9 Barriers to Success with Social Media

Barriers To Success

Most bloggers would love to get more traffic with social media, regardless of how much they’re getting now. Unfortunately, a relatively small percentage of bloggers ever see significant results. If you’re looking to get more out of social media it’s important to know what’s holding you back so that you can fix it.

1. Lack of a Network

When most bloggers start using social media they wind up submitting their own posts to Digg and maybe some other social media sites, and they get very few votes. At this point, it’s typical to wonder how others can get hundred or even thousands of votes while your submissions barely get any.

One of the keys to being noticed on social media sites is to build a network. Digg is notorious for favoring users that have a huge number of friends (although changes to the algorithm have improved this somewhat).

A strong network can help you with just about any aspect of blogging, and social media marketing is no different. There are a few specific ways that your network can help you to get some exposure through social media. First, members of your network are more likely than others to vote for your posts.

I’m a frequent user of social media, and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my voting decisions are influenced by my relationships with other bloggers. I think it’s only human nature to want our friends to do well, so building a strong network will lead others to look for opportunities to vote for your posts.

Second, many social media sites include a feature for sharing a link with a friend. StumbleUpon’s share feature can be used directly from the toolbar, and Digg’s shout system is also used extensively by many Diggers. The more friends you have, and the better relationships you have with these friends, the more opportunities you will have to request a vote when you need it most. Also, many bloggers send requests to friends via email or IM.

Third, your network will impact the overall readership of your blog. Those who are very well-connected and active networkers tend to have large, responsive audiences. These audiences will be more likely to vote for your submissions without any prompting. On many blogs you’ll see buttons (such as the “Digg This” button) or links to make it easier for readers to vote.

If you’ve been struggling to gain any momentum with social media, take a look at your networking habits. Have you been actively getting to know other bloggers and social media users (this involves more than simply adding someone as a friend at Digg or StumbleUpon)?

2. Lack of a Plan

Social Media Marketing is like any other type of marketing, it requires strategy and execution. If your current plan only involves submitting your posts and hoping that they get a bunch of votes, that’s not much of a plan.

Your social media plan should be defined by what you want to accomplish. The most obvious benefit of social media marketing is traffic, but the traffic means very little if it doesn’t convert into something. Otherwise, you’ll be left with some impressive stats for a few days, but nothing of real value to show for it.

Do you want to use social media to gain subscribers (difficult, but possible)? Do you want to build links? Do you want to brand yourself or your blog through social media? Whatever your goals are, it’s important to understand what is most important to you so you can develop a plan to make it happen.

Your plan should also include the type of content that you’re going to promote through social media. Are you going to use informational posts, resource lists, controversy, humor, news? Find the type of content that will best help you to meet your goals.

The specific social media sites that you’ll be targeting should also be a part of your plan. There are hundreds or thousands of different social media sites, and it’s just not possible to effectively target more than a few. To have the best results you should be an active user at the sites that you’re targeting so you can get to know the users and what types of content work well. Then you can cater your content to that specific audience.

3. Lack of an Audience

If no one sees your content, no one will be able to vote for it. I mentioned earlier how building a network can help you to build a larger audience that will be willing to vote for you content. I’m sure you’ve noticed that most of the submissions that reach the front page of Digg are from major sites (like TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Smashing Magazine, etc.).

These sites that have a huge audience have a much easier time getting votes than a blog that has 100 readers. For smaller blogs it’s unfortunate, but your success with social media will be more difficult than it would if you had a much larger audience. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have good results with social media, but it does mean that you should keep working on growing your audience so that things will get easier with time.

4. Poor Content

One of the obvious reasons for not succeeding with social media is the content itself. I know when I started using social media I submitted a few things that completely did not fit with the audience. Not everything will draw attention from social media users. The content not only needs to be of high quality, but it also needs to be something that will appeal to these users.

If you’re new to social media, spend some time just going through the popular submissions and see what you can learn about the types of content that tend to generate a response. Think about how you can apply this to your own content. What can you create that will be relevant to your blog that will also appeal to this audience?

5. Forcing Content

As I mentioned in the previous point, not all content will work with social media. If you’re trying to force the content, you’re unlikely to get results. I use a few niche social media sites for web design and development, and every now and then I’ll come across submissions that are completely out of place. None of these submissions will ever make it to the front page and they’ll never get any type of exposure. It’s simply a waste of time for the person submitting the content.

Forcing can also apply if you are submitting every post you publish to social media. It’s very unlikely that every post will be a good fit for social media. If a particular post doesn’t have much of a chance for success, don’t force the issue. Wait until you have a post that is a good fit and you’ll have much better results.

6. Lack of Focus

While your social media plan is important (point number 2), it’s also critical that you stay focused on your plan. Over the course of time it’s easy to get distracted by the numbers involved with social media and forget about what’s really most important to you.

I think a good example is a blogger who constantly tries to get to the front page of Digg. There are plenty of other sites that are easier to have success with, but if you lose focus and just keep going after traffic from Digg, you’re likely to get nowhere.

7. Poor Timing

Timing is often overlooked by bloggers that are targeting social media traffic. Most of us learned quickly that blog traffic in general is lower on weekends, and that also applies to social media sites. So if your submission is featured on the front page of a social media site over the weekend you will get less exposure and less traffic than you would if this happened during the work week. On the other hand, less bloggers are targeting social media on the weekend, so getting to the front page might be a little easier.

I’ve also found that the time of day can have an influence on social media traffic. I target Delicious with my blog and I’ve noticed that being on the front page during the work day in the US will lead to more traffic than being on the front page at other times of the day.

Timing is often hard to manipulate (you can easily control when you publish a post, but controlling when it gets to the front page is a different story). However, you should give the timing some consideration. Test some things and see what works well for you.

8. Submitted by the Wrong Person

Many social media sites will make it easier or harder for a submission to have success based on the profile of the user that submits the item. If this is the case, your chances for success will be greatly improved if you can get a user with a strong profile to submit your post. You may have friends with strong profiles, or you may have one yourself. If you’re targeting Digg you’ll probably want to have someone specific submit your best posts, otherwise you’ll be taking a big risk if someone with a very weak profile submits a post that you were hoping to get to the front page.

9. Ineffective Titles

Standing out at a social media site is pretty difficult because there is so much content competing for the attention of users. The strength of your title will have a big influence on how many people click-through and how many people vote for you.

Not only is the title of your blog post important, but the title of the submission is also important. In most cases this will be the same, but sometimes you’ll see savvy social media users alter a title to make it more appealing, which can drastically help the chances of success.

What’s Your Experience?

What have you noticed to be critical to success with social media?

Steven Snell

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