The night that How I Met Your Mother aired its final episode, I was more than angry. I was heartbroken. I felt betrayed. I was irate. So I did the only thing I knew to do in the moment… I took to Twitter, and I started ranting.
I talked with fellow fans about what frustrated me, posted more tweets in caps lock than I ever have before, and I posted tweet after tweet about what specifically could have been better about the episode. But I soon realized that 140 characters simply weren’t going to be enough, so I turned to blogging.
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WordPress Blog Post
I wrote an article that came in at just over 500 words. Practically nothing. In my passion, I also wrote ridiculously quickly. The article hardly took me 15 minutes. I linked the blog to Twitter and sent it directly to the fellow fans I had been discussing the finale with earlier in the evening. It spread like wildfire.
I got an email the following morning from one of WordPress’ editors. She told me that my article had been chosen to be featured on the site’s home page.
As of this moment, 234 bloggers have “liked” my post about the show and the article has 83 comments, most of which have inspired lively discussion. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I have gained hundreds of followers on my blog thanks to one article. Even now, weeks after the article was posted, I’m still regularly gaining followers. Traffic has slowed, but it hasn’t even come close to stopping.
It helps that the blog was featured on WordPress’ featured articles page, but everything started with posting links on Twitter. The good people at WordPress only noticed the article in the first place because Twitter helped me generate enough traffic to be noticeable.
Because I was able to generate traffic to my little blog using just a few tweets, I saw a huge influx of activity on the site, and I gained a pretty healthy following in one night.
And honestly, it wasn’t very hard. It didn’t take much to make this happen. I’m not claiming to be an expert because I know I still have so much to learn, but I have been using Twitter for a long time, and I feel like I have a decent idea of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve found ways to generate quite a bit of traffic from Twitter. In fact, there are many days when my blog gets drastically more hits than I have Twitter followers.
Prep Time for a Blog Post
Social media websites like Twitter can be the best resources in the world for generating website traffic if you know what you’re doing. If you’re unsure, don’t worry. I’m more than happy to help with a few tips.
Before you post the link to your website:
Here are a few things to do before you even think of posting a link to your site on Twitter, or any social media platform for that manner.
Talk. – If this sounds simple, it’s because it is. The easiest way to get Twitter followers, or Facebook friends, or followers on Google Plus interested in what you have to say is by generating initial conversation with them. If you’re writing about the finale of “How I Met Your Mother,” discuss what you thought of the ending with other fans before posting your link. After a healthy amount of conversation, posting your link won’t annoy followers or seem off-topic. In fact, it’ll seem natural and interesting.
This is also just a big part of what makes Twitter fun. I’ve always been riddled with far too many opinions for my own good. I have something to say about everything, but as one would expect, usually people don’t really care to listen. I don’t blame them. I tend to ramble and they’ve got better things to do. Fortunately, people on Twitter do care to listen. That’s why they follow me. Twitter is the perfect place to air every thought you have, regardless of how seemingly unimportant it is. Apart from being a great resource to generate traffic, Twitter can also be a great place to discuss things and say anything that comes to mind. More on places to talk here: 2014 Social Media Predictions
Be active. – Again, this probably sounds too easy, but just being active regularly on social media is half the battle. You’ll never gain followers or increase website traffic if you only use your accounts to post bland links. No one cares about that. Post often. Not too much as you don’t want to spam your followers, but post enough so that people know you’re alive and keep you in mind. I would recommend posting at least twice a day. Establish yourself as a regular user and not just someone who posts links in the hope of promoting your own work. What people usually really care about is connecting and establishing a relationship with a real person, which brings me to my next point.
Establish relationships. – Like any other business venture, one vital part of generating traffic using social media sites is networking. The more friends and professional acquaintances you can establish on Twitter or Google Plus, the better. Later, when you ask your followers to retweet a link to your website, friends are going to be more willing to help than miscellaneous strangers. Aside from getting help with generating website traffic, you might also make some good friends, and friends are cool.
For me, Twitter has been about building a community of friends, sharing my life with them, and by default, sharing my work with them. Once you start building a community like this on social media sites, talking won’t seem like a chore. You’ll feel inclined to share your opinions with your friends, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be more willing to share your website too.
I post links to my work all the time, and my friends almost always step up to help promote my work. Because they know me, they know what I do, and they want to help me be successful. Likewise, you shouldn’t hesitate to share and promote work that your friends and professional acquaintances on Twitter post. It’ll be worth it later when they’re sharing your links.
Actively follow other accounts. – Part of establishing relationships means sometimes being the follower instead of the one being followed. Actively seek out people who interest you on social media. If you’re a film fan, find the big critics. Follow them. Talk to them. If you love cooking, find every gourmet chef you can and interact with him or her! The chances of your account and by default, the link to your website, being noticed by an account with a wide following increases 100% when you make an effort to be noticed.
Don’t be afraid to follow accounts that wouldn’t normally interest you. Follow people who are getting it right. If you aren’t a huge fan of a particular comedian, but that comedian regularly gets hundreds of thousands of replies and retweets, follow him just to find out what he’s doing right. Be open to learning from other users. Try not to hesitate to admit that other people know more than you do. That’s one of the best ways to learn. For more on following others use this resource: How to Build Connections with Journalists and Writers on Twitter.
Establish a Reputation
Establish a reputation. – This will take time and it won’t be particularly easy, but remember that everything you do online is out there for the whole world to see. Don’t lash out and attack other users unless you want to have a negative online reputation. If you post a constant stream of drunken tweets and party updates, or you’ll get that reputation. Likewise, if you only ever post business-related tweets, you’re going to establish a very dull reputation.
Always remember that you are what you tweet. If you want to establish yourself as a film critic, talk about film and entertainment a lot. If you want to be a social media expert, openly discuss social media. It’s easy to gain credibility on Twitter. Often all it takes is regular, on-topic tweeting. Later, when you’re sharing a link, your followers will be much more likely to click and share if they believe you to be a credible, reliable source.
Perfect Your Profile
Perfect your profile. – Part of your credibility comes simply from making your account look nice. On the Internet, first impressions really are everything. People will likely decide from a quick glance whether they want to follow you or not, so make sure your profile is as impressive as it can be.
Choose a profile photo that represents you well. Again, remember the kinds of people that you want following you. Keep your target demographic in mind while choosing a photo. If you’re running a professional account, steer clear of casual, “fun” pictures. You wouldn’t put up a drunken photographic in your office at work, so don’t represent yourself with a similar photo on a professional Twitter account. More than anything else, just make sure that you have a photo. Nothing will inspire people to skip over your profile more than that little default egg photo. I know I don’t trust people who don’t have profile photos not to be spam accounts, and I doubt that other people do either.
Try to pick a relevant, eye-catching background as well. After all, your background is the first thing people will see when they click on your profile. Try to wow them. But again, keep in mind what you’re trying to accomplish with your account. If you’re really out for website traffic, consider designing a background that includes a website link somewhere on the page. Who knows? It could inspire casual viewers to check out outside sites.
The Personal Bio
Perhaps the most important part of your profile, at least on Twitter, is the personal bio that’s listed directly below your profile photo. I almost always choose whether I’m going to follow someone or not based on the bio. If a person’s bio is funny, clever, professionally impressive, or relevant to my specific interests, I’m much more likely to follow than if it’s mundane or boring. Remember that your bio is your brand on Twitter. It’s like a really fast, really short sales pitch, so take the time to beef it up. Make sure it’s something you can be happy about. Don’t be afraid to go as far as to ask your “real life” friends what they think of your potential bio. If they aren’t impressed, miscellaneous people on the Internet probably won’t be either.
Always, always, always post a link to your website in your Twitter bio. This is what people look at when they’re just browsing, and there’s a very good chance that they’ll click that link, if only to decide whether or not to follow you. When I see a personal link in an interesting bio, I almost always click to see where it leads. For a funny take on the profile check out this article: How to Tweeters.
After you post a link in your tweets:
Use hashtags. – But use them sparingly. Hashtags can be a great way to reach exactly the audience you’re looking for, but using more than one or two is excessive and makes your post look like spam. Short and sweet will typically do the trick. If you’re posting a link about “How I Met Your Mother,” #HowIMetYourMother and/or #HIMYM is really all you need.
Also remember that sometimes a witty, funny hashtag can be as effective as a serious one. If you’re posting a review of the new film, Neighbors, don’t shy away from using “#ZacEfronIsAGod” in your tweet. I guarantee people will retweet something like that.
Ask for Retweets
Ask for retweets or shares. – It might feel needy, but often just including, “Please RT,” at the end of the tweet can do a lot. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I’m often more inclined to help someone out by sharing a post if I’m just asked. A lot of times that’s all it takes.
Anytime I want one of my posts to get more traffic, I ask my followers to retweet it. And they do it. People are happy to help. Asking might be a pain, but it’s more than worth it when you see that boost in website traffic.
Post your link more than once, but don’t spam the feed. – This one speaks for itself. Don’t post your link over and over again, especially if you aren’t adding any kind of fresh commentary. Don’t spam and waste your followers’ time. Only repost your link when it’s necessary or adds something to your original post.
Go for Big Names
Go for a few big name retweets or shares. – Don’t be afraid to send your link directly to some big name accounts, especially if the piece you’re writing relates to what that big timer is known for. I’ve reached a much larger audience many times because film or television critics with thousands of followers have retweeted one of my reviews. Don’t be shy! Tweet your link to a few big namers who might be interested, and hope for the best. The worst that happens is being ignored, and on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus, that’s no big deal.
I’ve found that a lot of my traffic comes from popular critics and entertainment writers that I’ve established friendships with. Because I know them and talk to them regularly, they’re always more willing to share my website links. No matter what your area of expertise is there are people who know more than you, who have more of a following than you, and who are willing to talk to you. Take advantage of this help. Talk to people who have more of a following than you do and learn what they’re doing that you’re not. It’s a great chance to increase your own online reach, get some influential retweets, and make some cool friends along the way. For more on this use this link: What Social Media Websites Can Connect You With Businesses and Celebrities
Share everywhere. – Once you share your link on one social media site, don’t be afraid to branch out. Take advantage of your following on every site. An audience is an audience, regardless of where you find it. Without being overly annoying, feel free to post that link on every social media site you’ve got. Sure, you might get on the nerves of some good friends who are connected with you on every site, but you’ll probably reach a far larger number of people than you would if you only shared on one site.
I’ve found that often I get the most site visits after sharing on Twitter, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing on Facebook too. All it takes are a few timeline shares and you’re off. And of course there’s Google Plus, a site that’s young enough that you can still put in some early work and find a relatively large following pretty easily. Don’t shy away from sites that don’t seem relevant to you at the moment. Odds are, they’ll come around, and when they do, you’ll be glad that you stuck with them and chose to share your content there.
Here are the top social media sites other than Twitter that I would recommend if you’re looking to generate website traffic:
Facebook – Though Facebook is often more personal and has a smaller reach than sites like Twitter, it’s still worth checking out and trying to build a following with. It isn’t as easy as it is on Twitter, but Facebook’s share function does allow posts to go viral every now and then. And on Facebook you can usually ask friends who are willing to help to share your post and give it just the boost it might need.
Google Plus – This site is up and coming. There’s no question of that. Though it might feel like few of your peers are using Google Plus right now, statistics tell us that more and more people are signing up every day. Soon, this might be the most popular social media site on the web. Get ahead of the crowd. Share links and build a following on Google Plus while it’s still relatively easy to do so. It’ll surely pay off later. More on Google Plus here: How to Successfully Use a Google Plus Page
LinkedIn – Like Google Plus, LinkedIn is slowly but surely growing in social relevance. This site has always been a place for professionals, but because you can now post statuses and share articles, LinkedIn will likely soon offer many more opportunities.
Pinterest – This might seem out of place, but Pinterest can be amazingly useful for business owners and companies. Pinterest is great for increasing website traffic because the site makes posting outside links incredibly easy. Pinterest is also beneficial because sharing links is nearly second nature. When people repost your pictures, the original link is shared as well.
This means that potentially thousands of people can find your link just from one shared photograph. So whether you have a visual product or not, it’s worth getting flexible and finding a way to advertise on Pinterest. One idea, if you’re a writer, is to find a key quote from your article, create an interesting graphic of that quote, and finally, post it to Pinterest, including all relevant tags and a link to your article in the caption. So many people use Pinterest that you’re sure to find a notable boost in your website traffic. This is an imperative article when it comes to Pinterest: How to Get Started on Pinterest
Know Your Audience
Know your audience. – Reaching a wide readership is worlds easier when you realize and understand exactly what kind of audience is likely to spend time reading your work. There’s a reason that major companies spend so much time and money researching their target demographics. Every person doesn’t respond to the same kind of advertisement. Every person doesn’t respond to the same kind of post on social media either. Demographics are important. Know them. Take the time to study your own work and try to discover what kinds of people enjoy it. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to change your method of advertising your website drastically, but even slightly tailoring your tweets to a younger or an older crowd could make a huge difference.
I saw interesting and relevant examples of this slight tailoring through another article I wrote for this site here: The Conversation Between Companies and Consumers on Twitter. I focused on the conversation between companies and consumers on Twitter, and I found that the most successful companies on Twitter seem to clearly know their audience.
These are the companies I focused on and their Twitter follower counts:
- Subway – 1.9 million followers
- Taco Bell – 1.1 million followers
- Wendy’s – 558.4 thousand
- KFC – 497.3 thousand
- Walmart – 485.9 thousand followers
- Food Lion – 14.3 thousand
- Bojangles – 9,584 followers
Not surprisingly, the most engaging businesses were the ones that had the highest follower counts. More than that, the businesses with the highest follower counts were the ones that clearly understood their audiences and tweeted with that knowledge in mind.
Taco Bell Case Study
Taco Bell is a great example. Here’s what I had to say about Taco Bell’s Twitter account in my post.
“Looking through Taco Bell’s replies I found a pattern. This account almost always replied to tweets that allowed for witty, ‘hip’ replies. Taco Bell tried to make potential customers feel like it’s cool to get a reply from its account, and as you can probably see from the tweet I sent, the tactic works. Taco Bell’s account is cool, and though it doesn’t reply to everyone, this method still seems to work pretty well.”
Taco Bell’s tweets, as I said in my first article, were conversational and very cool. The account also almost always replied to young people. In fact, when looking through Taco Bell’s replies, I would go as far as to say that the account replied nearly exclusively to young adults. That’s because Taco Bell knows its audience. The people at Taco Bell have realized that young people eat their food. They also know that young people are a strong force on Twitter. By knowing its audience, Taco Bell has propelled its Twitter account into great success.
In contrast, in my research, I found that Walmart’s Twitter account sent anyone and everyone similar generic replies, regardless of a target demographic. Walmart also has drastically less followers than Taco Bell.
Of course, one could make an argument that Walmart simply doesn’t have as clear a target demographic, but I’m willing to bet that someone in that business does have an idea of what kind of person visits Walmart the most, but clearly that information isn’t being used, which has led to a lackluster and far less than impressive Twitter account.
The lesson here is clear. Know what groups you’re trying to reach. Put the time in to do a bit of research and find out what these kinds of people enjoy. What are they talking about? How do they use social media? Tailor your tweets to this usage and you’ll likely find a boost in website traffic.
Keep engaging. – Audience engagement doesn’t stop just because your link is out there. On the contrary, after posting it is more important than ever to listen to what your audience has to say. Be open to any comments. Take it all in. Learn from what people on social media are saying about you and your website. If they think you’re spamming their feeds, find ways to post less or post differently. If they disagree with a point in the article you posted, talk to them about it. Find out their side of the story. Talking to your audience will make even the people who disagree more likely to share your link.
Don’t Be Afraid
Don’t be afraid of revision. – Sometimes posting a link will prompt a follower to point out a spelling or grammatical error in your post. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but the best way to handle the situation is simply to revise the post, fix the mistake, and thank the person who pointed it out. In the long run, he or she has done you a big favor.
I’ve seen this happen many, many times. A writer posts a link to his article on Twitter and someone points out a small error. This isn’t rare. Mistakes happen and people, for better or for worse, usually feel the need to point them out. Despite a little embarrassment, this shouldn’t be a big deal at all if it’s handled appropriately.
Don’t Be Rude
Don’t be rude or defensive. Check your post, see if the issue really exists, and change it in a timely fashion. Like I said, I see this happen to critics on Twitter all the time. In fact, it’s happened to me before. But it’s an easy fix and one small mistake isn’t something to stress over. So fix your mistakes, smile and say thank you, and move right along. In the end, be glad that someone pointed out the mistake before it could reach a wider audience and lead to further, legitimate embarrassment.
Be polite. – Honestly, this one shouldn’t need saying, but it’s true. Being nice to your readers will always make all the difference. (This is true in life, too. Just be a nice person. I’m pretty sure it will make your life better.) If you’re rude on social media, word will spread. People don’t want to deal with someone who can’t take criticism or differing opinions. If someone doesn’t like what you have to say, listen to what he or she has to say, decide if it’s worth responding, and be nice. It will pay off in the long run, and you might even wind up converting your naysayer.
Although I’ve been using Twitter-specific examples, these tips could easily be applied to most social media sites.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line:
When you get right down to it, starting and keeping a conversation on any form of social media is a lot like starting and keeping a conversation in person. Be engaging and be polite. Be open to new ideas. Don’t do all the talking. Listen to what your audience has to say. Simply paying attention to your audience and using the criticism and advice to improve the work you’re doing will do wonders and help to make you better along the way.
And please, please do everything you can not to be a rude, self-centered douchebag. That won’t get you anywhere at all, in “real life” or online. If you’re nice, people will probably want to have future conversations with you. That’s typically just how it goes.
When you get right down to it, the best advice I can give you right now is this:
Be bold, but don’t be annoying.
Engage with your audience.
And if you have doubts about how to make the most of your social media accounts, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. Many people make their livings helping others reach wide audiences online, and if it isn’t your job to figure this stuff out, don’t feel like it has to be. It can be quite affordable to hire someone to do a bit of social media work, and if you’re able to increase your audience exponentially, the fee is definitely worth it.
An ongoing list:
Like I said earlier in the article, I know that I have so much to learn about this, and I’m excited to learn it. So, this will most likely be an ongoing list. We can all learn a lot from each other, especially about a topic as fluid as this one.
Please don’t hesitate to post any thoughts or advice you have on this subject in the comments. What ideas do you have for generating website traffic on social media? What methods work well for you? What methods don’t work? Is there something big that I missed or got wrong?
Thanks for reading, and if you want to further this conversation with me personally, you can find me on Google Plus, on Twitter at @SkyyTweet, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always up for conversation about anything!