The words ‘social‘ and ‘engaging‘ come up a lot when you’re listening to advice about how to improve your blog’s traffic.
You’re told to write content that encourages your readers to engage, and join Facebook and Twitter and start socializing.
The reason for all of this ‘socializing‘ and ‘engaging‘, you’re told, is to increase your blog’s traffic.
But that’s just part of the story.
If you understand how social engagement can make or break your readership, you’ll see why it’s so important.
When you land on a sales page, say for a diet product or a How-To guide, you’ll notice that the webmaster generally includes at least a few testimonials from real people who used the product and had their problem solved. These testimonials help readers like you, who are still on the fence trying to make a buying decision, develop a feeling of trust. You see them and think, “Look! Suzi Smith achieved great results with this product and it has to be true, otherwise they couldn’t put it on this page!”
Suzi Smith’s testimonial is an example of something called social proof. A real, live person is standing up and publicly giving their seal of approval to that product, which makes you feel confident enough to finally click that buy button.
Social proof is also important for your blog for the same reason – it makes new visitors feel safe and welcome and instills a feeling of trust. Social proof on a blog is evidenced by things like comments, and Tweet and Share counters, and even RSS counters. These things let new visitors to your blog see that real people like your blog.
Social engagement is much more than simply posting links at the social networks and communicating with your followers. That’s only part of it. Social engagement is the process of interacting with visitors to your blog, ON you blog, so others can see proof that your blog is a great place to visit.
To have a great showing of social engagement and social proof on your blog you need lots of comments, lots of Tweets and Share, lots of visual proof that people are engaging. Yet no one ever wants to be first. So how do you get the Social Engagement ball rolling?
- Have plenty of content: Before you launch that new blog make sure you have plenty of content. It’s even more important to make sure people can SEE you have plenty of content, so make sure you use internal links to direct people around your blog and set up clearly labeled categories. If you want people to start commenting and sharing, you need to give them plenty to talk about. And nothing scares readers away like an empty blog.
- Limit your sharing options: Limit your social buttons to Twitter, Facebook, and one or two relevant social bookmarking sites. Yes, you want people to share your content. But you also want the numbers that show up on those counters to look really good. Having 4 buttons with a total of 20 shares is much better than having 10 buttons that each only have 2. It just looks better to the reader.
- Generate Tweets: You’re allowed to set up as many accounts as you like at Twitter. Set up 6 or 7, or even 10 if you want, and each time you publish a new post, Tweet it using all of your accounts. You’ll instantly have 7 Tweets showing. You readers won’t mind Tweeting now because they won’t be the first.
- Generate Shares: You can create multiple Facebook accounts, too, and use them the same way you use your multiple Twitter accounts.
- No comments: Keep comments closed on your blog until you’ve generated some consistent traffic. You don’t want your new visitors feeling sorry for your blog. And they won’t if they see that the reason you have no comments is because you’re not allowing them.
- Use polls and surveys: Polls and surveys are a great way to invite your readers to interact on your blog.
- Start a commenting tribe: Start your own commenting tribe. Gather together a group of your blogging friends and comment on each other’s blogs.
- Social bookmarking: Join a couple of relevant bookmarking sites. Look for smaller sites where you’ll be able to interact with other members and you won’t be lost in a crowd.
- Don’t display trackbacks: Don’t display your trackbacks on your blog. Even though they show up in the comments, they’re not really comments. Your readers can see this and it just looks sad. Not only that, it distracts them from their conversation.
- Wait to show your stats: This is one rule of social engagement that can make or break your readership over night. Don’t be tempted to display your Feedburner stats until you really have something to brag about. And even if you do have a large number of people following your feed, that number can drop like a rock, in a heartbeat. Do you really want people to see that one day you have 2000 followers and the next day it dropped to 200?