I recently wrote a social media and blog network outline for a real estate client who wanted to know what he needed to do to start growing his company’s presence on the Internet. He didn’t have the budget to hire someone to both setup and manage his online network, so we decided to start with creating a new website, with an embedded blog. In addition, we were going to optimize and connect his social media sites to his blog, and train him to start publishing to his online network.
He was concerned about having the time to manage it all, in addition to operating his business, but I told him that scheduling just an hour or two a week to manage his online network, and writing a blog post once a month, was a good start. With time, he will get better at it, and be able to write and post more. And if his efforts pay off and he gets more business, he can always hire an individual or agency to manage his network for him.
The outline I came up with can be used as a quick-start guide for any business in setting up a lead-generating online network.
Before setting up your network, research should be done on your business’ target market, and on SEO (search engine optimization), including keyword and key phrase discovery. The following articles help with those steps:
- Take Action: How to Define Your Social Media Target Market, Part I
- Take Action: How to Define Your Social Media Target Market, Part II
- 5 Ways to Find Where Your Target Audience Socializes
- Easy SEO Steps
- What You Need to Know About SEO Audits
After doing your target market and keyword research, and finding out where your target audience socializes, you will be ready to set up your online network.
1. Optimize Your Social Media Pages
The following should be completed in setting up your social media business pages:
- Use keywords in your URL addresses for all social sites, including your LinkedIn personal profile. For example: facebook.com/realestatetarzana, twitter.com/homesintarzana, pinterest.com/homesforsale. You might have to juggle words around, as many of the top keywords for your industry are probably already taken.
- All profiles and descriptions should be SEO optimized with keywords and key phrases. But make it natural — avoid spammy profiles. Make sure to include location, contact information, Web and blog site links and other pertinent business information
- Your social media cover photos should reflect your area of business, and can also have your contact information, or at least your Website address. All photos and images should be of high quality, but not so large they take a long time to load. Make sure the ALT tags — invisible text descriptions contained within the image — include your most important keywords. This will help with SEO.
- Read this article by Penn State University for a more in-depth description of ALT tags.
- Canva is a great free tool to create all sorts of cover photos, and other types of images.
- Special apps can be used on Facebook to include property search tabs for Realtors, e-mail subscription sign ups, video and image integration.
Now that you have your social sites setup and optimized, start growing your network by inviting current friends and colleagues, as well as new people to like, follow, or add you to their connection lists.
Ways to do this:
- Upload e-mail lists
- Invite through social platforms
- Hand out business cards/flyers with your social addresses
- Include social links in your e-mail signature
- Add links to your website and/ or blog
3. Optimize Your Blog
In this post, Best Blogging Sites, I cover what I consider to be the best blogging platforms, the top two being WordPress and Blogger. Once you create a blog site, do the following:
- Link your blog to your social media sites. This can be done with simple social icon links, or you can also embed fancier social plugins such as a Facebook Like box, Twitter feed with a follow me button, and a Pinterest plugin that showcases your pins.
- Install social sharing links to make it easy for readers to share your content on their networks.
- WordPress has many plugins that will do the job, including Jetpack, which comes already installed on WordPress and offers an array of social sharing and blog optimization tools.
- Install a blog subscription form.
- Install an RSS feed subscription button.
- Put “ask me a question” or “message me” forms in your blog’s sidebars, or menus.
- Include your contact information at the top of your blog.
- Create a Feedburner RSS feed for your blog to maximize organic reach.
Connect your company Website, blog, and social media sites with links. You can embed your blog on your business website to increase traffic to the site.
If you use WordPress to publish, you can connect several social media sites to automatically publish your new blog post, with a link and a thumbnail image, to your social media network. Blogger can auto-publish to your Google+ page.
- Use tools like IFTTT to connect more social media sites to your blog for auto-posting.
Sharing content relevant to your industry is as important as creating your own unique articles and videos. It shows that you stay on top of your industry’s news and trends, thereby increasing your authority in your field.
- Curate (find) content from other blogs, Websites and social media pages, add customized messages, and share with your fans.
- Use Feedly or reading apps such as Zite to find content to post.
- Use apps like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule posts ahead of time.
Below I make blog post suggestions based on the real estate industry, but you can get an idea of how to apply the concept of targeting articles to your market/audience for any type of business.
- Articles should be about the neighborhoods you serve, from schools and neighborhood characteristics and history, to general lifestyle stories, i.e. parks, community services, things to do in the area, home decor and maintenance stories, and the like. Also important are educational or informational real estate posts — how-to articles, buyers and sellers checklists, real estate news that affects the consumer, including on the economy, mortgage rates and so on.
- You can also have a featured property page and post your listings on your blog with more in-depth content than regular property listings. For another type of business, product or service-related posts would work.
Other content that can be published:
- How-to articles, eBooks, slideshows
- Slideshare is a free, easy way to upload and share slides across the Web. It’s owned by LinkedIn, and you can publish your slideshows directly to your profile.
- Downloadable home buying/selling checklists.
- Lead-generating campaigns, such as sweepstakes, contests, and surveys to capture emails, or drive traffic to your site.
- Company news/updates.
In addition, send out an email newsletter every week with your blog updates and industry news, as well as new property listings.
It is recommended you publish to your social network at least three times a week, one to three times a day, preferably seven days a week, three times or more a day, depending on the network. Publish blog posts at least once to twice per month — ideally once per week. All content published should be search engine optimized with keywords and hashtags (the latter for social posts only).
- Share links/excerpts/photos from your blog posts across your social media network when the blog is first published, and then reshare it at different times and days in the following weeks/months.
- Use high quality, large images when posting real estate listings, and for that matter, for any type of posts.
Use your social tools like Hootsuite or SproutSocial to monitor incoming messages, follows, retweets and sharing of your content. A couple of important practices to follow:
- Respond promptly to all messages.
- Handle complaints and critical messages with care: ask how you can help solve a problem — don’t attack the messenger.
- Follow up on promising leads by sending a thank you for connecting message, as well as adding a personal note, such as complimenting them on their Website, or noting similarities in your connections or industries.
8. Engage and Respond
- Follow, like, and interact with people/fans on your social media network.
- Reply to comments and questions, ask questions, make comments on other posts.
- Ask your followers on one network to follow you on your other networks.
- Send connections links to valuable posts or other information.
- Ask your followers and fans to subscribe to your blog posts.
9. Analyze and Fine-tune
- Use social media analytics from platforms like Buffer or Hootsuite to see what posts generate the most engagement, and repeat the more successful ones.
- Use Google analytics or WordPress stats to see what blog posts drive the most traffic to your blog or company site. Again, create similar posts to keep engagement and traffic up.
There’s a great deal more information that is important to know when creating, publishing to and monitoring your online network, but this guide is a good start.
The most important thing to keep in mind — have fun. Being social means entertaining, conversing, making friends. Even if in the end you’re looking for customers, you’re also looking for longtime partnerships, ones that could grow into true friendships.