I ran a session at BlogOnMSI last weekend about how to promote and advertise your blog on social media. Here’s a summary of my presentation.
In addition to being a blogger with over ten years’ experience, I’m also a corporate social media manager with responsibility for driving social media campaigns across Western Europe for 3M, the company behind Post-it Notes. So I know a thing or two about social advertising and promotion. Here are some basic tips that will benefit any blogger, whether new or experienced.
Why do I need to promote or advertise my blog?
You may be familiar with the saying, “Content is king”. And while that remains valid, the truth is no longer as simple as that.
Here’s the thing: the internet is overflowing with content and it’s getting increasingly full. Every day YouTube users watch a billion hours of video – that’s the equivalent of 114,000 years’ worth of amusing cat videos. There are nearly 6,000 tweets published every second. The average Facebook user could be served 1,500 pieces of content on their News Feed every day.
There are still only 24 hours in a day. So something has to give, and that something is our finite attention. In 2012, the average update posted to a Facebook page reached 16% of its followers. By 2016, that had fallen to just 3%. So even if you have 10,000 page followers, an average post might only reach 300 people. Actually, bloggers tend to do better than that but even so the downward trend remains valid. It’s harder than ever for content to reach a large audience organically – and it’s only going to get worse.
That’s why you should consider promoting and advertising your blog.
What’s the difference between promoting and advertising?
When I talk about promoting, I mean plugging your content via various free-of-charge methods. By contrast, advertising is where you pay to put your content in front of people.
What’s the difference?
When you promote, you are largely talking to your existing audience: blog readers and subscribers, social media followers (and potentially their followers). These are people who have engaged with you in some way before but it may be that they only interacted once and your other content might be irrelevant to them.
When you advertise, you are reaching beyond your existing followers and reaching out to new, untapped audiences. What makes them interesting is that you have targeted them for a specific reason. Maybe they have registered parenting as an interest or they follow a particular Twitter account that you also follow. Either way, advertising enables you to find them directly, which might not otherwise be possible.
Of course, the ideal balance is to drive engagement with your existing audience while also attracting new readers. Which is why it’s worth considering a mix of free promotion and paid advertising.
For many people the primary starting point is to set up a Facebook page.
This allows you to separate your blog from your personal audience, you do not have to friend someone back before they can see your content, and you have access to the full array of Facebook’s scheduling, advertising and insights.
When I asked the 50-odd people who attended my BlogOn session whether they had a Facebook page, everyone in the room raised their hand. It’s not mandatory to have your own page – but it is essential.
Promoting your blog
There are many tools and tips for promoting your blog for free but many of them are widely known among bloggers so I won’t dwell on them here. But just to make a few key points …
Scheduling tools and plugins are great for automating updates to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn. But give careful consideration to how often you promote your posts. The more often you promote links the more clicks you are likely to get – but the more likely it is that some people will view you as spammy and vote with their unfollow/mute buttons.
Don’t just promote your own posts. Share other bloggers’ posts or news articles if they are relevant to your audience (and always tag them so they know you’ve done it). Engage in discussion, either on your timeline or on other people’s. Ensure you have a balance between ‘social’ and ‘media’. Yes, it takes time. But a few minutes’ investment per day pays noticeable rewards. People follow people, not automated tweets.
Anticipate popular events and hashtags associated with key dates and milestones. Theme park reviews perform well at the end of term and the start of school holidays. So do tips for surviving long car or plane journeys. Gift guides can be great ahead of Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas. There are celebratory or awareness days/weeks/months for just about anything you can imagine – a quick Google will soon lead you to a multitude of websites offering lists of key dates and events. Get ahead of the curve.
Finally, my favourite little trick: don’t schedule all your posts on the hour. Everyone does that, and it’s easy for your post to drown in a sea of hundreds of others. Try posting at five past the hour, when the top-of-the-hour rush has subsided. Or quarter past.
Advertising on Facebook
There are many myths about advertising on Facebook. It’s too hard. It’s too expensive. It kills your organic reach. It doesn’t work. None of these are true. It isn’t for everyone, it isn’t something you should do all the time and you shouldn’t expect miracles but, used judiciously, it can play a key role in growing your audience. With total user numbers now touching two billion worldwide, if you want to access a big potential audience, Facebook is where it’s at.
Slides 8-16 below show you how.
The basics are simple enough: get a Facebook page, create an advertising account and add a means of payment (credit card or PayPal).
Once you’ve done that, Facebook offers a simple, guided process to help you get the most from your advertising dollar. You can ‘boost’ an ordinary post, showing it to more of your existing following (and their friends) or to a new and different audience of your choosing, which you can define by basic demographics such as age, gender and location and a wide variety of interests: parenting, hobbies, favourite TV shows, places people have visited and so on. It’s here where the advertising platform comes into its own, as you can target people who would otherwise never see your content, showing your blog to new potential readers.
You can create entirely new adverts specifically designed for a custom audience. Or you can even create multiple versions of the same advert, running them against each other and letting Facebook prioritise your budget behind the one that works best.
The only requirement is that you spend at least £1 per day for the duration of your campaign – beyond that it’s up to you how much you want to spend and for how long. You can even decide how Facebook optimises your spend. If you want it to drive reach or engagement, you simply specify that. If you want to maximise clicks to your blog, set that as your objective. Or if you want to find new followers for your Facebook page itself, there’s an option for that too.
For as little as £2-£3, you will typically reach at least 1,000 people, the majority of whom will never have interacted with you before. If you have a relatively small audience at the moment, it’s an easy and efficient way to extend your reach and build your following. (Top tip: specify which countries you want to target and avoid ones associated with follower ‘farms’. So it’s good to specify the major English-speaking countries but steer clear of most of the Indian subcontinent.)
Facebook does have a couple of small foibles. It will force your ad image into a specific rectangular shape (specifically, an aspect ratio of 1.9:1 which equates to 1,200 pixels across by 628 high). It will penalise your reach if you have too much text on an image (aim for no more than 20%). And you should always embed content rather than linking to it where possible – so, for instance, upload a video rather than add a YouTube link. But other than that it is remarkably flexible, and if you pay close attention to your insights and are willing to experiment a little, you will soon learn what types of advert work well and which don’t.
Advertising on Twitter
While Twitter remains popular for social media chat (and link-dumping), it is less widely used as an advertising channel. But that’s not to say it isn’t effective if used well, and it does offer some interesting features.
Slides 17-21 are the place to go for more detailed instructions but here’s a quick overview.
Although the look and feel of Twitter’s advertising platform is different to Facebook’s, it offers similar functionality and is equally easy to use. In some respects it’s easier, as you don’t need to set up a separate page and there are no awkward rules about how much text you can have on an image.
Like Facebook, you can promote existing tweets or set up specific adverts, and you can also promote your account to gain new followers. (Don’t waste your money doing the latter, as there are many easier – and cheaper – techniques to grow your following if you’re a blogger.)
Some of the recent changes to the way Twitter operates also make things easier. For instance, images no longer count towards your 140-character limit and you can now include up to four in a single tweet.
Setting up audience targeting is broadly the same as for Facebook, with a wide range of demographic and interest options available. One feature that is specific to Twitter that can be particularly helpful is the ability to target audiences based on the followers of a specific account. So, for instance, if you wanted to advertise specifically to attendees of BlogOnMSI and people like them, you could target followers of the @BlogOnUK handle. Or if you wanted to target fans of Arsenal football club, you could base your audience on followers of @Arsenal.
Like Facebook, you don’t have to spend a fortune on Twitter. There’s no minimum budget and you can cap your spending by setting either a total budget or a daily one. Easy. The built-in analytics platform allows you to quickly see what’s working and what isn’t, or whether there are specific segments of your target audience who are really responding well to your ads.
In a world where growing volumes of content make it difficult to stand out from the crowd, promotion to your existing followers is an essential part of a blogger’s armoury and advertising is increasingly helpful for reaching new and specific audiences.
There are many automation tools and tricks of the trade that can help you get the most from your promotional efforts without having to spend excessive amounts of time on it. And when it comes to advertising, the major platforms have guided processes to help you get set up and target your spend efficiently and without the need for a second mortgage. More importantly, they offer deep analytics that provide the insights you need to learn from your current activities and make your future adverts even better.
So why not invest a little time and money in trying out Facebook or Twitter advertising? It is remarkably simple to do and the results may surprise you.