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Archives for December 2008

How to Grow Both Twitter Followers and Your Blog Subscribers

Check your Twitter Follower Count and compare it against your Blog Subscriber Count. Which is the bigger number? Which of those counts is growing faster?

I asked my Twitter followers this question, and overwhelmingly the answer came back that you have more Twitter followers or Twitter is catching up fast and likely to overtake.

The folks who have far fewer Twitter followers than blog subscribers are those who I would call “Well Established”. Their audience has been subscribed for a long while and in large numbers, while their Twitter following is recent and likely made up of a subset of their huge blog or email list audience. Uber bloggers like Darren Rowse and Brian Clark come to mind, and internet marketers who can call on hundreds of thousands of email subscribers like Frank Kern, Jeff Walker, and Rich Schefren.

Why is Twitter Overtaking Blog Subscriber Count?

In the case of Twitter dominating, I believe this is down to the relative ease of recruiting followers and the method in which it happens.

Twitter is like blogging but accelerated and concentrated. Rather than links, comments and trackbacks, we discover new people to follow through replies, both to you and to others. If someone replies to me with an interesting comment, or if someone I am following has an interesting conversation with someone I haven’t discovered, I am more likely to follow them. People who would otherwise go unnoticed in the blogosphere have found attention far more efficiently in the Twittersphere.

This is even more pronounced when you get noticed by the Twitter movers and shakers. As in the blog world where an A-List link can boost your subscriber count, this happens much more often on Twitter. Tweets are cheap, it isn’t a big deal to fire off a message, compared to writing up a blog post, so a conversation with a big named Tweeter can drive hundreds of follows with little effort or risk on either side.

There is also the “reciprocal follow” where someone follows you so you follow them back. It doesn’t happen all the time but it is virtually unheard of in blogging.

In the case of personal blogging, Twitter has mostly taken a big chunk of the action. Before we would subscribe to the feed of people we wanted to stay in touch with. Family, friends, or just people who we found interesting. Twitter now provides the same role, with the bonus of immediacy of updates and instant interaction.

The End of the Blog Feed?

There is much to be said for the blog, or email newsletters. Not least is depth and detail that is not possible in 140 characters. But that in itself could be seen as a disadvantage as reading more than a few sentences feels like “effort”. Writing a few hundred words even more so. 140 characters means “just the facts”.

Blogs will more and more have to provide value greater than mere links, quips and trivialities. The chit-chat conversation has moved, and your content and community will need to evolve. Discussions on blogs will need to take more thought and provide more value.

What Should We Learn?

People with large, established audiences, can add many more Twitter followers just by pointing out their Twitter Feed, but to move their audience to follow in quantity will require the promise of something over and above business as usual. That requires interaction and original content. Not everyone will have the time or see the benefit, so we are unlikely to see 1:1 matches across the board, however those that do engage will benefit from viral effects and social audience growth.

Chris Brogan is the reverse of the big-blogger stereotype. While obviously being an established blogger pre-Twitter, it was social media and Twitter especially that cemented his popularity and profile, and therefore I see his Twitter following fueling his blog subscriber count growth through fantastic content promoted via cleverly tweeted links. The lesson here is your Twitter Feed can grow your blog if you model successful Tweeters like Chris B.

Either way, you need to:

  • Provide unique value in both Twitter and Blog.
  • Drive followers to your sites with carefully crafted and selected links.
  • Encourage subscribers to engage you in conversation in Twitter.
  • Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of both.
  • Continue to observe those who are gaining traction and learn from their example.

What Do You Think?

Are you seeing this phenomenon? Have your own theories? Please share your thoughts in the comments, or of course, on Twitter ;)

Thriving on Social Media Network Effects

Benefiting from social media network effects requires you to be vigelant about who you are connecting with.

Benefits of Growing Your Social Media Network

In general the more contacts you have, the more you will benefit from social media, or any network for that matter:

  • More opportunities
  • Greater access to expertise, information, news
  • Frequent, valuable feedback
  • Accelerated growth through viral effects
  • Lower cost and better quality attention

There can be downsides of course, mainly in the area of “noise” and time spent maintaining many loose connections.

Your experience of growing your social network connections will be down to your management of it.

Due to the annoyance and productivity problems, many people aim to keep their network contained and high quality.

This is a perfectly good solution, and precisely what I was doing with my FaceBook account. The maintenance impact of the silly side of FaceBook, and other services, meant I retreated to Twitter.

Thing I have discovered is I have a history of trying and abandoning social networks, only to “get” them on my second trial. Each one will succeed or fail based on who you interact with and how. Right now I am giving FaceBook another go, based mostly on experiments I am observing from people like Frank Kern (who up to now I considered to be a total IM guru but behind the social media curve, go figure!).

Maintaining Signal Versus Noise

I have found that Twitter has provided me with a good training on maintaining signal versus noise. The solution is simple – Set a standard and ruthlessly stick to it. If you follow people who pester you with nonsense or tweet about their eating habits, you only have yourself to blame. It’s not Twitters fault, it’s not FaceBook, it is your choice of friends.

When you think about it, you wouldn’t blame a restaurant for your boring dinner conversation, would you?

How to Stop Social Media Taking Over Your Day

  • ONLY SHARE WHAT IS SAFE TO SHARE – Once you connect to people outside your close friends and family you need to restrict the information you place in these networks. If in doubt, keep it to yourself.
  • Observe before following.
  • If people are taking too much of your time, drop them, and do not feel any guilt about it. There are no rules that say you have to follow everyone who follows you!
  • Pick your venues and do not try to be active in all of them.
  • Do not take part in time-wasting activities, such as quizzes and zombie games.
  • Set Social Media time and log off when that time is over.
  • Grow your network selectively and steadily – Learn how much activity you can manage.
  • Use tools where appropriate.

That last one took me a while to figure out. Tools can actually hurt your productivity if they demand too much of your attention. Turn off beeps and popup message alerts, they just take you away from work. In my case using TweetDeck has helped me a great deal (when the thing doesn’t freeze on me) because it puts front and center the most important stuff while keeping less priority stuff accessible.

My Social Network Schedule

Once you have tried out a social network you can discover your own rhythm. You don’t have to live in social media like Chris Brogan or Robert Scoble to benefit from it :)

Right now the main social networks I am involved in are:

  • Conversation – Twitter – Few times a day
  • Bookmarking – Digg and StumbleUpon – Daily
  • Groups/Social – FaceBook – Few times a week
  • Business Contacts – LinkedIn (chris at chrisg dot com) – Weekly
  • Pictures – Flickr – As and when

I find I can spend maximum an hour a day on these quite happily with only a positive impact on my business.

By sticking to this schedule, and the guilt-free policies outlined above, I have found I can maintain a large and growing network quite happily. People send me messages, I mostly reply to them, but not necessarily right away that second. People are aware and not too insulted that I don’t take part in FB games and applications. It’s all good.

As with anything Social Media, take advice (even mine!) as a guide, there are NO RULES. Do what works for you. If people do not like what you do or how, they can un-follow.

Do you have social media tips to share? Agree or disagree with me? Share your thoughts in the comments …

Reciprocation Works Both Ways

Reciprocation is often talked about in terms of what you can get out of it. You might be forgiven for thinking of it purely as a tactic to get other people to do what you want them to do. But, as common sense would tell you, that is not the whole story, in fact it is just a simple human trait of “give and take”.

I do something for you, you do something for me. Simple, but often abused. If you want a good reputation, you need to be a generous “giver” and not a “taker”.

Reciprocation needs to work both ways. When people do good things for you, show you have recognized what they have done and reward them.

At the very least if people who do something for you then they need to be acknowledged.

So answer comments, thank people who send you feedback, link or vote up your articles, re-tweet your twitter messages, and so on. If someone subscribes to my blog they get free ebooks (more coming), as well as all the lovely regular content you would expect :)

What if it is more than one comment?

I don’t like “top commenter” sidebar widgets because that often turns your comment area into a quantity competition, but you still need to show gratitude for people who keep your comment area lively. Occasionally I will write up a post and thank my top commenting folks or find  a way to help them in some way.

People who go above and beyond need extra special appreciation, along with acknowledgement.

Let them know you want to show thanks even though you know they were not being kind or helpful in the hope of receiving an award. People are sometimes offended otherwise, and whatever you do, do not show gratitude with money! That is a sure way to turn friendship into offense.

On my forum we have a Featured Blogger each month, to recognize valuable community contributions. The winner gets a free Authority Blogger Course membership as well as the praise and awe of forum members.

Contributions often matter most when they are simply and honestly friendly and helpful. In October the winner was Jamie Horrop from Jamie Horrop.com who got some excellent conversations going, and last month it was Educator Dan from Daily Home Renovation Tips who we have all watched go from a cautious newbie to helping out others by sharing his blogging experiences.

What can you offer in gratitude?

Have a think what you can offer people by way of thanks. Here are somethings I do that won’t cost you the earth and that you can do even if you don’t currently have any products to offer:

  • Comment and guest post at their blog
  • StumbleUpon submissions and social media votes
  • Links and tweets to get them some attention and buzz
  • Have they got something you could review?
  • Add as friend to all your social media sites
  • Suggest some positive improvements or tips? (be careful that you don’t throw criticism back in return for their kindness!)
  • Write a “character reference” style testimonial – LinkedIn profiles are a perfect place
  • Call them up and speak to them on the phone or skype

Of course you can also say “I am so grateful to you, is there anything I can do for you in return …” :)

If there is one thing we all need in this new media world is helpful friends, so when you find them, make them feel valued!

How do you show gratitude to people who help you out?