Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Grow your Blog Platform: Guerrilla Facebook marketing

I kicked off this series by sharing the story of how I started my personal blog from scratch one year ago and have since grown it to 150,000 page views a month. In my previous post, I shared some key fundamentals that you will need to put in place FIRST, before you do anything else:
  • Identify your readership
  • Invest time to study blogging
  • Create shareable content
Those things are huge and can't be overstated. Why? Because:
  • Until you know who you are writing for, your efforts will lack focus and clarity. 
  • Until you're willing to invest time into studying a new area, you can't expect the same results as people who've put in the hard yards. It takes four years of study to get a university degree, and years of practice to master an instrument, but most people seem to think they can succeed at blogging without any applied learning whatsoever. The truth is, you can't expect a return in any area of life without an investment. And believe me - there is a LOT to learn. 
  • Until you are consistently creating WOW content with a clear takeaway for the reader, your marketing efforts will fall flat. I've heard it said that good marketing only makes a bad product fail faster. Quality content is the cornerstone of everything else you do.
Need to get caught up on those points? You can read the first post here.

For the rest of this blogging series, I'll be focussing on the fourth point: 

Become your own best marketer.

You'll need to start by setting up social media accounts and linking them to your blog. If you're not promoting your blog for free on social media, you need to be. You should have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Pinterest account, and a Google+ account. There are others, but these are the ones I consider essential to your success.

Each of these areas is a whole study in itself, so I'm going to break it down for you step by step.

Keep this in mind: in the early days, you're going to have to hustle. You'll spend a lot of time working strategically to grow your following and promote your posts to that following. This is what I think of as Phase One of blogging: the guerrilla tactics that anyone can use, if you have the patience and determination to apply them. It's a hard slog, and there are no quick pay-offs here. You have to do your time to see the results. 

Let's start by talking about Facebook.

So you have a brand new page to promote your blog. How do you get people to "like" it so they see what you post?

1. Put out the welcome mat.
Create an inviting cover banner that echoes the theme of your blog, and a bio that clearly states what the page is about. Get a couple of quality posts up there so people know what to expect from your page.

2. Invite your friends. Sounds obvious, but some people skip this step because they're too shy to ask. People get a LOT of requests to "like" a new page now, so also consider sending a personal message to all your friends explaining what you're doing and asking for their support.

3. Have a Facebook posting schedule, and stick to it. You need to consistently share quality content to grow your following - the sort of content that people "like", comment on, and share.

4. Join groups. 
To find groups in your interest area, type a descriptor into the search bar at the top of your personal Facebook profile. In the example below, I typed "Writers". A list will pop up. Click down the bottom where it says "See more results for 'Writers'".

When the next page pops up, select "Groups". From here, you can scroll through to find any groups marked as "Public", and if they seem relevant, you can join them. Ensure you read the guidelines carefully and adhere to them. If it's okay to share your blog posts, make sure you also take the time to "Like" and comment on others' posts as well. 

Some groups are also okay with you pasting your page URL into a status update, which will cause a "Like box" to pop up in the stream. If the group is relevant to what you're posting about, this is a great way to get some more likes for your page. 

5. Link prominently to your Facebook page from your blog. Display your social media icons at the top of your sidebar and at the bottom of every post. Install a Facebook "like" box widget in your sidebar so a casual visitor can easily like your page without leaving your site. Consider installing a Facebook like box pop-up to maximise conversions.

Increase your reach

Facebook has a complex algorithm that it uses to filter the content in your news feed. With all the friends you have and all the hundreds of pages you've liked, statistics indicate there are about 1500 status updates vying for a place in your news feed at any one time. No one has time to read that far, so in the interests of supplying the content users are most interested in, Facebook gives greater reach to pages that you have previously liked or commented on, and restricts the reach of those you don't interact with - because they are considered less relevant to you.

What does this mean for you? You could get frustrated that Facebook is cramping your reach so significantly. (Believe me, I have been there!) Or, you can work smarter to conquer that algorithm.

Some steps:

1.  Encourage interaction. 
Likes and comments on your post will significantly increase your reach. Ask questions and make sure you respond to anyone who comments. Let your friends know how helpful it is when they comment on your post - many times, they just don't know. Often the most basic rule of marketing is to simply ask for the result you want.

2. Tag your friends in your post. This massively increases your post's visibility, as it will then show up in your friends' feed as well. Of course, don't be obnoxious about it - only tag people if they've previously indicated an interest in a particular subject, or it's something you're genuinely excited to share with certain friends, or if you've asked their permission in advance. Many of the biggest Facebook pages such as Ann Voskamp (author of "One thousand gifts"; 215,000+ page likes) have a circle of friends who she tags by turn in almost all her posts. She most likely asked those friends if they'd be willing to help her out in this manner.

It's not as simple tagging people from a Facebook page as it is on your personal profile, so if you're not sure how to do it, here's the steps:

Go to Settings -> Post attribution. Here, select "Post as yourself" instead of your page name. You're now in your personal profile mode and so have access to your friends' list. Go to the post -> Click on the image you shared to enlarge it -> Select "Tag Photo" -> Click on the image and type a friend's name to tag them.

3. Pay for Facebook ads
I won't go into this in detail, because it's not something I've personally used yet. My preference so far has been to grow my page organically, but I do plan to experiment with paid ads at some point. The biggest benefit of ads is that you can hone your target audience very accurately, in order to reach your ideal demographic. For instance, you can choose to target your ads toward people who've already liked a page similar to yours.

If you want in-depth training on this method, I'd recommend Amy Porterfield. I've done a couple of her webinars and found them detailed and helpful.

4. Network in blogging communities
As you get to know other bloggers and really work to develop relationships with them, chances are more opportunities to network will present themselves. You'll find all sorts of helpful blogging groups on Facebook - re-pinning groups, post sharing groups, round-up groups and more, all designed for bloggers to help each other grow. Many are private and you will only be able to find out about them if someone invites you. The more you put yourself out there and focus on developing relationships, the more opportunities will come your way.

If an opportunity doesn't present itself, why not start your own Facebook group? Gather a bunch of like-minded bloggers and start a daily thread where you all share a recent post. Then you can each comment on each others' posts and share them on social media.

That's it for today for your Guerrilla Facebook marketing tactics. 

I hope you've learned something new and helpful. Stay tuned - I have heaps more actionable tips to come in the weeks ahead.

Find the rest of the series here:
How to Grow your Blog Platform
Essentials for your Success
Supercharge your Stats

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 150,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on TwitterGoogle+Facebook and Pinterest.


Sherry Ellis said...

These are certainly good tips for getting people to notice your blog. Once you have it rolling, it's important to become part of the blog community, and interact with other bloggers.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Absolutely, Sherry. That's so important - great point! This is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much ground to cover, so I focussed specifically on Facebook today. Lots more material to come in this series! Thanks for stopping past to comment!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So good! And very approachable advice!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Thanks, Ames! I'm so glad it came across that way! It's certainly not rocket science - this is simple stuff that all of us can do. :)