To be honest, I am disillusioned.
Social media offered a promise that was so compelling I was hooked. The potential and the promise became apparent. You could create, publish and get worldwide attention for free. And 10 years later, over 2 billion people are now obsessed.
The social networks and new media channels allowed the freedom and power to get your content and message out without paying for it. The promise: free attention and content distribution.
Viral traffic was attracted by YouTube. Blowing things up, blending strange objects and cat videos went off. We were mesmerized.
But things aren’t the same anymore. The landscape is changing fast. The new gatekeepers are Facebook and Google. They have the data about your customers and to reach those prospects you now need to pay them. They are the new media moguls. The social network gatekeepers. And they are slowly closing the gate.
The open web is closing
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all want to keep you within their eco-systems. Much of the viewing of videos and even articles are now happening within the platforms.
Ev Williams (Twitter’s founder) is concerned. In a recent interview in the Atlantic, Ev Williams said, “Primarily what we’ve seen is that the social networks have gotten really, really big, and they drive more and more of our attention.” They are threatening the open web. “That could be bad."
The reality is that Facebook and other social networks are becoming the default portals. Even Google is now serving up the answers on its results page and you don’t need to click through to the website or blog to get the result.
This stat also makes you sit up and notice. “85 cents of every new dollar in online advertising went to Google or Facebook in early 2016,“ according to a Morgan Stanley analyst in The New York Times. So both the free attention and the paid traffic are being dominated by what is emerging as almost a duopoly.
So what do you do?
You have to get creative. It’s what great marketers have always done. The term has been coined: Growth hacking
Growth hacking is the art and science of growing a business and startup without spending big bucks on paid digital or traditional media advertising. It’s all about efficient marketing tactics that deliver growth without advertising.
What startup or small business has access to a huge marketing budget? Almost no one!
Big brands, banks, and the big end of town can pay for brand awareness. But the small guys need to get leads. That’s your email list.
But before we go there we need to explore the new traffic paradigms.
The new traffic paradigm
Websites, bloggers, and start-ups had three main ways to get traffic to their digital platforms before the social web.
- Rank on Google with what was often “Black hat” SEO tactics. Google’s got that covered now.
- Build an email list. That is still vital despite the predictions of the death of email.
- Pay Google for advertising. They used be a lot cheaper and effective a decade ago.
So, things have evolved.
Pay for traffic
We now can pay Google and Facebook. They are the big paid channels.
We now can earn attention on social (getting harder) or build authority on Google (takes time).
Collaborate with influencers, bloggers, and websites that already have traffic. But you need to have something of value to exchange.
Own the resulting attention
This is done by building an email list when they show up after you have been working on 1-3. These are your leads.
So, how do keep getting attention without paying for it despite the big networks wanting to own it all? How do get traffic that is sticky?
As the fight for attention online becomes tougher you will need to look at creating sticky content and traffic.
Grow traffic that sticks
There are some core strategies that you need to consider to be effective on a web that screams louder every day. But it doesn’t mean you have to yell as well. It’s about working smarter and evolving.
Let’s take a closer look.
In a world where mass media is impersonal and the web is virtual the challenge is making your engagement authentic and sticky. This is becoming key to standing out from the crowd in a see of blandness.
Making it personal is what engagement is all about. This could include behind the scenes insights on Snapchat that can turn visitors into raving and engaged fans.
But the challenge is doing engagement at scale.
A face-to-face meeting is the best level of engagement. But it doesn’t scale well. The social web provides the technology and networks to have highly engaging conversations with no limits and provides a big lever.
Here are some engagement tactics are not something that scales traffic fast but it is where the traffic is stickiest. It builds that credibility and trust like no other traffic source.
Start a podcast
Podcasts reveal the voice and personality of bloggers and brands. Podcast popularity is rising with 57 million Americans now listening to them on a regular basis according to Forbes.
The game here is changing fast with Apple iTunes virtual monopoly and market share being challenged by Android's Play. Pandora is getting into the game with “Serial” as well as Spotify throwing its hat into the podcast ring.
This will be good for everyone.
But podcasting isn’t without its challenges and will need to evolve to achieve greater penetration
They can be hard to discover on iTunes. Also, they don’t surface and are listened to easily via Google search. I agree with Jay Baer comments that it has to evolve to being an “on-demand radio.“
Once the standards and platforms evolve to being more open, searchable and easy to use we will see the real explosion of podcasts.
But despite that it’s a highly engaging and personable way to communicate and build that all important attention.
Get on Snapchat
Not much polishing is done here. Snapchat is raw and real. And the law of scarcity can be used to drive traffic to your blog, landing pages, and online portals. A 10-second video and a 24-hour story are driving engagement on Snapchat through the roof.
Who is doing this well?
- Gary Vaynerchuk is a big evangelist and is getting huge engagement with his SnapChat tactics. His handle is garyvee.
- Kaelin Tuell is a fitness fanatic who is also smashing it on Snapchat. Russell Brunson did a video interview where she revealed her secret sauce for growing a Snapchat audience. Her handle is tuell_time.
I will be using Snapchat more over the next few weeks as we trial the engagement and tactics, so watch out for this Snapchat face.
By the way, if you are on Snapchat just take a photo with your smartphone of the image below, and we will connect on Snapchat.
Use video sales letters
Online video is a personal and visual conversation that can be one too many. It scales well.
This type of tactic can convert attention that educates into traffic that converts. Learn the art and science of creating videos that educate first and sell second.
Webinars is personal training that can be watched by thousands at a time.
Education is the focus and collaborating with other bloggers and influencers can explode both your email list and your traffic.
Livestreaming has come into its own as the technologies have matured. The parallel development of several technologies such as smartphones, video streaming tech, and also faster mobile networks has made this possible.
Periscope and Meerkat are two emerging livestreaming platforms. They are personal and very engaging.
Now, just because I listed five types of mediums to drive engagement and then traffic doesn’t mean that you do all five. Start with one like a regular webinar or maybe a podcast.
Content needs these to elements to really move across the web.
Steve Rayson and the team at BuzzSumo have done some research and have revealed the five key elements for writing a viral headline. It is based upon research done with millions of headlines.
Here is an example of a headline using this formula:
Stock images are almost past their use by date on social. The rise and use of “real” images is something that Facebook is encouraging for marketers to include in their social advertising strategy.
This is one of the reasons they chose Shuttlerock for an innovation award for creating authentic visual content that will scale and can be uploaded to be used in Facebook ads.
Authenticity and relevance are key if you are posting visual ads into a Facebook timeline.
Marketing now needs tech tools. Love it or hate it the reality is that technology is now a key component of marketing. These are two tools that I use to convert traffic that sticks.
Pop-ups are avoided by many because they see them as annoying. Television ads are sort of the mass media version of a pop-up. But 50 years later we are still watching television with ads that sometimes seem to run forever.
A pop-up done well is a bit sticky and also adds value in exchange for an email address. I have been using SumoMe’s “Welcome mat” for the last few months and the results have been astounding.
We have grown our email list by nearly 30,000 just with the Welcome mat.
Traffic is good but converting into leads and then sales needs great landing pages.
We have been using Leadpages for well over a year now and it is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to build landing pages for webinars, sales funnels, and for selling products.
It has transformed our business.
This is the Leadpages landing page we created and where we send visitors from Twitter. These are sent every four to five hours into the Twitter stream.
This is how the visual tweet looks.
This tactic and the landing page is alone adding 400-plus new subscribers a month.
Below is the landing page:
Trying to find the right partners to collaborate with is becoming a big part of a digital marketer’s tool kit.
You can find them the hard way, or you can be smart and use some cool tools to identify influencers and bloggers. These are also great for finding content that is trending or viral.
These tactics are now a key part of hijacking engaged traffic.
Want to see what top stories are trending and which influencers and writers are the sources of that? Then Spike NewsWhip is essential for any PR professional, journalist, and content creator.
Want to know what content and who the top influencers are in your industry or niche? Then BuzzSumo is a great tool for identifying bloggers, influencers, companies, and journalists that are creating content that is resonating around the web.
It also helps you find the top performing content with its content research feature. You can then use this to use as inspiration for creating content that maybe can go viral.
This article was written by Jeff Bullas from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.