However I know that lots of readers are new to Internet marketing and want to get to grips with some of the basics before grabbing a video camera and posting your face all over YouTube!
I know how it feels to be overwhelmed, so I thought it would be good to remind ourselves of some of the basics of succeeding online in a socially driven online landscape.
The truth is ALL online marketing is social these days. And it’s simply a case of picking the tools and approaches to social marketing that will work best for you.
Of course, it’s not all that simple. And it takes a lot of trial and error to find the approaches that best work for you.
If you are a subscriber to the Internet Income Detective newsletter, you may have seen an interview I recorded last month with my husband, Mark Edwards, who just so happens to be a successful writer.
We discussed his social media strategy and he described how his ‘addiction’ to Twitter has seen him make hundreds of useful and fruitful connections. But it is on his Facebook page that he is able to truly connect with readers and see a direct correlation between effort and sales.
I mention this as it is a good example of how you have to investigate several avenues before pinpointing where you’re best off spending your time when marketing online.
Having said that, there are some common ‘rules’ – of course, rules that can be bent shaped and molded to suit you – that we can familiarise ourselves with when we’re starting out that will help us make better decisions about using social media to our best advantage.
Here are eight steps we should all take…
Step 1: Pick your subject
This is the first hurdle, and the place where many people fall. You need something to talk about. And no, that doesn’t mean just yourself – although your personality and voice is key.
Think about the individuals you find most interesting; the people you follow on Twitter, or whose newspaper columns you read. They have a topic; a voice; a personality. You need these things too.
It’s important to start off with a plan – a marketing plan, if you will. Nobody ever won a war by walking blindly into battle. You need to have an idea of what you are going to do and when.
It’s fine to start off by exploring and experimenting, but you should even plan this out. Set yourself targets: I want to get 500 new followers by Christmas, for example.
It doesn’t matter if you miss your targets – but having them will make you strive to hit them.
First thing’s first… you are not going to shout at people to ‘buy my stuff’, but you still need to make sure the people you come into contact with know that you have something to sell or offer them. When and if they like you, they will go and check it out.
So make sure you mention it on your Twitter biography and add a link to your blog or site. Put it in your Facebook bio too. And make sure you have some product pages on your blog, which are accordingly and prominently linked to. You can’t afford to hide your light under a bushel: just don’t keep shining the light into people’s faces. Let them find it.
Step 4: Communicate!
The worst kind of tweeters and Facebook users are a people who just bang on about themselves, the people who don’t join in the conversation but just stand there and yell ‘Me me me me me.’
Those are the kind of people who everyone avoids at parties. The popular people get involved; make a contribution. That contribution does not include the words ‘buy my stuff’ – unless it’s really relevant, like if people are talking about the problem of removing egg stains from trousers and you happen to have written a guide about that very subject.
Even then, those people will be far more likely to check out your egg-stain removal guide if they have conversed with you before about non-egg-stain-related topics.
When people talk to you on Twitter, you should reply. If they recommend you to others, thank them. If they say something interesting, reply to them, as long as you have something relevant, interesting or funny (if funny is appropriate) to say.
A lot of the time you will struggle for things to say, either on your blog or social networks. We can’t all be ideas-machines every day. In fact, some of us struggle to be ideas-machines full stop. This is where content curation comes in.
The great thing about the Internet is that there are millions – billions – of people out there, creating stuff – great stuff. And that will include people in your niche, assuming you haven’t chosen the most obscure topic in the world: the architecture of public toilets built 1908–09 in south-east Tunbridge Wells, for example. Even then, there’s probably still someone else out there who’s writing about it.
So it is a valid – nay, important – job to sift, sort and share this content. You should look through all the blogs, sites, Twitter feeds etc, of people who are in your space and share that content with your followers. You will then start to build a reputation as a great source of interesting content: someone who sifts out the crap and saves their followers precious time. You will even begin to be seen as an expert.
You should adopt a 70/30 rule. 70% of the time, link to other people’s content; 30% of the time, be original. You should comment on the things you link to. You could even make money from your third-party links by using a service like refer.ly.
Step 6: Be humble… most of the time!
There is a lot of debate about whether one should retweet praise. This is where someone else says something nice about you and you share that praise with your followers and friends.
Some people think this is the equivalent to shouting ‘Mr Smith just said I was his favourite and the best at maths!’ in the playground and that you should refrain from such vulgar, show-off behaviour. But it’s very hard to resist, and I think it’s OK. The way I look at it, you are simply showing delight that someone said something nice. Just don’t do it all the time.
In a similar vein, you have the humblebrag, where people show off about how great they are while pretending to be generous to others: ‘Congrats to @Bert for hitting No.1 on Amazon. I remember how that felt!’
Step 7: Join a community
Whatever niche you are in, there will be other people in the same boat as you. For writers, there are a number of thriving communities such as forums and Facebook groups. Same for Internet marketers, cat lovers, eBayers, teapot collectors, eggstain-removal experts… find your community and immerse yourself in it.
This is one of the most effective uses of social networking. Most of your fellow writers or teapot collectors will have their own blog and their own fans and followers. You want to reach those fans because if they like so-and-so and if so-and-so is similar to you, they might like what you have to sell too.
So ask people if you can write a guest post on their blog, or perhaps do a Q&A. Bloggers are always looking for content, and getting someone else to write the words is much easier than doing it yourself. By guest-starring on their blog you will be getting in front of their readers, thus increasing your exposure.
It’s a great idea to do it the other way round too. Get other interesting people with something relevant to say to write something for you. This will provide content for your blog and give you a reason to send out tweets, Facebook posts, etc. And your guest will almost certainly link to and promote their guest post, thereby sending you more traffic.
As new readers visit your blog, make sure they see ads for your product or, better still, try to get them on your email list or to follow you on Twitter, or like your Facebook page. That way you have multiple opportunities to network with them.
I do hope this recap of some of the basics of social marketing has been helpful. As always, do get in touch if you have any questions, feedback or ideas you’d like to share.
Have a brilliant week