Tom Johansmeyer is the Senior Content Director at enter:marketing. He also blogs for Cigar Reader, of which he is co-founder, Gadling, and Luxist.
As a blogger, I’ve always kept in mind the basic rule that you want to attract an audience and retain it. The traditional dynamic is to retain existing readers while attracting new ones, growing your base of loyal followers over time while continually adding to it. There’s nothing complicated in this thinking. Well, even the new media world is changing, and I’m seeing a shift in what has always been a reliable rule of thumb.
In the past, when I’ve watched blog analytics, I’ve always looked for steady growth in direct traffic – i.e., readers who come to the site through a newsletter referral, use a bookmark or enter the URL directly into a browser. These are the people who are most committed and have turned reading the blog into part of a routine. Increases in referred and search engine alongside it signal the attraction of new readers.
Lately, however, I’ve been seeing a change in this trend.
In my test-bed social media environment (not linked to the IT industry but actively managed and promoted), I’m seeing an unusually high rate of click-throughs from Facebook (particularly the fan pages, rather than personal accounts) and Twitter. The conclusion I drew is that, for newer blogs especially, the “location” of your community is changing.
Rather than use the blog as the hub of your social media marketing existence, from a reader retention standpoint, it may make sense to “house” your readers on Facebook and Twitter, and expect them to click through to your blog periodically (e.g., daily or weekly, depending on how frequently you publish). Essentially, they’ll watch for you on Facebook or Twitter and act on your link when you give them one.
If traffic levels stay the same, what’s the difference?
Ostensibly, nothing changes: you continue to invest your time in developing compelling marketing blog content intended to attract and retain readers. Your target market’s mechanics in reaching your blog will just be a little different. Now, there is an opportunity on which you could capitalize, but it will take a bit more of your time.
Create some non-blog content to run as a Facebook exclusive, for example, or run some extra tweets that don’t contain links to your blog, and you could make your readers’ resident social media platform a richer environment, which will come with the benefits of enhanced brand reinforcement, reader engagement and an increased likelihood to enter the sales cycle. Exclusive content for these environments can range from Facebook albums and TweetPhotos to videos and links to complementary articles from around your industry.
The result is a dual-hub social media marketing environment. Your Facebook or Twitter presence is used for promoting your content to your target audience, with the goal of luring readers to your corporate blog … and ultimately into your sales cycle. Your blog, on the other hand, is the content hub, requiring the heavy lifting that will ultimately be published there and syndicated out to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
This emerging dynamic certainly makes the social media marketer’s job a bit more complicated, as more environments need to be treated as primary. The payoff, however, is far greater, as there are opportunities beyond the basics of reader attraction and retention that you find in the traditional corporate blogging space. Your readers are leading you in a higher-impact direction. Follow them, and you’ll get the chance to market more – and harder.