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Use social networking - Don't let it take over your life.

Social media and social networking present incredible opportunities for bloggers and website owners who want to reach a larger audience. However, many people who have tried social media marketing have invested a considerable amount of time only to experience less-than-stellar results.

Consequently, this forms the belief that getting results with social media isn’t possible without being able to spend two hours a day on Digg or tweet something new on Twitter every ten minutes. The truth is that social media marketing can bring significant results – without a huge time investment – and that is what we will look at in this article.

Get Organized.

If you want to get results with social media without a large investment of time and/or money, you’ll need to be organized and spend your time in the right ways. A lack of focus will result in wasted time that doesn’t get you any closer to achieving your marketing goals. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your time with social media and social networking.

1. Have a Purpose and a Plan

I’ve talked to some people who are using social media because they’ve been told it’s the thing to do or that it can help their business. They don’t really know specifically how it can help them, and they definitely don’t know what they need to do as a social media user in order to get positive results. This type of approach is doomed to failure.

Before you start dedicating time and effort into social media marketing, sit down and think about specifically what you hope to get out of it. Maybe you want to increase traffic, build links, improve brand recognition, make sales (good luck), or just to communicate more effectively with customers. It’s important to know what your purpose is, especially with limited time, because it will determine your approach and your marketing methods.

2. Take the Time to Understand Social Media

One of the biggest mistakes that I see being made with social media marketing is that people who are new to social media often jump right in and start promoting their own content. While there is a time and a place to promote your own content with social media, if you do this right away you’ll look like a marketer and not a user. Take the time to get familiar with some various social media sites, interact with other users, learn how the sites work, and don’t worry about submitting or promoting your own content for a while.

In order to have success with social media marketing, you’ll need to understand how typical users think and what they react to. If you truly understand the social media audience, then you’ll be able to create content that appeals to them. Otherwise, you will be pushing content that may not interest them. If you’re already an active social media user and a part of a few communities, you’re ahead of the game. If not, take some time to become familiar with social media to obtain a solid foundation that can be used in your future marketing efforts.

3. Target a Few Specific Sites

Another common mistake that I see being made is that some users (particularly those who are new to social media) are trying to use every social site out there. There are so many social media sites that you’ll never be able to use them all, and with this approach you’re unlikely to have success with any of them. Don’t spread yourself thin – focus on just a few social media sites (I’d recommend 2 – 5) and really plan to be an active and consistent user. You’ll find that as an active user of a small number of sites, you’ll get much better results.

You may want to have an account at some other social media sites to vote occasionally, but don’t make it a habit to spend time on them regularly. Pick the sites that work well for you and for your content and forget the rest. Make an effort to see which sites seem to have an audience that would relate well to your content, and use that information to decide which sites you should be using.

4. Don’t Focus Only on Digg and Reddit

Although the major social media sites like Digg and Reddit have the most potential in terms of visitors and exposure, they are also the most competitive. There are thousands of site owners, marketers, and users that want to get their content on the front pages of these sites, and you’ll be competing with these people to get attention for your own content.

Smaller social media sites are less likely to send a rush of traffic your way, but it’s much more realistic to achieve some success. Digg is basically all or nothing. If your content doesn’t make it to the front page it will probably receive very little exposure, and a high percentage of marketers wind up spending a lot of time with nothing to show for it. In the same time, you could be promoting your content on smaller social media sites with less competition, more than likely yielding some noticeable results.

5. Use Twitter

I used to recommend that every blogger and marketer use StumbleUpon actively because it was a great way to get quick results. However, the results from StumbleUpon have tailed off from what they used to be and Twitter seems to be generating positive results for a higher number of people. Being active on Twitter doesn’t require that you constantly send out tweets about anything and everything – it can be done with much less time investment. The first thing to do is to create an account and start following a lot of people in your niche or industry. There are a lot of Twitter lists and directories (see WeFollow) online that will help you find the right people. Once you’re following some people, you can reply to their tweets, start conversations of your own, and click through to other users who have been mentioned and follow them if you deem their tweets useful. When you have new content, you can share a link to your website or blog with your followers. As your influence grows, your results will improve: more followers and active followers will result in more clicks on your links, more visits to your website(s), and more Re-Tweets (RT).

6. Go Niche

Following the success of major social media sites, there was a big increase in the number of niche-specific social media sites that began popping up. While these sites tend to have smaller audiences than the major social media sites, they present excellent opportunities to get your content in front of a targeted audience. You’ll receive fewer visitors from a front page appearance on a niche social media site compared to a front page visit on a major social media site, but a higher percentage of those visitors will fall into your target market. Additionally, getting to the front page will typically only require a few votes, which can be easily achieved. Getting actively involved and having your content featured repeatedly on niche sites can produce excellent results.

7. Build Your Network

One of the most important factors that will determine success with social media marketing is your network. Almost every successful blogger and social media marketer is very well connected. It’s hard to be effective at social media marketing without having a number of strong connections. Most people who have a lot of success with social media will request votes in one way or another. Maybe it is a formal request like sharing a site on StumbleUpon, but many times it is informal, like an e-mail or a direct message (DM) on Twitter.

Sharing requests is a great way to get some easy votes for your content. Ideally, you’ll want to have some people in your network that are using the same social media sites as you and interested in the same type of content. This way, you can each share requests with each other and no one is taking advantage of the other. Requesting votes can be a touchy subject, but most people who are actively marketing their website or blog are more than interested in finding some “friends” for sharing votes. Get to know people in your niche, see who is promoting their content, and reach out to them about the possibility of helping each other.

8. Set Specific Times for Social Media

If you are really struggling to keep your social media usage to a minimum while still getting results, think about setting aside a block of time to use social media and social networking sites and then move on to other things when the time is up. Maybe you’ll want to spend 30 minutes every day, or maybe an hour 3 times a week. Whatever the case may be, this can help to keep your usage down while still allowing you to be active.

9. Use Relevant Buttons on Your Site

Voting buttons and widgets can be effective when they are used properly. I’m sure we’ve all seen blogs that seem to have a button for every single social media site. There are a few problems with this: 1) it clutters up the pages, 2) it puts less attention on each individual button resulting in fewer votes, and 3) it doesn’t show your visitors on which sites you would prefer them to vote.

To use voting buttons effectively, stick to just the social media sites that you are targeting and the sites that your visitors are likely to use. From my experience, it’s most effective to have 1 – 3 voting buttons on blog posts. Twitter buttons are especially popular and effective right now. The most important thing buttons do is remind visitors that they can vote for you and it lets them know that you would like a vote.

10. Only Promote Appropriate Content

Not all content is appropriate for social media. Even some types of quality content are unlikely to get results with the social media audience. Content like lists, humor, controversy, and breaking news tend to attract attention on social media sites. If you’re hoping to get results, then you should be creating and promoting content that will grab the interest of others. Trying to promote the wrong types of content will typically result in little success, however, an exception can be niche social media sites, as these audiences can often be more receptive to a wider variety of content types, as long as it is focused on topics relevant to that specific niche.

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Written By:
Haeck Design

Haeck Design was founded in 1999 in Raleigh, NC. They're a small, responsive design firm dedicated to creating high quality websites, logos, graphics, branding, print, and marketing materials all with a unique/minimal approach. (Haeck Design Bio Page)

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