Everyone makes it sound so easy. Post a few times on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and the traffic will pour in. In reality, it’s not easy. And like
Stop Guessing: Here’s a Social Media Strategy That Works
Everyone makes it sound so easy. Post a few times on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and the traffic will pour in.
In reality, it’s not easy. And like with anything else, you need to spend some time learning how to do it properly.
I assure you it’s possible. My nutrition blog case study received over 9,000 visits from Facebookalone last month, despite being a new blog.
But as I noted in that second-month update, it could be doing even better. My friend Mike, who is running the site, is a really smart guy, but it’s still taking him some time to really understand how to use social media to its fullest potential.
You should care about social media traffic because it is one of the biggest referrers of traffic at your disposal. In early 2015, social media traffic made up 31% of overall traffic.
Shareaholic collected data from over 200,000 websites over the course of four months and found that Facebook alone accounted for up to 17.41% of overall traffic. And that’s not even counting people who subscribed from Facebook and returned later:
While those other percentages might seem relatively small, remember that this study looked at a wide variety of sites.
Given that the rest of the networks are less popular and more niche-specific, the results aren’t very surprising. For certain sites in the network of sites analyzed, the other networks would have made up a larger proportion of overall visits.
Don’t forget that this is quality traffic. While some types of social traffic have a reputation for being hard to convert, overall, social media traffic is very engaged.
You can build a business with visitors like these.
And this is only the beginning. Social media traffic continues to grow over time, so it’s never too late to get started.
But you need a strategy that works, which is exactly what I’m going to give you in this article.
- The one reason why most blogs fail to generate significant traffic from social media
- The social media networks that are best for your business
- How to understand and engage your audience on social media
- How often you need to post and how to do it with minimal effort
- How to drive more traffic than you’ve ever have before
Let’s dive in.
Consistency is key
A good social media strategy will benefit your business in many ways:
- more traffic
- relationship building
- better customer satisfaction/retention
- better customer service
In this article, I’m going to focus on the first benefit: getting you more traffic. We can go over the other benefits some other time.
Here’s the one key part of using social media effectively that often gets left out: consistency.
If you follow all the steps in this article, you will have a complete social media strategy.
If you execute it for one day, you’ll see no results.
If you execute it for a month, you’ll see some results.
If you execute it for a year, you will see significant traffic.
If you’re looking for some magic secret, you’re not going to find it. But if you’re serious about building long-term sustainable traffic for your business, read on.
Commit to the strategy we develop together today, and the results will come in the future without you having to worry about them.
Step 1: Dive inside your readers’ minds
Do you think the average grandparent is on Instagram?
Of course not.
So, if you had a blog targeted towards the elderly, you would be nuts to start building up a following there. You’ll never get any serious traffic even if you do everything right.
The foundation of your social media strategy is to understand who your target audience is andwhy they use social media. To do so, we need to utilize demographics and psychographics.
Demographics tell you the who: Demographics refer to statistics that describe a group of people. They include:
- education level
- marital status
- number of children
Not all of these will be relevant to your business. For example, unless your business caters to a certain religion, any religious affiliation is irrelevant.
Determining your demographics will depend on whether or not you already have a site and traffic.
If you do not have a site or traffic yet, what you will need to do is find a similar site (as similar as possible) and use it for your analysis.
If you have a site that does have traffic, you have a few options.
First, you can use Alexa. Enter your site or a competitor’s into the search bar at the top. The more popular the site is, the more accurate the data will be.
Since Nutrition Secrets isn’t that popular yet, I could enter a competitor’s URL such as authoritynutrition.com.
Another option is to use the Google Adwords Display Planner.
Enter in a keyword that describes your niche. I entered “Healthy Eating.”
Once you click the blue button to submit, the next screen will show useful age and gender information at the top:
Try several keywords to get a concrete idea of your target market.
A final way to get demographic information is with Google Analytics (or your analytic tool of choice).
In Google Analytics, navigate to “Audience > Demographics > Overview” using the left side menu. If you haven’t enabled this before, you might have to do so and wait 24 hours to get data.
Once data is collected, you will see graphs for both age and gender.
The best part about this data is that it represents your actual audience. It’s the best source of information for you, if available. You can also find similar data about location and language under the “Geo” section in your “Audience” panel.
Record all this data in a text file or spreadsheet. So far, mine would look like this for the new nutrition site:
- Gender: slightly more female than male
- Education: relatively educated, but slightly less than Internet average.
- Location: most likely readers are from US, UK, and India.
- Age: average age is about 30. Very few elderly readers.
- Income: likely low to medium due to relatively young age.
Notice that some of those parameters are more definite than others. The first time you do this, you will have to estimate some demographics. Over time, you should refine these as you learn more about your actual audience.
Psychographics tell you the why: To truly understand how to create content and products that your target audience actually wants, you’ll need to understand more about your audience’s outlook on life.
Questions that you should try to answer include:
- Why do they want to learn about [your niche]?
- How important is [your niche] to them? (i.e., is it a hobby or part of their job?)
- How do they like to learn? (e.g., video, text, audio, etc., and on what type of device)
- What common questions do they have about [your niche]?
- How knowledgeable are they about [your niche]?
This is a part that most business owners skip or skim over, but it’s going to be crucial for later steps in this strategy.
The difficult part is that there’s no tool that you can plug a site URL or keyword into and get psychographic information back. The only way to answer these questions is to observe your target audience.
Before I go over a few places to do this, note that you must find your exact target audience. If you’re targeting those who are interested in eating healthy based on the latest science, that group of people is going to be different from the group interested in nutrition because of bodybuilding.
Source #1 – Subreddits: Start by searching your niche in the subreddit search. There’s a subreddit for almost every community imaginable, which is why this is a good place to start.
In my example, I searched for “nutrition”:
Based on these search results, I would stick with /r/nutrition. Try to find a relevant community with at least a few thousand subscribers.
Next, you simply have to read. If you’re not familiar with Reddit, read this guide to understand what you’re looking at first. Pretty quickly, you’ll start seeing the same questions and answers over and over again.
The questions and responses will tell you what people are interested in learning about, while the most upvoted answers will help you understand how they like learning about it.
In addition, you can click the “top” filter at the top to see the most popular posts of all time:
Some subreddits will be dominated by videos or images. In this case, most posts are text or links to articles (that are supported by images). That alone tells you how this community likes to consume information.
After looking at the first 100 links or so, I can already see that this community cares about:
- busting myths (i.e., cholesterol in eggs is unhealthy)
- the current nutritional guidelines (and why they are wrong)
- learning about nutrition (good courses and tutorials)
- creating practical, healthy, and enjoyable diets
Among other things, I can answer almost all of those basic psychographic questions now and have a decent picture of what my audience believes in.
This will also help us create content that resonates with our readers. Instead of citing the USDA (who they don’t think is credible), I (or Mike) would cite research studies instead.
Source #2: Forums. Another place where you can see your target readers interact is in a forum. Just search Google for “[your niche] forum,” and you’ll get a list of results.
Again, be careful that you pick forums that have the readers you are interested in attracting. Otherwise, your results will be inaccurate. There’s a big difference between someone learning about nutrition to just be healthier and someone looking to gain muscle.
Source #3: Comments. If you can find a popular blog that relates very closely to your niche, this may be an option.
Using Authority Nutrition as an example again, I would read through the comments of several articles and record my observations about the readers.
Step 2: Choose your most effective channels, and double down
Like I said earlier, this is a long-term strategy. You are investing time and resources into building a following on these social channels.
Most businesses can’t even do that on one social media site, let alone dozens at the same time. Pick one or two (maximum three) social media channels to focus all your efforts on.
Don’t worry about missing out on traffic—there’s more than enough traffic on any single major network to build a business. You will get better (and quicker) results by investing extra time and effort in a few networks than you would spreading resources thin across many. Choose quality over quantity.
So, which networks should you choose?
You need to find a network where your audience hangs out. For some niches, you might have several options. For other niches, there might be only a few to pick from.
Start by narrowing down networks based on their age:
Vine and Tumblr are usually better options for a young demographic, while Facebook and LinkedIn are better for an older demographic. Facebook is losing popularity with younger demographics, but 70 percent of adults use it actively.
In most cases, you want to match your audience demographics to the demographics of a social channel:
But age doesn’t paint a full picture. On a network such as LinkedIn, people are engaged in discussion about professional topics, but not hobbies.
How to spy on your competition: finding a close competitor is by far the easiest way to find the top social networks to focus on.
Say I wanted to attract Authority Nutrition’s readers. I would go to either BuzzSumo (free) orAhref’s content explorer (paid) and enter in the URL.
It’s clear from these results that Facebook is by far the most important channel to focus on, which is what we’re focusing on in the case study.
In addition, Twitter edges out Google Plus for second place. As we saw in the previous step, this niche doesn’t rely on images heavily, which is why it’s not that popular on Pinterest.
Step 3: Build a content bank of VALUE
Now that you understand your target reader a little better and have picked a channel or two to focus on, we can finally get to delivering value to them. The more value you can provide, the faster you will grow your presence.
The second part of this is consistency. If you share content for a few weeks, then drop off for a month, you won’t continue to grow. Unlike search engine traffic that can grow without you having to publish content, you must be continuously active on social media to grow.
In order to make it as easy as possible, you need to build up a content bank with tons of content that your target audience will love.
Content could be any of the following, depending on the network:
- blog posts
- quick tips
The right kind of content depends on your network. In addition, you can’t just share your own content.
Michael Hyatt shares about 20 pieces of valuable content made by others for every piece of self-promotional content.
Buffer posts about 90 percent of non-promotional and 10 percent of promotional content.
There’s no golden rule of what the ratio should be, but always err on the side of being non-promotional, especially at first.
What content, other than yours, should you share? To find out, start by assembling a list of popular keywords in your niche. Use the Adwords Keyword Planner to find them. Start with a seed keyword such as “healthy eating” or “how to eat healthy”, and record the top 10-20 results. Record as many as you like:
While keywords might seem similar, they will produce different results in the next step.
Now, go back to BuzzSumo or Ahrefs, and enter in your first keyword. Then, sort by the network you are focusing on.
In this case, I found the most popular content on Facebook about healthy eating. Record all of these URLs in a spreadsheet (you can click export near the top).
If you’re using a free account, you’ll have a limited number of searches per day, so just do as many as you can.
At the end, you’ll have a giant list of proven content that you know your audience will love. This will take some work, but it is one of the most important steps.
Step 4: Get followers or get ignored
Sharing content without any followers is pretty useless.
Without people seeing, reading, and re-sharing the content you post, you’ll never build relationships, trust, or see significant traffic.
Starting from scratch is hard but possible. What you absolutely do not want to do is buy a few thousand fake followers from Fiverr. Not only will it make it impossible to track your results accurately but it will also lead to fewer followers seeing your posts because of the lack of engagement from those fake followers.
For you, as for most networks, the most effective way to get followers at first is to simply follow as many of your target users as possible. A decent percentage of these will follow you back.
As your follower count grows, you can slow down on following other people as the exposure from the content you share will start to earn you significant follower growth and traffic.
I’ve assembled some of the best resources on getting followers on each major network so you can plan your strategy to get your first followers.
Get followers on Twitter:
- How to Get More Twitter Followers (The Ultimate Twitter Tips Guide)
- The ULTIMATE Guide to Getting Twitter Followers
Facebook is largely a pay-to-play site now. While it’s not extremely expensive, you need a few dollars a day to run Facebook ads.
Regardless, here are some great resources that will help you get more followers (page likes) on Facebook:
Get more followers on LinkedIn:
- The Definitive Guide to a LinkedIn Content Marketing Strategy
- How to Use LinkedIn: The Ultimate List of LinkedIn Tips
Get more followers on Pinterest:
Get more followers on Google+:
- How I Got 10K Real Followers in <7 Months
- How to Get at Least 500 More Google+ Followers by Next Week
Get more followers on Instagram:
Step 5: Diminishing returns and the optimal frequency to post
Now you’re starting to accumulate some followers who are interacting with the content you’re posting—nice.
You’ll notice that you might get a few clicks every time you share something (depending on the network). Then a lightbulb goes off in your head: “If I shared twice as many posts, I would get twice as much traffic.”
To a certain point, you’re absolutely correct. But what if you shared so much content that you were taking up most of your followers’ feeds? They’ll think you’re a spammer and unfollow you, and you might even get reported.
Clearly, when you share too much, you hit a point of diminishing returns.
As with most things, you will have to test the frequency of posting to optimize it for your business. Depending on the audience, you might need to share more or less.
For now, I’ll walk you through best practices for each major network.
1. Facebook: The Facebook algorithm has gone through significant changes in the past few years. Now, readers have more and more content in their feeds that moves faster than ever, which means that you can typically get away with posting more often.
Hubspot analyzed the Facebook sharing data of their customers and found that the ideal frequency depends on the size of the Facebook page’s following.
It turns out that the smaller your page is, the faster you see diminishing returns. The ideal posting rate for a small page (1-200 followers) appears to be 16-30 posts per month, or about once every day or two.
Remember, the graph above shows click rate, so the overall number of clicks will likely be higher even though the click rate declines.
The data shows similar results for medium-sized pages, but for large pages with over 10,000 followers, you should post at least 31 times per month, which works out to once or twice per day.
2. Twitter: While feeds move fairly quickly on most social networks, Twitter is a different beast altogether. Within hours, your post will be buried beneath hundreds of others.
Peter Bray found that nearly all retweets occur within the first hour of a tweet being made.
It’s logical to deduce that most clicks and comments also occur within the same period. And because tweets have such a short lifespan, you need to post more often.
To start with, post between 5 and 20 times per day. I’d recommend sticking to the lower end for now as it is more sustainable.
To determine when you should post, use a tool like followerwonk.
Start by signing in with your Twitter account. Then go to the Analyze tab and enter your username:
After you submit the name, scroll down, and you’ll find a graph that shows you when your followers are mostly online:
Again, though, you want to test which times work best for you. It’s possible that the times when fewer people are online are best because fewer other tweets will be shared. Always test.
3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s own sophisticated guide for marketing revealed that the ideal frequency to post is about 20 times per month, or once per day. But again, test this as it will vary.
Step 6: How to automate for success
Let’s say you find out that the best time to post is at 3 a.m. Are you really going to stay up until then just to send out a tweet? That would be ridiculous.
Even if you were that committed, it won’t take long until you forget or just fall asleep early. Like I said at the beginning, the one key to success with social media is consistency.
The easiest way to be consistent is to use tools (many of which are free) to schedule your posts.
Before I tell you how to automate posts on each network, I want to make something clear: this is not a license to spam your followers.
Just because you can post 100 times a day, doesn’t mean you should. It also doesn’t mean you should share the same message over and over again.
Automate Twitter with Buffer: There are other alternatives such as Hootsuite, but Buffer seems to update its feature set on a more regular basis and has a few other important features we’ll go over soon.
With Buffer, you start by creating a sharing schedule. Click on “Schedule” once logged in.
You can click on the days to select or deselect them. You can also change the number of times per day you post as well as posting times.
Next, click on “Content” on the top menu. You can see all of your queued tweets that will be posted at the scheduled times.
In addition, if you click in the box “what do you want to share?”, it will expand and allow you to write a new tweet. Once you click “Add to Queue,” it will be added to the end.
Automate Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest with Buffer: You can automate these networks in exactly the same way as you did Twitter. You create a separate schedule for each network. When you create a status to share, you can add it to any combination of networks that you’d like all at once.
To switch between the profiles (to set the individual schedules), you’ll just have to select the page from the menu on the left after connecting your page to Buffer:
With Pinterest, however, you will need to switch to a paid account (pretty cheap). There is a 7-day free trial available.
There are other tools for automating Pinterest, but none of the free tools are worth your time. Additionally, Buffer is an official partner of Pinterest.
If you’re looking for a free option, I recommend Viralwoot, but it’s very limited in comparison.
Automate Google+: Unfortunately, on Google+, you can automate only pages with Buffer, not personal profiles. This is because no third-party tool can use the personal Google+ API—it’s a pain.
The best alternative is to use Friends+Me. Once you register and connect your account, you will have to install a Google Chrome plugin. When you click the icon, it will bring up a new tab that looks very similar to the Buffer UI:
Write your post as you would normally, and click “Add to Queue.” Once you’re done adding however many posts you’d like, go to the main dashboard (not the plugin), and click “Schedule” in the side menu:
The rest will look very similar to Buffer. Just add whichever times you’d like, and you are set.
Step 7: Drive more traffic for your posts on social media than ever before
Your strategy is almost complete.
You’re sharing tons of great content, building up followers, and maximizing your post exposure.
Now, it’s finally time to think about what you’re getting out of it.
You’ll typically share one of your own posts every 4-10 posts. Depending on the channel you focus on, this could be every day or even every 10 days.
If you’re focusing on creating truly great data-driven posts, there’s a good chance that you won’t have enough of your own content to share—that is if you share it only once when you first publish it.
To maximize your traffic, you should be sharing old posts as well as new posts while maintaining your ratio of promotional to non-promotional shares. This is the easiest way todouble, or even triple, your traffic.
At the same time, don’t share the same post three times in a row; that’d be silly. Share it every once in a while. For example, here’s what posting across different networks could look like:
There’s one more key to maximizing your traffic: don’t duplicate descriptions. If you do, you’re far more likely to be marked as a spammer or ignored.
If I was sharing this post on Twitter, for example, I would write several different descriptions:
- Want to create an effective social media strategy? Here’s how: [url]
- I was able to drive over 8,000 visits in a month with this social media strategy: [url]
- Learn step-by-step how to properly utilize social media – [url]
- Find out if your social media traffic strategy needs an upgrade: [url]
Get the picture?
One tip to explode your traffic: so far we’ve focused on building an audience and getting it to visit your website. But there are two types of users on social media platforms: regular readers (your audience) and influencers.
Influencers may actively use a particular social network, but most do not. They use it as a way to support their businesses, just like you and I do. They also have the largest followings, which could mean more followers and traffic for you.
How do you get them to expose you to their audiences? After I publish every article, I reach out to anyone mentioned in my post to let them know about it as well as to encourage them to share the post with their audience (I’ve written about this before).
Here’s a basic template:
Subject: I mentioned [insert their site name] in my latest post
Hey [insert their name],
I just wanted to let you know I am a huge fan of your work. I like it so much that I actually linked to [insert their website] within my latest blog post.
[Insert your blog post URL]
I would be honored if you checked it out. And if you love it, feel free to share it on the social web.
[Insert your name]
Not everyone will share your post, but a decent number will. The best part is that since they are usually in the same niche, they typically focus on the same social channels.
Step 8: Track results or fail (don’t skip this!)
Your strategy is basically complete except for this last step.
It’s not that difficult, but it can make or break your success.
No one, other than by sheer luck, is able to get everything right on their first try.
If you don’t track results, you can’t see what is or isn’t working, and you can’t improve your strategy.
Step 1 – Record all your shares in a spreadsheet:
You need to see which posts are attracting the most clicks and engagement and which ones are not. Over time, you will learn how to write descriptions that get the most clicks for your posts.
To get stats such as clicks, impressions, and shares, head back to Buffer. Click on the “Analytics” tab at the top, and make sure you’re on whichever network you want to start with. You’ll get to see each post you made as well as its stats:
Record them in your spreadsheet, or click “export” on the analytics page if you have a paid account.
Every once in a while, look at these numbers (graph them). They should be going up slowly but steadily over time.
Step 2 – Analyze overall traffic in Google Analytics (GA):
Understanding which posts do well on your main social channels is a good start, but you need to make sure that you’re effectively pushing traffic to your website.
Sometimes, your followers (or friends of your followers) will come to a post on your site and share it. If you’re just looking at Buffer, you’ll miss this traffic.
Start by looking at overall traffic—this is most important. In GA, navigate to “Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals.” This will show you how much traffic you’re getting from individual networks:
This alone will tell you if your traffic is increasing over time or if you need to figure out why it isn’t.
In addition, you can often find out where that traffic is coming from by adding a secondary dimension of “referral path.” The referral path refers to the text that comes after the main domain.
On some networks, you’ll be able to see what post sent the traffic easily. On some, notably Twitter, you just get a jumbled up referral that isn’t very useful. A plugin called Campalyst used to be able to convert this data into the actual tweet, but it is no longer available.
When you can, you want to look at the posts that sent the most traffic (that aren’t yours) and build relationships with whomever posted it. You have a good chance of getting significant recurring traffic.
Finally, if you have a business plan on Buffer, you can integrate Buffer statistics into GA.
After reading all of that, do you really think you could just play around with social media and generate as much traffic as a serious business can?
A solid social media strategy is not for the light of heart. It will take you several hours to build your first plan.
The next part is execution, which is even harder. You need to commit to following your strategy for months until you start seeing any real results, which still won’t be that impressive.
Trust me though, if you keep at it for a year or two, you will start seeing some great results. Right now, you are investing your time and resources so that you can get those results. Keep that in mind in the months ahead.
Before you do that, tell me how getting traffic from social media is working for you right now. Leave me a comment below, and let me know how you’ll be revising or creating your social strategy.