How to Find Your Audience on Social Media – @bethjhayden

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aocp-pinterest-beth-haydenIf you’re looking for a way to really focus your time on the social media activity for your business, you may need to limit the number of platforms that you’re on. Using a few key tactics and strategies – such as interviews and surveys – can help you choose the best one or two platforms to concentrate on that can really help your business grow and drive more traffic back to your website.

Beth Hayden is an author and marketing expert who uses her expertise to help businesses create and implement online marketing systems that work to increase traffic and leads.

Rich: Beth Hayden is an author, speaker and content marketing expert who specializes in working with women. Her in depth book on Pinterest marketing, Pinfluence: The Complete  Guide To Marketing Your Business With Pinterest, has been featured in media outlets all over the country including Fast Company and Entrepreneur Magazines.

Beth regularly contributes to the media’s top social media blogs and is a regular writer for copyblogger.com, which is where I discovered her. She works with all kinds of businesses from large corporations to solopreneurs to help them define and implement effective content marketing strategies.

She frequently speaks about blogging, content marketing and Pinterest conferences and events all across the country. Beth, welcome to the show.

Beth: Thanks so much, I’m happy to be here.

Rich: Awesome. Now today we’re not going to be talking specifically about Pinterest, but rather about all the different social media platforms. But before we get to that, how did you get into digital marketing? 

Beth: So I started my business about 8 years ago, and I actually started out as a blogging expert. So I had a single mom blog and my friends started asking me how I was using blogs and how did I get started with that, and we have a lot of business owners here in Boulder, CO where I’m based and they wanted to know if they could use them for marketing. So I started teaching it, doing some consulting, building blogs for people, and the business has morphed quite a bit since then. I developed a specialty in Pinterest, originally due to a post that I wrote for a copy blogger in 2012, and then ended up getting offered a book deal on Pinterest Marketing and then wrote the book, Pinfluence.

Now I do a lot of online courses, I do a lot of private consulting. So I teach people everything from how to set up your blog, how to get traffic, using email marketing and then using social media to get the word out about what you do to drive traffic to your site. So, that’s sort of the short version.

Rich: Cool, so you are not a one pin woman at all.

Beth: No, not at all.

Rich: You’re a renaissance woman, for sure.

Beth: Yeah, and I don’t really like to get pigeon holed as a Pinterest expert – because that’s what the book was about – but I really like to look at the whole picture with people. So, what are you currently doing, what’s working, and what’s not, and help them really come up with a strategy that works.

Rich: Cool, alright. Well, I know – because I hear from a lot of small business owners – that social media sometimes just feels overwhelming with all the platform choices that we have and it seems that there are new ones popping up all the time. What do you suggest to people so that they can manage this experience?

Beth: Well, I think one of the key things is to make sure that you’re focusing on the social media sites where your customers are hanging out. Because I think one of the traps we get into is we feel like we have to be on all of them, because folks seem to be telling us that we need to be on all of them.  And then we end up wasting time because we’re not actually getting in front of the people that we want to get in front of because our folks might not be on Twitter or Pinterest.

So I think it’s really crucial to do your research up front and figure out where you’re going to spend your time, and pick one to two main platforms that you’re going to focus on. Now, you may have a presence on all of them, but if you spread yourself too thin, I think you’re not going to do any of them well. So I think it’s critical to find out where your folks are hanging out, and then use your time really wisely. Use scheduling tools if you need to, and try to make sure that you’re not in and out of social media all day long, because as we know it can be a huge distraction and a gigantic time suck and keep us from doing the things that we really need to do in our business.

Rich: Yeah. As you mentioned before we got on the call today, you were actually off social media all morning long, which is how you got something accomplished.

Beth: Right, exactly. I try to shut it down occasionally.

Rich: Yeah, I know the feeling. It’s almost impossible to do research on Facebook or YouTube for me because all of a sudden I’m like, “Shoot, that’s 6 hours I’ll never get back.”

Beth: Exactly.

Rich: So as we take a look, maybe we’re just getting started or we haven’t really put a big focus on social media, and we determine that now’s the time that we really have to be starting to pay attention. Walk me through what I should be doing to help me determine what platforms to target. You mentioned go where my audience is – which makes a lot of sense – but how do I know that? Like, maybe because I’m just getting started, or maybe I have customers, but since I’ve never used social media I don’t know where my customers are online.

Beth: I recommend a multi step process. That might sound a little laborious, but I want people to keep in mind that this is something you don’t have to do every week or maybe even more than once or twice a year to kind of check in about this. So it may be a lot to begin with, but it is well worth it and the time that it’s going to save you on the backend, and the amount of money that it can potentially save you, too, and how you’re spending your time and making sure you’re getting in front of the people that you really want to get in front of.

So I start out with telling people they should be conducting interviews. And I’m talking one on one phone interviews – or in person if that’s what works for you – to just talk to your ideal clients and find out what social media platforms they’re hanging out on. And that could be as simple as a 15-minute phone call to just say, “Hey, can I talk to you for a little bit, I’m doing some research for something and I want to just kind of talk to you and ask you some questions about where you’re spending time online.” I think interviews are fantastic for lots of things, it certainly doesn’t have to be the only question you ask them. But ask them, “Where do you spend your time?” and primarily if you’re looking for information about this particularly topic, “Where would you go?”

For me I’m a business to business kind of company, and I’m going to ask people, “If you’re looking for information about online marketing, where are you going to go, and also, where do you hang out socially?” A lot of my folks are on Facebook and Pinterest, I work with mostly women. So start out with conducting just some  reviews, and use that as your first step.

Rich: You used a phrase that I love and use all the time, “my ideal client” or “my ideal customer”. So should I be calling up people I’m already doing business with, or should I be calling up people who personify who I want to be doing business with, or both?

Beth: I think you could do both. If you happen to have a couple clients right off the top of your head that you know are the perfect person that you want to work with, it’s really just that type of person and then talk to them. If there are some that are sort of on your prospect list or on your email list and they’ve been following you for a while but they’re not yet customers, those could be great as well. So as long as they fit your qualification for your ideal client, then I think they’d be great to talk to.

Rich: Now I love the idea of talking to people in this interview one on one status, but at the same time it’s like somebody may say that they want to – and maybe you’ve already addressed this – but they say, “Oh yeah, I spend a lot of time on Facebook or Snapchat”, does that necessarily mean that these are the right platforms for me to engage them on because of is this the best place for them to hear my message?

Beth: Yeah, some of this I will agree is sort of a judgement call. This is not a perfect science by any means. But if someone tells you that their main social platform where they connect with their friends is on Facebook, I do think that you should pay attention to that.

Now there’s some more steps in this process, of course. But I do think you can use that as an indicator that yes, I should be spending time on Facebook if a lot of your ideal clients are telling you that. You don’t want to go off of just one, of course, but if you’re seeing a pattern where they’re saying, “Yup, I spend all day on Pinterest”, then that’s probably a good place for you to hang out.

I’m not sure if that answers your question.

Rich: No, it does. Absolutely. And I certainly think it would be worth trying out, and maybe trying out some advertising on those platforms as well, anyway. 

Beth: Absolutely.

Rich: So this is great for us to talk one on one, but you mentioned that it is pretty time consuming, so it won’t scale well. How do we scale our research, how do we reach a wider audience after that initial group of our ideal clients.

Beth: So I think you should go from there and actually do a broader survey, because that does scale well, as you said. And if you’ve got an email list, this is the perfect thing to send out to your list and say, “Hey, I’m just trying to gather some more information.” And again, this is a place where you can ask all kinds of questions. I’ve done surveys about topics people are interested in learning about and what kind of formats they like to see classes in and that kind of thing.

There’s great information there, so they shouldn’t necessarily be a one question survey, but it can be one of a number of questions. So I think it’s a great question to ask and if you want to and you have the manpower to kind of sort through the answers, give people an open ended question, give them maybe a multiple choice like, “Of these 5, which would you rate as the top social media platform where you’re actually spending time.” But then you can give them an open ended question like, “Do you have more notes to ass, is there anything else you’d like to say about where you spend your time online?”, and you can get some great information from there, too. So asking open ended questions on surveys is always good.

Rich: I think that’s a smart point, and one of the nice things about the open ended question – even though it is a little bit laborious to go through them – is you start to see phrases that people are using that you can then mimic back to them and other people, because those are the words your customers are using so you can start to use their language in your future marketing as well. 

Beth: Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons I love doing those surveys is you can see those phrases. You can use those in sales pages and email messages all over the place. It’s so much better when you’re using the language that they use to describe the problem or whatever.

Another one of my favorite questions on a survey like that – it’s not related to social media – I just like asking, “What’s your biggest struggle or your biggest frustration with X?” And you can get some amazing information from people, and it’s surprising to me what they’re willing to share sometimes, and it’s great stuff for marketing. It allows you to connect with your customer, too.

Rich: Absolutely. So you have a survey tool that you like, that you recommend?

Beth: I’ve been a fan of Surveymonkey for a while. It has some limitations, but it has some free tools that are available up to a certain number of responses. I think they’re easy to use, I think they’re pretty easy to put a survey together even for people that aren’t particularly techie, so I think it’s a good tool.

Rich: Yeah, Surveymonkey is a favorite for a lot of people. I tend to use the Google Drive product because I like their summary tools. Although I haven’t used Surveymonkey in so long I’m sure it’s just as good, if not better. But there’s no limits on the Google Drive one, as far as I know. Do you ever incentivize the people to give you an answer or do you just hope for the best?

Beth: No, I do actually, And I’ve gotten better responses from my list when I promise them a free gift at the end, And you have to be a little creative with how you do that because you don’t want people to have to give you their email address in order to get the free gift, because then it kind of takes the confidentiality out of it, and you want people to feel really free to say whatever they want to say. But I’ve offered links to PDFs on the left page of a survey – and Survey Monkey will let you do that – you can have a thank you page that says it is a clickable link – depending in the tool – sometimes it’s not, sometimes you have to expressly tell them they’ll have to copy and paste the link into a browser. But people are much more likely to fill out a survey if they get something at the end, even if it’s little.

You may have some sitting around in your archive or a couple of blog posts you could kind of package up into a PDF that you can give to people, so look at what you’ve already got for that.

Rich: I think I have The Marketer’s Guide To MySpace lying around here someone, I’ll put that to use.

Beth: Be careful about your topic, don’t use something from 10 years ago. But yes, that’s the general idea.

Rich: Alright, so far we’ve talked about our ideal clients and we’ve talked about expanding the circle to maybe our audience, if we’re talking about email marketing, and I’m sure we could do the same with a Facebook group as well. But how do we expand past people who already know us? How do we create that – using the Facebook terminology – that “lookalike” audience?

Beth: Well, I will agree that’s a little trickier, it does get harder from there. I think you could sent it out on social media and ask influencers to share on your behalf as well if they’ve got an audience that overlaps with yours. So if you know people that are strategic partners that would be willing to share that survey for you, I think that’s a good idea.

It’s a little trickier to get to those folks that you don’t know, which is an advantage of trying to build up a larger list, so you’ve got a bigger sample of folks that you can talk to about this kind of thing. So I’d say reaching out to influencers and sharing social media are probably your two best bets for trying to expand the number of people in your pool.

Rich: I guess if we’re pretty specific about who we’re identifying as our ideal clients, then we might be able to target them with Facebook ads or some of these other ads as well, and lead them to some sort of survey, too.

Beth: Yes, Absolutely.

Rich: One of the things that I saw you write about is getting information on our competitor’s sites and where people shared the content. Can you talk about that for a minute?

Beth: Yeah, absolutely. I think this is where it goes a little bit above and beyond what people would normally do. I think a lot of people would do surveys or talk to people, but I don’t think a lot of people do those kinds of competitive research. And I think it should be done more often, particularly when you’re making these big decisions about where to hang out on social media or some other decisions where you really need information from people. So I think you should find websites that are similar to yours.

And one of the two best tools for doing that are, Alltop and BuzzSumo. In particular BuzzSumo is one of my favorites, and Alltop I believe is completely free and sort of a blog directory that’s been around forever and started by Guy Kawasaki. It’s just sort of an updated list that’s curated and lot’s of good, featured content on there on a ton of different topics. You can find anything from guinea pig care to flight attendants to everything under the sun on this thing. So if you’re looking for similar sights and you’re in a niche where you don’t happen to know the top big 5 sites in your niche, this is a good place to go to get ideas.

And then Google is getting smarter and smarter these days. You used to have to do a separate blog search just to find blog posts, and certainly you don’t have to do that anymore. You can literally type in Google your blog, and then a list of millions of blogs on a particular topic, and you can look at those top ones and see if you can get a sense of how large they are from social sharing statistics or email list numbers. You’re trying to look for popular sites that are ready by your audience members.

Some of this is a bit of guess work, it’s a little bit of finesse, but the more competitive research you can do to come up with a list of 5-10 sites that you’re reasonably sure are being read by your ideal client or someone like them, that’s a super good place to start. And there’s another step to it, actually researching where posts are being shared.  

Rich: I started to do this research and I had done the research on some of my local competitors – being in a web agency – but now that I’m listening to what you’re saying and trying to think about some of the bigger companies, I probably also want to be checking out sites like Hubspot or Social Media Examiner. I may not be competing one on one with either of those companies, but those may be in my niche and are speaking to my ideal customer.

Beth: Yeah, exactly. And I think a lot of people sort of skip these competitive research, and I think it’s particularly a good thing to do if you’re working in a local market like that, because there are going to be clear competitors of yours that are right up the road. So I think it’s fantastic to do. Did you find that process helpful when you did it.

Rich: I thought it was interesting, So we’re about to launch into when you take those things and then you bring those into Buzzsumo, right, those competitors websites?

Beth: Exactly. So you take your list of 5 competitive sites you’re reasonably sure folks are reading, and then you want to go to Buzzsumo and find out on those sites where are people actually sharing content, too.

So let’s take CopyBlogger as an example – they’re a huge content marketing blog – and I can look at them and say I want to find out when somebody reads a post that they really like on CopyBlogger, where do they go to share it. Is it Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. And you can go into Buzzsumo and put in just the domain in the search bar and you get a certain number of searches for free – they do max you out after a certain amount of time – but you can do that some thing again tomorrow and the next day, so you can do lots of searches over time without having to buy anything from Buzzsumo. And they’ll pull up the most popular posts from that particular domain. And then it will break down statistics of where exactly those posts were shared on social media. So they’ll give you a total for Facebook, a total for Twitter, etc.

I will warn people, there’s numbers are not going to match exactly what you see on the social sharing numbers on the post itself. So Copyblogger shares their social sharing stats on every post, these numbers are not going to line up exactly, but what I want you to look for here is trends. So don’t get too worried if it’s not a number for number match, but what you can tell here – and usually you can see pretty quickly after looking at 2-3 of these sites – is, “Hey, my clients are always on Twitter.” That’s definitely the most popular one for Copyblogger and has been for years, and it sticks out, the numbers are considerably larger.

Often you’ll get one of two that are sort of the leader in any particular niche, and I think that’s super valuable information. Again, you’re looking for trends, so if you’re doing research on 5-6 sites, then just right down these numbers and see where people are sharing this information.

Rich: Yeah, it was a very interesting exercise. One of the things I noticed is two of my top competitors in town, they don’t have as much of a content push as I do so our numbers were significantly higher. But I was able to start to get a sense of where people were sharing their content. I think I’m going to go back, after listening to you speak today, and check out some of my bigger competitors or at least people who are playing in a similar sandbox as myself.

Beth: Exactly. And it is something you can do every 6 months. It doesn’t take a lot of time, that’s what’s cool about it, too. If you want to run this whole process with the surveys and the interviews, that takes more time. But doing this research on Buzzsumo, you can check in every 6 months is you want or even more often.

Rich: And the bottom line is most of us have 3-4 browsers anyway, so we can certainly crank through a bunch of these. I only think I did 3-4 yesterday, I didn’t do a 5th one. And that’s Buzzsumo.com, by the way. We’ll have that link in the show notes as well.

So once we kind of have a sense of where we want to go, we probably want to just double check the graphics that are on that site. Where can we go for that kind of information?

Beth: That can also sometimes be tricky to find, but let’s take Pinterest for example. Pinterest is actually fairly public about their demographics, and you can usually find information where they clearly say 75-85% of the people who use Pinterest are women. Sometimes it’s a little trickier to find that for other sites depending on where you’re going for that information. If you dig a little, you can sometimes find trends like that where they say it’s used exactly 50/50 men and women, this is preferred by this age group. We know for sure that Snapchat definitely trends younger these days, and Facebook might be preferred by the slightly older crowd, which is a funny turn of events.

What you’re trying to do is make sure there’s not a major disconnect there. So if all of your numbers are absolutely screaming that Pinterest is the #1 site used by your audience – and yet the demographics say different – I’m not saying you should completely change your mind, but it might be worth doing a test and going into it saying, I’m going to give this 2 months and see if I can grow a presence on here and see if I can drive more traffic to my site – because that’s what it’s all about – using this particular tool. And just plan on doing a test rather than saying I’m going to dig in for the next 3 years on this tool. So just use it as another piece of information, so it’s like a double check at the end of this process, but it certainly shouldn’t wipe out all the research that you just did. If all of your clients are saying they’re on Pinterest, you should believe them.  

Rich: Absolutely, and I think that’s a good point. As I listen to you today, it feels like a lot of these things are as much art as they are science, but what they’re doing is they’re pointing us in the right direction, but it doesn’t guarantee success. So kind of as a wrap up, how long do we determine if a given platform is working for us once we jump in, and how long should we give ourselves before reconsidering it and changing things up?

Beth: If you have the bandwidth to do it and you don’t have a gun to your head, I would like to see people give it 6 months. They can really get in, get used to the platform – particularly if it’s not one that they’re used to using – figuring out what works best for them and be able to just know how to interact with people. Sometimes that’s the trickiest thing is how to actually converse with people on this tool, what’s the best way to actually interact with people. And sometimes that takes a little bit. So give it your best shot for 4-6 months and then see where the results are and do all the tracking that you can.

Try to set up your analytics so that you know where the traffic is coming from, so definitely you should know if it’s coming from Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter. But sometimes you can get in and make sure you know, for example, on Google Analytics which pin on Pinterest is driving the most traffic and dig down into that information. So make sure you have access to all of those numbers and don’t start looking too early, that’s the other thing I tell people. It’s going to take a bit, so don’t expect things to change overnight in a week, you may want to give yourself a solid 2-3 months before you really start looking at data and trying to draw any conclusions at all. So try to keep your hands off it, it’s like the equivalent of your scale, get off your scale if you’re trying to be on a diet and lose some weight. Don’t jump on the scale every 5 minutes, give yourself some time. So that’s what I tell people.

Rich: Good advice. This has been great all along. And just to recap this quickly, it seems to me that if we’re looking to really focus our time on our social media activity, it’s to limit the number of platforms that we’re active on, and to do that we start with interviews, we expand to surveys. Then we can kind of do a little bit of research that we choose to by using tools like Alltop and Buzzsumo, and then ultimately double check this against the site’s own demographics. And at that point, choose the best one or two platforms out there for us and give ourselves 6 months to really start to see if this is the platform that’s really going to help our business grow and drive more traffic back to our website.

Beth: Exactly. If I can add one thing to that very last step there, you should be looking at things that are really good for your business. So if you’re trying to get more traffic to your site and you’re trying to get more email subscribers – which is really what most of my clients are going for – and it shouldn’t matter if you’ve got 10,000 fans on Facebook or not, what matters is are my efforts driving traffic to this site and getting more email subscribers.

So be careful of those vanity metrics, because you can look like you’re doing a fantastic job on Facebook and have a huge following, and if it’s not moving to email subscribers and prospects and sales for your company, then it’s not doing you any good. So make sure you’re being honest with yourself in looking at the right numbers when you’re evaluating.

Rich: That’s great advice, and I actually just a few moments before I got on the phone with you, I was recording a video on how to setup Google Analytics goals, so I definitely think that people should be setting up goals for email newsletter signups. That’s going to make it easier to trace back where that actual signups came from, not just for where the traffic came from. 

Beth: Absolutely.

Rich: Beth, this has been great. I really appreciate it, thanks so much for coming on today.

Beth: Yeah, you bet.

Rich: Where can we find you online?

Beth: You can learn more about me by going to bethhayden.com. And can I offer a free report to your folks?

Rich: I think that would be very generous, yes.

Beth: So I have a report that people really seem to love, it’s a case study of a food blogger named Lacy doing a really well strategized and well thought out guest post on a particular site, and she got all these subscribers from it. So you can get it at bethhayden.com/?s=lacy, and it’s free for everyone, there’s a signup button at the bottom of the page.

Rich: Cool. And we’ll have a link to that in the shownotes as well. Beth, thank you so much for coming on today.

Beth: Thank you, I really appreciate it. It’s been great talking to you.

Show Notes:

  • For more great marketing ideas and content from Beth, check out her website, and follow her on Twitter.
  • Make sure to grab the free case study report that Beth is offering Agents Of Change listeners.
  • Beth suggested a couple of resources to help with your business’s social media efforts:
  • Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, creator and founder of The Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference, and a nationally recognized speaker around the topics of web design and internet marketing. aocp-fb-beth-hayden

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