by Scott McIntyre
Last week, I discussed the main benefits of building awareness for your blog offline– namely to enhance your own personal reputation within your niche industry, and to increase the visibility of your blogÃ¢â¬â¢s brand to the wider offline community.
Many of you are finding that word-of-mouth recommendation still can’t be beaten as the Number 1 way of bringing a whole new audience to your online businesses. Creating a positive ‘buzz’ is a powerful method of attracting customers to your products and services.
The sole aim of this ‘buzz’ is to drive people to your website and then to encourage the individual to take specific action- whether this be to purchase, read, or subscribe.
Increasingly, the ultimate place to generate ‘blog buzz’ is through the use of Social Media. Effective participation on these websites now plays a crucial role in any successful marketing campaign. Social Media is where the ‘It Factor’ is at!
Did you realize that non-bloggers are participating in social media too?
Over the past few months, I have become an active participant on several Social Media sites.
Some — Stumbleupon and Digg — I am particularly fond of. For example, by only being concerned with sharing the best quality content with the community, my Stumbleupon profile has a Google Page Rank 5. Reader recommendation sites such as these allow me to enjoy my own community and to establish authority and trust.
I am beginning to explore others — Twitter, Mixx, and the social bookmarking sites Delicious and Reddit — and become more involved to see what they offer a non-blogging reader.
During the fantastic times I have spent Stumbling and Digging, I have become familiar with how best to interact with these Social Media communities and to maximize the mutual benefits to both myself and my fellow members.
Today, I would like to suggest 10 key tips that will help your blog benefit from Social Media. As the topic is vast with so many facets to cover, entire blogs are devoted to exploring the subject. You might use what I write here to reach more non-blogging customers or to explain social media to folks just beginning to explore how to get more from their blog.
I intend to cover the more basic points below, and would be delighted to write a follow-up article to address any questions you have. It would be great to read your views in the comments section.
Using Social Media: What’s the Buzz About?
“Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and ‘building’ of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories, and understandings.” (source: Wikipedia)
Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, Twitter, Plurk . . . these are but a few of the Social Media mega sites that are defining today’s Internet and shaping our online behaviour for tomorrow. Quite simply, Web 2.0 and the concept of social community IS the Internet.
This is the arena into which your online business can enter if you want to compete effectively and win the attention and dollars of today’s quality and cost savvy customer. And, even if your primary goal isn’t to generate money, engaging in the Social Media environment has massive potential to expose your blog to a new audience of enthusiastic readers — some of whom may have little experience with blogs.
At its most fundamental level, any specific Social Media website is a gathering of like-minded individuals who have interests in broadly the same range of topics. Furthermore, the community members are motivated to share the best information available with each other.
So, how best can you get involved with Social Media? Here are my Top 10 Tips (they’re in no particular order because each one is important in its own right).
Top 10 Social Media Tips for Connecting with Non-Blogging Customers
- Tip 1 Develop your Social Media strategy
Without a focused plan of engagement, there is a danger that your use of Social Media will become a time and money resource draining activity. Many people use Social Media channels for fun and enjoyment. It’s a brilliant way to discover entertaining and useful content from all corners of the Internet. Many of the pages that come your way, you most probably would never have found on your own. That’s the incredible feature of Social Media – the community finds and delivers hitherto far flung information right to your browser.
However, as a business you need to decide your aims for using Social Media before you embark upon this as a promotional activity. Your goals may be varied and interconnected- to enhance your reputation in the industry; to put a more ‘human’ face on your business; to generate sales; to increase your subscriptions, etc. Whatever you want to gain from Social Media, it is crucial to set out a framework to guide your efforts before you begin.
In our case, it would be to find non-blogging customers, colleagues who work with them, and information about how to connect with them and their habits online.
- Tip 2 Select the most appropriate community for your business
The first step before you launch into any Social Media community is to check out whether what you offer is what the members are likely to want. Explore some of the sites out there to get a feel for the kind of content that is considered worthy of sharing.
Each Social Media site is geared towards a particular type of user. For example, while generalizing slightly, technology based news stories tend to do better on Digg because those users like that content, while in-depth and lifestyle articles fare better on Stumbleupon because this appeals to stumblers. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules on what goes down well with these respective audiences.
Good quality and intrinsically valuable content will do well on any Social Media site if promoted properly and along the lines of these 10 tips I describe here.
We can choose the sites where our customers are most likely to find information they’d want to know. Keep in mind that non-blogging customers get to social sites via search engine as well as via word of mouth.
- Tip 3 Fully research the Social Media community
As mentioned above, any given community is a gathering of individuals with similar tastes and interests in online content. To plug into the collective consciousness, it is necessary to get to know what the people respond well to and what they reject out of hand. By knowing these rules of engagement, you can tap into the demand for your kind of material.
While this talk of ‘collective consciousness’ may sound very new-age, really it is just a case of going where the audience you serve or want to serve is gathering and delivering your work to them.
- Tip 4 Create an attractive, unique profile
Striving to build a professional looking and trustworthy profile is something which will differentiate you within the Social Media community and encourage other members to view you as a source of good quality material. Translated into action, your credible profile will lead individuals to opt into following you – or befriending you. By doing this, these people are indicating that they want more of what you are sharing. The key is to leverage this support sensitively into spin-off benefits for your business.
To achieve the best results, you should try to reflect either your own personal brand or that of your online offering in your profile. Every aspect of your Social Media profile contributes to your branding efforts – from the avatar or image you display and the type of pages you share to the comments and reviews you make on these pages.
Keep in mind that non-blogging customers might not be up on the social media vernacular. Though some key words will help bring search traffic to you, too many will confuse the non-bloggers who come.
- Tip 5 Build your network of like-minded mutual friends
Any advantages from engaging with a Social Media community will only be fully realized if you search out members who are interested in the value you can offer. The whole rationale behind Social Media is in its social nature. People are there to share.
By regularly using the website’s search facilities and by visiting the profiles of your fellow community participants, you can gradually build a network of like-minded contacts who want to derive mutual benefit from collaborating with each other online.
Ask questions about connecting with newcomers and nonbloggers. Offer advice about the same subjects and the people will see you as someone who cares about that group of customers.
- Tip 6 Participate! Participate! Participate!
As with any gathering, people flock to those individuals who actively get involved in the proceedings. They might entertain us or make us think twice. They might give us a unique insight into an issue or provide us with advice that no one else can. The same principles apply to Social Media communities. Members are keen to follow those who give value back to others. Your online offering can do all these things.
When applied to the Social Media setting, this means always working to discover the highest quality content and introducing it to your community. It also translates into helping your fellow user to assess the value of that content by indicating your approval of it by judicious reviews and comments. Be obsessed with being a filter of quality material.
Be sure to share content that non-bloggers will value and content in which they recognize themselves and their situation.
- Tip 7 Think not what the Social Media community can do for you, but what you can do for it
No one especially wants to hang around with, or follow, someone who is all take and no give. The same is true of Social Media participants. It may be that, for perfectly valid personal or business reasons, you are unable to commit the resources to pursuing a Social Media strategy. If this is the case, it might be better to wait until you can before engaging in a half-hearted way. You need to make regular, value-laden Stumbles, Diggs, Tweets and Plurks before people notice you.
Ask questions about how you can help others connect to businesses just entering this marketplace. Get advice from people who are obviously engaged in doing what you want to do.
- Tip 8 Engage on a deeper level with your network
Being surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals provides a tremendous opportunity for networking. If you invest in becoming familiar with their specific interests, you can identify potential new contacts to do business with – either as a provider or a supplier.
As is true of developing any mutually beneficial networking relationship, one should approach it with tact and diplomacy. Look out for indications on someone’s profile that they are willing to be contacted, perhaps via a communication channel outwith the Social Media site. If they have a blog of their own, consider becoming a genuine and valued contributor. You should have the attitude of giving value, without asking for anything in return. Adopting this attitude to building any relationships in life, brings great rewards in itself.
Offering to schedule a limited time — 15 minute — phone call to explore ways that you might be useful in helping each other often works. Context is important when reaching out, work from what the other person knows.
- Tip 9 Offer and share only your very best content
Every so often, it is fine to submit your own content for approval by the wider Social Media community. However, you should only do this once you have invested a significant amount of time and energy in understanding what is acceptable. Above all, you need to have built up a respected reputation (see Tip 4 above).
The main focus of your community activity ought to be on contributing value to others. If you are passionate about producing knockout content for your own blog or website, some other quality-minded member will always want to share it.
Again, share the content that’s meant for the customers and colleagues you want to attract.
- Tip 10 Assess the success of your Social Media strategy
And so, it is time to review how effective all your efforts have been in providing benefits to the bottom-line results for your online business. This is why it is critical to have mapped out your strategy before you embark upon any exploration of Social Media as a means of promotion, as outlined in Tip 1 above. You can find out more about how to analyze the impact of your strategy in Liz’s article on checking Social Media’s return on investment
Effective participation in Social Media communities can benefit your online business greatly, if you approach it in a carefully planned manner like any other promotional activity. Social Media-astute small businesses can level the playing field and take on the big boys in their industries. We can be fleeter of foot and react to the subtle changes within the Social Media community much more quickly than larger enterprises with their marketing / operational departmental bureaucracies.
Not only can you connect directly with blogging and non-blogging customers and attract new ones, you can also build very useful and productive working relationships and forge strong strategic alliances within your niche.
If youÃ¢â¬â¢re a blogger, leave a comment to let me know of your experiences of using Social Media? What advice would you give to use these tool to reach non-blogging customers?
If youÃ¢â¬â¢re a non-blogger who uses Social Media (and there are are many), tell them what they can do to engage with you via your Social Media community.
Week 1: Connecting with the Offline Customer: A Non-Blogger’s Perspective
Week 2: Targeting the Offline Customer: Do You Blog for Non-Bloggers?
Week 3: Reaching the Offline Customer: Do You Promote Your Blog Offline?
Week 4: Attracting the Offline Customer: Why Do You Promote Your Blog Offline?