Several years ago, a good friend of mine began hosting a radio show in the middle of the night. He was an aspiring disc jockey and convinced a local station to give him some unproductive airtime. I recall sitting with him in the tiny studio one night, wondering to myself if a single soul was listening. As we tapped our feet to the “soft hits from the 80s and 90s”, it occurred to me that he was doing a lot of work for a very small audience.
As a marketer, you may have felt a similar sense of futility when implementing an inbound marketing strategy. In the beginning stages, you work hard to produce quality content, even as you wait for your audience to materialize. Building an online audience can be extremely difficult and many companies lose motivation when they realize that very few people are actually reading. Fortunately, there are a number of simple tactics that you can use to increase your reach online.
1. Stick with the (Content) Plan
First and foremost, it is important to be patient. True online growth occurs organically over time and is the result of quality content, consistently produced. There is no substitute for informative, entertaining content.
Monitor online chatter surrounding your company, your competitors, and your category. Listening will help you identify conversations outside of your network to which you can add value through participation. It will also help you to identify hot topics that you can address on your blog or social assets.
3. Leverage External Networks
Although your current audience may be small, there are plenty of existing networks out there just waiting to be tapped. Identify those networks and take the appropriate steps to connect them with your content. Some of the easiest ways to leverage external networks include:
Twitter Hashtags – Hashtags are markers, preceded by the # symbol, that identify a particular tweet as part of a larger conversation. Users on Twitter can search or follow hashtags. If you’ve included the right ones in your tweets, there’s a good chance your content will be discovered by those outside of your network.
Twitter Mentions – When you’re talking about an individual or company on Twitter, be sure to include their Twitter handle (e.g. @jibemedia, @gregloweslc) in the Tweet. This will notify the individual or company of the Tweet. If they like what you’ve said, they may share it with their network by retweeting.
Facebook Tagging – When you talk to or about someone on Facebook, be sure to officially tag them in the post (or photo). Doing so will cause the post to be seen by their friends in addition to your own. Logistically, this can be a difficult thing to do for company page administrators as they’ll need to be friends with the “tagged” party.
Guest Blogging – One of the easiest ways to leverage an external network is to establish a guest blogging arrangement. Whether you’re blogging on someone else’s asset or inviting a guest to write on your own blog, your content will likely be seen by the other party’s regular audience.
4. Paid Promotion
While most of your efforts should be directed toward organic growth, paid promotion can provide a helpful boost in viewership. There are several types of paid promotion that you may want to consider:
Page Promotion – On both Facebook and Twitter, companies can pay to promote their pages, inviting users to “like” or “follow” straight from the ad. On Facebook, companies have the extra option of displaying “Sponsored Stories” or ads that include an additional social element. For example, the ad may inform a user that their friend already likes the page or has recently checked in at a business. These ads are easily targeted to reach a specific audience.
Promoted Engagement – Companies may also choose to promote specific pieces of content. Facebook allows promoted posts, Twitter provides for promoted Tweets, and YouTube facilitates promoted videos. Be sure to select content items that are especially interesting or engaging.
If you’ve started an inbound marketing strategy and feel like you’re up in the night talking to yourself, hang in there. Employ some of these tactics to achieve an immediate boost, but more importantly, stick with the plan. If you’re producing informative and entertaining content on a topic people are interested in, your audience will find you soon enough. In the meantime, kick up your feet and enjoy some “soft hits from the 80s and 90s!”