If you want to know what to write about on your site or what to share on social media channels you have to know how to pick a topic. If you follow our suggestion you will track conversations on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook to find what is trending or popular in your niche. What you will start to find are a lot of stories will come from the same places. These people, apps, and sites are called sources and can be used to find new stories in the future.
Subscribe & Follow Any Way Possible
A high quality source will publish and share high quality content. When you find a source you want to follow the site and/or author on every available social media channel, sign up for their newsletter, and subscribe to their RSS feed so you can be sure to get notified about their latest updates. This enables you to be one of the first to share their high quality information, building your reputation.
Where to Find New Sources
Use Google to find additional sources. Search for your keywords plus blog to find blogs related to your market. You can also search social bookmarking sites or the social networks to find new sites and authors. The key is to read their stuff and make sure that it is of high-quality. You don't want to damage your reputation for sharing junk to your audience.
Wash, Rinse, and Repeat
The longer that you are involved with your niche, the more stories you will see. If you find a new author or site, check out the rest of their work. If it's relevant to your market consider them a new source of information. It won't take long for you to build your sources up and you will have a constant flood of ideas on what you can write about and stories to share to your audience.
Picking a topic is basically deciding what you are going to talk about. Topics are used for the content you develop on your site through article creation and for discussion on social media channels. It's obvious that you need to pick winning topics if you are going to have success online. Writing content that people are actually interested in reading will generate interest in your site. It's also vital to having success on social media where interesting topics lead to discussion and conversations.
Start Following Influencers in Your Market
Does picking a topic sound tough? It doesn't have to be. What I recommend you do is use crowdsourcing when you start out in a new market. You will do crowdsourcing by following influencers (your top competitors and potential partners) on the social media channels and see what they are talking about. You'll then start to follow the people that interact with the influencers you are following and follow them.
See What's Popular
You can see that in no time you will have quite the stream of tweets, status updates, and Google+ posts that are highly relevant for your market. The more people that are talking about a topic, the more popular it is and it normally means the story is highly relevant and interesting to others in your market.
Add Something of Value
Now that you know what topics are interesting to your target audience you have to do more than just repeat what everyone else is already saying. Expand on the story, add your own two cents, take a different angle, agree and state why, or tell everyone why you disagree. The worst thing you can do is simply take a "me too" approach and regurgitate what's already out there.
Expand Into Other Channels
If you find a popular status update on the social networks, expand into a more in-depth article on your site. You can then link to it via your social media channels and have people click through for more information. If articles on other sites are becoming popular, put your own unique spin on the story to separate yourself from the crowd. You can also turn that information into an infographic or create a video. By using a different medium to get the information out there you are standing out.
Discover New Stuff Yourself
Once you start to get a feel for your market you won't need to rely on crowdsourcing quite so much, you can start to discover your own topics. Once you find enough interesting stories from a single source, follow that source and be one of the first ones to break their new stories. Trust me, site owners love it when others quickly get the word out on new content that they published.
Create Your Own
After seeing what is interesting and popular in your niche you can start to create your own stories without relying on others. Now, not everything you write or share is going to be a big hit, but by being the first to report and share something interesting and unique has massive benefits, so when you do succeed you win in a big way.
Audience building is a key component in creating a successful online business. If you don't have an audience it is very difficult to reach potential customers, network with partner sites, or build your brand. Having an audience will allow you to leverage the rest of your marketing efforts. But first, you have to know where it's important to build up your following. There are several platforms that you are going to want to establish yourself on.
1. Your Website
The first and foremost place to concentrate on is your website. You have to produce quality content that people are going to actually want to read and interact with. If you don't then all of our other efforts are going to be wasted.
As soon as you create your site and before you even start writing quality content you want to make sure that you have a few things already in place.
- Email Signup Form - Your visitors need to be able to signup to receive updates from you. Growing your email list is the single most important thing you will do in growing your online business.
- RSS Feed - Most people will not subscribe to your RSS feed. In fact, depending on your niche 75% of your visitors won't even know what that is and will never use an RSS feed in their life. It's popular among webmasters though so you will want to allow them an easy way to get updated on what is going on with your site and hopefully if they like what they see they will link back to you.
- Social Buttons - You want people to be able to follow you on the major social networks, specifically Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and if you do videos then you'll also want to build a following on YouTube.
This is the platform that is easiest to get started on and allows you to build an audience quickly. It's easy to find people to follow and also to get people to follow you back. You can send out multiple tweets a day and if people are interested in your market they will appreciate the information instead of being frustrated by you clogging up their feed.
There isn't as big of an audience here but Google wants to make it work so it's going to be around for awhile. Google also wants to integrate social signals into their search engine rankings and this is the platform they have full control over. Which do you think will be the most important for future rankings? Since it's the newest social network it is easier to become an early adopter, you definitely aren't late to the game.
I have not had a lot of success on Facebook. It's not as easy to get people to like your page. When people actually do "like" you there is the hurdle of actually showing up in their news feed. You don't want to post nearly as often on Facebook because a person's news feed is like the holy grail. They want to know about their friends and what they are up to more than what you are up to. If you are getting in the way of that, you'll get unliked quickly.
YouTube is a very big site that you can gain a lot of attention on if you post quality videos about your topic. I have only dabbled with Youtube. Most of my content is news that I have to get out quick and since creating a video takes quite a bit of time, I haven't had a chance to run many experiments on YouTube. In some niches that have longer lasting content and visitors really need visuals YouTube does very well.
Why the Platforms are Ranked Where They Are
Some of you may ask why I think creating an audience on your site is more important than on social channels. The reason is simple, you have more control. If you are relying on your social media channels to build a following and market to, what happens when one of them shuts down your account? You lose EVERYTHING!
Now, you might think that this won't happen to you, but I've seen it happen to others so why take the chance? With your own website you have a lot more control. You might not control your search engine rankings, but you can control your email leads and who subscribes to your RSS feed. Your content will never be lost (as long as you are backing it up!) and you have a tangible asset that you can possibly sell in the future.
So, to sum it all up: work on building an audience on the five major channels listed above, but funnel as much of that attention as you can to your site and building up an email list.
Before you get started with building an audience you have to define a persona. A persona is the face of your brand. It's who you are going to be and what market you are going to an expert in. Your persona will be involved in the online conversations in your market, contributing stories, sharing your knowledge, agreeing with others, disagreeing with people, and interacting.
Defining the Market
What market are you in? This is more general than just what you sell. It's the topics that people who are potential customers might be interested in. If you sell golf instruction, equipment, or are a golf course it's golf in general.
Your market includes potential customers, clients, and users but also includes potential partners and website owners. If you sell golf training aids, then your market will also include professionals and pro shop owners who can sell and recommend your products to their customers.
Defining your market means you are asking questions like who do you market to, what are you marketing, and are your known for something already.
Creating Your Persona
Once you know you thoroughly know your market it's time to build your persona. The first thing you want to do is use a real name. On this site I use my real name, but in other niches I have also used pen names. It doesn't matter as long as it's a "real" person.
You also want a real person's faced attached to it. On all of my social networks you will find a picture of myself. You won't find any cartoons or generalized logos. People want to interact with other people not a company brand. Don't get me wrong, you want to openly associate yourself with your company, just be a person from within the company.
When you fill out your bios create a story. I use my real life experiences for every bio that I write. Why am I interested in this topic, how did I get started, why do I think I am an expert, that kind of thing. This kind of information helps you to connect with people.
You should also use the same handle and picture everywhere. If you signup for a forum, social media account, or anything else you do online try to keep everything streamlined. Use the same picture, the same name, the same everything. It will be easier for people to recognized you across multiple channels and when they do, it starts planting the seed in their minds that you are everywhere and must be an expert in your topic.
I know that Google+ and Facebook have real name policies. They don't want fake users on their sites, but if you use the sites correctly you are not very likely to get booted. You just can't spam people and act like an idiot.
Once you define your market and create your persona stay on topic. Don't post about tennis if you are a golf expert. It's ok to add some personal information every once in awhile, in fact it helps people to connect with you. What you don't want to do is string yourself out in too many areas. If you are interested in both golf and tennis, create two personas and keep the information on each one on topic. See what to share on social media for ideas on what you should be talking about.
The key is to only share stuff that is highly relevant to your market, interesting, and is well-written. The different content that you will share all boils down to one of three things: sharing stories, supplying your knowledge or engaging in conversations.
Do you want to network with other site owners while also giving your audience exactly what they want? Of course you do. The best way to do that is to link to content from other sites. Webmasters are going to be thrilled to see their links sent out to your audience and hopefully will want to reciprocate in the future and do the same for you. Your audience will love that you supplied them with quality information and will anxiously await your next contribution.
Notice how I said content on other people's sites? That's not just so you can network with other webmasters. It's also how you build trust up with your audience. If you are only pushing your own stuff, they are going to quickly realize you are into self-promotion and will take what you say with a grain of salt. However, if you are giving them quality content from wherever you find it, they will conclude that you are actually a quality source of information and an expert in your market. You can mix in your own content as your audience builds, but you never want the majority of your updates to be about you or your site.
People are going to ask questions, if you are the first to answer them that is a huge plus. Not only in their minds, but in others that are watching the conversation. You don't have to wait for questions, you can post high quality information yourself. It's even OK to start a post out with a "For those of you asking...(your answer)" even if nobody is actually asking the question yet.
If you are truly interested in your field you know more about your topic than the average person. You don't have to know more about it than anyone else, just more about it than average to be seen as an expert. Give away some of your knowledge in tiny bits. If you find that people like what you shared then you have a great idea for a longer article to post on your site.
Engaging in Conversations
Answering questions is a form of engaging in conversations, but there are a lot of other ways to join or start a conversation as well. If other site owners post content about a topic you can add your own two cents. Tell them why you agree or what parts of their story you disagree with. Talk about the story from a different point of view. The key is to add to the conversation, don't just respond with "Great post" or "I agree" because that isn't adding anything of value and will be ignored.
Do not use social media to do shameless self-promotion. If you have a big sale going on or a rare opportunity then go ahead and send out an update. This has to be rare though. People do not go to social media sites to be sold to. They go to be informed, have fun, and interact. If you do those things you will build relationships with potential customers and other websites and that will lead to far more sales and deals for you than any hard selling will get you in the short-term.
Do not stray off topic. Post about what's relevant in your market. Nobody cares what you had for breakfast or what you do in your free time. You can post personal updates rarely just to show your audience that you really are a person, but they are following you do their interest in the market you are an expert in. Posting about politics when your market is dog training will likely lead to people unsubscribing from your updates.
Twitter and other social media sites are about one thing, building relationships. Sure, you don't want to waste you time writing Tweets, replying to people, and retweeting if it isn't going to earn you more money in the long run, but therein lies the secret. Don't look for immediate results, instead focus on long term benefits.
Users who focus on the short-term flood their streams with product promotions, affiliate links, and sales copy. Their followers don't take their messages to heart and will be hesitant to trust anything they send out. If you only self-promote you will quickly be tuned out.
Marketers who focus on the long run will build up a connection with their followers. You have to earn your follower's trust by being selfless and rewarding them with quality content. To do this you have to offer followers some sort of value with your tweets, send them to interesting and helpful resources, and answer their questions. When you send out a tweet with an affiliate link or new product, it will be to a product that you have actually used, tested, and found helpful. This results in not only more clicks, but actual conversions.
What is the best way to build relationships with your followers? Let's take a look:
1. Before you send out an update, ask yourself what information do you think your followers need to know right now? What have you learned today? What resources on the web have you found that make your life easier? Is there something that is capturing your attention? Be useful and make a genuine effort to help your followers out.
2. Follow your peers and offer your opinion on applicable content. Someone posts a blog in your niche about how to do something, maybe you add that you don't like one point or would also do something else. See a well-written Tweet? Retweet it to your audience with your thoughts attached.
3. Thank and promote those followers who retweet your updates or mention you in their Tweets. Taking a little time out of your day to give those users recognition will increase the chances that they do it again.
4. Ask questions to poll and survey your audience. Once you have gathered the data let everyone know what the results were.
5. Don't use the full 140 characters. Instead only take up about 100. This enables people to retweet you with a short little message of their own.
6. Use the Twitter search to seek out people discussing topics in your niche. Join their conversations and add to them.
7. Create lists related to your niche. You can start with the popular news sources, direct competitors, indirect competitors, or just people unrelated to your niche that you find interesting. This will help you be seen as a "hub" of information within your market.
1. Sign up for Twitter - All you have to do is enter your name, email, password, and username to create your account and get started on the platform. Invest some time into your username so you can come up with something that is witty and short, but also memorable.
2. Set up Your Profile - Right at the top of this page is a place to update your picture. Make sure you upload one! People are less likely to follow users who don't even take the time to upload a photo. I think a real picture of your face works best, but you can also use a logo or design to identify yourself.
If you have a website, add the URL to the "Web" section. The bio is important. Think of it as a short headline that you can use to entice people to follow you. Make it interesting. Take a look at our Twitter bio tips for more information on what to include in this section to gain more followers.
Add a Twitter background, preferably with all of your other contact information such as email address, site URL, and other social networks users can find you on. Check out our list of places to find cool Twitter backgrounds.
3. Start Following People - Twitter really wants to help you find who to follow so you have a positive experience. Use their tool and get suggestions based on who you already follow. If you are just getting started and have no followers you can browse interests to find people who tweet about topics you are interested in. You can also find your friends by searching your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, or LinkedIn contacts. The search box enables you to enter keywords and see some of the top Tweeters related to that term.
Once you start following people, check out Twitter's suggestions on who to follow. After you follow someone, check out who Twitter recommends as being similar to that person. You'll start to gather a list of followers that cover topics you are interested in and have a stream full of information you care about.
4. Learn the Language - Retweets, Mentions, Direct Messages, Followers, Hashtags, and Tweets are just a few of the terms that you need to become familiar with if you are going to use Twitter. Check out the Official Twitter Glossary for the definitions and Inkhouse's list of abbreviations for popular terms.
5. Join the Conversation & Help Others - Once you start following people, your stream will fill up with their tweets. Read through and if you find something interesting, reply back to that person. If someone asks a question and you know the answer, give it to them. If a particular tweet catches your eye as interesting, retweet it.
Don't just reply or retweet, say something unique yourself. If you find a great blog post online, write a catchy headline and post a link to it. Post links to your own blog posts. Post interesting facts and information within your niche.
6. Post Frequently - In our article on when to post on Twitter we found that you really can't do it too much. The users with the most followers send out 22 tweets per day. Another great thing about Twitter is that if you take a break and don't post for a week, you can pick up right where you left off and start sending out updates.
If you do not post status updates your Twitter account will not be able to help your business.
7. Don't Spam - If you are only sending out self-promoting junk either via Tweets, direct messages, or replies then you will lose followers and be viewed as a spammer. People really don't want to hear that you are lonely, bored, or sad either.
Twitter started out as a "micro-blogging" platform. The original ideas was to answer the question "what are you doing" in 140 characters or less. If that message is all you have heard about Twitter then you might think it's just for people who have too much time on their hands and want everyone to know what they are having for lunch.
Twitter has grown to mean much more that that, but before you dive in to the platform you should find out if Twitter is a good fit for you and learn what you can expect from your investment of time and money. If you use the social platform intelligently it can add value to your brand and help build your business.
1. Building a List of Followers - With Internet marketing there is nothing that beats a solid list of email subscribers. I've listed the details before, but building a relationship with a group of prospects is an asset enabling you to "push a button" to send an offer that makes you money. While Twitter followers are lower value, this policy still applies. Build a following and you can send links to your site to drive traffic, promote special offers, and learn what your market wants.
2. Establish Yourself As An Expert - If you see someone posting valuable information every day you start to see them as an industry leader. Share your knowledge. Solve problems. Answer questions. Don't just send links to your site, but other high quality articles on other people's sites. You'll quickly be seen as a specialist in your field and a thought leader.
3. Engaging with Clients & Prospects - People don't trust everything they read online. They have seen the fake testimonials, exaggerated claims, and excessive marketing hype. Here is your chance to interact with prospective clients and make them feel comfortable that you are the person that can solve their problem. You can also engage current clients to find out if they are having any additional issues and get ideas for future products.
4. Breaking News - Newspapers, magazines, and TV stations all have Twitter accounts. They will post updates about what is going on in the world so you can stay up to date with the latest news. If you don't want general news every niche has popular sources of what's going on in the market. Retweeting breaking news enables you to come across as someone who is on the cutting edge.
5. Answering Your Questions - Twitter is all about crowdsourcing. It can be a hard and fast fact like "Who do the Lakers play tonight?" or a general opinion on a certain movie or book. The more followers that you have, the more answers you are going to get. Even if you don't have that many friends on Twitter send your question to @answers and get your answer in a reply.
6. Marketing - I put this last on the list because too many people think that they are going to sign up for Twitter, start blasting out links to their services, and make money fast. That's now how it works. Sure you can market your products and get some additional exposure, but only after you have established a following that thinks you are an expert and trusts your advice.
Other Resources on Why You Should Use Twitter:
Both Twitter and Facebook have a huge audience of potential customers who might be interested in what you are selling, but what is the best way to reach them? You are competing for each user's attention with a lot of other noise, so it's not easy to get your followers or fans to listen to and be interested in what you have to say. One of the ways that you can give yourself the best chance of social media success is to post at the right time of day and on the right days of the week.
I have found two different studies (Buddy Media and Dan Zarella) that tried to figure out just when is the right time to post, how often you should update, and what days work best. One of the thing that is clear from both studies, what works for most people might not necessarily work for you. As always, you are going to want to test your social media strategy to find your own sweet spot.
What Time of Day to Post
If you want your updates to be seen, early in the morning is the best time to post. When people wake up in the morning they go online. Their Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds are ordered in chronological order with the latest updates appearing first. If you can post right before the person checks their account, you will appear at the top and have a great chance of being seen.
Zarella found that if you want to get your updates retweeted, the majority of people do this between 2 PM and 5 PM, but if the goal is clickthroughs then the rates are fairly even throughout the day.
What Day of the Week to Post
Buddy Media says the best day to post is Thursday and Friday. Zarella found that retweets go up slightly towards the end of the week as well. One of the theories behind the data is that people don't want to be at work, so they are more likely to look for distractions online.
Sharing on Facebook goes way up on the weekend, even though most stories are published during the week.
Zarella studied how often people post on Twitter and correlated that to how many followers they have. The results were pretty surprising as the users with the most followers post 22 tweets per day and even post the same message in slightly different formats a few times each day. If you are posting links to your own content, once per hour seems to be a good guide to achieve the highest clickthrough rate.
Using Zarella's information I would try to tweet once per hour, nearly every hour of the waking hours of your target audience. Don't be afraid to send out a link to the same article once in the morning and once in the afternoon, using slightly different text accompanying the URL each time.
Zarella also found that Facebook was a completely different animal. While users might not get overwhelmed by a lot of updates on Twitter, your Facebook friends and fans will give you more "likes" if you post every other day. If you clog up their Facebook stream, they are less likely to want to see your stuff.
People who sign up for Twitter often times neglect to put much time into filling out their bio section. It's pretty common and if you are in a hurry to get signed up and to check out the Twitterverse then I can't really blame you for doing it. However, your Twitter biography is important and it can help you display information to potential followers. By hovering over a username in any kind of followers list it will display your bio. A solid description can entice the person looking at you into becoming a follower.
Here are a few tips that I have found that can help you get more out of the social platform.
Tell People What You Do
Your bio should tell users a little bit about yourself, it is your bio after all. Most people that stumble across your page will no nothing about you. This is your chance to tell them a little bit about yourself and why they should listen to what you have to say. Tailor this information to your audience. If you want to get the attention of golfers, then describe your golf bio, not your computer science background.
It's also OK to add a few hobbies or interests that you have. This shows that you have some personality and aren't completely dull, but what is your main purpose behind the account? If you are promoting a site or your brand, then make sure that comes before hobbies or your family details.
Use Your Real Name
Using your real name works best to show you are an actual person. If you are tweeting for a company, having a name will at least help the followers figure out just who the "I" is in your tweets. It also portrays a more human side to the company.
Identify Yourself As An Authority
Dan Zarrella did a lot of research on Twitter users with a lot of followers and his data debunks the old myth that you shouldn't call yourself an expert. If you are an expert in a given field, then identify yourself as such. His list includes using the words official, founder, speaker, expert, guru, and author. Anyone who owns a blog can be called an author or founder. If you know more than the average person does about a specific niche then you should feel confident enough to identify yourself as an expert or guru.
No Keyword Stuffing
You know what makes you look really stupid? Stuffing your bio full of keywords that you are trying to target. People might be searching for something specific and it's great that you want to be the one that they find. However, f someone reads your description and finds 10 different variations of the keyword in a list they are going to see you (correctly) as low-value and they won't follow you anyway.
- Bajillion Hits - Tips for "cool" bios.
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