When I first started Techwag in 2005, the reliance on Google as a primary source of traffic was the most important design consideration. While I use WordPress, and people have a lot of opinions about the suitability of WordPress, it is a blog first and foremost. Techwag is a blog, it has been a blog for the last seven years, and in those confines Google worked wonderfully. Only thing is that it took almost three years for the blog to hit above 1000 daily readers, and that was quite the job trying to get it to happen. It took a lot of work, but the work was one of love and some amazing friends helping along the way.
The interesting part is my new project, Comics Forge, which was meant to be a social hub for independent comic books, any comic book publisher with less than 5% market share. This project started January 2011, and already we are well above the limits set by Techwag in its early day. The importance of systems like Twitter, Facebook, Stumbled Upon and the slowly growing Google Plus account for a good 1/3rd of the traffic we see on my new project.
If you look at how important these sites are, they compare to what is being sent by Google as a search engine alone. Direct traffic, those that have bookmarked the site, or typed into the browser bar. 9 months into the project, the role of social media in growing an audience is meaningful.
This was a conscious plan, meaning that companies that are looking at social media need to work out the channels they want to participate in, and how they want to participate in them. When we were still in stealth mode in December of 2010, the plan looked at Facebook as a page and who else was using Facebook as a way to generate attention for their sites. We noticed that some comic book groups had Facebook pages, but they were irregularly updated. We knew that any system we participate in has to be updated frequently, so we had to commit resources to that end goal.
Twitter is more automated, but someone still has to click a twitter button somewhere on the page to get attention on that system.
We also decided to turn this into a multi-voice system, not just one author, but emulating some of the bigger comic book sites, we decided to hire bloggers for ten dollars an article, and free comic books to review. This is a process that allows us to use multi-voice across the social systems so that readers can also follow their favorite bloggers on the site. This has proven to be highly successful as we have some very popular bloggers that draw a lot of readers to the site.
Being as early as possible with Google Plus, while the lack of pages for Google Plus is a downside, the quality of the audience is the upside. Google Plus is going to end up being as important as Facebook over time for people who want to discover non-conformist and independent comic books.
Without all these systems, traffic would be down 2/3rds waiting to see what was coming in from Google alone. While the search engines are important, they are not as important as friends sharing our content and sending people our way.
You should go into your web site understanding your audience already, what they will be looking for, and seeing if you are sharing your pages in the places your audience already is. That is the other key part of this; you are not going to bring your audience to you if you are not where your audience is already. Our audience is already on twitter and Facebook, and they are slowly showing up on Google Plus. It is a good business plan to be on Google Plus as your audience starts using the service, they can find an old friend there already waiting for them.
It is always a good idea to plan out your social media service, and mine is just one of many examples of social media gone very right, being entertaining, and informing people about some of the more awesome independent comic books out there.
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- New Media, Web 2.0, Social Media: A Look Back in Pictures Over 5 Years of the Web [2007-2011] (newcommbiz.com)