If you want to set yourself up for success and happy accidents in social media, you have to start playing in traffic. And yes, I mean play – with a sense of fun and purpose and a spirit of exploration. Because if you get yourself into the traffic flow, rather than standing still, you’re much more likely to find great people to travel along with… and it becomes far easier to get folks to see you and what you’re offering as a destination and not just something to look at in their rear-view mirror.
Even though there are hundreds of millions of blogs and tweets and more competing for eyeballs, you don’t need to reach everybody on the internet in order to reach your goals. Instead, what you want is to focus on is finding ways to get the traffic and connections that are right for you. That’s when good things can start to happen.
So you need to ask yourself first and foremost… why are you jumping into social media? If you’re blogging… who are you hoping reads your site? If you’re hoping to make waves on Facebook… how? Trying Twitter? Why? Your answers can be simple or complex, but it’s critical that you know. After all, how can you know what traffic to play in if you don’t know who you want to be playing with?
When I started my blog, GottaBook, my main goal was to join the wonderful community of children’s literature enthusiasts that was sprouting up online. My secondary goal was to gain exposure for myself as an author and poet. Once I knew what I was shooting for, I started playing in traffic by jumping into conversations on blogs and email lists where people were already talking children’s literature.
By actively participating and offering up comments of value, I became part of the broad community. That, in turn, led people to check out my blog and become part of the growing community there. I put up “road signs” – links and posts directing folks to destinations I thought they should check out – and others did the same pointing to me. I also started posting my original poetry on my site as a way to offer something fun and to address my goal of getting more people to see my writing. I’ve used other social media, as well, sometimes linking into my blog from my Facebook account or tweeting about my posts. Both these acts put me in a different flow of people who might not visit my blog all the time… or even know about it.
The playing has paid off – I’ve become part of a fantastic community and gained attention for my writing. But wait… there’s more!
You see, I stayed alert for happy accidents and opportunities, and those have been plentiful. I’ve seen my poems get passed around the world, online and off. I’ve been featured in magazines, newspapers, and websites, and gotten a two book deal. I’ve had almost 100,000 people read my poetry via Google searches in the past 12 months. I’ve also been able to create happy accidents for others by linking people together or by being able to share information that I’d learned as I traveled around. And I’ve even had places to stay on road trips!
There’s no mystery in how things have happened for me and for many others who have reached goals using social media, even though it’s not always clear at first glance why events happen the way they do. We all make mistakes and get surprised along the way, but there’s one thing I am absolutely clear on: if you’re not out there trying, odds aren’t in your favor to reach your goals. So…
Go play in traffic. And I’ll see you there!