For bloggers, these social networks are huge reserves of untapped potential readers … a new frontier that most of us have no idea how to navigate.
We know how to join and create an account, but how can we tap into that audience in an organic way, without becoming a spammer?
It’s possible. Not necessarily easy, but it can be done.Most of our blogs have perhaps a few hundred regular readers (or a few thousand if you’re lucky) … a minuscule amount of people compared to the number of people on social networks such as Facebook,MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, and more.
Personally, I’ve only recently created a Facebook account, but already more than 500 Facebook users have added the “Zen Habits Facebook app” to their profile pages (and that’s growing by dozens a day).
This app allows readers to see the latest Zen Habits posts, almost like a feed reader … but more importantly, it allows their friends to see these posts when they go to their profile pages, and allows the readers to share my best posts with friends.In this way, the vast power of social networks can be leveraged to take a post viral, if it’s good enough.
Facebook vs. MySpace
Before I get into specific tactics for leveraging the power of social networks, we should briefly look at which networks we should focus on. Ideally, we would be able to hook into all of them.
However, I personally don’t have the time to network in several social networks at once, so I’ve decided to focus on one, at the moment. I’d recommend the same for other bloggers, if their time is limited (and whose isn’t?).Using the famous 80/20 principle, it’s best then to focus on the network that will get us the best results with the least amount of effort.
That would be one of the two biggest networks: either MySpace (the biggest at the moment) or Facebook (the next biggest, but catching up quick).
I recommend Facebook, because of the ability to create applications (apps) such as the one I mentioned above. However, if you already have a strong MySpace presence, you might apply the tactics below to MySpace instead of Facebook (minus the app).
1. Be organic, not spammy.
I should start off with strategy instead of tactics: your overall strategy should be to grow your presence and spread your brand on these networks in an organic way, allowing people to share things that they want to share, and allowing them to see things on your profile (or product page) without you pushing it on them.
If you add a couple dozen friends on Facebook, and then start sending them messages about your blog every day, they’ll soon tire of it. And if you do it to more than just your usual friends, you’re a spammer. Don’t be a spammer — it’s a horrible way to grow your blog’s brand.
2. App creator.
If you choose Facebook as your social network, you can create an “app” for your blog. I created one very easily with the excellent new Facebook App Creator for Bloggers from BlogFuse. It’s a service that walks you through the process of creating an app (all you need is the url for your blog’s RSS feed) and then hosts the app on their server.
It took me five minutes to set up, and another minute to share with my readers. Best thing of all: the subscription price is low (starts at $5/month) and there’s a one-week free trial so you can try before paying. I recommend you give it a shot.
3. Share with your readers.
Once you’ve created your app (or even if you use a network such as MySpace without an app), you should share your app and your network presence with your readers.
This will get the ball rolling. If you’ve already got a loyal following of a few hundred or a few thousand readers, you’ll instantly have a following on the social network you choose.
4. Friends.There are a couple of theories here. One holds that you should only befriend people you actually know or have made contact with in the past. The other is that you should make friends with as many people as possible.
As I’m fairly new to the game, I chose a strategy closer to the second theory: I’m adding my readers as friends without discrimination, but not just adding a bunch of people who might not be interested in my brand.
My theory is that my readers, as my friends, will help spread the word about Zen Habits, as they are already people who enjoy my writing. If I tried to push Zen Habits on other Facebook users who don’t enjoy Zen Habits, I’d be spamming them. (Befriend me here.)
5. Networks & groups.
I think it pays to join a few of these. Again, don’t be a spammer, but be an active participant. You can develop genuine relationships with many people through these mini communities, and in the end, that helps establish your presence and power on social networks. (See the Zen Habits group.)
6. Product page.
I created a Zen Habits product page. What’s the use of that? Well, my readers are likely to make themselves “fans” of this page, so that when their friends view their profile pages, they’ll see that they’re fans of my blog. That helps spread the Zen Habits brand.
And it’s also a great way to provide updates and news regarding the blog, and allow readers to comment and add suggestions. For example, I did a thread asking for post topic suggestions … a great method of getting ideas for posts that readers want to read. (See the Zen Habits product page.)
7. Create viral posts.
In the end, all the networking and apps in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t have posts that people want to read and share. That’s the bottom line.
You need to have content that is extremely useful or interesting to people, and headlines that will capture the imagination or curiosity in a half dozen words or so. Do that, and readers will share the posts with their friends. All you need to do is make it easy for them to do so.