Social Media PuzzleSocial media got you baffled? Feel like you’re missing a piece of the puzzle? I used to get mad at how much my site sucked at getting social media. Interestingly, it didn’t take that much change to be able to increase my results exponentially. In the last few months, I’ve gone from getting almost no social traffic to regularly having 3,000+ visitor spikes. Here’s what I was screwing up before my breakthroughs:

1. I didn’t write about other people. One of my biggest breakthroughs was when I wrote “Top 7 Internet Marketing Mentors You Can Trust” which was an article that revealed seven outstanding internet marketing minds that were also trustworthy. I did this primarily because I wanted to let them know that I respected them – Darren, Maki, Andy, Bryan, Yaro, Wendy, and Daniel are good people and do a lot for the internet marketing community. I also knew that goodwill goes a long way toward building a mutually beneficial relationship.

A result that I did not anticipate was that it was my most successful traffic generating post I’ve ever written. I didn’t have this in mind when I wrote it, but Stumblers went crazy over it. I would imagine that the group I talked about Stumbled it and it spread like wildfire.

Muhammad Saleem, who is a top 5 Digger and killer Stumbler has talked about the importance of linking out – here’s a quote from a post he wrote on this issue:

i’ve realized certain benefits of linking out (beyond linking in or out just based on search engine algorithms and for seo purposes). by linking to other sources you can either use them to back up your own argument or provide your readers with another viewpoint to consider and come to their own conclusions. this helps your reputation as an author and makes you a more complete information source

2. I only used one social network. I thought that Digg was the way to go, so I tried everything in my power to hit the Digg front page. Ironically, it’s quite difficult to hit the Digg front page if you run an internet marketing site so that was mostly a waste of time. I then migrated to StumbleUpon and thought that I was an instant Stumble superstar, until my votes stopped being as effective – I bet that’s happened to you!

All the sudden I realized that other people use more than one social network, and that getting exposure in one will get you exposure in another. One very interesting side effect of using Blogging Zoom (explanation of Blogging Zoom here) is that the people getting to the front page are doing very well with StumbleUpon. There are some very active Stumblers on BZ. I would recommend picking two good social networks (most of you are going to want to forget about Digg) and pounding it out.

3. I ran too many ads. As most of you know, I ran Kontera for a while and used to run Adsense within my posts, in fact you can find Adsense in most of my old posts. I can tell you right now that this crippled my social traffic tremendously. If you’re going to try to hit the Digg front page running Kontera in a post – you can forget about it. If you want to hit the front page with Adsense inside the post, it’s going to be a lot more difficult. This doesn’t mean you can’t run those ad-types, but it does mean that you can’t run them on posts you want to do well socially.

4. I only promoted my own content. With StumbleUpon, this worked great the first three or four times and then guess what? The well ran dry. StumbleUpon is smart enough to know when you’re doing this and the effectiveness of your self-voting goes down quickly. What did I have to do? I attracted Stumblers to my site by Stumbling their content.

I’m not a selfish person, but in retrospect I can see that I was acting very selfishly. I’m becoming a lot more active Stumbler now and what do you know… my site kills it on Stumble. As many of you know, we created Blogging Zoom to allow you to promote your own content. Guess who’s getting the most traffic though? The people that are actively zooming and visiting the most sites. Call it karma – people will vote for you if you vote for them.

With almost every social voting site, your vote becomes a lot more powerful the more you use the service. If you only vote on your own stuff, your votes are going to be worthless. With Blogging Zoom, some of you are only zooming your own work – why should I zoom your work if you only zoom yourself? Some people are killing it and they are the most active and unselfish zoomers.

5. I rarely used images. Many social network users will be more motivated to vote for, zoom, digg, stumble, and sphinn your work if it contains good illustrations and/or images. Once I took Adsense out of my posts and started adding relevant images, my social traffic started really blowing up. I think I first realized this ‘reason for sucking’ when I ran “Top 7 Internet Marketing Mentors You Can Trust“. I decided to leave the post without ads as a gesture of good will, so I came up with an image instead. Without question the image helped the post to do well.

Implement Change

Making a few small changes in the way you approach social media can make traffic fall from the heavens. On the other hand, if you use the same ol’ methods, you’ll get the same results.