What do I need to do to bring my website into the age of Facebook and Twitter?
February 15, 2011 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Facebook and Twitter are passing me by. It's no longer enough to know how to rank very well in Google, by providing good material that people want to read and that is easily indexed by Google. Now, we're told, Google is passé. Small businesses must switch to using Facebook and Twitter to reach their audiences. But how?

I think the people who urge Facebook and Twitter use may be right, too. This is the first year my income from the site, such as it is, has held steady, after previously going up every year by a good percentage. This January's site traffic was no higher than January of 2010. So much for my dreams that the site would someday support me....

So, please enlighten me. How does "like" work? Do other people know whenever a friend of theirs "likes" something? Do they care?

I'm not going to be issuing free offers and come-ons though Facebook. Coupons, contests, and quizzes don't fit. (Previously.) All I have is free information; income comes through non-annoying ads and relevant affiliate links, plus the occasional very kind donation. Business-type promotion doesn't make sense for me. I just want to be able to reach everyone who is interested in reading my site.

Are "share this" widgets the best way to go? (Previously.) Is it better to use "Like this" or "Share this" or "Recommend this"? The widgets don't work in my blog software or my drupal forum, so I got Facebook to generate one for each of those two, but it's just one in the margin. Do I need to generate a new one that is specific for every entry in the blog or forum?

I made a business-type page in Facebook that correponds to the website. That's what the blog and forum "like" buttons currently lead to. My posts on its wall mention and link to new blog entries or interesting discussions going on in the forum. People "following" the business-type Facebook page or Twitter feed get updates that way. I guess it helps to make up for the fact that I've never succeeeded in getting the forum to mail out notices whenever someone's comment gets a follow-up. Only about 30 followers so far, one way or another, but it's only been a couple of weeks. New twitter followers appear each day from among my regular readers.

I think I understand Facebook a little, but I totally don't get Twitter. That's where I really need help. What are those hash-mark tags people put on their twitter posts? Do I need to use those so more people who are interested in the subject of the tweets will see them? How does this work? Is it a mistake to make Twitter posts only by having the Facebook page wall updates generate them automatically? That's all I'm doing now. I don't understand the point of Twitter at all. I don't get what the point is or why people would want to be interrupted by tweets to their cell phones. I don't know how people use Twitter. I must be getting old.

There are thousands of static pages on my site. I like that better than having everything generated by a database on the fly, because it doesn't ever break (I hate those mornings when nothing on the forum is accessible to anyone until I tweak some database table in some mysterious way), but that implies a lot of hand-pasting. I guess each page could use a minor update anyway. Should I put the "like" widget into every one? Each use of the widget requires something added into the header as well as in the body of the text, unlike the single-page Facebook-generated like buttons, so I can't just add it to a server-side include in the body of the text.

It might help if I made use of Facebook in my own life. I don't even like Facebook, and I'm baffled by the popularity of Twitter. I constantly see advertisements in which the company exhorts listeners to follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Why would anyone want to? Don't we all get bombarded by too many ads every day as it is? Related question, is it a mistake to "share" everything interesting that happens on my Facebook business page to my Facebook home page? Is that annoying? I don't post about my personal life or political views, only a brief note about what I've been writing about. What more should I be doing?

Please tell me what I need to do to take advantage of Facebook and Twitter, or anything else along those lines that I don't know about yet, so that my website doesn't slide into obscurity. The website's done well from the start because I knew how to make it work for Google users (the odometer says seven million visits so far). That's no longer good enough. What do I need to do now?
posted by Ery to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Please see my profile for links to my twitter feed, facebook business page, and web page.)
posted by Ery at 5:53 AM on February 15, 2011

It might help if I made use of Facebook in my own life.

Yes. Yes, it would.

There are a lot of resources on Google for social media marketing.
posted by Miko at 5:56 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Having now looked at your FB page, I think it might help if you post more interesting tidbits beyond "new blog entry on...." Just bits of trivia, links to related organizations or related news, etc. FB is a news stream of its own, and as a portal to a site/blog it can be helpful, but keep in mind that you'll always have more people and more interaction on your FB than you'll likely have being active on your blog. Going on Facebook is taking it to the streets, going where the people are. Make sure you have comments enabled. Also, there's a new feature where you comment on other pages as your page. That will put the fact that you exist on the radar of a lot more people. You can search FB for related sites or people and comment on dye topics, which will alert folks to your own "like" page.

Twitter is actually a great thing for you to be using, I think. You should probably start looking for people in the crafting/textile community and follow them, and post similar 'interesting tidbit of news' updates in your feed. Here's a writeup on The Twitter Hashtag: What is it and how do you use it?
posted by Miko at 6:02 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the key to Facebook and Twitter isn't bombarding your readers with pitches. It's about building relationships with them. Follow your readers on Twitter and Facebook, comment on what they're talking about, and just get involved in a non-obnoxious way. You don't have to post everything you eat or drink, just anything interesting you want to share.

The companies who do Twitter well have real humans tweeting for them, so when you follow them you shouldn't see a stream of 140 character ads.

Use Twitter and FB to promote other people in your niche area. If you see something great that someone else is doing, share it. The more you build relationships chatting/commenting with people, the more you will raise your profile and reputation as a knowledgable person in your field, which is good for you, but you will also learn a lot and meet great people both online and real life.
posted by shopefowler at 6:20 AM on February 15, 2011

I constantly see advertisements in which the company exhorts listeners to follow them on Facebook or Twitter. Why would anyone want to?

There are two things here:

1) You need to put a link to your Facebook on your web page, so that people can follow you without having to search on Facebook. People who Like you will see all your posts on your wall, so it's like following an RSS feed. Having every blog entry is good, but you may also want to throw in some random links to other old content. "It's new to them."

2) You want to get people to repost your articles on their wall. This is what the Like/Share buttons are for on your page. This way they are shown to all that person's friends, which exposes your site to new people. Then if those new people like it, they will "Like" your page.

Don't we all get bombarded by too many ads every day as it is?

It seems like you are going to have a hard time reconciling this view with the desire to advertise to people.
posted by smackfu at 6:25 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: I don't have much advice for you in regards to Facebook, because my loathing for it is steadily growing and directly connected to the increasing presence of businesses there. But, as a Twitter skeptic-turned-convert, I think can make some suggestions about Twitter.

I've only seen two legitimate uses of Twitter by sites/businesses/non-human entities. One is to share coupons/deals/etc. with your followers; that's out for you.

The other is to simply interact with other people on Twitter like a sincere human being. Search around for people who are doing hand-dyeing. Search for people who are asking questions about it, and answer their questions. It's definitely appropriate to tweet about interesting discussions going on in your forums. You could also tweet about any good deals you find on materials, courses, etc. If somebody else has an interesting or funny tweet about hand-dyeing, retweet it. Don't worry about hashtags.

The only valid use of Twitter, in my mind, is as a giant information-filtering network. Your job on Twitter is to help people find cool and useful info about hand-dyeing, whether or not it's on your site. You also need to find somebody that you think is worth following, too, otherwise you're unlikely to get to the point where you naturally grasp what's going on.
posted by McBearclaw at 6:26 AM on February 15, 2011

Twitter is a conversation. It's a great tool to engage (and build) a community. You need to follow people in your community (hand-dying), and discuss and promote what they are doing. 90% of your Tweets should be either Retweets of what someone else has posted (but it has to be focused to your core business), or should be discussion with other people.

Facebook pages work really really well for small businesses like yours, but with an actual product. Passive revenue from Google ads is not going to cut it for income - those days are over. You may want to actually start selling stuff.

Your website, though, needs some SEO love.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:54 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with all the great answers so far. There is tons of information out there about using social media for marketing small businesses.

If I may throw another idea out there - you seem like the perfect candidate to have a blog. Blogs don't have to be updated daily, but weekly or bi-weekly is probably best. Every week write an article about an aspect of hand-dyeing - maybe take one of those FAQs or a forum question and expand on an answer, or review a new dye or technique. Interview well known people in the field. Ask your more prolific/knowledgeable forum members to write a guest post. Then you can post links to the new blog posts on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to the other things people are talking about above.

Right now you have a passive resource, which is only found when people are thinking about and searching for the topic. Where Facebook and Twitter come into play is the possibility of getting the attention of people that are either interested in hand-dyeing but not currently thinking about it, or even people that weren't previously interested in hand-dyeing but could be. That's where your growth is going to be!
posted by misskaz at 7:50 AM on February 15, 2011

Please ignore the people who say that "Google is passe." Technology has a hype cycle to it. I have watched people constantly scramble after the hot latest technologies as the damned might chase pennants in Limbo. The people telling you that Google is passe were, five years ago, probably advising everyone to build virtual storefronts in Second Life and recommending that everything go over RSS feeds. They were happy to build you that virtual storefront in Second Life and invoice you for it. "Oh my Heavens, I must have a blog!" Then I look a few years later and the people who were screaming for the dire necessities of a blog haven't updated it in six months.

People find you through search. Continue that. Supplement with other things, if you like, but invest serious time and energy at the point in the hype cycle somewhere in the Slope of Enlightenment, which happens after the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Think of all of these things as a funnel first, scooping up potential customers and dumping them at your storefront. The real relationship with your customers comes from excellent products and solid customer service, not a Like button.
posted by adipocere at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Facebook pages work really really well for small businesses like yours, but with an actual product. Passive revenue from Google ads is not going to cut it for income - those days are over. You may want to actually start selling stuff.

I'll echo that, and also say that when I land on a page with a sidebar full of Google ads,I generally move on. It seems like it's become a harbinger of cheeseball sites with lame content which just uses its keywords to attract my eyeballs and create a paycheck for the site owner. My expectations for the content of such sites has become so low that I usually just don't read them any more - so one like yours, which does have good content, is probably being passed over by others too, because of the appearance of the ads.

If you don't have a product, one thing you could do is package some of your hard-amassed how-tos and information and sell nicely designed PDFs or booklets,or even webinars.
posted by Miko at 8:25 AM on February 15, 2011

You may just be reaching the maturity stage of your site. There aren't always going to be more and more people interested in dyeing; there is a limited audience for specialty topics like this.

I am a social media skeptic. I use it, but i have never found a product I wanted via Facebook or Twitter that I would not have found otherwise. I don't think your niche is going to make FB/Twitter a great ROI bet unless it comes in the flow of your normal work. (Post to Twitter because you like to post to Twitter, not to increase traffic to your site.)

You need to sell a product. Ad revenue is unsustainable.

Also, you have a few obvious and easy-to-fix web design issues that probably don't help your bounce rate. First is the placement and prominence of your ads; most people these days hit that with their eyeballs and immediately bounce. (I do.) Second, your images are all poorly compressed JPEGs. This is especially notable where you're using images for navigation. You haven't set the ALT properties, either, which is a good opportunity to enhance your Google rank and simultaneously improve your site's usability. Just make your image header's tag say alt="Return to XXXXXX XXXXX's All About Hand Dyeing". No problem, an easy couple of points and improved accessibility.

You can use GIMP to replace your JPEGs with PNGs.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2011

Google is NOT passé, and rank still counts. My local community college offers short classes on social media. Maybe a school near you does too.
posted by saragoodman3 at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2011

Mod note: made a small comment edit, please do not bring to OPs name over to the green if it's not already here, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 AM on February 15, 2011

There's a lot to chew over in your questions above! I work as a strategist, advising businesses on public relations, marketing and social media. The first thing to remember is Google is still well worth your time. If someone is telling you it isn't they are giving you poor advice. It's true that Facebook and Twitter can be fantastic web marketing tools, but they aren't necessarily "right" for every business. In some cases the business just isn't a good for these channels, and in other cases the effort required may outweigh the positive results, so you will never see any ROI.

Just throwing your business into the social media "ring" so to speak, without some serious thought and planning isn't really a good idea. Because of the nature of social media (how public and connected it is, the fast speed at which it moves, the unspoken etiquette rules) it is all too simple to make a mistake and ruin the reputation of your business in an instant. A quick search will show how many companies this happened too.

There is more advice on using social media for businesses than anyone could possibly ever read. Again however, be wary. The bad advice outnumbers the good by a huge margin.

Your best bet is to hire a consultant for a few hours. They can come in, examine your current web presence and determine which, if any, social media channels will be worthwhile for your business to engage on. If it seems like a good fit they can set you up with your accounts the right way, help you develop an editorial strategy and show you the ropes.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all. These are all extremely helpful. There's plenty about this topic on the web, but I found I wasn't getting anywhere without guidance to help make sense of it. It's going to take me a while to work through your suggestions.

I do have a blog already, and I can't afford to hire a consultant, but thanks for those suggestions, too. They may be helpful to others.
posted by Ery at 7:44 PM on February 15, 2011

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