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Social media and blog traffic: 4 tips that work and 2 that don’t

November 22, 2011

Traffic to my blog has jumped recently. Twitter and Facebook are the trick.

I’ve been blogging for just over 6 months. While I’m writing this entry, my blog will be visited for the 9,000th time. 2,000 of those visits came in October, and over 4,000 more have come in November.

Most of my visitors have been referred to my blog by social media. More than 2,000 have come from Facebook while just under 1,000 have come from Twitter. Only a few dozen have come from LinkedIn.

Here are six ways I use social media — four that work for me and two that don’t.

The easiest one is Facebook. I have only a personal account, and when I write a new blog entry, I post it there. If the entry is good enough, friends read it. If I’m lucky, they like it. But if I’m really lucky, they share it. And those shares have a big impact.

My two most read posts are There are only 3 reasons women don’t make it to the top and The Nobel Peace Prize’s problem with women, each of which has over 1,200 hits. One thing that distinguishes these two is that they were shared by many of my Facebook friends. Instead of reaching only my 338 friends, they reached a few thousand. Sharing has become important feedback for me on my blogging; if an entry doesn’t get shared much, I know I didn’t quite press the right buttons.

There are three ways I get blog visits from Twitter. The 347 people who follow me see that I’ve posted a new blog entry and may come for a visit. Better yet, and akin to Facebook sharing, is that that people who follow me retweet (RT) my announcement of a new blog entry, so that their followers see the announcement and perhaps drop by the blog. The third strategy is through the use of topical hashtags, which generates visits from those who follow that particular topic. All three of these can be approached strategically.

The most enjoyable way to get more followers on Twitter is to actively use it in very specific settings. For example, at any conference there will be many people making comments on the conference as it happens, tagging their entries with the relevant hashtags. One recent example for me was #egs2011. By participating in these discussions, many people saw my Twitter account and started following me. The discussion at the conference also related to various earlier blog entries, so I could broadcast those links to the conference tweeters.

My most strategic use of Twitter focuses on getting RTs. I often check hashtags that interest me and look for conversation participants with large numbers of followers — sometimes 5,000, sometimes 50,000. I read their profiles, look at their blogs, and then I send them a tweet with a link to an entry that I hope will catch their eye. When it works, this leads to RTs, which means my link gets put in front of several thousand people.

I tried to avoid flooding my followers on Twitter with all those tweets aimed at just one person, by using Twitter’s direct message function. Those messages don’t appear in my Twitter stream, going instead only to the person I write to. One evening I sent out many such messages — and not a single one led to a retweet! So, with apologies for the flood, the public @ is clearly the most effective tool. (UPDATE: See the comment from Scott Meyer below.)

Finally, I’ve started using LinkedIn, since I kept getting requests to join networks. I only have 172 connections, and while posting a link to my new entry does generate a few hits, it seems like I haven’t yet discovered the best way to use LinkedIn. Tips are welcome!

Four ways to get more traffic with social media come from Facebook and Twitter. Facebook gives many hits through its usual structure, but if your friends share your post, your readership will spike. Success with Twitter requires getting more followers, getting lots of retweets, and successful use of hashtags.

Two uses of social media have not been successful for me. Direct messaging on Twitter has led to nothing, and LinkedIn posts generate only a minimal response — so far.

What works for you?

See also How I use my blog and Twitter to get on op-ed pages

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. scottdavidmeyer permalink
    November 22, 2011 20:04

    Remember that if you have an @ reply at the beginning of your tweet, your followers won’t see it unless they follow both you and the person it was sent to, so usually it won’t annoy them. LinkedIn is where you’ll be able to find some guest posting opportunities that will drive big traffic for your site through one-on-one contact.

  2. November 22, 2011 20:17

    See, already I learned something I didn’t know. Glad I wasn’t annoying you 🙂

  3. Aase Tveito permalink
    November 23, 2011 08:51

    I am not blogging, but using both LinkedIn and Facebook. I follow a few discussions and groups on LinkedIn, and in terms of reaching the right people, they are really useful. However, if your goal is to reach many, they are not. So it all comes down to defining whetther you want qualitiative or quantitative impact of your blogs, and again, that depends on the theme you are blogging about. Gender equality should probably be shared on Facebook, whereas a LinkedIn group on language acquisition could be the right target for blogs about that theme. LinkedIn groups are somewhere between scientific journals and facebook groups in the type of audience you get.

    • November 23, 2011 10:39

      My goal isn’t numbers per se; it’s impact. But numbers are an easy surrogate for measuring impact. At this point, I’m way to dependent on my friends on Facebook, and have as a goal to increase visibility in search engines and through subscribers and their initiatives, and to decrease my reliance on Facebook. LinkedIn groups I haven’t yet started exploring. Must do that. Thanks!

  4. November 23, 2011 09:35

    Good post Curt. For me twitter is a big source of traffic as well (as you might imagine because that’s how we connected – and through the post you mention above!). Yes the share function on fb (and G+ if you’re over there as well?) is very powerful.

    Oh and to add to Scott’s comment. If you DO want others to see the @ reply then put it later in the tweet or add a character such as a . at the beginning and it will appear in yr stream 😉

    Take care!

    Cathy

  5. November 24, 2011 19:17

    Many thanks for sharing your experience with what works and what doesn’t. I don’t use Facebook (but will now give it a try) but my Twitter experience and strategies mirror yours almost exactly. Another benefit I have found from Twitter is that it leads me to bloggers and their blogs that are relevant and interesting; and by commenting on their blogs or responding to their tweets I sometimes establish ongoing relationships with the bloggers. They then sometimes follow me or retweet my tweets, so a virtuous circle is created.

    The way I came across you and your post is in fact an example of that; I follow Cameron Neylon, and saw his tweet earlier today

    “Cont. #scipolicy theme. Fascinating conversation yday w/ @curtrice on building frameworks to capture exploding diversity of rsrch outputs”

    That interested me because I have recently written two post on related topics — The Encyclopedia of Open Research and the data/publication problem http://elnblog.axiope.com/?p=1037, and Reproducibility of data and collaboration: Response to Victoria Stodden with two examples http://elnblog.axiope.com/?p=1022.

    When I saw Cameron’s tweet I thought that @curtrice might be interested in these issues, so I checked out your blog, and came across this post, which I found very useful.

    So there is an example of the virtuous circle in action — many thanks again!

    • November 25, 2011 21:34

      Thanks for this comment, Rory, and for the nice story about how you found the posting. I appreciate that! I’m going to read your postings now, and am looking forward to that!
      I’m also tweaking my manuscript from the talk that Cameron heard, so that will appear on my blog at some point during the next few days.

      “Virtuous circle” — great term!

  6. November 25, 2011 19:48

    Thanks for these insights into Twitter and Facebook vs. LinkedIn. I am new to Google+ so still curious about how effective it is for social sharing.

    • November 25, 2011 21:31

      Thanks for this comment, Tom. I haven’t started using Google+ at all, but have now recently started looking at LinkedIn groups, and there may be potential there, too.

  7. Marit Pollei permalink
    December 1, 2011 19:05

    My Great Aunt Clara would love this. She was one of the first women graduates from St Olaf,and years later, when a chemistry professor was retiring, she told the chemistry department hiring committee that if they hired a woman (and appended a list of qualified candidates), they would receive a $10,000 donation. They refused, said there were no qualified women, but they would still love the donation since they were unable to find a qualified woman.
    She gave it all to the St Olaf bands.

    • December 1, 2011 19:10

      Thanks for the great story! I’m sorry I didn’t get to met Aunt Clara. I’m thinking this story shows traits that can be found elsewhere in the family, too 🙂

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