How do we get more traffic is one of the top questions about Inbound Marketing and Growth Hacking. Here’s the unvarnished truth; it’s a popularity contest. Either you have it, you partner with it, or you earn it. It’s a bleak view, but once you accept the difficulty of the situation you can make honest choices concerning what it will take you to succeed.
Breaking out is difficult and it’s getting harder. As more people and businesses get online the signal to noise ratio depreciates. If you’re active on Twitter or Facebook you likely observed the number of actual conversations decreasing while the number of link posts keeps going up. Even influencers, touted for their ability to drive traffic and links, have difficulty keeping-up and can find their authority-to-audience size ratio decline as each social media share, retweets, likes and links from their followers, attracts fewer eyeballs and clicks.
Just being seen on social networks is an iffy proposition. On Twitter, which is a live stream, users must be online at the same time when you post to see your message. That’s a natural limiting factor. On Facebook, because the skyrocketing quantity of brand pages, promotional posts, and user links to viral, the network limits how many members see nonpaid posts. Facebook does this partially to drive advertising revenue. However, were it to indiscriminately show every message from every liked page and friend to everyone, nobody could keep up with the torrent of messages.
It’s only going to get worse. What can you do? How can you create or earn popularity?
Create Addictive Content
Continuously publishing great content is the most prescribed route to building an audience and popularity. What few reveal is how difficult this is or how long it takes.
Everything cannot go viral. It takes a combination of sticky content and luck. A recent study of popular Reddit posts revealed how 52% of stories that made the front page had been shared at least once before. There are numerous stories of bloggers who made a quick inconsequential post only to watch it blow-up and become their most trafficked piece ever. Another theme is stories from bloggers expressing how glad they are to have stuck with it because it took them six months, a year, or longer to break through (See #22).
Creating addictive content is more a baseline requirement than strategy or tactic. It will not do the work by itself. What it does is give you something worth promoting and sharing; something that’s new and not a rehash of your company’s elevator speech.
You don’t have to publish every day. Every post doesn’t have to be a viral masterpiece. You do have to post frequently enough and keep it interesting enough to keep an audience engaged, even while you have no audience. And you must release a steady stream of posts that are well prepared and addictive enough to go viral. I suggest multiple stories per week, three to five. One weekly post ought to be good enough to go viral. One or two posts each month ought to be extraordinary.
Have a Compelling Story with Frequent Updates
If you’re lucky, your business is a good story in itself. Few companies can be media darlings like Redfin or Uber. They have great backstories and lots of newsworthy company updates. The ones that do enjoy a natural advantage when it comes to getting recognition and popularity.
Many companies have compelling stories. They have numerous updates or can manufacture captivating stories about their work. Ask yourself, what is newsworthy or exciting about your business and how can you tell the story?
Enjoy Offline Brand Popularity
If you already possess great brand awareness on the street, creating it online should be a snap. If you don’t enjoy offline popularity cross this one off your list and don’t look back.
The pitfall here, for the have-nots, is misplaced admiration. Today I read a story about five brands that are nailing it on Pinterest. The brands are L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, Lowe’s, Everyday Health, and Etsy. Unless you have their brand strength and financial resources you will not be able to repeat their results. These brands are not phoning it in, but they have huge pre-existing audience and financial resources.
Find case studies and strategies that fit your business, not the 500-pound guerrilla.
Take Advantage of Celebrity Leadership
The Internet is filled with celebrities of all types and sizes. Jelly launched a social media search engine for which it received lots of press. One key reason this received attention is that Twitter founder Biz Stone is a co-founder of Jelly. Do you think their PR team too advantage of this? Just look at Jelly’s press page.
Biz Stone, Co-founder of Jelly http://jelly.co/press
Founders and CEOs can make themselves celebrities. Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner did it. Between blogging, presenting, making herself available to the media, and participating in social media and playing a big art in Seattle’s start-up community, Liz has positioned herself as one of the area’s best known leaders.
Partner with Prominent People & Brands
If you don’t have a popular brand or celebrity insider, partner with some. When Rand Fishkin began Moz as the SEOmoz blog he gathered a collection of well-known search marketers to contribute articles.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz http://moz.com/about/team/randfish
When the company began taking-off he asked dozens of industry leaders to participate in a search engine Ranking factors survey. The resulting study led to widespread media and blogger attention, plus all the contributors promoted the survey, Rand and Moz.
There’s lots of opportunities out there to grow your business’s recognition and reputation through partnering. If your company is a funded start-up, gather colleagues from other businesses that share the same funding sources and find ways to cross-promote. Participate in entrepreneurship, start-up, and marketing communities to build a network of peers with similar goals. Put your heads together.
If you have budget you can buy visibility. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others sell sponsored posts and deliver them to targeted audiences. Banner ads and retargeting campaigns can be tremendous brand building tools. When you do this, be discriminate. Choose wisely to promote only your best, most sticky, and most sharable content. Remember, paid posts will be marked as sponsored. Not everyone reacts well to this so you want anything you push into people’s content streams to be especially worthwhile.
Purchasing visibility can be a tough sell. Most CMOs want advertising dollars to contribute directly to trials and wins. Be prepared to show how sponsored posts contribute to web traffic. Find ways to demonstrate increased conversions over time from your blog. Tying sponsored social media posts to a conversion, such as downloading a report or signing-up for a webinar, is a good way to demonstrate value.
Combine Multiple Strategies
The next time somebody tells your business to publish great content, dig deeper. Ask or figure out not only what constitutes compelling addictive content for your company, but how you will use it as a tool to get the word out and not let it just languish on your website or blog.