How I built a social media network in eight months
By Gene’O Gordon
Last summer, I started discussing the possibility of setting up a collaborative blog with a few friends. Over the course of three or four months, my sister, Diana, signed on and we went from talking to planning to designing blogs. We kicked off three WordPress blogs in November. We decided that if we were going blog we wanted real audiences. We didn’t want to put the time and energy into maintaining blogs if they were only going to be read by a dozen of our friends. We decided the way to do that was to build a cross-platform social media network.
The problem with that was, we didn’t have a very large social media presence. Most of us were only active on Facebook with 150 or so followers each at that point, with a handful of other social media accounts we hadn’t used in years. We’ve come a long way since November. Our success hasn’t been stellar in terms of daily page views, but we’re making steady progress, and our readers are very engaged, so we’re pleased and we feel like our effort has been worth it so far.
We experimented with at least nine different social media networks during the early months, and we’ve reached the point where we have an idea what works for us and what doesn’t. I’ll explain in this post how we use various social media networks and why we use them the way we do. I’m ranking them in order of their value to me. I think they can all be valuable if you can figure out how to use them and find people to engage with on them; this is just the way I rank them.
WordPress is the heart of our network, because we’re content-producers first and foremost. This is where we publish, and we strive to update three blogs at least once a day. We chose WordPress mainly for the easy pingbacks, tagging system, and ease of publicizing to other networks.
Twitter is valuable, but not for the page views it brings. It’s valuable because it’s public, it’s a good place to interact with other bloggers without having to load pages, and the character limit means you can never ask a question and get back a three-paragraph response that you must read before the conversation can continue. Twitter was difficult to figure out, but I understand how to grow a Twitter account from zero followers into the thousands now, and figuring it out was worth the effort.
StumbleUpon is an enigma to us, but it is potentially the most valuable source of page views we’ve encountered. It’s a bookmark-sharing service that allows you to add web pages to topic indexes. We don’t understand the etiquette or the ranking system yet, so we aren’t able to use StumbleUpon to get consistent traffic yet, but we’ve pulled hundreds of views in a single day from StumbleUpon several times now.
Facebook is the most difficult network I’ve encountered in terms of getting attention. We have fan pages for our blogs, but they don’t do much. I think we’ll have to package content specifically for Facebook and focus on one of our fan pages to build a big one, and we don’t have the time for that at the moment. The value of Facebook for me as a blogger, for the time being, is in the multi-user chat and discussion group features. It’s great for coordinating.
Pinterest is valuable primarily because it gives us an easy way to curate images, which can later be embedded on our blogs. It’s saved us tons of time searching for art to illustrate posts. We’re working on integrating it more thoroughly into our plan, and thinking about building boards with some of our best blog posts on them.
We also have a Tumblr page that all three blogs update to, but we’ve had limited success with it because we haven’t put the time and effort into networking on Tumblr. I think Tumblr could work very well as a blogging platform, but I’m not sure it’s very good for attracting WordPress readers.
We’ve also experimented with Google Plus and Linked In. I hid most of my G+ profile a few months ago because it started to feel like an identity risk, and I rarely look at my feed there these days. We don’t connect our Linked In accounts to our blogs, because our Linked In networks are loaded with colleagues and professional acquaintances, and that’s not an appropriate audience for the type of blogging we do. I’m looking at Reddit, but only looking for the moment.
At this point, we’re mostly focused on WordPress, Twitter, and StumbleUpon because those are the places that have shown the most promise for mass communication. The others are either on cruise control for the time being or are used in very specific ways.
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