Building an Audience with Social Media – Beginners Guide

This is the second post in my little social media series for beginners and today I would like to share some hints with you on how to build an audience for your personal or your company blog or maybe even for your institution.

From the previous post you have learned (that’s my hope at least) that a social media presence covers different platforms that each have a distinct public and that user engagement has to be meaningful and consistent.

After having your different profiles set up and filled in the next question now is how to actually build your audience and we’ll split it into the different platforms again.

Let’s start with your own blog today, may it be a personal blog like in my case that I maintain for my personal brand “Kirsten Winkler” or a company blog. This blog can be a video blog or also a classic written one as the same basic rules apply.

Traffic and Audience

Now, I still have to come across the blogger who doesn’t want to be read, as being read and even more valuable getting comments on your blog equals (at least a certain) success.
This so called success as a blogger is measured via two factors: traffic and audience.

Traffic is the pure number of unique visitors who come to your blog each day and month.
Even if you don’t want to get obsessed with numbers you probably want to install some analytics tool that will give you information on how your blog performs. The question how granular you want to go with your metrics depends on you. In my opinion Google Analytics provides you with some decent tools to analyze for instance the origin of your visitors, the most popular posts on your blog, what people used as keywords or search terms, referring sites and many more things. Google Analytics is free and I think it is absolutely sufficient if you don’t sell something over your blog. If this is the case and your company has a certain budget to spend on analytics I would have a look at KissMetrics or Chartbeat that build optimized analytics pages for companies. In the case of Chartbeat you are even able to see your analytics in real time.

Back to the point about traffic. Traffic does not equal audience. Your audience is built around YOU – these are the people who are always ready to hear what you have to say and maybe even leave a comment on your blog.

Comments

This is probably a good moment for a site note on comments. There are different types of comment systems available you can install. Personally, I’m very happy with Disqus as it allows my audience to choose their level of anonymity. This, of course comes along with spam, so you regularly have to maintain your blog. Maintaining is what you should do in any case, nothing is basically more embarrassing for a serious blogger than a not regularly updated blog or wilderness in the comments.

The other big comment system is Facebook comments. Techcrunch have recently experimented with it and one of the main reasons to switch was to have less spam and trolls. On the other hand, it took away users’ privacy and saw a significant lower number of comments under each post.

That’s a fundamental decision you have to take.

How to get Traffic?

People come to your blog and even more importantly become returning visitors and regular readers who leave comments because your blog is unique. Who wants to regularly read a blog that has only stories to offer, blogger XYZ also covers.

Giving my two cents about this whole blogger / (real) journalism debate. Blogging started because people weren’t satisfied with what they were reading or found in newspapers. So, they started a blog and put their thoughts on various topics out there.

I believe, people read my articles most and foremost because they want to know what I think of a certain company or vertical or trend in education 2.0. After reading my article they will most likely go out, find more resources and information in order to make their opinion which is not necessarily the same what I think – and that’s fine! At least, they’ll have an opinion.

Today, I can get news from basically anywhere. It’s not like in the olden days where a town had one newspaper only that for that reason had to be as objective as possible.

In our modern world our picture of certain topics is based on information from different resources and here I believe having an opinion brings even particular value to my readers. Besides my assumptions, I’ve got this confirmed in personal conversations. To sum this up in one sentence. Give your readers quality content and bring over your personality!

When I look around I must say that especially corporate blogs suffer from a lack of personality rather often. When a blog is too anonymous that results almost always in casual readers with little attachment to it, a high bounce rate in your analytics and little time spent on your site. What you want is loyal readers. And your readers want to speak to you! Great content is only one side of the medal the other is personality.

Your personal blog should have an about page where you share the personal information about you that you want to put out there. I’m absolutely sure that I could have even more readers if I shared more personal information on my blog. I’m thinking about it but in the end I’m not a very public person (different to what you’ve thought?).

If it’s a company blog or an institutional one, your social media person should do something similar that can of course be related to what they are passionate about: social media, blogging or why this person works in your company (I hope that it won’t only be for the money…).

How often do I post?

As hard as it might sound: You should publish as often as possible (if you really have a story to tell; point of quality content)!

It sometimes happens that I don’t find the time or sometimes also the inspiration to write an article. The next morning when I check my stats I will most likely see a steep decline in my number of visitors. Visitors can drop up to 40% without a new article, particularly in combination with a bank holiday.

People constantly want to read new stuff. I currently try and write one post a day.
Now, the good news. You can learn blogging the same way writers do. It’s a lot about being disciplined, sometimes more than being creative. When you manage to motivate yourselves and reserve an hour each day and you sit down and write a post you’ll find out that after some time that you develop a certain automatism and you’ll look forward to this hour of blogging in the morning or at night.

Unless you’re a celebrity of a blogger (but in that case you don’t need to read any further), you cannot allow yourself to only write once a month. I would say that two articles each week are the minimum. That’s at least what I started with but the statistics show my blog gets increasingly popular the more often I write.

If you decide on taking this slower pace make sure that your articles are published at a fixed day and time, though and if you follow thes rules and regularly update your content this will result in increased traffic, feed subscribers and loyal readers.

Go in the Trenches!

I still spend a good amount of my day going out there on the Internet and read other interesting and relevant blogs. I don’t stop there but when I have something to say I leave a comment on other people’s blogs. Needless to say that this shouldn’t be done in the way of ‘Hey, what a great article. Do you know mine about this topic, here is the link’.
I’ve talked about quality content above and I can only say the same about quality comments. This is want you want! It creates a networking effect with the other blogger in your niche and their audience, too. Some of these readers might want to come over and read what you have to say.

You might also be asked to write a guest post or you can ask one of your fellow blogger. In this case you can expect some amount of high quality traffic for your own blog depending on the size of the blog you’re writing the guest post for.

Just a few words about Twitter and Facebook here. When one of my articles is getting retweeted or shared on facebook, the least I can do is to write a little message saying thank you.

What’s next?

In the next part of this social media starter series I’m going to write more in detail about your audience on the big social platforms: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and there are definitely some interesting aspects I would like to share with you.

Related Links:

  1. How to use Social Media in Online Education – Beginners Guide
  • http://twitter.com/HeyTony Marco

    Great piece Kirsten, my favourite is: ”
    Needless to say that this shouldn’t be done in the way of ‘Hey, what a great article. Do you know mine about this topic, here is the link’

    oh so true!

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Thanks Marco, yes, the classic. “That’s nice but lets talk about me” mentality.

      • http://twitter.com/HeyTony Marco

        Absolutely! And “If I wrap my big block of spam in nice fresh lettuce, and smile, you won’t notice… right?” :)

  • http://twitter.com/HeyTony Marco

    Great piece Kirsten, my favourite is: ”
    Needless to say that this shouldn’t be done in the way of ‘Hey, what a great article. Do you know mine about this topic, here is the link’

    oh so true!

  • Tom endersbe

    i found this to be very useful.  integrity seems to be a bid part of success.

    Tom Endersbe