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Social Media – Will it Really Make Your Website Popular? Part I

This entry was posted By Cubert on Monday, February 15th, 2010 at 8:35 pm and is filed under Website Promotion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Much like high school, being popular on the social networks is about being accepted by the cool kids. However, instead of the meatheads that ruled the schools, it’s the pencil necks that are now at the top of the pecking order. I’m still waiting for when the “small hands” crowd have their day in the sun.

Anyway, regardless of your level of experience in using social media to promote a website, you’ve probably seen some examples of successful integration. Some sites even make it seem easy with their 2000 diggs, 100,000 RSS subscribers or their 200k twitter followers, but what kind of expectations should you have when first promoting your own website? Below is a breakdown of several common social media sites and what you should expect if you intend to use them as part of your website promotion strategy.

1. Twitter

Twitter Logo

Tweet tweet! Twitter is a site that has created a concept known as microblogging.  It lets you send out a tiny 140 character message to everyone that follows you (your followers). You may also get luck and have your message retweeted by your followers to their followers.

The Twitter Misconception:

Twitter can make my site popular!

The Twitter Truth:

The sad fact is that Twitter does not typically create popularity, it can simply help to maintain popularity. If nobody cares about your website yet, then nobody will be reading or retweeting your tweets. Twitter can be compared to an email list, in the fact that users must first visit your website and then sign up if they want to hear from you again.

Twitter Tactics:

The above being said, there are a few methods in which to build up to a certain level of success using twitter including:

A. #FollowFriday – Think of this as a sort of social promotion exchange. Find sites with a similar audience as yours, and offer to give them a #FollowFriday hash in exchange for the same. By tweeting #FollowFriday, of #FF, @username, you encourage your users to follow someone else’s twitter, and they in kind, may do the same for you. If you are able to secure a #FF from a big popular tweeter, then you can count on a big twitter bump.

B. Follower Following – Another tactic that has the potential to increase your follower count is to follow users that are already following another website that has a similar audience as your site. Often twitter users are kind enough to return a follow if you start following them. However, unless you have a grandfathered account, you can only follow 2001 users. Note, this tactic can also have the ability to annoy some twitters, so follow wisely.

C. TwitThis – TwitThis is a service that lets you put a link on your website that allows other users to directly post a link to your site in their twitter. You can find out how to add TwitThis to your site here.

D. Retweet Exchange – In the same vein as exchanging #FollowFridays, you can ask your peers and colleagues for a retweet of your tweets in exchange for the same, or just suggest that their followers may enjoy a retweet of a tweet you’ve made. If you can get a popular tweeter to retweet you, expect a lot of retweets from their followers as well.

E. Twitter Tools – You can also increase the exposure you give your twitter on your website by installing a twitter tool.

Twitter Score:

Owner Interaction with Users: 8/10
(Owners tweets are sent directly to all followers)

Requires Existing Site Popularity: 8/10
(Most followers follow because they like your site)

Viral Potential: 7/10
(TwitThis and a good Retweet can send an avalanche of traffic)

Ongoing Effort Required by Site Owner: 9/10
(If you stop actively tweeting, the only passive benefit is the TwitThis link)

2. Facebook

Facebook Logo

Facebook connects people in a very personal way, and allows two way communication between yourself, your visitors (Fans), and between your visitors.

The Facebook Misconception:

I can grow out my site quickly using Facebook and find a new base of users.

The Facebook Truth:

Um, sorry, no, not really. Like twitter, Facebook is a medium that has a prerequisite of popularity in order to have a strong start. I’m not saying that there aren’t ways to find new users on Facebook, in fact there are many, but it is a gradual process that takes some time, and if you do it wrong, you’ll look like an ass.

However, once you do start building a decent fan base, you keep in touch with users by providing updates about your site, and encouraging interaction with the information you provide.

Facebook Tactics:

Yes, I said there were many ways to gradually gain popularity on Facebook. I’m not contradicting myself, if you have a big website to start with, then it’s still easier to quickly grow your Fan list.

A. Link to Your Fan Page – Obviously adding a link to your page is something that will quickly build a Fans list for already popular websites.

B. Facebook Profile – Taking the time to fill out a detailed profile can increase your chances of collecting a few Fans that specifically searched for what you put in there. However, this alone won’t bus in the Fans, and a profile’s main goal is to give further information to people that already found your Facebook page and want to know more.

C. Facebook Groups – Groups are sort of like forums on Facebook. You can find those that relate to your site, join, and post, but don’t become a spammy toolbag in the process. 

D. Facebook Applications – Apps provide additional ways to mix your content with Facebook, for example the Networked Blogs app.

E. Become a Fan – Find as many Facebook pages that have a similar target interest as your site, and become a Fan. Your Facebook page will be added to the Fan list and increase your exposure to other Fans that have a shared interest.

F. Post on Other’s Facebook Pages – The more you post around, the more exposure your own account will receive by Fans of the pages you post on, but Once again, I stress, participate appropriately for the content of the Facebook page, and do not blatantly self promote.

Facebook Score:

Owner Interaction with Users: 10
(The back and forth comments and messages create a true interactive experience.)

Requires Existing Site Popularity: 7
(There are a lot of opportunities to grow your Fan base on Facebook, but most popular Facebook pages have referred their existing website users.)

Viral Potential: 6
(There is the potential for a 6 degrees thing to happen, especially with all of the exposure you can receive by networking around, but having a healthy traffic base if a big help too.)

Ongoing Effort Required by Site Owner: 8
(Once you stop posting and updating on Facebook, there’s nothing left there for your Fans, however they will still be able to post to your wall.)

3. MySpace

MySpace Logo

MySpace is a lot like Facebook, but for users that don’t have the attention span for a back and forth conversation of several words at a time.  Kidding aside, MySpace has always been a service that is more media intensive, meaning that it is often used to promote music, videos, and to play zynga games  (yes, they do this on Facebook too).  This being said, it’s not an entirely useless tool for other industries.

The MySpace Misconception:

I’m going to start a social media blitz using MySpace and collect a ton of Friends!

The MySpace Truth:

Unless you’re a large television network, movie studio, or record label that promotes your MySpace page through expensive and frequent advertising, you’re not going to blow up your MySpace page quickly, and if you try to get the word out very fast, most likely you’re just using the tactics of a spammer and will be disregarded as one.

MySpace Tactics:

A. Upload Media – As I was saying a moment ago, MySpace’s strong points are more for the media industries, and many MySpace users just like listening to local music and watching trailers and home made web cam clips and such. It’s a little YouTube-esque in this way. I therefore believe that if you want to grow and retain your MySpace following, you’re going to have to produce and upload some photos, videos, and/or recordings. If you’re really ugly and have nothing much to say about yourself or products/services, then I recommend you pay some pretty girls to give you a brief interview about your productsor wear a t-shirt with your logo, or something along these lines. If you have some talent – ability to sing, play an instrument, are funny, or whatever else, then you can probably think of a slightly more sincere way to entertain your MySpace friends and build an audience.

B. Play The Social Game – No, the social game isn’t a Mafia Wars style app, what I’m talking about is some of those same tactics I mentioned in the Facebook section. This includes:

  • Friending others that seem to have an interest in what you’re promoting.
  • Posting Comments on others pages (do I need to say don’t be spammy again? With attention spans these days maybe I should. Don’t be spammy.)
  • Join a “Group” and post in the groups “Topics” (MySpace’s word for forums). Again, remember this.
  • Find an Add Me Group – Some groups exist only for friend exchanges. The level of interest these people will have in your site will be low though, because like you, they just want friends added to their list.
  • Ride the “Friend Train”
  • – If your first thought when you read this was something dirty, then the sites you’ve been visiting won’t help you to build your business. A Friend Train is “train” of people that all “friend” each other – ok, now it sounds dirty to me too – maybe I shouldn’t have put “friend” in quotes, but what’s done is done. To find our more detailed information on Friend Trains, visit this tutorial on Google.

C. Blog – I don’t care if you already blog on your own website. You’ve read through this gigantic article on using social networking sites to promote your business because you will want learn what works, so even if you already blog on your site, you will need to also blog on your MySpace site – and make it as personal as possible. The last thing that anyone wants to read is a dry dull post on the benefits of your product or a generic and homogenized news article that’s already been written a few thousand sites on other sites. Yes the ipad is something new that people are talking about, but it’s covered by Techcrunch, Slashdot, Sitepoint, and everyone else – so make sure you have something new to say if you’re going to write about a common topic. You will also need to update at least twice a week if you’re going to keep anyone coming back.

D. Classifieds – It looks like MySpace has just revamped their classifieds section, and now use a third party service called Oodle – pay day for them. Anyway, you now need to add an app, and you are allowed to post classifieds. Think of it a little like Ebay without the bidding, or even Craigslist. Browsing through I see a number of users that just posted their site, the items they sell, and their starting price. It looks like this sort of thing flies there, so you can make a few similar tasteful posts.

E. Make Your Page Real Ugly – I don’t know why, but there seem to be a lot of ugly popular pages out there with lots of blinking, glittery, rotating things. A lot of MySpace pages sort of remind of old Geocities pages. – See this spoof by xkcd. Maybe it has something to do with the attention span thing that I was talking about.

Anyway, I digress, I was (mostly) kidding about the making your page ugly thing, but you do need to do something other than using the default design – even if it means using a premade template. BoxedArt has some pretty nice MySpace templates (PLUG) that help distinguish a page without making you vomit. You don’t need to buy a template from us though (unless you want to), and you can design your own layout to spruce things up.

F. Post a Bulletin – Once you’ve gotten enough friends to not feel like the last kid picked for kickball, start sending MySpace bulletins to annoy, I mean notify, your friends to coming back and looking at what you posted. Just make sure what you posted is worth telling people they should come back to see it.

MySpace Score:

Owner Interaction with Users: 9
(Not the same frequent conversational interactions with users as with Facebook, but you can create a lot of content for comments.)

Requires Existing Site Popularity: 6
(The growth opportunities on MySpace are similar to Facebook, but there is more of an opportunity for viral promotion through media uploads.)

Viral Potential: 7
(It’s not quite youtube, but cool videos and other media may still get passed around.)

Ongoing Effort Required by Site Owner: 8
(Things will pretty much die without frequent updates.)

4. Feedburner

Feedburner Logo

I don’t know if Feedburner is technically considered social media or not, but it’s included here because all the cool, hip, and trendy sites constantly brag about how many RSS subscribers that have almost all use Feedburner to keep this count. Therefore, since it appears everywhere that you see the social media sites, I’m including it, so I don’t want to see any comments about how Feedburner is a method to syndicate content to your users, and not a social media outlet.

The Feedburner Misconception:

I need to use Feedburner to help me to promote my RSS feed.

The Feedburner Truth:

When you use Feedburner to syndicate your RSS feed as an alternative to just listing your naked RSS feed, you automatically give your users a chance to use a variety of news readers, but you can still do the same thing without Feedburner. Another big reason to use it is for your own vanity – to show how many people that you’ve convinced that you have cool content.

Feedburner Tactics:

There are some ways to increase your subscriber count, which will work as well even if you don’t use Feedburner, but then you don’t get to post a chicklet with a big number that says “look at me, look at me, people like me”, so what’s the point really?

A. Add a Chicklet or a Link – This one was so obvious I wasn’t going to post it, but then I did it anyway for reasons unexplained. The point of having RSS is so people stay in touch with your updates, if there’s no link from your site, then how do you expect them to subscribe?

B. Add Your Blog to Technorati – When users find your blog on Technorati, they will be very targeted to your site, and you have a good opportunity to convert them as subscribers. Technorati also assigns an authority weight, which a lot of webmasters consider to be important.

C. Make a Signature with a Rotating Headline – This is a trick that’s unique to Feedburner – you can make a signature image to use wherever that rotates headlines from Feedburner. I only just learned about this one myself from Macrofolio. Here is their tutorial on how to do it.

D. Implement a Feedflare – In short, a Feedflare is a whole suite of tools that help you to spread the word about your posts. Rather that rewriting an article I’ve found on this, I’m linking to the source.

Let this be a lesson too. I always keep my content original, and if I learn about something on another site, I link to it rather than trying to rehash their content. Maybe a webmaster there will see I’m being friendly and return the favor. Besides, there’s already enough plagiarism out there.

Feedburner Score:

Owner Interaction with Users: 4
(It’s a one way street – you post, and your subscribers read, but you get to keep them updates as often as you post.)

Requires Existing Site Popularity: 10
(Most of your subscribers will come regular visitors that already your website.)

Viral Potential: 4
(RSS/Feedburner subscribers don’t really go viral, unless a post on your site has.)

Ongoing Effort Required by Site Owner: 3
(You don’t really have to do anything beyond keeping your site updated, as Feedburner just syndicates your site’s content.)

5. Digg

Digg Logo

Digg lets you, or others, submit your content to be Dugg or Burried – the goal is to have a piece of content become popular enough to be seen my as many visitors as possible, but I assume everyone with enough savvy to come across this post is already aware of this.

The Digg Misconception:

It is possible for a guy off the street to submit a link to Digg that will be Dugg by others.

The Digg Truth:

The Digg submission process reminds me of an old Yogi Berra Sound Bite “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded”. What I mean by this, is if you just submit a link to Digg, nobody will ever see it. If you checkout the upcoming links, there’s just a sea of great pages with 1-2 Diggs because there’s just too many to look through, and that’s just not how people Digg anymore.

Digg Tactics:

A. Get a Popular Digger to Submit Your Link – Why? Because many Digg users simply Digg the links submitted by their friends, inner circles, or networks. This is how most links make /popular or the front page of Digg.

The chances of doing this are pretty low unless you know a popular user. If you don’t know one, it’s probably a good idea to start networking with other Digg users. The other tactics below explain how you might accomplish this.

B. Add a Digg Button to your Site or Blog – This lets others submit a link for you, and you might get lucky enough to have a popular submitter Digg your link. If your site is popular, there might be enough organic Diggs from your site to get the attention of Digg visitors.

C. Digg and Comment on Other Submitters Links – This is the best way to start getting noticed on Digg and network with others. It may take a few weeks or months, but if you help Digg other people’s links and make comments on them, then they are more likely to return the favor and Digg yours. They may even become familiar with your site and be the first to submit one of your links for you.

D. Submit Links to Sites that AREN’T Yours – If you look like a self serving little ass and only submit your own links, people are less inclined to want to help you out. Make sure you submit plenty links that you find interesting and timely.

Digg Score

Owner Interaction with Users: 2
(You don’t really interact with Digg users, but there are comments on the topic.)

Requires Existing Site Popularity: 6
(It often requires Diggs from your sites visitors to make /popular, but many small sites have gotten an avalanche of Diggs just the same.)

Viral Potential: 8
(If you make the front page of Digg, you’ll get a potentially regrettable volume of traffic depending on your server capacity.)

Ongoing Effort Required by Site Owner: 5
(You gotta keep actively networking for your submitted links to get attention.)

Up Next…

Check back shortly for Part II where I discuss Delicious, YouTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, and a mystery 10th site. The 10th site wont be redddit, because I don’t use that site, and it won’t be Google Buzz, because I don’t know anything about it yet. Maybe I’ll test it out and it will be Google Buzz. I don’t know yet.

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[...] part one of our exposé, we revealed the secrets of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Feedburner, and Digg. In part II we have a [...]

[...] by the myths we’ve dispelled about Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Feedburner, and Digg in Part I of our social media article, and shocked by the secrets we’ve revealed about Delicious and [...]

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