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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.

Welcome to Blogging U! This course isn't currently active, but you can learn more about what we offer and register for upcoming courses on the BU home page.

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 my personal blog:

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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Comments

  1. Brilliant tips, thank you. I’ve just started blogging and feel like I’m floating in the shallow end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool with armbands on. I’m excited to get properly involved and engaged with bloggers who think similarly and write wonderful content.

    If people could check out my blog so far and give me any tips that would be very welcome. Please also comment if you think I’d be interested in your site!

    Mel x

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Just visited your blog – seems like an excellent start to me! (liked your article on wastefulness!) I think linking up with like-minded people can be the hardest part of blogging if you’re someone who’s not very adept at limelight-seeking but courses like this are an excellent starting point – I’ve already stumbled across a few interesting bloggers new to me. Do drop by if you have the time!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Love your writing style – you’re really pouring a tonne of effort into your posts (in fact, I’m somewhat jealous). And… you’re also seeing a pay off with solid visitors who are leaving comments (again, pretty darn jealous).

      Me thinks you’re about ready to move from the shallow end to the deep end. 🙂

      Like

    3. You’re metaphor is perfection! It honestly made my day.

      Fitting metaphor aside, you’re blog is very well done. The topics are very interesting (thank you for helping me procrastinate while I read everything), and the quality and style of your writing is amazing!

      Like

  2. Should this assignment be taken in the context of creating a new social media account specifically for our blogs or will connecting to our personal FB, Twitter, or Pinterest accounts serve the same purpose?

    Like

    1. When I first launched my Travel Photography as an entrepreneurial venture, I was overzealous and created all new social media accounts under my business name. Then I realized that it would require more effort than I could give, to manage both my personal and business social media accounts, so I decided to stick with my existing personal accounts. For me, that is possible – as a photographer, I am my brand. I guess it depends on your line of business!

      Liked by 7 people

  3. This was excellent! I’ve been blogging for a while now, but all I seemed to do was post about my blog posts, and I felt that it was getting a bit boring. This has given me a lot of ideas about how I can use Social media effectively and how to change the look of my social media buttons on my blog! 😀 Thanks! If anyone would like to check out my blog to give me some advice on it, just let me know! Any advice is warmly received! xx

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Hana,

        Your blog is beautiful. I liked the name of your blog too. You About page is indeed simple and nice. It calls for a ‘Follow’ 🙂

        Like

  4. Adding to this great advice on digging deep into social networks – something I picked up from KISSmetrics (who specializes in Customer Intelligence & Web Analytics): “Work on your channel for at least 3 months. Assume it will work!”. I am anxious to see results immediately, but perseverance is key.

    Social Networks are great for the reverse as well – you can draw great ideas for future posts! As a photographer, I naturally gravitate towards Pinterest and the beautiful images. I came across so many great ideas for Halloween costumes, decorations, and treats, that I dedicated a post to my Pinterest findings.

    Stop by for a visit! http://www.LIVEeastofeden.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eden,
      I visited your blog and there are indeed many beautiful pictures. Also enjoyed your page ‘Hocus Pocus’.
      I am new here but enjoy to see so many new information and pictures around daily.

      Like

      1. Ruchi, thank you for taking the time to check out my blog! I admire how good you are with weekly photo challenges; it is a good reminder for me to take more photos. I am excited to ‘come travel along’!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Think about the network more as an arm of your blog, less of an extra thing you have to do — that might help you figure out how to use it, and make it feel less overwhelming.

      That said, your focus should be your blog. We’re looking at networks because this is a challenge on growth and they’re great tools. But if they don’t feel helpful — or its not fun — then don’t do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, thank you. I’ve been frustrated trying to work all the social media and it feels like I’m spinning my wheels. I’m now putting all my efforts into twitter, which has been the most successful so far.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I find social media apps difficult because I am just not that computer minded. I turn to my 12 year old for help. She read Michelle’s post. She fiddled around on my dashboard and now – yah I am social!

    Thank god for 12 year olds!

    janey … in Mersin

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hmmm, putting a social networking widget on the sidebar is doable, but my theme (Expound) starts the sidebar under 2 layers of posts (like a pic carousel). And then there’s the other stuff on the sidebar. What that means is my widget will have to be pretty far down, making it less likely to ever be seen. And it makes less sense to start of the sidebar with the social networking widget. Am I just stuck due to theme limitations in this case?

    Like

  8. Hi! This is a very helpful post. I started my FB page, but I was not sure how to go about it and what really to do once created. I now have started a twitter page and updated my pinterest boards. I’ve started a new hashtag as well!! hahaha!!! Nothing ventured nothing gained I guess 🙂 Check out my blog ‘A Bit of This and a Lot of That’ http://abitofthisnalotofthat.wordpress.com/
    Keep blogging everyone!!
    #bitofthisandlotofthat 😉

    Like

    1. We started a blog back in July, and have been pinging it out on twitter. It’s great to get viewers to the blog, but trying to get people to interact on the blog is hard…any tips?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK- good to know. so building social interaction with bloggers is more beneficial for your online presence….

        Like

  9. Great tips, Michelle. I have a question about photos that the publicize option chooses to post to facebook and Google+. It seems that unless I use one of my own photos or one from Shutterstock (I pay for those, obviously) as my feature photo, the post to FB or G+ shows up with some random photo from my own gallery, and it is not possibe to alter these once posted. I have had to delete auto posts and repost with my chosen photos, which can be a pain. I can’t make sense of it. Is there a size requirement for feature photos? Or is this a copyright issue? (I always cite sourses). Please advise… and thank you so much for this! I will play around with the publicize options for altering my post with hook lines in the meantime. Thanks!!
    Mother Hen

    Like

    1. I’ve found it also frustrating what happens in Facebook to the photos. Having carefully chosen and placed them, suddenly I find someone’s crotch placed front and center of the Facebook version.
      I’ve found that as long as I’ve chosen a “featured image” it’s more likely to use that. It also seems to choose things that look a bit like faces, in my case, since I put a lot of tree stuff in my pictures, it can be a dead stump. But it doesn’t seem completely random.
      Facebook does seem to use the middle of the photo, and the featured image cuts in a similar way, so if you preview that it’s helpful.
      Once it’s gone on Facebook there’s no way to fix it. I tired re-sharing it and just got the same image, but higher up.
      I haven’t tried Google+ yet. Sounds like I could get just as annoyed with that.
      My sympathies.

      Like

      1. For a while, I stopped linking my accounts because of this issue and just posted manually. With manual posting, there is generally a preview so I could sometimes choose to upload the photo of my choice, sometimes not. But the feature photo (which I always set) SHOULD be what FB and G+ use. But no. This is why I generally use a Shutterstock photo or my own picture as the feature, and in these cases, it always works. But I just don’t understand what the issue is with other images. Only thing I can figure is that they want us to either use original material, or pay for the privilege of using stock. MH

        Like

    2. Are you using featured images? Even if your theme doesn’t do anything with featured images, it’s helpful to set one — it will control what’s shared to FB. Size/copyright doesn’t play into it.

      Like

      1. Hi Michelle – yes, I always and without fail use featured images. But images downloaded from the internet (pinterest, other websites etc) and used as feature images do not always show up. This was such a problem I have resorted to using ONLY my own or Shutterstock photos as featured images. Also, even with the enhanced related post images, most show up, but then some don’t. I can’t make head or tails of it, to be frank.For example, see this post and the related post images at the bottom of the page. And Then There Was Kryptonite has an image within the post as well as the same set for featured image, yet it does not show up. http://motherhendiaries.com/2014/08/09/almost-famous/ Any ideas? Thanks! MH

        Like

      2. I have to say that beyond recommending featured images, which you’re already using, I’m not sure. If you can ask this on the Commons, we can flag down a passing Happiness Engineer.

        Like

  10. Great advice thanks! I’ve been wanting to better understand some of these social media tools, but will probably just focus on one or two for the time being. Getting to be a big fan of Twitter, but just starting out with a handle, @4dframework, to build upon.
    Here’s an interesting question on that: what preference do you have when it comes to the headline name of your social media account, your personal one or the blogs? Guess it goes back to how you brand your work. Gonna put that question out on Twitter now.
    I’m at http://4dframework.ca/

    Like

  11. Not only a GREAT post, but also a great comment feed. Thanks all for the good advice. I was taken on to create content and manage social media platforms for Cottages and Castles Ltd. I set up a blog for the company and am trying to get this out and about to build awareness. Along with writing content for all platforms its hard to fit in the time to get the “online socialising” going- however it is so important. I would love feedback on our blog and some new followers would be great- if any of you have time. i want to go through all your blogs now 🙂 I have been concentrating more on twitter recently. We put content out on FB everyday but organic views are decreasing. I feel i should concentrate more on our pinterest account? Any advice for a holiday letting agency in Scotland welcome 🙂 Thanks everyone !

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thankyou, thrilled you like the last post. Feel free to sign up to follow us and then all posts will grace your inbox 😉 we LOVE interesting content 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I guess I am one of those bloggers who are terrible at planning! I never plan my posts, only the ones that require more research and works (reviews and interviews), as I write at the spur of the moment. This is why I find it very difficult to write any plans. 😦

    I find LinkedIn very frustrating, does anyone know how to make it work better?? I swear by Facebook, as this is how I get lots of views and traffic on my blog. I find Twitter a bit hit and miss, but it does help me now and then.

    I also have a FB page for my blog (www.facebook.com/notanothertallblog), but, to be honest, I think it is rather boring. Does anyone disagree with me?? Probably now!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Social is not a thing. It’s THE THING. It really helps in letting people know about your stuff. And, I am so happy about my blog. I have taken care of the social aspect. But my prime agenda happens to be to write, write and simply write. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people