As link building evolves, it seems like it’s more and more about relationships.
Getting access to a new audience is just as important as links and rankings, and relationships are what open the door for you to meet that potential new and qualified fan base.
Those who have taken the time and energy to build up an audience are not likely to be very open to a “cold call” out of the blue. If you’ve got a qualified target, the best way to open up those outreach opportunities is by building real relationships through social media.
This isn’t just about finding your prospect site’s Twitter account and sending a direct message. It’s about connecting with the faces and minds behind the brand. Interacting with those who generate great content makes you a resource and a valuable asset who can contribute to their work.
A relationship-building approach that has worked for me in the past is one that I call OPEN. Here are the four steps to the approach on any social network:
- Observe how people use that social media network
- Participate in that network in a natural way
- Engage people on that network with you own unique contributions
- Network until you’ve built a list of contacts who have become so familiar with you and your strengths that it makes sense for them to include resources from you to share with their own audience.
Let’s take an in-depth at each of these outreach steps to help you get the most from your social outreach efforts.
Before all else, you have to understand what’s going on and how people that actually use that particular social media platform. Take some time to lurk and observe – don’t just jump in and try to self promote.
Look for trends and patterns. Do more people post in the evening, or maybe certain groups show up in the morning? Reddit, for example, has an ebb and flow of users from Europe, then US, then Australia at different times of the day, and each wave impacta the content that makes it to the “front page.”
Often, you can find great “etiquette guides” from the users themselves. A smart example of this is this article by Tad Chef on how to get attention on Inbound.org, a social news site designed specifically for SEO, social media and marketing articles.
Social media platforms are built to encourage interactions. Once you understand what is expected of users from upvotes to comments and shares, start participating. At first, that will probably consist of commenting on others’ content or maybe asking a few questions.
As you begin to build up interactions and experiences on the site, you’ll start to develop a reputation around there, along with your first contacts and friends.
Jump into Quora conversations that focus on your area of expertise.
You’ve learned the rules and met a few friends. You’ve observed what’s of interest and participated with others’ content.
Now it’s time to start putting your own voice and opinions out there. With the solid foundation you’ve created, you’re ready to add something of value to the community.
Don’t be a one-way marketer, though. Make sure you keep up a good ratio of outside content to your own content, and make sure it’s natural and appropriate when you do reference your own content.
It’s almost impossible to reach a large audience without others to share your message.
It’s important to know the landscape of your chosen social network. Who are the influencers? Who are the collaborators? Who are the curators?
For each of these groups, what’s the best way to get to know members? Do they have real-world interests beyond marketing that you can relate to?
Make genuine connections by interacting with their contributions when possible. It is sometimes helpful to keep notes about your interactions or use a CRM for the contacts that you make.
Once you’ve done all four steps, that’s when you know you’ve got a relationship. And once you’ve got a relationship, you can reach out to your OPEN contacts to ask for their input on a post, offer your own helpful resources or propose a collaboration.
These are the types of exchanges that will get you mentions and links – all from making smart new friends through social media.