This post was originally published on Live to Write – Write to Live where I blog about writing and publishing with a diverse group of literary friends.
In response to my last post, Selling Stories with Story, Justin Guzman of Brain Change asked, “Do you have any insight when starting from scratch on a blog how best to go about building up a social network?” Good question, Jason. Glad you asked.
So, you’ve got a blog, a brand, a book, or a business. You’re creating content in the form of posts, articles, Facebook status updates, etc. How do you get people to discover you and then stick around as regulars at your place? There are a lot of moving parts and details to consider, but here’s my basic strategy broken down into six steps:
1. Be interested
Whatever you’re writing about, there’s a “tribe” of people out there who share your passion. If your goal is to engage those people, you have to be interested in them. This doesn’t mean you should start stalking them like a big game hunter. It means that you should figure out where they hang out online (which blogs, communities, Facebook pages, Twitter chats, and forums), and you should become part of the scene. Participate in the conversation by leaving comments, tweeting, and getting involved in whatever discussions are relevant to you.
Tactical Tip: Whether you associate your comments with your blog URL or your Twitter page, give people a way to quickly and easily find you. Some of my best traffic drivers are comments I’ve left on other blogs.
2. Be interesting
This applies on two levels – your social interactions and your content. First, the social interactions: when you leave a comment or jump into a forum discussion, make sure you are adding value. The point of engaging people in these social is to make an impression. Think of each comment as a mini audition. Try to say something that will resonate with other readers … enough that they click your link. And that’s where interesting content comes in. You’ve accomplished the feat of getting someone to visit your site/blog/Twitter page – now you need to be damn sure that the content will interest them enough that they engage, bookmark, subscribe, etc.
Tactical Tip: Depending on your business, it may make sense to create a special “landing page” for new visitors to your site. This page can contain a welcome message, links to your best content, contact info, invitation to subscribe, etc. You can then link all your comments and other social interactions to this all-in-one introduction to you.
3. Be out there
As writers and creative entrepreneurs are learning, social networking is a great way to connect with peers, prospects, and partners; but you need to do the leg work if you want to see results. Publishing content is only the first step. Once it’s live, you need to promote it. This is the sharing part. For starters, each time you put up a new blog post, send out a tweet and post an update on Facebook. In addition, when relevant (and ONLY when relevant) it’s permissible to mention (and link back to) your content when commenting on other people’s blogs. You can also get into more advanced techniques like article marketing and social bookmarking, but Twitter and Facebook will give you a solid start.
Tactical Tip: Killer headlines are the key to getting clicks and are arguably the most important element of your piece. If your headline fails to interest readers, your content will never see the light of day. Copyblogger has some great headline resources. Read and keep as a swipe file.
4. Be engaged
Ok – you’ve made an appearance on the social web and you’ve gotten some of your new “friends” to visit you at your place (i.e., your blog). Awesome, but don’t stop there. To prove that you don’t view these people as merely a meal ticket, you’ve got to stay engaged even after you’ve gotten them to your site. In fact, the folks who are already buyers/subscribers/fans are your most valuable asset. You already know they like you; if you engage them in a real way they will love you. Even better, they will share your stuff with their social network friends. It’s a circle of good social karma – you reach out, they respond, you keep up the dialog, they share, new folks discover you, you respond to them … and so on and on and on.
Tactical Tip: Responding to comments is a great start to being engaged, but there are lots of other ways to acknowledge and engage people: thank people who retweet and share your posts, send direct messages (on Twitter or Facebook) to let people know you’re listening, and always say more than just “thanks.”
5. Be generous
Speaking of karma, it’s tough to overemphasize the importance of sharing and promoting other people’s work. When you see good work that would be valuable to your network, share it. Social networker extraordinaire, Chris Brogan, says that the vast majority of his social interactions promote other people’s work, not his own. Your social “stream” should not sound like “me, me, me and more me.” It should be more like, “me, you, you, someone else, you, me, someone else, someone else, me.”
Tactical Tip: Don’t flaunt your good deeds, but don’t do them anonymously either. For instance, when you retweet someone’s blog post, make sure to @them in the tweet so that your share shows up on their radar. The same goes for Facebook – tag the person in your wall post.
6. Be interested
In the end, we circle back to being interested. You must be as passionate about your network as you are about your work. Your work is your creation, and so is your network. You must feed your soul in order to create your work, but you must feed your network in order to create success. Social networking is not an item to check off on your To Do list. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving eco-system that will provide valuable and profitable benefits if you tend it with care, intention, and passion.
Good luck & let us know how it’s going!
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who, among other things, works as a marketing strategist and copywriter. She helps creative entrepreneurs (artists, writers, idea people, and creative consultants) discover their “natural” marketing groove so they can build their business with passion, story, and connection. She also blogs. A lot. She is a mom, a singer, and a dreamer who believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Look her up on facebook or follow her on twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.
Image Credit: Kim Beatty