primary keyword within this general theme for each page of the site.  You can read more about keyword research in this ProBlogger article.

Select keywords by identifying low-competition and high-search terms for your industry from Google’s Keyword tool.

Other tools you can use include:

.

Prepare content for your static pages and images

While a designer/programmer is working on setting up your site, you can start by writing and preparing content for your site.

A well-optimized page includes the primary keywords in the Title of the page, Meta Description tag, H1 tag, once or twice in the body, and in an outbound link.

As you’re preparing your content, remember these elements of an excellent blog post:

        • Post title: creative and compelling
        • Social share icons: make sharing your content easy
        • Image: an image speaks louder than words
        • Opening paragraph: include keywords in a teaser into the introduction
        • Body copy: use headers and bold words
        • Lists: make your content easy to scan
        • Conclusion: include a teaser for your next article
        • Related posts: give them more content to consume
        • Comment section: Always respond to comments

Read Darren’s compilation from earlier this year for more information on each element in The Anatomy of a Better Blog Post.

Connect your site for optimum findability

By this point you should have a WordPress blog with a range of enhancements made possible by plugins and other customizations.  You will have SEO plugins to improve your on-page SEO, page load times, keyword density, site maps, and other relevant SEO features.

You will also have a selection of social plugins so that you can encourage social shares from your site. You will have other features such as contact forms, tracking, reporting, and an email signup box to build your email list.

Incorporating keyword research will help you to deliver the content that people are looking for in a way that lets it be found.  You can write articles based on long-tail terms, answer questions that your audience may have, and target hundreds of keywords by writing articles specific to each one.

So what are you waiting for? Make your New Year’s Resolution a reality and start your new blog today. And if you have any suggestions of plugins, tools, or services to add to this list, please do share!

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer who writes about blogging, SEO and social media at Gryffin.co/blog.

Blogging on the Bleeding Edge: Create Content that Gets Liked, Shared, and Talked About

This guest post is by Glen Andrews of Glen-Andrews.com.

There are two types of content…

Regurgitated content. This is content, or information, that’s been shared throughout a niche for years. It doesn’t really excite anyone anymore. It’s considered useful, but it’s “old hat.”

As an example, in the blogging niche (my niche) regurgitated content would be writing an article about hashtags, setting up a Facebook page, or discussing the importance of creating videos.

These are all worthwhile strategies to write about, especially if your blog is about social media. We all need to paint the full picture for those entering social media (our niche) for the first time. So discussing old strategies is always a smart thing to do.

However, regurgitated content won’t thrust you to the forefront of your market. Which brings me to our second type of content.

What’s happening now content. This is “bleeding edge” content that’s new to your market.

When Google rolled out its new algorithm (Panda/Penguin) the people aware of these “insider” updates were seen as the experts. Then, these so-called “insiders” created some of the first articles, posts, and videos about Google’s new algorithms.

These insiders are also the ones who receive masses of likes, shares, and tweets from their fan base. Which in turn, helps them build an even bigger fan base.

When you share breaking news, people want to be on your newsletter list, they want to read your blog, and they want to follow you on social media sites.

Here’s the good news. Anyone can become an insider, as I’m about to explain.

But first, here are four things that occur when we produce “what’s happening now” content.

The benefits of bleeding-edge content

  1. We have the ability to help and inspire others.
  2. We’re viewed as experts on the “cutting edge” of our niche.
  3. Our content gets shared, liked, and talked about more often.
  4. We get an opportunity to earn an exceptional income online.

You might be saying, “Don’t most blogs get these benefits?”

No! Most blogs have good content, but not “what’s happening now” content, blogged from the bleeding edge.

Becoming an insider

Here’s how you can become an insider in your niche, and publish the best bleeding-edge content.

Finding other insiders

First, find out who the top three leaders are in your niche and follow their every move. Get their newsletters and RSS feeds sent to your email, and follow them on Twitter. This will immediately tip you off when something new is about to unfold in your niche.

When you find some killer bleeding-edge content, create an article, post, or video, and discuss the affects this news may have on your niche. Then of course, you’ll share it with your base.

Finding policy makers

So you’re probably wondering—where do I find these niche leaders?

You want to locate the people who make the rules. For example, in my niche, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are just a few of the “policy makers” I follow. These are the people who make the policies that affect everyone online.

It helps to get your information straight from the decision makers themselves. However, I could also follow Searchengineland.com for SEO. I could follow SocialMediaExaminer.com for all things social media.

You want your finger on the pulse of what’s happening next, and the only way to do that is to know the decision-makers in your market.

Blogging on the bleeding edge

Have you identified the decision-makers in your market? Are you able to respond quickly when they report critical news? What are your strategies for creating great content that gets liked, shared and re-tweeted? Share your ideas in the comments.

Glen Andrews has created niche sites, ebooks, and info products that produce a steady reliable income. Glen is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs create and market a blog online that makes them money.

Set a Posting Schedule that Encourages Shares and Pageviews

This guest post is by Lindsey Dahlberg of Bloggingtips.com.

We’ve all heard the saying, “great content gets shared.” But what happens if yours isn’t getting shared? Does that mean you don’t have great content?

Not necessarily. It could mean you have top-notch content, but you’re not posting it at the most opportunistic times of day.

Maybe you aren’t interested in social shares but would like to know why your killer content isn’t generating lots of pageviews.

Perhaps you’re suffering from the same malady: your content isn’t getting viewed because you aren’t posting on the best days of the week.

According to Shareaholic, the day and time you post your content will determine how many social shares and page views it receives. The following information was taken from data received in 2011 (social shares apply to Facebook and Twitter).

Social shares

If your top priority is social shares, you’ll want to know the best day and best time to post your content. Here is a breakdown of both those stats.

Best days

According to research, content posted on Thursdays gets more shares than any other day—10% more in fact. From there, sharing days decrease in popularity as follows: Wednesday, Friday, Monday, Sunday, and Tuesday.

We can take two things from this information. First, people are using Facebook and Twitter at work. Second (and more relevant to you!), posts made later in the week do better than posts made earlier in the week.

Best times

Now that you have determined which days you should be posting, you’ll want to know which hours are best.

According to Sharaholic, 27% of all social shares occur between 8am and 12pm EST. There is a definite surge of activity between 9am and 10am. After that, social shares are on the decline for the majority of the day. There are two other small peaks of activity around 2pm and 9pm.

Apparently, we like to take in our information with the morning news, get an update after lunch, and check in before bed.

One popular blogger shares his posting schedule. He posts at 4:30am. That way, his content is ready for his US audience while his UK audience is still awake and active.

Pageviews

If you are interested in driving traffic to your blog, and you’re not too particular about social shares, your posting schedule will be completely different.

Best days

The four best pageview-related posting days are the same as the social share posting days. However, the winners are in a different ranking. Of the top 100 pageview days in 2011, 43% landed on a Monday. Tuesdays received 28%, Wednesdays 24%, and Thursdays finished the list with 5%.

Note Saturday and Sunday didn’t make the cut.

Best times

Most pageviews take place between 7am and 1pm EST, Monday through Friday, with the majority occurring between 9am and 10am. From there, views decrease significantly.

What this means for you

There are several takeaways we can gather from these statistics.

First, you need to determine how you want your audience to find your content. Do you want them to click from Twitter? Do you want them to subscribe via email? The answer to these questions will determine how you implement a response to these statistics.

Second, these statistics should act as a guideline only. They provide a nice place to begin your testing. However, you’ll want to check your own numbers and adjust from there.

These statistics don’t apply to everyone and they aren’t carved in stone. Pageviews and shares can vary from topic to topic, time zone to time zone, and country to country.

Third, you should determine which time zones read your content and when. Some businesses focus on the US east coast, since the majority of the country resides there. However, other companies draw a large band of followers from the west coast or Europe. Use your site’s analytics to determine where your target audience lives.

Lastly, be ready. Have your content up before the peak viewing time occurs. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to let viewers know it’s coming. A simple social media post along the lines of, “check the blog tomorrow at noon for a hot new post—you won’t want to miss it!” couldn’t hurt.

If you have been churning out stellar content and not receiving the traffic or social shares you’d like, try making a few changes to the times at which you post your content.

Lindsey Dahlberg is a blogger at http://bloggingtips.com and http://ppc.org/.

Social Media Advertising: Should Bloggers Bother?

This guest post is written by Lior Levin.

Social media has proven its worth as a networking tool and a means of raising brand awareness, but the future of sites like Facebook and Twitter depend on convincing brands that that it’s worthwhile to invest in advertising on their sites in addition to interacting with customers.

Ads on Facebook usually appear in the right column, though Facebook has been experimenting with more socially-based ads that show up in the streams of users. With its simpler interface, Twitter relies on promoting tweets that show up in the tops of users’ update streams.

No one has any doubts about the value of social media marketing through engaging customers, running promotions, and creating company pages. The majority of doubts surround the ROI and overall value of paying to advertise on social networks.

Many brands are still engaged in social media advertising, and the data available changes from year to year. However, for bloggers, it can be difficult to decide whether social media advertising is worth it.

Here are a few of the current advantages and disadvantages of using social media sites for your advertising campaigns.

Advantages of social media advertising

Social helps campaigns go viral

According to Kelsey Jones of the Social Robot, “Companies and organizations can experience a large swell of website visitors, new customers, or Facebook fans all within a single day, depending on the effectiveness of their ads. This type of viral activity can be great for events and product launches.”

Brands are satisfied with the level of engagement

There’s no doubt that the right campaign can make a huge difference in driving visitors to a website. This spike in traffic for some major brands makes social media advertising worth considering.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Companies that have bought Twitter ads generally say they are happy with the percentage of people who click on their ads or circulate them to other Twitter users. But marketers also say these ads haven’t proven they can convert people into paying customers.”

Disadvantages of social media advertising

The cost for national advertising campaigns is prohibitive

Kelsey Jones writes at Performancing, “For some targeted campaigns, competition can be very high, leading to high rates for clicks on social media ads or sponsored tweet impressions (views). For certain industries, the cost to run a viral campaign of this magnitude can be significant, up to thousands of dollars per day.”

While the cost of social media advertising can be quite steep for national campaigns, running an effective social media campaign through a free account on social media can produce similar results if managed properly. The opportunity to engage users through a free account may make it hard to justify the cost of Facebook or Twitter ads.

Social advertising can be perceived negatively

Unlike ads in magazines or on television, ads on social networks may prove to be ineffective or even a liability for brands, as customers may view them as an unwelcome intrusion.

One Forrester analyst mentioned to Bloomberg that injecting ads into a social platform is like interrupting a conversation among friends in order to attempt a sales pitch.

In fact, ads on a social network may be perceived as completely counter to what users are trying to accomplish. Some suggest that the success of social advertising hinges on whether brands can identify the purchasing intent of users and find the perfect point to introduce an ad into their social experience.

The ROI is difficult to measure on social media

Sean Jackson, the CFO of CopyBlogger, suggests that for all of the talk about being unable to measure the ROI of social media marketing in general, businesses should not be dismayed. Jackson says, “An investment is an asset that you purchase and place on your Balance Sheet. Like an office building or a computer system. It’s something you could sell later if you didn’t need it any more. Marketing is an expense, and goes on the Profit and Loss statement.”

Whether or not you agree with Jackson’s statement, the constant challenge of all marketing efforts over the years has been determining their ROI.

Is it worth it?

Social media advertising will undoubtedly produce greater brand awareness and user engagement with your brand, but the real risk is that brands may need to designate significant funds to their marketing efforts without necessarily receiving a guarantee that they’ll work.

That is a significant risk to take, but as brands seek to reach customers, we’ll see ongoing innovation among advertisers on social media platforms.

What do you think of social advertising? Have you tried it—or seen it? Let us know your take on these new ad media in the comments.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for pre shipment inspection companies located in China and Latin America, and who also consults for a psd to html conversion company.

Build Brand Awareness and Business with Creative Video Blogging

This guest post is by Ryan Critchett of iMobileRescue.

We all know that video blogging is a powerfully effective tool for business lead generation, but does everyone have what it takes to execute on it?

We can all get in front of a camera, hit record, and start talking about our products and services … but will it entertain people?

Is entertaining people, while indirectly informing them of what your business offers a good strategy for video business blogging?

I’d say, yes, everyone has what it takes, no, not all content will entertain people, and yes, entertainment with a bit of indirect promotion is a solid way of generating business from video blogging.

The business: RMC Tech

RMC Tech is my tech repair company. I started the company in 2011, after having been immersed in the blogosphere and social media for years. That gave me the edge.

I’ve always done videos on the web and lucky for me, I’ve gotten extremely comfortable in front of a camera. So, jumping into the tech repair industry, I had to take what I knew about video blogging and social media, and apply it to business.

Besides building iPhone apps, our core service is iPhone repair. People break their phones all day long and it’s normally in the form of a cracked screen. When they need it repaired, our service is an exact market fit.

But just having the skills to rip apart an iPhone and replace the screen doesn’t really do me any good. The next step is letting everyone in America know not only that I can perform the service, but that they can trust me.

The strategy: video blogging

What solidifies trust more than people actually seeing your face and hearing your voice? Not much! Video blogging is a goldmine. It’s second only to actual face-to-face communication, which is one of the ultimate binding points between consumers and businesses.

So here’s what we did. Every iPhone I repaired, I would keep the damaged part. Everyone keeps saying that storytelling is a precious art and if used correctly, can really help a business reach people. So I decided to put the two together.

I created this series called iGraveyard. The iGraveyard series is simply a two- to four-minute video where I display the broken iPhone part, and tell the story behind how it got damaged.

These things get run over by trucks, people drop them off cliffs, and I just recently had someone accidentally drop a power tool on one of them. People love to hear about these kinds of things! It’s helped my business tremendously to extend the reach of our offering.

Our iPhone service is now nationwide, and we’ve been able to penetrate new markets, through the use of video blogging and social media. People know we do iPad repair. They know that if they’re in Chicago, we’ve still got their backs. The web’s reach is endless.

Here’s one of our latest videos, so you can see what I’m talking about:

Entertainment + silliness = trust

A great equation to build trust is simply making people smile, or feel good, and to show your human side and be a bit silly. Everyone, at some level, can appreciate that and for me it’s worked wonders in spreading the word.

You have to think, “how can I spread awareness on what my business is while not directly selling to people, and be a bit entertaining while I’m at it?”

You have to tap into your creative reserves, ditch the conservative mentality, and understand that you’re not dealing with conservative people. You’re dealing with human beings. They’re all a bit crazy and silly at some level, they all love being entertained, and your mission is to reach them through emotion.

The critical step of exposure

Having your creative, entertaining content may not be enough in and of itself. You have to get it in front of people, right? You have to find a channel to reach your market.

Real, live people are on Twitter. All (almost!) of those people you see in your Twitter streams are real, just like you and me, and in many cases spend an appreciable amount of time reading the Twitter stream and interacting with people.

The mission is simply to socialize with them. Find people, through the search function in Twitter, who are talking about things similar to your industry. Reply in a playful way, not in a salesish way.

I know, I know, this doesn’t convert to business right away. Of course it doesn’t. If you want to convert business right away, find a good traditional marketing platform, pay a boatload of money, and do some push marketing.

Social is different. You’re building long term awareness in people’s minds about what you do. You’re solidifying trust points with potential customers all around the world, and in your markets and if you have the community skills to “work the room” as they say, it has a powerful potential to contribute to your bottom line.

It’s the perfect forum to support your creative video presence.

Noise-makers create results

The great part about cranking out a lot of good content and making a lot of noise is that you have a great chance of being picked up by other people who are interested in what you’re doing.

Recently, a pretty large Pennsylvania Business Journal picked up on some of the social interaction and business operations I was engaging in and decided to write a nice piece about it. Everyone who read that article was in my target market: people with iPhones.

So not only are you creating awareness, creatively through entertaining but informative content, but you’re also increasing the probability that news, media publications, and other interested parties get involved in what you’re doing.

That’s what entrepreneurs do. 2012 is the year of the entrepreneur. It’s the year of the web marketer. It’s the year of the blogger and creative video blogging for business is a powerful tool in spreading the awareness that could take your blog, and business, to the next level.

Are you using creative video blogging to boost awareness of your business? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Ryan Critchett is the Co-Founder of iMobileRescue, an iOS device repair company that mainly focuses on iPad repair, and iPhone water damage repair.

9 Facebook Marketing Tactics that’ll Triple Your Fans

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to double, or even triple the number of fans you have on your Facebook business page? Are you looking to turn those fans into loyal and active fans?

Your Facebook business page can die on the vine without a loyal and active following.

But success will never come overnight. Instead it will require that you apply the marketing strategies you are about to read … plus a little bit of hustle.

Tactic #1: Crank out a lot of content

People like Facebook business pages for many reasons. They want to learn more about the brand, discover new products, and get educated.

So the very first Facebook marketing strategy you need to use is providing a lot of content in different media like photos, posts, videos, and surveys and you have to do it consistently.

The passionate community around eCycler was developed because the brand posted great content on recycling in the Notes sections on a consistent basis.

Ecycler

In addition, they posted fun videos and used Facebook to show its 10,000 plus fans how the inside of the company works. This transparency from the co-founders of this Illinois-based company has made it a great communication channel between the brand and the fans.

Meanwhile, the community over at the SmartPak Facebook page is very active, leaving hundreds of comments on the dozens of videos and 1,000 plus photos that SmartPak has posted.

Smartpak

The company uses Facebook to market new products on nutritional supplements and medications for horses, but it’s developed into something so much more over time. Over 110,000 fans talk, share ideas and like the consistent content that SmartPak shares. In turn Facebook has become the seventh highest source of traffic to their website.

SmartPak’s director of new media, however, says that it’s really become a place where they deliver great customer service, responding to complaints and trying to help users of their products to solve problems.

Tactic 2: Run weekly giveaways and discounts

One way to drive a loyal following to your Facebook page is to have weekly giveaways. The candle company Candles Off Main’s Facebook page not only provides weekly discounts on its products, but also shares great instructional videos and very detailed photos that help educate and entice potential buyers.

Candles off Main

The company has been around for five years but joined Facebook only in 2009. In that time they’ve grown their fans to over 3,500 with a blend of giveaways. But this is not just about tripling their following: it’s about a community they created where members are active on discussion boards and constantly giving responses to posts.

Their Facebook fan page isn’t a big driver of sales—it produces less than ten percent of sales, but it provides something way more valuable. The community they built with giveaways and then cultivated into a thriving community gives the company insight and suggestions on how to make better products that followers will buy.

Tactic #3: Train your staff

Stella & Dot is a direct-selling company that gives women who work from home an entrepreneurial business platform. And their Facebook fan page, with over 166,000 fans, is a hive of activity. There, fans rave about products, people share ideas on how to be stylish, and direct-sellers share testimonials about happy customers.

Stella and Dot

But the unique thing about Stella & Dot is that they use Facebook to train a staff team that’s spread across the country. For each product that the company creates, they also create a video demonstrating how the jewelry should be worn and what it should be worn with. Then they post it on Faceboook so their direct sellers can watch it.

The neat thing about this is everyone gets to see the content—each instructional video serves to entice potential customers as well as training the staff.

Tactic #4: Create a culture

Clothing company Threadless has turned the tables on the conventional business model by putting all the power in the customers’ hands. It’s more of a culture than it is a business, and its using its Facebook fan page to drive that culture.

Threadless

There, the business invite fans to share t-shirt designs and then vote on their favorites. Threadless will then make that product. You can also buy products straight from the Facebook site. Of course, the company shares interesting videos and photos on the stream, but it encourages face-to-face meetings through the page.

Thousands of people share their ideas via the company’s website, but it is on Facebook that the actual voting occurs. That voting, and the interaction between the designers and the fans, creates a powerful culture that continues to grow as Threadless advocates talk about the company across the social web.

Tactic #5: Make word-of-mouth advocacy easy

There is no denying it: you trust people you know more than you trust strangers. So when you see a product shared by a friend, you are more likely to consider using that product. It’s that word of mouth that really works on Facebook, which Brendan’s Irish Pub in Camarillo, CA used to grow its fan base before the business opened its doors.

Brendan's Irish Pub

It created a business fan page to generate buzz about parties, sell products, and get commitments from first-time customers about coming to the grand opening.

The Facebook page existed months before the pub did, and owner Tyler Rex used that time to create hype around the Camarillo area. In just those few months he gained over 3,500 fans in a city of 65,000 people.

Tactic #6: Encourage fan-to-fan conversations

Your Facebook business community will get much better if you have fans talking to each other, and the best way to do this is by putting the spotlight on those very fans.

One way you can do this is by creating a “Fan of the Week” post to recognize top contributors to the community. But if you have a Facebook fan base like Bare Escentuals you can take a hands-off marketing approach, and still get fans to talk to each other.

Bare Escentuals

Fans totally dominate the conversation here. Bare Escentuals has adopted a strategy in which they do not ask for testimonials, yet the 550,000+ fans leave hundreds of them, which in turn leads to traffic being driven to their resellers and shops.

But this fan-to-fan conversation has also given the company recommendations on how to improve the product. The chief marketing officer said that their new “Click, Lock, Go” container was created as a result of suggestions from fans.

Tactic #7: Focus on your brand

When it comes to how your Facebook page should look, you can go about it in two ways. One way you can brand it to look just like your website. The other way is to create a completely different experience so that fans have a feeling of exclusivity when they like your page.

Community Coffee chose to keep the brand consistent, using the same colors, style, and even images from their website to their Facebook page. But they deliver that feeling of exclusivity through the use of recipe posts, and inviting fans to post their own recipes, contests and trivia.

Community Coffee

Facebook has proven to be a great new media marketing tool for this company, which is over 90 years old. The active fan base is exposed to the brand, which in turn builds awareness of the business, generates more leads, and engages customers.

Tactic #8: Donate a dollar to quickly build a fan base

You can build a terrific following by pledging to donate $1 to a charity every time someone Likes your Facebook page. That’s exactly what Clarisonic did last year. They increased their fan base by over 80 percent and raised $30,000 to help women with cancer.

Clarisonic

But once you are a fan of Clarisonic, you’re treated to lots of activities that get you involved, such as contests that invite users to share pictures of themselves using the brand’s products. That’s the key to running this type of pledge: once you have fans, you need to keep them engaged using some of the tactics that I’ve shared above.

When you follow up with good user-interaction content like Calrisonic did (they’re doing pretty well, with over 118,000 fans) you can build on that momentum from the quick injection of fans as they spread the word about your company across the social web.

Tactic #9: Reward your social media users

If you have a brick-and-motor store like Fresh Brothers, a southern CA pizza chain, then you can use your Facebook business page as a place to reward your fans with discount codes for products.

Fresh Brothers

The company actually shares a weekly special to thank fans, and if you Like their page, you’ll get access to these weekly deals. This is applying the exclusivity trick to entice people to follow Fresh Brothers.

But Fresh Brothers also rewards fans with great stories about their family, as the company is run by three brothers, employee tales, and snippets of company history. This is a really great way to deliver that human touch that shows customers that this isn’t just another business who wants to get its hands on their money—it’s a company with personality that truly cares about customers.

What’s your favorite tactic?

One of the keys to running a successful business Facebook fan page is to create a very human feel to it. That can be done through great content like photos and videos, all the way to providing awesome deals to fans as a thank you for their following you.

You will be rewarded with an active community of fans sharing their own stories, creating conversations about your brand across the social web, and even driving traffic to your website.

What other Facebook marketing strategies have you found effective for building a fan base? Share them with us below.

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

Top Twitter Blog Marketing Tips

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

Twitter is one of the top three or four social media marketing tools today, with roughly 12% of online adults using Twitter according to this Pew Internet report.

It’s easy to quickly share promotions and ideas on Twitter, and if they catch on, they can spread quickly, even crossing over to platforms such as Facebook or Pinterest in the process. Since the cost of using Twitter is so low and the process of sharing tweets is so simple, it is an ideal tool for blog marketing.

Twitter’s blog benefits

There are three main reasons why bloggers need to use Twitter regularly:

1. Twitter increases blog traffic

Twitter is a top source of referral traffic, but it is likely far more effective than tools such as Google Analytics lets on.

Many referrals derive from Twitter originally, but Google Analytics isn’t able to track all of their origin points. Entrepreneur Mark Suster explains this at Tech Crunch, saying, “Twitter is an amazing generator of social hooks to websites. Some of that comes from Twitter.com or other Twitter clients. But since many other websites pull in Twitter data, including links, you don’t always know who is referring the traffic to you.”

In order to understand the true reach of your Twitter campaigns, Suster recommends a tool called Awe.sm.

2. Twitter improves your Google Page Rank

A thorough study of the impact of Twitter and Facebook on Google page ranking by the website SEO Moz yielded a strong correlation between high shares on Twitter and Facebook.

Rand Fishkin writes in the conclusions, “Pages that earn tweets + Facebook shares also correlate well with earning links, and send direct traffic on their own—ignoring these services at this point seems foolish.” If you want to improve your website’s page rank on Google, then the data suggests that more tweets and Facebook shares will help get you there.

3. Twitter helps establish your brand

Twitter is one way to reveal who you are as a brand, showing customers what you care about and whether you have anything important to share with them—whether that’s information or a promotion. The key is to connect in ways that prove your brand is consistent and reliable.

Top Twitter blog marketing tips

With these benefits in mind, here are some tips on how to use Twitter for online marketing.

Find influencers

As you look to expand your influence on Twitter, you’ll need followers who are influential and engaged. However, this doesn’t just mean networking with people who follow, or are followed by, a lot of people.

You can start by using Twellow to find Twitter users in your niche and then use Twitter Grader to evaluate the quality of their interactions on Twitter.

Beware of using tools such as Klout, as users with significant social media influence have been routinely undervalued by the Klout algorithm.

You can also search Twitter through hashtags (eg. “#marketing”) in order to find users in your niche. The key is to review what they tweet about by looking at their feeds. Are they active? Do they interact with their followers on Twitter? Are they willing to retweet content frequently?

A quick scan of Twitter profiles will tell you quite a bit about who to follow, and whether those users will follow you back and provide valuable interactions.

Promote your posts

Use engaging titles when tweeting about your website’s content, and link to promotions and information that will meet the specific needs of your followers. This all ties back to whether your company has a consistent focus and a clear brand image that can connect with customers. If it does, Twitter may be an excellent marketing tool for you.

Chris Brogan suggests that beyond tweeting your killer titles, you should also mention if content on your site has sparked a lively conversation, or if users are giving meaningful feedback.

Your followers may want to chip in to the conversation. In addition, you can ask for links on StumbleUpon or a retweet of your content if it’s particularly valuable to your readers.

Be socially proactive

Don’t just wait for people to find you. You need to find followers, retweet their content, and anticipate what they want. It’s your job to spark conversations and to stir up interest, even asking for a little help in spreading the word when appropriate.

Share unique and useful information

Twitter users will only find you worth following if you can point them to valuable content, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Since it’s generally frowned upon to only post your own information, check out a site like All Top to find the best websites and news in your field. Between retweets of leaders in your field and links from All Top, you’ll provide the kind of content that will make people want to follow you.

As you read information online that’s related to your niche throughout the day, use a service such as Hootsuite or Buffer to set up auto-tweets throughout the day, so you can space out the information you share.

By installing the Buffer button to your browser toolbar, you can easily set up a regular stream of tweets throughout your day and increase your brand’s value to your customers.

Share tweets frequently

The best way to tell your Twitter followers that you’re personally invested in helping them is to retweet their tweets frequently. There’s a good chance that the customers you follow are sharing information that the rest of your followers need anyway, so you can both share relevant information and build your connection with your Twitter followers at the same time through consistent retweets.

Avoid inconsistent profile pictures across platforms

In order to create a consistent brand image, choose one profile picture, whether a logo or picture of a CEO, for all of your social media platforms. PR expert Sarah Evans writes at Mashable, “The first rule for avatars and bios is to stay consistent across social platforms. If you’re sharing information from your business account, decide whether you want your avatar to be your company logo or the face of the president.”

In addition, a profile picture should convey an image that is consistent with your brand.

Don’t spam followers with auto-direct messages

If your goal is to create authentic engagement with customers through social media, then the other golden rule is to never send auto-direct messages to new followers. Auto-direct messages are consistently viewed as spam by the majority of Twitter users and your brand will suffer if you send them.

An authentic Twitter presence

Twitter is easy to start using, but it’s also quite easy to mess up. The golden rule is to be authentic and genuinely helpful.

If you’re not helping your followers, then you’re just trying to use them to make money. The more money you try to make, the less you’ll help followers on Twitter—resulting in a lower return on your social media investment.

The more you try to help followers on Twitter, the more brand engagement you’ll build.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for company that specializes in a to do list app, and who also consults for an inspection company that provides various services in  pre shipment inspections.

The Secret Stats Your Follower Numbers Hide

This guest post is by Courtney Mroch of Haunt Jaunts.

Statistics and their interpretation is often a popular topic on ProBlogger. One of my favorites about the subject was a guest post by Mark Seall called Who Cares How Many Subscribers You’ve Got?

I loved the way he pointed out that some, if not most, of us will never reach 20,000 subscribers, based purely on the nature of our niches. He created a color-coded diagram of measures we should analyze our success by instead. They included both things we bloggers can directly impact, as well as those we can’t. His point was to focus on what you can influence and not get hung up on, or weighed down by, the rest. Good advice.

On the other hand, Deb of Science@home wrote a guest post called Do You Spend Enough Time Looking at Your Stats? in which she defended the importance of paying attention to them. Namely, she suggested using stats to see who’s visiting from where, and what topics tend to pique their interest most. Then you can cater your posts more to their liking to retain your audience.

I’ve adopted a bit of advice from both Mark and Deb into my stats analysis and blog post development. However, what I’m most concerned with these days is how wisely I’m spending my precious social networking time.

Which social networks are really driving readers to my blog?

When I first started tracking my blog’s stats and paying attention to referral sources, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, respectively, were always the top three referral sources. They drove in a significantly larger amount of traffic than any of the other top ten referrers.

However, at some point I decided I wanted more followers. That’s when I discovered StumbleUpon. Shortly after, my stats revealed something startling, something Marcello Arrambide of Wandering Trader touched on in his ProBlogger guest post A Blog Traffic Strategy: Quality vs Quantity: follower numbers can be deceptive.

Large follower numbers don’t necessarily translate into big visits

In no time flat, StumbleUpon blew Google, which had been Haunt Jaunts’ top referral source, out of the water traffic-wise. Not only that, it brought in more traffic than Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined. Where Google, FB, and Twitter brought in 1,200-1,500 views a month together, StumbleUpon was bringing in 7,000-8,000 all by itself.

But what was even more shocking was I had maybe 20 followers on StumbleUpon at that time. Haunt Jaunts’s Twitter followers were nearing 3,000, and its Facebook page had several hundred. You’d have thought that, together, they’d be bringing in the most traffic. Not even close.

Noticing trends, tracking down followers

These days StumbleUpon is still Haunt Jaunts’ top referral source. However, it’s dropped considerably. I noticed it after SU made some changes. People got mad and stopped using it as much.

Instead, I saw more people flocking to Tumblr, as well as Pinterest. The former seemed to appeal to many ex-Stumblers because it let them do a lot of what they used to be able to do on StumbleUpon, yet have a little more individuality. The latter seemed to appeal to those who especially liked Stumbling photos.

Facebook traffic also dropped. Coincidently, that happened around the same time Google+ became available.

And then there was Twitter. It dropped off my Top 10 Referrers list entirely. In fact, it wasn’t even in the top 50 anymore. It’s since dropped off as a referral source altogether.

Adapt or die

After analyzing my stats, it was time to re-evaluate my social networking strategy. I thought of Dona Colins’s guest post Is Twitter a Waste of Time?, since I found myself having to contemplate that question, not just for Twitter, but for all my social networks.

Where was I going to spend my time? How much effort should I continue putting into the old sources? Which new platforms should I take a gamble on?

I decided to stick with Twitter. It doesn’t bring in any hits, but I do continue to make valuable connections that lead to other projects. Facebook continues to hold strong in the Top 5, so I’ve also kept it.

I decided to expand into new-to-me social networks, including Google+, TBEX (a travel writer community), Pinterest, and Tumblr.

I’ve found a group of fellow TBEXers who also use StumbleUpon. We’ve sort of banded together. I’ve seen a slight increase in SU’s referrals thanks to this. Not like the results I was once getting, but it’s still my number one referral source.

I don’t know how much traffic Google+ is responsible for yet, but it didn’t even take Tumblr two weeks to climb into my Top 10 referrers once I started using it regularly. I’m curious to see if it will continue to climb.

And then there’s Pinterest. So far it’s generated zilch traffic. I have, however, found it’s a delightful way to spend time that could be better utilized researching, writing, or social networking elsewhere. It’s a dangerous one for me to linger on very long.

What about you? Does your biggest referral traffic come from your social network with the most followers or not?

Courtney Mroch is a writer who wears many blogging hats, among her favorite is being the Director of Paranormal Tourism for Haunt Jaunts, a travel blog for restless spirits.