Six ideas to build social media momentum

My bike ride started me thinking about the importance of building social media momentum.

Here’s what I mean. My wife and I recently completed a lengthy mountain biking adventure.  At the end of the trail, there was a quaint yellow cottage offering sandwiches, ice cream and drinks. The yard in front of the establishment was brimming with bikes, so we figured it must be a popular place. It was so popular in fact that the wait was too long for a greasy hamburger and we rode away without ordering anything!

Hidden farther down the trail was another bistro. We almost passed by because there were not many bikes there. But we were hungry and decided to try it anyway. We were so glad we did!  We had a delicious gourmet sandwich served by a really funny waitress.

The moral of this story is that we were attracted to the first restaurant because it was validated by all the patrons it had. We nearly passed over second place — even though it had better “content” — because it seemed lonely.

I think this is an appropriate analogy for our presence on the social web, too, and I’m sure you already knew where I was going with this!  For example, blogs associated with lots of tweets and comments may get to a point where they’re popular just because they’re popular while worthy blogs may never get noticed unless they receive validation in the way of traffic.

So the question today is, if you have great content, how do you develop validation — social momentum — for it?

I would love to hear your ideas on this but let me start the conversation with six ideas of my own.

1) Seek folks who are naturally interested in your topic. I have a friend who just started a blog on manufacturing and industrial maintenance.  I suggested that he find related blogs on Technorati and interesting people to follow Twellow.  What?? You haven’t used Twellow? You can find Twitter users by hundreds of industry groupings here so it’s indispensable for finding fascinating people in your field!

2) Go off-road. Don’t just stick to the main roads. Potential readers of your blog can be found in many places …

  • Yahoo forums related to your professional topic
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Industry online trade magazines
  • Twitter lists
  • Blogs authored by competitors and customers.

3)  Connect. After a period of time, my friend should be able to identify some of the thought leaders in his field. Follow them, comment on their blogs, and establish your own voice to attract those already passionate about your topics. Want to see a best practice? Adam Vincenzini of our {grow} community recently involved many of his blogging thought leaders — and their readers — in one of his posts.  Awesome job.

4) Grow your potential audience. Many of the social media “purists” will tell you numbers don’t matter.  That’s hooey.  This is nothing but mis-placed false humility and they know it.  Building business connections on the social web is a numbers game. Maybe 5% of your “friends and followers” will read your blog. Of those who read, a rule of thumb is that 2% will   comment.  So if your goal is to attract more readers and more commenters, it makes sense to have the biggest base possible, right?  Now I’m NOT talking about buying lists or doing crazy things JUST for numbers. No, no, no. There is no short-cut. You need to build your audience the old-fashioned way by paying attention to people, providing great content, and being authentically helpful.  But keep building. Isn’t that what momentum, is about?

5) Ask for help. At a point when you’ve built up a relationship with these thought leaders and passionate followers, ask them for advice on your blog … perhaps even ask them for help in promoting it through tweets. If you’re providing great content, why wouldn’t they help?

6) Park a few bikes outside. As you’re slowly but steadily strengthening these meaningful, relevant connections, don’t be shy about asking your friends, co-workers and family members to tweet and comment on your blog. Park a few bikes outside, if you know what I mean. And promote your blog with customers, suppliers and business partners. Everywhere you have an email address, feature your blog address too.

What are your ideas on this subject?  How do you build social media momentum when you’re starting from zero?

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  • 1) Get out there and talk about what you do. Network, teach, share ideas at conferences and training days. Train others. (One of my biggest sources of valuable traffic comes from training and sharing ideas in person).

    2) Tick off all those techie bits; i.e. make sure you’re targeting keywords on your blog, get someone to check your SEO and WordPress install is optimised. Give Google Adwords a try.

    3) Develop a regular posting schedule. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting used to when a blog updates to find it goes quiet for more than a few days (a-hem!).

    4) Podcast or Vlog: Your audience will appreciate that slightly more personal connection to distinguish you from the masses.

    5) Promote what you do where customers and prospects could be.

    6) Make sure you promote in a way that adds value and doesn’t just “Interrupt”

    7) Ask yourself everytime you publish something on your blog, Twitter, etc: Will this bring me closer to where I want to be?

  • Mark

    @Jon Terrific recommendations! Thank you!

  • Mark, I really like this fundamental approach. There are lots of people out there talking about complexities and sophisticated approaches but this brings things back to basics. These basic fundamentals are no different than any other marketing effort. Why are people so confused?

  • Mark

    @Steve — Agree. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Bhavneet

    I agree with Steve, great write up and approach. And Jon’s recommendations add to the approach mentioned in the post. We are doing quite a few of the things mentioned above for our company’s social media presence and seeing some positive traction.Thanks for sharing!

  • Mark

    @Bhavneet Great to hear of your success!

  • The social web is sometimes no more than a popularity contest. We all know it and we see it. Fine enough. It is what it is. Meh. I like the idea of the second growth forest. Obvious stuff is just that – obvious. Dig and ye shall receive!

    I would suggest folks simply be true to themselves. Wear your heart on your sleeve. If you BELIEVE in something say it. Write and comment NOT to be popular or known. Write and comment to be known for something.

  • Mark

    @Mose — Great wisdom. I should have made more of an emphasis on this. I was just helping a friend over lunch and she asked, “what do I write about? What do I tweet about?” and I basically gave her your answer above! Well done!

  • Thanks Mark. I have the same conversation a bunch of times a month. I tell folks if they are not prolific scribes – such as witnessed here – then point us to stuff you find interesting. Engage us. Listen. Contribute. Oh yeah, be social! Here is a great article one of the contribs put up a while ago on One Degree. http://bit.ly/9CEEJy about writing about what you do not know! very interesting take.

  • Mark

    @Mose. Fantastic. Thanks so much!

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  • “1) Seek folks who are naturally interested in your topic.”…so here is my big issue and I am curious to your thoughts. What if you don’t want to hang out on the social web with other people that have “similar interests”? As you know I write a self development blog. But I am pretty un-interested in the majority of what is written (not all, just the majority) by other self dev bloggers. A lot of it is crap. I am interested in different people, different views, etc…It’s one reason I hang here. I am not a social media expert (or even trying to look like one). I just enjoy what you write and learn from it. But I would like to build the momentum you speak to. Not sure how to do that and maybe there is no easy answer from a building momentum and community perspective.

  • Mark

    @Marc — When I started blogging, I contained myself to what I thought my “target market” was interested in. When I started writing about what I was really interested in, the dynamic shifted. Instead of me finding my audience, my audience found me. It was better for everybody. : )

    So by writing about what you love, you are already one step in the right direction I think! It takes time and patience and also treating people with respect. It’s an amazing honor to have a person spend their precious time to read what you wrote and comment. I never, ever take that for granted.

  • What an awesome read, Mark!! I love the bike riding story and the analogy of “parking a few bikes outside.”

    It’s amazing in our instant-gratification society people want to see results right away… or even the mob/sheep mentality where we just assume that if there are a bunch of bikes outside well it must be good?! Lol. (Reminds me of the story of generations of women cutting the corners off the ham without questioning why. ;)) We need to stop and think for ourselves. “Skate to where we think the puck is going” not where it is going.

    Keep up your fab posts! (Oh, and I’m with Guy Kawasaki on the two types of people on Twitter: those who say they want more followers and liars. hehee!)

  • Recently, several people have asked me how I would brand them to a more specific audience.

    Simple. Don’t always rely on sites like Twitter or Facebook, because your audience may not be there. Of course, those sites have their value, just like that first sandwich shop on your way down the mountain. But sometimes, just like that smaller sandwich shop, those niche social networking sites also have their value.

    Another benefit of finding those smaller social networking sites is that it allows you to connect on a more personal level with your audience. I try to get to know the people within my audience. I belong to the same organizations, shop in the same grocery stores, and enjoy many of the same things.

    I’m willing to bet that many of those people in that second sandwich shop had been there before, knew the owners and employees, and those who worked there knew the patrons. That first one was a tourist attraction.

    In social media, we can be that tourist attraction, or we can be that small mom and pop shop. Neither one is right or wrong. But the point is to always add value to people’s lives, so that they enjoy a better experience. My rules of social media are to be personal, relevant, and conversational.

  • Thanks for the fantastic insight. @Steve Dodds, I agree, the process of building a social network is something we’ve been doing since the beginning of social (in-person) marketing. Translating those efforts into a Digital world can be very overwhelming though.

  • Hi Mark,

    This is such a great post with wonderful recommendations! I am currently having to maintain a blog for a public relations writing course and have found #4 and #6 to be the most helpful in increasing my blog’s traffic.

    One day, my teacher retweeted a post I wrote about portfolio reviews (http://laurenswitzer.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/your-portfolio-your-story/). After she did, about 10 or 11 others did as well, sending my usual less-than-stellar blog hits way up.

    I think having a strong network that supports your social media moves is of vital importance, just as having a strong network is vital when looking for a job.

    Thank you so much for this insightful post!

    Lauren Switzer

  • Mark

    @Mari — Thanks so much for contributing today!

    @Erik — This is a very good lesson and insight. Thanks!

    @Lauren — Your hits will probably go up again! Nice post and thanks for sharing it!

    @Michael — Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Dan

    This is a great article. I find it very useful and if I could add my two cents, there are a couple other things I do. My hit count isn’t out of control, as I have a relatively small market (geared towards sports business/sport management). I find that by posting things (like you said in number 2) in forums and things like that, it can generate a significant amount of traffic. I also find Facebook to be a really valuable tool, as a fan page can generate a ton of traffic. Finally, I feel that just by connecting on LinkedIn, telling people about my site, I can build a bigger reader base of people who are interested.

    Great advice, thanks a ton!

  • Mark

    @Dan Great! Awesome addition to the post. Glad to hear you’re having such great success!

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  • Awesome post! I’ve found myself dancing from article to article on this site. The content is so well formatted and easy to read/logically navigate. Is this intentional? Are posts created with other posts in mind, or are you guys continually going back adding links to old content and such? Just curious.

    I ask because I’m just launching a new endeavor and I’m trying to gauge how “systematic” I have to be with my content to start.

    This is a family project that will eventually turn the kids and I a profit, but for now its our 1st “baby.” I want to use our blog/YouTube channel as a launch pad for the kids (13, and 11) and I to learn how to create quality content through our blog (http/:siliconsurvival.com) and corresponding YouTube videos with blog posts that we push through Twitter.

    Thoughts?

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