As some of you already know who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, I love fooling around with Social Media venues. Not only does it help to keep me in touch with the real world (I spend 90% of my time alone) but it is a great way to promote a blog or website. I thought that just for the heck of it I'd run down a few of them here and give my thoughts. I also want suggestions on how to better use any you are familiar with because I am reasonably sure that I am not using them to maximum potential. (If you don't run a blog or website this is still a great list of resources where you can meet people that share your interests. If you are like me and nobody understands why you read that stuff....you know how much fun it is to find out how not alone you really are!) This is not going to be a discussion of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which a whole other can of worms. This is all about connecting with "people" not bots.Twitter. This is my favorite hands down. Now I am lucky. I use Firefox as my main browser and so I can use Twitkit, an unobtrusive sidebar addon that sits quietly on my screen and allows me see the twitter stream all day long. Granted it has no search, and not much in the way of filtering, but it easy to see, use and doesn't get in the way of whatever else I am doing. Twitter is incredible, I watch literary agents, major authors, my fellow bloggers, SEO experts, and major publishers all discuss, in 140 characters or less, their areas of expertise. It is educational and fun! There are tons and tons of apps that you can explore for grouping and tracking tweets but I just use Google feed reader. I track the ones I do not want to miss and pay attention to the rest if I happen to be watching the stream.
Facebook. This is one I do not feel that I am using to its full potential. Reports say that Facebook is driving tons of traffic to blogs but near as I can tell, I am not getting any of it. Instead I am saving rainforests, plus giving and receiving virtual books, candy and other gifts. There are 1001 fun apps to play with and if you are not careful, you can waste a load of time here. It is a great way to keep track of publishers and some of your favorite authors though.
Goodreads. This has to be the best book community out here. There are tons of authors, book groups, book reviews and it is all very active. I frequently get friend requests from authors and there are more book discussions, groups and events then even I can keep track of. I have gotten some traffic from there as well. I post snippets of my reviews with a link back to the full review. Fair warning though. The link is No Follow. Any traffic you get will be direct, search engines do not pick up a review posted on Goodreads. Cataloging your library here is unlimited and free which is another thing to recommend it. There is also a monthly list of ARC giveaways to check out.
LibraryThing. This is a close second to Goodreads. It does have a few drawbacks. It doesn't seem to have as many active authors, you can only catalog 200 books without paying for it plus discussions, groups and events do not appear to be as lively. There are advantages however. As far as cataloging goes, the format is more professional. The Early Readers program is extensive and the database itself is huge! I also do review snippets here and like goodreads, they are No Follow.
Shelfari. This is sadly way down the list. They do not allow links at all in reviews, It is a pretty site but takes me forever to load it (I am on dialup) and while it has a few active discussion groups they pale in comparison to goodreads and librarything.
Ning.com. There are 4 Ning social networks I follow. Wonderlands, Book Blogs, BittenbyBooks - The Blood Bank and David Gemmell Legend Awards. All are very active, full of discussions, groups, great places to open communication with authors and other bloggers and you get your own page and blog. Of the 4, I think Book Blogs is the most active and Hatchette has a group there specifically for offering book giveaways that you can host on your blog. Aside from checking in to see what is the current hot topic, I use the blogs once a month to post a review roundup. Plus, you can easily setup your own network!
Forums. I try to watch a dozen or so forums (List of my Favorites). The bloggers forum sadly failed to garner any interest but there are plenty of active forums devoted to the SFF community. This is another great way to promote your blog or just meet new people and offer advice or discuss your favorite author/book. There are more then a few where major authors are active and will jump into conversations themselves. I do not actively promote my blogs in these. I do include them in my signature, profile and if there is a forum set aside just for that purpose, I'll list them there. Trick here is to just be active, join discussions, make well reasoned arguments, give good advice and folks will check you out by following those links.
Squidoo. I just discovered this one (Thanks Shelia Ruth) and it looks like alot of fun. If you love playing with modules and widgets, have content that doesn't quite work on your blog and want to contribute to charity (though you don't have to) this is worth a look. I played around with it the other day and created a page that lists all the books I have reviewed, then allows you to vote up your favorite. This is something I can not do on a blog! The page shows up in search engines amazingly fast too. I have not explored its full potential yet but I see some fun possibilities.
Various Social Feed Readers. MyBlogLog, Friendfeed, and Bloglines (I am sure there are plenty of others) allow you to subscribe to your favorite feeds, (including your own) then people can subscribe to you and view your feeds. Most also offer statistics for your blog traffic. Great place for finding new blogs and maybe promoting your own but I can't say I've gotten alot of traffic from these. Every little bit helps though right?
Blog Directories. I am listed on a few of these. Here Be (Book) Reviews which includes a feed of your blog, BookFizz which also includes a feed, Midwest Book Review, Bloggeries and Condron to name a few. Condron drives the most traffic and is actually really fun to use. When you pull it up and hit start, it begins to scroll through its blog directory. Each blog loads up on the screen for a few seconds (you can set the interval) then loads up the next. See one you like, stop it, check it out, bookmark or subscribe to it, then restart the scroll.
Bookmark Networks. These are kind of like the social feed readers except that they target specific posts. Again you can build your own catalog of bookmarks, people can subscribe to you and view the posts you felt worth noting. Stumble, Delicious, Digg and Yahoo Buzz are some examples. Aside from bookmark sharing with subscribers, your bookmarks are added to directories depending on how you tag the post. Then folks who are looking for quality posts on, for example, writing, will check out what you bookmarked. There are a few rules that I follow when it comes to using these. I seldom bookmark my own posts and then more to get my blog into the system then any other reason. If you constantly bookmark your own stuff, people will notice this over time and stop taking anything you bookmark seriously. I only bookmark exceptional (in my opinion) posts. Again this engineers trust in your opinion and is more likely to get you some followers. Followers are likely to check your profile, profile leads to a visit to your blog. I do not bookmark the same blog or website over and over. Same deal, folks are looking for good, fresh, unique content and if you only bookmark posts from your favorite people, you defeat the whole purpose of the system. Occasionally is nice though, I've had a single stumble generate over 100 visits within a matter of 2-3 hours. Now these are by no means any kind of official rules but I have tested these scenarios and found them to be true.
Question and Answer Sites. When I first started my blog this is the method I used to get it off the ground. Yahoo, Askville, and Answerbag are examples. Yahoo is hands down the most active of these. Basic idea is to establish yourself as somebody who knows what they are talking about. Give answers to questions, include relevant links, get votes as best answer and traffic will flood in. There is one hard fast rule that Yahoo imposes. You can NOT link to your site unless it is relevant to the answer. For example, if somebody asks about a specific book that I have reviewed, I can link to it. If the question is general, or something you can answer but has nothing to do with your blog content, including a link to your blog is considered spam and you will be banned. Either way, if your answers impress folks they will check your profile and your blog or website will be listed there. I no longer have the time to do this but I still get traffic from answers I provided almost a year ago that people discover by using a search.
Blog Comments. Same principle as forums. Comment on other's blogs, make well reasoned arguments, comments, advice or opinions. Do not pimp your blog! If people like what you have to say, they will click on your username and take it from there. Plus, the blog owner is likely to appreciate it and might even include you on their blog roll. Now I admit, this is one thing I do not do nearly enough. Problem for me is that I track over 200 blogs a day in my Google reader and I don't click through on interesting posts nearly as often as I should. Instead I star/share the ones I like and put them all in a link love post later. I also have google reader set up so shared items are fed to facebook and twitter. Which is all cool and shows my support and love for my fellow bloggers but I really should comment more.....bad Mulluane, bad!
A Few Others. These are some I know about but have not explored fully. Book-Networks (Social book Network), Elftown (Fantasy Art Community), Entrecard (Blog Directory) and PeopleBrowser (Social Feed Sharing).
If you use feedburner and blogger, enable comments on your feeds. For busy folks (and those of us on slow connections) this makes commenting much easier and faster. One click opens up the comment page for that post, bypassing the slower loading main page. May seem stupid but I know I am much more likely to take the time to comment if I can do so quickly and easily.
I also suggest using full feeds. Granted you would much rather see visits directly to your site so people can take advantage of all the cool stuff you populate your sidebars with but people who use feed readers are not likely to do that anyway. Ultimately they miss out on all the excellent content you took the time to create because they just skim over your feed and move on to the next. The fact of the matter is, once search engines, blog rolls, social media and directories drive traffic to your site a portion of those people will then subscribe in a feed reader. Thereafter, those folks are more likely just to view your content in the reader without coming back to your site. (Unless you give them a compelling reason to do so.) Personally, my subscriber count means as much if not more to me then daily traffic numbers. Subscribers tell me that people like my content and intend to keep coming back for more. Daily traffic tells me how well my SEO is working and prove that I am getting my blogs noticed, but are no guarantee that the visitor will ever come back again.
Subscribe to your own feeds, both in readers and by email. Use several of the more popular email providers since your feed is going to be formatted differently in each one. There is nothing worse then a messed up feed and unless you get lucky and somebody takes the time to tell you, you'll never know that it is screwed up. A good looking feed is just as important as a good looking page. Same principle as making sure your pages render correctly in different browsers, but lets not go there. That discussion will lead me to vent about how much I hate IE.....
Lastly, never underestimate the power of a well written profile. (Something I really need to give some more thought to myself). The majority of the venues I listed provide a place for you to include a profile and that is usually the gateway to your blog or website. If the profile doesn't interest them, chances are they won't think your website will either.
Conclusion. Your results may vary. Some of these venues require alot of attention, others require a well thought out setup then maintain themselves with little or no effort on your part. The key I think is all in what you enjoy. If you love surfing and think you can contribute to the bookmark sites, then go for it. If you have very little time but read alot of feeds, take some time to set up the social feed reader sites. After that they take care of themselves unless you want to add or delete an active feed from them. If you love discussions, join forums, ning.com rings or the book catalog sites. If you have no time at all request listings on directory sites. If you want to show off your knowledge or share your passions use Facebook, Twitter, leave comments or answer some questions. If you are like me and you love creating pages and fooling around with all sorts of cool widgets and modules, without the need for any coding expertise, then play around with Squidoo. In other words, there are plenty of fun ways to promote your blog, meet new people, converse with authors and publishers and share your passion for books, without it seeming like a full time job! And of course, if you are truly insane and have no life you can play around with them all. You will find yourself sticking with only the ones you enjoy anyway once it is all said and done.
One more word of warning though. Do not spend so much time on blog promotion that your blog content suffers. Without quality content, none of this will help. You not only want to draw people in, you want them to stay and keep coming back for more.
If there are any methods or venues that you use that are not listed here, please share them in the comments! If you have an insight on how to better utilize what has been listed, well please share that too. One thing that I have learned from all of this is that the SFF community is flat out awesome and it never ceases to amaze me how much we help and support each other. Look forward to your comments, hope some of this will prove to be useful and happy blogging!