You’ve started a blog, made a Facebook fan page and queued up enough tweets for the whole week. You’ve mailed your friends and put the PR machinery in motion. You rub your hands excitedly and wait for the traffic to roll in.
Except Google Analytics registers barely a handful of new users and your follower count grows at the pace of the Soviet economy. You scratch your head and wonder: what am I doing wrong?
Building a following online isn’t a matter of creating a set number of blog posts or tweeting x number of times per day. It is about connecting with people and enriching their lives. It requires changing old perspectives and adopting new values, such as:
Your blog is the foundation of your online presence. This is what readers will turn to when they want to find out about your company. Poor grammar, sloppy copywriting, and thin content will make it that much harder to gain readers’ trust and grow influence online. Your first priority, therefore, should be to establish your blog as a paradigm of quality
Take account of the following when you start your blog:
- Blog Frequently: Higher blog frequency correlates to higher traffic. Think of each blog post as a separate door to your business. The more blog posts you have, the more doors you will spread across the internet, exponentially increasing your chances of being found by prospective customers.
- Blog Consistently: Ten blog posts a week followed by two weeks of silence is hardly a recipe for online success. Readers visit your blog with some expectations. If they see older pages without no recent updates, they will eventually give up on your blog and take their business elsewhere. Consistency is one of the fundamental values taught in this crash course on online marketing.
- Engage with Readers: The primary objective of the blog is to initiate conversations and create connections. Putting out content isn’t enough; you also need to engage your audience in a meaningful conversation. Reply to comments,
- Promote Proactively: “Build it and they will come” is hardly the recipe for online success. You have to be proactive about promoting your blog. The best way to do this is to engage with leading bloggers in your niche. Contextual blogging where you create content in response to posts published on other blogs, is the best way to go about this. Once you create your post, offer them a gentle reminder – through a tweet or site comment – about your response.
- Think Thick, not Thin: Ask yourself – why should anyone spend fifteen minutes going through your blog every day? If you don’t have a good answer to this question, you need to upgrade your content quality pronto. Don’t litter your site with fluff; readers can smell thin content from a mile off. Give them something substantial to chew on, solve real problems, and you will find them coming back, again and again.
- Be Interesting: Boring is the bane of blogging. It doesn’t matter if you are working in logistics management for B2B companies with an expertise in paper manufacture, you must always strive to be interesting. This doesn’t mean indulging in gimmicks or pretending to be something you are not. Being interesting means being genuine and sharing things that people really care about, not just cryptic fluff littered with industry jargon.
2. Social Media
Three years ago, social media was just another buzzword marketers like to trumpet from time to time.
Today, it is the backbone of many a marketing departments.
Social media has matured in the last few years to become a legitimate marketing channel. The growth of mobile and the mainstream adoption of services like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have pushed social media towards greater relevancy. This is the reason why Facebook had revenues of $1.46bn last year, and why Twitter projects revenues in excess of $1bn by next year.
Having a social media presence is more than tweeting from time to time. To grow real influence, you need to adopt certain strategies:
- Be Conversational: Far too many companies forget the ‘social’ part of social media. It’s not meant to be a platform to broadcast; it is meant to be a platform to share and engage in conversations. Learn to listen, not just talk to your followers and you will see some extraordinary results.
- It’s Not a Numbers Game: You may have 100,000 Twitter followers, but that counts for nothing if they aren’t really interested in your brand. Social media can often degrade into a game of chasing numbers, even if the numbers are meaningless. You will see much better results with 1,000 genuine followers than 10,000 fake profiles and ‘mass-follow’ users. This course on Facebook marketing will teach you how to get real, genuine followers.
- It Pays to be Extraordinary: Social media is like an echo chamber. Every story – good or bad – can echo a thousand fold through social sharing. Consider the example of Morton’s Steakhouse, which went out of its way to please a customer – social media blogger Peter Shankman – following a Twitter tip-off, and found its following grow by thousands.
- Be Helpful: Social media isn’t just Twitter and Facebook. It also includes websites like Quora, for example. Quora is a wonderful place to share your expertise by answering domain specific questions. Answers that go out of their way to help readers out can expose you to a massive audience. The same applies for any other form of social media.
- Engage in Real Time: Social media can’t be a ‘set it-forget it’ proposition. You can’t simply queue a set of tweets in the morning and be done for the day. Getting real results requires engaging with your audience in real time. If a new story breaks out, your readers will want your opinion now, not 12 hours later when the story is no longer relevant.
- Discover New Platforms: Are you a social media follower or a social media pioneer? Every year, some new web app becomes the darling of the crowds. A couple of years ago, it was Tumblr. Last year, it was Pinterest. This year, it appears to be Vine. The problem is that popular platforms tend to get crowded very quickly, making it that much harder to gain airtime. Instead of being late to the party, keep looking for new, yet undiscovered platforms that could help propel your brand. This will require you to be proactive, but you’ll have a huge first-mover advantage if the platform actually hits prime time.
Building a following online is as much about values as it is about learning specific techniques and skills. Focusing on short-term results will never get you very far. Adopt values that give back something substantial to your users, and you will develop a following that won’t fade away like an itinerant monsoon.