Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Online content is a great way to call attention to your work, and an effective way to build an audience who will follow you from project to project. Whether you’re posting samples of your work, articles, reviews, blog entries or podcasts, the internet is a vast marketplace of ideas that gives the whole world access to your content. Unfortunately, the world of online content is also an incredibly competitive marketplace, and you’ll need to use every trick in the book to get your fair share of attention.
That’s why in this article I’ll be listing fifteen things you can do right after posting content to increase your traffic and find new readers. It’s the sort of thing that helps a post go viral, and that serious authors should be doing on a regular basis to turn their name into a brand.
#1 – Ask people to share
This may seem obvious, but it’s something that the majority of writers either forget to do or decide against. Just adding a short ‘If you found this interesting, please share it on ______’ can be enough to net you some vital shares.
It’s a request that completely changes the mental process of the reader. Without it, the reader has to make it through three stages before they’ll share your content. These are:
- Thinking about sharing your content.
- Considering if it benefits them to do so.
- Deciding on where to share it.
Each of these stages presents a host of things that can go wrong – it might never occur to your reader to share your article, or they might share it somewhere that doesn’t stand to grab you new readers.
Adding a short request bypasses stages 1 and 3, and everything that can go wrong within them. The only thing the reader has to decide is whether it’s worth their time to share your article. I’ll talk later about how to weight this decision in your favor, but this isn’t a problem – lots of people won’t share, but with a larger pool of potential reposts this still means far more shares than if you didn’t just ask.
You can make it easy for people by creating ready made sharing links using this tool. Here’s a link I just made for this post, click it to see what happens: Share this on Twitter. We put links like this into our emails.
Of course, asking other people to share isn’t much good if you don’t do it yourself.
#2 – Post to your social media (ALL of it)
If you want people on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc. to see your post, then the first step is showing it to them yourself. You should advertise your post as soon as it’s shared, across all the social media you can access. You might not spend much time on some of them, but it’s worth setting up an account if it means more people stand to see your post.
Remember that sharing isn’t enough – no-one automatically wants to see a post, so you’re going to have pitch it. You can use a short synopsis or an interesting quote, but you should also remember that a lot of social media depends on search terms.
These generally take the form of hashtags, and learning how to use them is crucial to successful sharing.
#3 – Utilize hashtags
Hashtags are a way to link a post to a broader category – people who don’t know about your post might still be searching for writing advice, so including the hashtag #writingadvice will help bring your work to their attention. One to three tags will help you find an audience, but the more research you do in advance the better – look for successful posts that share a theme with your own work and see which hashtags have gotten them the most attention (they’re the ones that people use when sharing).
Hashtags are great, but remember they’re a way for people to find your post. Once they do, too many hashtags can be annoying or confusing. This doesn’t pose too much of a problem, since you’ll have a chance to use quite a few before you’re done…
#4 – Schedule later shares in advance
It’s no good to share your post once and consider your work done. Movie studios don’t pay for one trailer and then move on – they plan a comprehensive series of advertisements designed to spread word of mouth. To gain a significant audience for your post, you’re going to have to do the same thing.
That doesn’t mean bombarding your followers with reminder after reminder, but being aware of how content works on social media and responding with content that matches audience behavior. The appropriate number of reminders depends on how people interact with content on social media sites – on Twitter it only takes a moment to see something, then it disappears down the newsfeed, so multiple shares won’t annoy users. On the other hand, Facebook content sticks around for a while, and sharing your post too often could clog up your followers’ newsfeeds. While there’s no absolute minimum or maximum, I suggest following this schedule:
- Twitter – Share your post on publication, and on the same days approximately two to three hours later. You should post again after a day, a week, a month and even every few months down the line. Twitter sees a lot of casual use, so you need to cater for users who might want to read your post but don’t have time now. This also means you get a few passes at different hashtags, so make the most of it by repeating those that pay off.
- Facebook – You should post to Facebook on publication. Facebook pages retain content, so users will have a while to check you out and read your post. Posting about a month later is an effective way to put your post back at the top of your page – and back into readers’ newsfeeds – but any more than that could constitute overexposure.
- Google+ – Google+ content tends to move slightly slower than Facebook’s, and visitors wait longer between their visits to the site. Posting on publication is a good idea, and it helps to share again a week afterwards, and once more a month down the line. Each of these shares is really intended as the potential first time an infrequent visitor might be looking for reading material on your topic.
- Tumblr and Pinterest – Tumblr and Pinterest have a ‘washing machine’ approach to content; it’s never really gone, and is likely to reappear sporadically for anyone who’s interested in your subject. Posting on publication is enough for these sites, but remember to tag your share with every term that interested parties might be searching for.
Each of these sites had multiple services that will allow you to set up a post in advance, guaranteeing you won’t forget and can target the times when people will be searching for content (think about the times of day when you’re most likely to do the same). We use CoSchedule to plan social media posts in advance and our very own Publishers.Social dashboard to schedule posts.
Now that your post is plastered all over social media, with more attention to come, it’s time to take a more targeted approach.
#5 – Email your reader list
An email list is an essential tool for authors (you can read more about how to build an email list here), and especially for those who want to spread the word about a new post. You should be emailing your entire list with a short, compelling invitation to share on the same day you post, or at most the day after.
Start out by telling them that you have written something new, providing a brief synopsis to get them interested. Add a short, clear request to share at the end, and make it easy to do so by letting them know where to find your own shares on social media. Remember, it takes a lot of key strokes for someone to share your work on their own, but just one click on Twitter for them to show their followers something you’ve prepared in advance (see #1 above).
It’s also vital to link to your content throughout – the reader should never have to scroll up or down to find a link. That means sharing at the beginning, at the end, and somewhere in the middle. Make it as easy as possible to move on to your post. Of course you don’t have to drop a web link every time, just hyperlink an appropriate term, like I did earlier when I mentioned our article on building your email list.
Established readers are your best bet to start a cycle of sharing, but they’re still not the outer limit of an effective sharing strategy.
#6 – Email possible sharers
Getting in contact with people you don’t know to ask for a share can seem daunting, but it’s actually incredibly easy. First you should find someone who’s shared similar content in the past. Try to appreciate that once you do so, you’re really just someone offering them more of what they like. Yes, you want them to share because it benefits you, but that doesn’t make your email junk mail.
Begin by telling them how you found them – mentioning the previous content they shared, and how interesting you found it. After this, let them know that you’ve written something in a similar area, and that you thought they might enjoy it. Finally, end with that all important request to share; ‘if so, I hope you’ll mention it on Twitter’.
Remember that you’re not trying to trick anyone; you’ve found someone who likes what you’ve written, who’s shown a propensity for sharing similar content, and who stands to gain from sharing your work (sharing quality content has its own way of building an audience). Your request should be succinct, direct and honest. Some people might not respond, or decide against sharing, but just like with the original request it’s a numbers game. There’s no downside to your request, and a potential upside of reaching a far wider audience.
Getting a genuine influencer to share your work is one of the most effective ways to attract readers, but you don’t have to stop at individuals – really smart authors make the effort to contact communities.
BuzzSumo is a great tool for finding influencers.[bctt tweet=”Getting an influencer to share your work is one of the most effective ways to attract readers.”]
#7 – Post to forums and aggregator sites
Forums are discussion sites that tend to be dedicated to niche markets. That makes them the ideal place to disseminate relevant content, since you don’t just get individual readers, but a group who are likely to discuss your work among themselves and engage fully with its content.
Like any group, forums don’t appreciate having something dumped on them from on-high. Share you work with a message sincerely expressing that you thought users might enjoy your subject matter, and asking them to share if that’s the case. If you have the time – and it’s a good investment to make sure you do – then I suggest writing a summary of your post to help get people interested. This is effective because it makes it clear that you’re not just linking to your article for easy traffic, and that you really do think it’s ideal for the forum in question. It can be especially beneficial to establish a positive reputation by joining in discussions, or weighing in on topics, a few times before introducing your post.
Similar logic applies to aggregator sites such as Reddit, Flipboard and Digg Reader. These sites are really just huge forums, and often have smaller dedicated pages or sections for specific topics. Again, these are places where people congregate for the express purpose of reading about their interests, so they’re great for finding enthusiastic readers.
Forums and aggregators are fantastic, but they also tend to be closed systems. The ideal situation is for users to share your post inside and outside their site of choice. That said, they tend to be favored by tech-savvy users – the sort of people who are likely to share frequently on multiple different platforms.
You may be tired of contacting people by now, but there’s one more group that you should reach out to if you want to see your audience grow.
#8 – Contact ‘roundup’ services
Roundup services are sites or individuals who collect and post curated lists of content. They cater to the same type of specific interests as forums, and have a dedicated reader base who are always on the lookout for quality content.
Roundups tend to release their content either weekly or monthly, which means their creators are always looking for new content to include. A quick email praising their service and outlining the subject of your post may be all it takes to get a recommendation – the next time they’re looking for sites to include, why would they start with anyone but the writer who’s already been in contact?
You can find roundup sites via Google, but remember to shop around. Most fields of interest have a range of keywords that fans use to find content, so try a few and see which lists boast the most content similar to your own post.
As an example you can look at the fantastic weekly Twitterrific Writing Links curated by the awesome Elizabeth Spann Craig. I’m going to let her know that she’s mentioned in this post and if she likes it there’s a good chance that she’ll share the post. Elizabeth, if you’re reading this, here’s the Twitter link.
At this point you’ll have done a great job contacting anyone who might drive traffic to your post. It may seem like a lot of work, but as time goes on you’ll learn that it doesn’t take much unique content to personalize a message for a particular source. Likewise, posting to forums, aggregators and roundup services will become easier as you establish a reputation for reliable content.
It’s a good job, because some of the most important work is still to do.
#9 – Answer comments
It’s vital to answer any comments left on your post, and most of them will occur within the first five hours after it goes live. Replying to comments helps turn one-time visitors into permanent fans, but it can also attract new readers. It’s a central truth of advertising that nothing sells a product like people already using it, and this logic holds true to your comments. Readers who see a high number of comments will trust that your post is worth reading. Not only that, but by replying to comments you’ll double their number – one comment and one reply will be represented as two comments by most messaging systems.
The author Jonathan Gunson does a great job of this on his blog, responding to every single comment.[bctt tweet=”Replying to blog comments helps turn one-time visitors into permanent fans.”]
Even if these benefits didn’t exist, there’s the undeniable negative of leaving your comments unattended. An article followed by a string of unanswered comments suggests you’re not prepared to engage with your readers, and they’re likely to take a similar attitude in response. Even if readers don’t take offence, they’ll know before going in that if there’s anything they don’t understand – or want to discuss further – you’re clearly unavailable. It’ll take a lot to stop them looking elsewhere if that’s their first impression.
It’s a good idea to set some time aside to provide quick, friendly replies to comments right after you post, but readers are unpredictable and there’s likely to be some dead time in-between. Some of that time might be spent spreading the word on social media, but there’s another job that you can do in the meantime.
#10 – Adapt your post
Adapting your post for social media is a great way to make repeated sharing more palatable to your followers. Comb your article for a few different quotes, images or ideas, and convert those into share-ready bundles of content that you can use on social media in the days and weeks to come.
The more unique points, or different presentational styles, you can come up with, the more chance that someone you haven’t already attracted will give your piece a chance. In fact, if you’re really intent on snaring fresh views, then keep your eye on how your post is being received.
#11 – Monitor discussion
Getting readers to share your post is great, but your involvement shouldn’t stop there. Look at the way in which they share it – their comments, and the areas on which they choose to focus. Pay attention to effective hashtags or the responses from their followers. Sharing is an art form, and one that you’ll improve at with study. Seeing how other people share your content could turn out to be a masterclass, or at least give you some insight into what they’re looking for in your work.
Most social media sites make tracking shares easy, so be sure to take advantage. This kind of feedback will be pretty subjective – it’s down to you to draw conclusions – but for those who want to be more scientific, there’s something else you can do.
#12 – Monitor SEO assets
‘SEO’ stands for search engine optimization. It’s all about creating a post in such a way that search engines like Google and Bing prioritize it when people are searching for related topics, and relies on the savvy placement of key words and terms. If you’re not familiar with SEO then this guide from Google has a lot to offer.
If you are familiar with SEO then it’s important to treat it as an ever-evolving thing. Sites like Pro Rank Tracker and SEO Site Checkup can tell you what is and isn’t working in terms of inviting traffic, allowing you to alter your approach. Often it’s a good idea to target a less common set of keywords or terms, especially if your website isn’t yet popular enough to go toe-to-toe with more established sites that are crowding the most effective SEO terms.
This isn’t something that has to get complicated – many social media management services include SEO tracking as part of the package. It may be that, after a few days or weeks, it’ll become clear that you could swap around a few words and jump up the search results. If that’s the case, you’ll be glad you kept an eye on things.
#13 – Utilize expert sources
Using experts to gain an audience takes a bit of forward planning, but can be incredibly effective. For this to work you’ll have to contact someone before publishing your post, asking for their thoughts on the topic in question. This should be someone whose recommendation would influence a lot of people, or who has a large audience to whom they can recommend your work.
Your question doesn’t have to be in-depth – in fact it might be best to ask something that’s deliberately easy to answer. If and when you have a response, even a cursory one, you can include the expert’s words in your article and promotional materials.
This alone should draw readers, but it’s after publication that expert content really pays off. Once you’ve published, send the expert another message letting them know that you found their advice useful and included it in your article. With some individuals things might end there, but most will be happy to share you content on the basis that it contains their contribution.
It’s a win/win relationship, since they’ll be as happy to build their brand by sharing something that trumpets their expertise as you are to receive the exposure. Again, this may seem like a trick, but it’s actually just doing the legwork. Experts and influencers don’t have the time or inclination to seek out individual writers to reference them in posts, but they’re happy to benefit from being mentioned when it only takes a few clicks to pass something on.
All you have to do is be respectful of their contribution – never stretch or distort someone’s words. If you want to benefit from using expert content then the price of doing so is finding a way to use whatever you’re given in a way that benefits both its source and your work.
The above are the thirteen steps you should take to ensure that your work is seen, and shared, far and wide. They rely on you making the time and effort to network and utilize contacts, but in terms of other resources they’re absolutely free. While everything I’ve said so far is effective – especially when used in concert – there are even more options if you’re happy to spend a little money in the process.
#14 – Consider paid advertisements
Paid advertisements are available on all major social media services, and are a great way to reach readers you have no direct way of influencing through other means. Prices vary by provider and reach, but if you’re looking to get things off the ground quickly, it may be that this is the route for you.
The important thing to remember is that you’re targeting readers who might be interested in your content, but don’t already know you or your brand. For this reason it’s best to wait slightly longer to release paid adverts, releasing them one to three days after you’ve published your post. By this point there will have been time for a few comments to accrue, and some of the sharing prompted by tips 1–13 will legitimize your content if a curious reader is trying to decide whether or not to check you out.
This is the most direct way to turn money into views, but it’s not the only option.
#15 – Reward readers for sharing
I mentioned earlier that the main decision you want a reader to make in regards to your article is ‘does it benefit me to share this?’ There are a few ways to influence this decision, with most being a simple matter of quality and content. If your article raises some good points, or is uniquely informative or enjoyable in another way, then readers benefit from sharing it by being associated with quality content. Posts about specific topics also offer a way for people to celebrate their interests, or contribute to a community they enjoy.
Another way to make sharing beneficial is to tie sharing your content to literal rewards. For example, you could share your article on Facebook with the promise that you’ll choose someone out of those who share to receive a prize. The problem with this method is that it can lead people to share your content without really engaging with it. There’s also the risk that the readers you’re trying to target might assume that your post has been shared due to the reward rather than its content.
There are a variety of ways to get around these issues. You could reward insightful comments, for example, over simple shares, or include the offer of a reward for sharing inside the post rather than in its social media presentation. Of course these options ask more of the reader and so may see a smaller response, but the ideal balancing point differs from writer to writer. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you don’t have to invest a lot to see a response – early, or free, access to another work might be enough to tip a reader into sharing.
Find what’s right for you
The methods I’ve outlined above can be incredibly effective, especially when used in tandem. They’re also pretty much unending – you’ll run out of hours in the day before you run out of forums to contact, for example.
The key to using these promotional methods effectively is in creating a plan that works for you. How much time can you dedicate to contacts after you post? How able do you feel to repackage your content in multiple different ways? It pays to stretch yourself, but begin with realistic goals and expect realistic gains to follow. This may take some experimentation, but as you become more familiar with increasing shares you’ll find you can extend your reach further and further. To start with, work on making your post look interesting on social media. Check out the competition and study up on what works, what doesn’t and what you’d like to try for yourself. Like anything else, building your audience takes practice and planning, but put in the time and you’ll see real results.
For more on publicizing your work, check out Three shocking truths about finding your audience, or for a comprehensive plan try How to write a book marketing plan in 13 easy steps.
Have you found a sure fire way to draw attention to a post, or are you struggling with the methods above? Let me know in the comments, I read and respond to every one.[bctt tweet=”15 Things You Need To Do After You Publish A Post”]