Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Thinking Inside The Box: Thoughts on Twitter Usage, Social Networking and Offline Promotion

Added on by Tom Webster.

Chris Brogan posted on Twitter a while back that he had written a post on blog promotion but couldn't come up with a 10th way to promote a blog post. Chris is being modest, I am sure, since his "failing" merely resulted in a great list of nine potential avenues for blog promotion. In one sense, I doubt I could add to his list, since he has done a pretty good job detailing the most effective online strategies to alert potential audience to your content. On the other hand, why confine yourself to online strategies? Sometimes when you start to think about all of the potential, "out-of-the-box" things you could do online to build your brand, it is easy to lose site of the "box" you are getting out of. In other words, if your blog post is about a subject that has offline relevance, don't forget about offline promotion--even if the content you are trying to promote or disseminate is online content.

I'm a data guy, so let's start with a few numbers. Last year at the New Media Expo I was fortunate enough to be able to share some exciting numbers about the growth in audience numbers for audio and video podcasts, and some very encouraging statistics about spending habits, income and receptivity that I hope producers of downloadable media will find very useful. Here is one example, taken from The Podcast Consumer Revealed, which I authored last year:

social networking numbers.020.pngTwo things about this data--first of all, podcast consumers are markedly more likely to have profiles on these popular social networking sites than are non-consumers of podcasts. This makes sense. Secondly, however, I am compelled to point out that none of these bars are 100%, or even 50%. While it may seem that "everyone" has a profile on Facebook, even amongst podcast listeners and viewers this is demonstrably far from the case. 

I also presented some data on the familiarity and usage of Twitter, which at the moment are still quite low. Now, my intent is not to denigrate Twitter here--far from it, as I use the service every day.  But I also recognize that in the part of my work that does not intersect with social media and new media content, I meet very few people who as of yet have even heard of Twitter. Does that mean you shouldn't use Twitter for promotion? Of course not--as Gary Vaynerchuk so passionately stated during his keynote speech at the New Media Expo--why wouldn't you want any fan (no matter how few) that a given service or site can connect you with? But Twitter is effective only as far as your intended audience are using the service--so if your blog post is on microsharing or social media, Twitter will be fertile ground. If it is on candymaking, however, maybe not so much.

All of this is a longwinded way of saying that if your topic is potentially relevant to an audience that is online but not active social networkers, Stumblers, Diggers or, uh, Delicious-ers, then don't forget to think inside the box and brainstorm some traditional, offline ways to promote your content. An example I am fond of using is my own father, who restores antique automobiles as a hobby, and is very active on Craigslist, eBay and email to source parts--but will never be on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. If you have a blog or podcast about classic cars, you can Tweet till your lips turn blue, and my Dad will never know. But show up at Carlisle, PA, during one of America's largest classic auto shows and leave a flyer on his windshield with your post or a business card with your URL and you might find a brand new fan. Letters to the Editor of a relevant newspaper or periodical might be appropriate, or even sheets stapled to the bulletin board of your local Starbucks.If your content is about gardening or home improvement, call in to one of the many local and nationally syndicated radio shows on those topics and drop a mention of your blog in the context of asking a question or being helpful in some way. And you never know when someone who discovers you serendipitously offline might turn out to be a very "connected" social media user that simply missed you the first time around. 

There are offline applications to drive traffic to just about any kind of online media--if your business revolves around increasing audience to your content, don't forget to think offline, and "inside the box" for some old-school supplements to your social media strategy. You might discover that, depending on your topic, these low-tech solutions are just as effective (though not as efficient) as using online sites and services.

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