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Blogging 201: Dig Deep Into a Social Network

Focus on one social network to grow your blog. Connect it to your site, and think through how you’ll use strategically it over the next month.

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You’ve been doing a great job branding your site, but we don’t live in isolation (and neither does your blog). Making use of social networks spreads your brand to  bigger circles of potential fans — but the internet is a vast playground, so you’ll want to choose where and how to focus your energies thoughtfully.

Today’s Assignment: pick one social network you’ll use to help grow your blog and connect it to your site. Then, outline a a 30-day plan for how you’ll use it.

Why do this?

  • Because blogging is about building a community of like-minded people, and other social networks have ready-made communities.
  • Because using social networks effectively creates a funnel of new ideas and inspiration.
  • Because social networks are a great place to continue conversations that are tangential to your blog, or to experiment with content.

Need to create a profile?

To create a Facebook page, log in to your account and head to Create a Page. Choose “Brand or Product page” and select the “Website” category. You’ll administer this page through your personal account, but there won’t be any visible link between them. (Visit our tutorial for more.)

To create a profile on Twitter, sign out of your personal profile, if you have one, and sign up for a new one — these will be 100% separate. The same goes for Instagram.

With Pinterest, you have two choices: if you don’t have an account, create a new one for your blog. If you already use Pinterest, you can also just create a board for your blog. (Either way, you can use Pinterest Site Verification to connect your blog to your account.)

Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, oh My!

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn…where to start? A big brand might use every single one, but a big brand also has a social media department. You have the Department of You, so be selective.

Each network has different strengths. acebook and Instagram are good for parenting, lifestyle, and personal blogs. Twitter is more technically-inclined and useful for pop culture and current events/political blogs, while Pinterest is great for blogs lots of images, like food, fashion, and craft blogs. LinkedIn is ideal if you blog for business.

(That being said, there are no real rules. There’s a thriving food blog community on LinkedIn, and lots of writers using Pinterest who never use a photo.)

One way to start is by checking out blogs similar to yours (or that you admire). What networks do they use? What are they sharing there? What are their fans chatting about? There’s a bit of trial-and-error involved here, so do some investigation, pick a network that feels like a good fit, and give it a whirl.

Make the Connections

Once you’ve chosen a network, make it easy for you and your readers to share your stuff and find you there.

Sharing Buttons are an easy way to encourage readers to share your posts without being pushy. They’re just there at the bottom of a post, making themselves available but being cool about it. Here’s how they look on one of my personal blogs:

sharing

Many themes, like FictiveGalleryStay, and Profile, have built-in graphics to link your blog to your social media profiles, too. Find them under Appearance → Theme Options.

To add them, visit Settings → Sharing and scroll down to Sharing Buttons. Drag in the services you’d like to have displayed, order them however you’d like, edit the heading, and presto! You can also choose from different button styles — I like the colorful round icons, presented in order of hue to satisfy my anal tendencies, but there are monochromatic and text versions as well. You’ll see a field for your Twitter handle if you’d like it to be included when a reader shares a post to Twitter.

Publicize automates the act of  sharing new posts. You’ll also find this on the  Settings → Sharing page. (If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can add Publicize with the Jetpack plugin.)

When you’re drafting a post, you’ll see your social networks listed by the Publish button. If you click “Edit,” you can control which networks you share to and the message you share. Tease readers about your post. Add a relevant hashtag or “@” mention. Ask a provocative question. The default is your post title, which is fine, but feels automated. Customizing the text lets you throw in a little more enticement.

Finally, sidebars are also a useful place to plug your social networking presence. WordPress.com has widgets for InstagramTwitter, Flickr, Goodreads, BandPage, and Facebook. (Self-hosted bloggers can find plug ins to add similar widgets.) We also love using custom image widgets — they’re great for branding, and easy to make with tools like PicMonkey.

Using Networks Wisely

Okay, so you have your page/profile/board set up. Now what?

Using networks well means a lot more than just publicizing your posts; if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not really using them at all.

Social networks are about creating a sense of community with your readers. Don’t just use your Facebook page to Publicize your blog posts: share other interesting, related content, and engage with your audience. Tweet about more than just your latest post, and re-tweet other good stuff. Participate in Twitter chats or Facebook discussions. Try sharing a few of these:

Tip: If you have a particularly witty tweet you want to share with your readers embed it right into a post. It directs readers to your Twitter feed and adds visual interest. Since readers can retweet directly from your blog post, you can see your reach expand exponentially.

  • Other bloggers’ posts — there’s nothing like sharing the love, and promoting others’ good work ultimately brings people to you, too.
  • Random funny, interesting, or provocative links. Your networks become valuable when you curate, helping fans weed through the swampland of the internet to find the goodies. Links and posts with great images are especially shareable.
  • Questions. If there’s one thing people enjoy doing on on the internet, it’s sharing opinions. You might not want to run a poll on your blog, but asking questions on Facebook or Twitter is a good way to get people to engage and to get feedback on what your readers are interested in.
  • Status updates. Are you on round three of the DIY project you’re planning to blog next week? Are you headed to the movies to see the next film you’ll review? Did you just spend 15 minutes trying to remember the word “conundrum”? Keep fans up to date and share blog-related glimpses into your life to build a personal connection.

The same goes for Pinterest. Adding beautiful images to your posts makes them highly pinnable, and re-pins can spread like wildfire. Then, you’ll want to branch out beyond your own posts and start pinning (and re-pinning) other content. As you develop collections, you not only create a handy catalogue for yourself, you become a resource for your blog’s readers and for other Pinterest users who admire your excellent taste… some of whom will find their way to your blog.

Tip: Check the rights before pinning possibly copyrighted content. Lots of people don’t mind having their photos shared, but some do — check the license for images you pin before pinning them. If the photographer reserves all the rights, or you’re otherwise unsure, ask before pinning.

It’s especially useful for supplemental content that you wouldn’t necessarily put on your blog, but still want to collect and share. If you’re a book blogger, your site might feature reviews or affiliate links for your absolute faves, but your Pinterest boards are a place to park all the other titles that catch your eye.

Most networks also give you useful information about your followers. Facebook fan pages offer analytics (Facebook calls them “insights”) that let you see which posts are most viewed and shared, along with basic demographic data about your fans. On Twitter, you can see what tweets are most often retweeted.

Now, create a plan for how you’ll use your main social network over the next 30 days. You don’t need an hour-by-hour schedule of tweets, just some goals:

  • I’ll Publicize all my posts.
  • I’ll update two times a day.
  • I’ll share other bloggers’ posts three times a week.
  • I’ll upload one photo every week.
  • I’ll ask one question a week.
  • I’ll participate in three other discussions.

Sketch out the ways you’ll use this tool, and you’ll be more likely to do it.

If you have any questions, go to The Commons — you may be able to pick up some followers for your blog’s new profile or some tips from folks who are already social butterflies.

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