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Pinterest was conceived as a kind of virtual bulletin board - a place to store all those neat images you run across when you are looking for something else on the net.

Pinterest is also a great tool for storing blog posts, websites, and all those useful articles you read online and then can never find again.

Surprisingly, it's only relatively recently that people have begun to use Pinterest as a marketing tool. (When I started using Pinterest, there were no ads!)

To be honest, while Pinterest has great potential, it's not as easy to use as Facebook or Twitter. As a form of social media, it's a little awkward, and there is much less likelihood of something going "viral." However, Pinterest has certain advantages shared by no other form of social media.
  • It's easier to find information on a page of images than on a timeline
  • Pins can be arranged thematically. This makes it easier to group specific types of information
  • Images are memorable. An image that is interesting is more likely to catch a reader's attention than text
  • Pinterest is highly addictive. Users re-pin images like mad, and they tend to stay on Pinterest longer, as well as visit it more frequently

How to use Pinterest

1. Set up your profile. Your full profile will appear on your home page, so design it carefully. First, upload an attractive, colorful image. (Square is best, as it will end up as a circle.) You can provide your location, your website (a must!), and a short bio. The bio is very important. Make sure you mention your publications, genre, and anything else potential readers might be interested in. For contact information include your Twitter handle.

2. Get followers. Like any other form of social media, you can get followers on Pinterest. There are several ways to go about this:
  • Include a Pinterest follow button on your blog posts
  • Add a profile widget to your blog. This also leads visitors to your Pinterest page. But it is more comprehensive than the follow button because it’s bigger and can display up to 30 of your latest pins. (I have gotten significantly more followers from the widget than from the button.)
  • Make sure to include your Pinterest link to all your other social accounts
  • Follow. Received wisdom is to follow 200 boards, then wait to see who follows you back and drop anyone who doesn't respond. The way you find boards to follow is by typing keywords into the search bar. Follow any boards that share your interests. (There are numerous writing boards. )
3. Use keywords. According to Bibliocrunch, the number one priority for using Pinterest is to have a “search mindset.” This means utilizing keywords in the descriptions of your boards and pins so that people searching for similar pins and boards can discover you. Fortunately, finding keywords is very easy. Type a general search term into the search bar, for example, Romance. The screen will refresh to give you popular categories under Romance. If you click on Books, more sub-categories will appear below the search bar,  — Contemporary, Paranormal, Historical, Worth Reading, and so on. Each time you click on a sub-category, increasingly specific terms will appear. Those are your keywords. Use them to hone your descriptions the same way you honed your search.

You can also broaden your audience by using the Keyword Tool. This allows you to search for the most popular keywords on Google, YouTube, Amazon, and Bing. An added feature of this tool is that it allows you to search by country and language.

4. Set up collaborative boards. Pinterest allows pinners to set up boards that allow many contributors. Some of these boards have hundreds of thousands of followers. (To find collaborative boards, go to Pin Groupie, a site that allows you to search collaborative boards by topic, number of followers, and number of pinners.) Increasing the number of pinners will increase your visibility. You can invite collaborators by email address or name. (Click the Invite button on the upper right to view your options.) You will have to follow one another to collaborate on a board.

If you want to join an established board, some collaborative boards provide contact information in the description. Check Pin Groupie for collaborative boards in your category to see which ones accept new pinners. (You can search for "writers," "writing," "authors" for general boards, or search your genre for more specific ones.)

5. Choose your images wisely. Pinterest is a visual medium. So, spend some time finding a captivating image for your pin. (See 43 Sites Where You Can Get Fabulous Free Photos for some great free sources.) The optimum image size is 600 x 800. It will resize down to 192 x 256, but will be restored to its full size when it is clicked. (If you are using Blogger, set your image size to large.)

Infographics have a great deal of success on Pinterest, as do images that also contain written information. Images that are informative as well as eye-catching will warrant more than a quick glance, and drive more traffic to your blog, story, or article.

Helpful articles:

All About Boards - Basic information about Pinterest boards.

12 Ways to Get More Pinterest Followers

How To Use Pinterest’s Group Boards To Get More Exposure For Your Business

How To Viral Market Pinterest

 
 
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Scroll down for an absolutely fabulous blog post by Rob Eager, which appeared on Tools of Change a couple of weeks ago. 

The article struck a chord with me for two reasons. The first is that my stats teacher said exactly the same thing to us on the first day of classes. (I think they all do.)

The other is that my experience coincides with Rob's. For example, one of the newsletters I edit has 35,000 subscribers. Only 12.3% of them open the newsletter. Of those, roughly 1% actually read more than the first article. While I love telling people that over 100,000 people subscribe to the newsletters I assemble, it certainly doesn't mean I am reaching nearly that number.

The same is true of Facebook. With over 17,000 "likes" on the FB page I manage, how many of those people actually look at any given post? I am lucky if it is a tenth of that. And very few of those people click on the link to the main site.

And don't get me started on how many of those people actually purchase anything.

Does this mean you should stop posting on Facebook, tweeting, and so on? No. The numbers may ultimately be meaningless, but prospective agents are always impressed by four or five zeros after any integer.

Apparently, none of them has never taken a stats class.
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Numbers never lie…unless you’re talking social media: Measuring results in our rush to be followed, liked, and shared

By Rob Eagar on TOC

Back in college, I took a class on statistics and never forgot the first lesson my professor taught us, which was, “Anyone can manipulate numbers to make them mean whatever they want.” I see this point magnified today by the mass adoption of Twitter and Fakebook, err – I mean Facebook. We’re at a period in time where numbers can mean so much and simultaneously mean so little.

The more people use social media, the bigger a desire to be followed, liked, and shared. We live in an age where online popularity has the ridiculous ability to control major business decisions or determine someone’s career. Yet, there’s never been a time when big numbers can be inflated so easily and deceptively. For example:

1. According to the New York Times, people can buy fake followers on Twitter for $18 per 1,000. I’ve also seen shady businesses on Ebay offer fake Facebook followers for a similar price range.

2. Facebook claims to offer an effective advertising medium, yet their average click-through rate is .0005 (5 in 10,000) In addition, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 4 out of 5 Facebook users have never bought a product or service as a result of advertising or comments on the social network site.

3. In addition, researchers at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute found that less than 1% of fans of the 200 biggest brands on Facebook actually engaged.

4. A guy claiming to have 50,000 Twitter followers bragged that he could use his influence to generate a bunch of sales for my new book. I put him to the test, let him send out his “tweets,” but never received a single order related to his audience. (For some time-wasting fun, check out http://fakers.statuspeople.com/ to help analyze how many legitimate Twitter followers someone actually has. 59% of Barack Obama’s followers are fake.)

5. According to ConstantContact, the average open rate for email newsletters is only around 19%. So, an author who claims to have 5,000 newsletter subscribers is probably reaching around 1,000 readers.

6. My own experience with the ShareThis WordPress plug-in for bloggers revealed that anyone can easily run up the share counter that’s displayed without actually sharing the information from a blog post with anyone. The counter may display “100” shares, but there’s no way to verify an actual number.

I’ve seen some bloggers (I don’t mean to bash, so they’ll remain nameless) promote an artificial number on their blog that combines all of their different social media followers and subscribers into one large number, which is designed to make you think their platform is bigger than it really is.

When the human ego merges with social media, there seems to be no limit to the level of nonsense that people will create. Numbers that are supposed to mean so much can actually mean very little.

As my statistics professor warned, be careful about putting too much faith in numbers. Just because someone displays 10,000 Twitter followers or Facebook friends doesn’t mean their sphere of influence is at that level. In an age where numbers are easily manipulated, we’re better off focusing on the only numbers that really matter, which is how many books sold, how many new readers added, and how many dollars deposited into the bank.

 
 
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If you are new to the blogging scene, you probably don’t have a lot of followers (yet). For aspiring authors, this is a calamity. There you are, pouring your heart and soul into your posts, and nobody is reading them! How will anybody know that you are a gifted writer if your blog is languishing, unhonored and unsung, in cyberspace?

The standard advice to unsung bloggers is to guest post, preferably on a high-profile blog that gets a lot of daily traffic. While this is a good way to build visibility, it can often take months before your blog is posted. (The more popular the blog, the longer the wait.)

A more traditional approach for increasing your visibility is write for ezines (online magazines). Again, this is a time-consuming process. First you have to pitch your idea, then have it approved, and then wait for a slot. For those who need to build a platform now, all that waiting, often followed by the inevitable heartbreak of rejection, can be a strain. A third option is to precycle. 

Let’s say you have written an informative, humorous, moving or any well-written piece that simply screams, "People need to read this!"  In order to get these gems the immediate attention they deserve, you can post them on sites that get a lot of traffic, but don’t involve a long wait. It seems almost too good to be true. 

The only catch is that all of these sites require that your work be 1) original (it is, it is!), and 2) that you post on their site first (it boosts their SEO to have first shot at original pieces). Because these sites are concerned about the quality of submissions, they will want to see examples of your writing before approving you. (This is easy if you’ve been devoting yourself to your writing.) After a short wait, you are good to go.

Where you precycle depends a lot on what you write. Some sites cater to people with a literary bent, others to the contemporary scene, and still others to more practical information and advice. If you do a Google search on “article submission websites” you will find lots of places to precycle.

In the meantime, here are some suggestions:

1) Blogcritics. "A sinister cabal of superior writers."
Everybody who’s anybody reads Blogcritics. (It’s got a global Alexa ranking of 23,796, which is quite good.) The audience tends to be young, so Blogcritics is far and away the best place to post reviews of anything contemporary (music, books, articles, TV shows, movies, culture, politics). But do not despair if you are an old codger. You can post other pieces as well. I’ve posted everything from medical articles to opinion pieces without a hitch. (Take a look at their “features” to get an idea of the range of topics.) The best thing about Blogcritics is that they syndicate their articles. That means your post could end up in an online newspaper. Perhaps in Seattle. Make sure to read their guidelines carefully.

2. Buzzle. "Intelligent life on the web." 
For all you fiction and poetry writers, Buzzle is a gift from heaven. Like Blogcritics, Buzzle appeals to a young audience, but unlike other high-ranking article sites, they welcome fiction and poetry. (Poetry!) Their audience is predominantly female. Buzzle does not allow URL links in their posts.

3. ArticlesBase
This is a high-quality free article site that prefers informative “evergreen” articles. An evergreen article is one that stands the test of time. You can read it a year from now, and it will still be relevant. The reason for their preference is that ArticlesBase, like many other free article services, is a resource for journals and ezines that need an article fast and don’t want to pay for it. Once you submit your article it could appear anywhere. You won’t get paid, but you will get exposure. No anchors or URLs are allowed.

4. BloggingAuthors. "A place where readers and writers meet." 
If you have published something, you can write for BloggingAuthors. In their words, “BloggingAuthors.com is dedicated to helping authors of all genres, including mystery, business, legal thrillers, relationships, non-fiction, spirituality, religion, health, book promotion, and literary fiction.” Though they claim to get 1000 views a day, their Alexa ranking is abysmal. The reason you may want to post here is 1) they include a bio and a backlink to your website and blog, and 2) they tweet. Whenever they post an article it gets tweeted to 7,000 followers. BloggingAuthors is distributed through a weekly mailer.

More Resources:

50 Free Article Submissions Websites

List of top 50 Article Directories by Traffic and Pagerank

Free article tracker


 
 
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First published on Blogging Authors 3/4/13) as "How Writers Can Use Alexa to Build a Platform."

Of the many ranking systems used to evaluate websites, Alexa, an analytics service owned by Amazon, is one of the most popular. In a nutshell, Alexa measures traffic to a website – the more visitors, the higher the rank. (Low numbers indicate a high rank. Number 1, the highest position, is occupied by Google.) Alexa provides data on 30 million websites, and has over 7 million visitors monthly.

How does Alexa gather website information?

Big Brother is not actually watching you. In order to retrieve information on how many people visit a site, Alexa provides a free toolbar. (See below.) Once installed, this toolbar monitors which websites a person visits. That part is fairly straighforward, but not altogther useful. Mere numbers don't give businesses enough information to tailor their marketing efforts, which is why Alexa also gathers data on demographics, such as age and income groups, sex, and region. For marketing purposes, knowing who visits your website, and from where, is crucial information.

There are some drawbacks to the system. The toolbar is most often used by techies, people who specialize in SEO and other analytics. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that tech sites have higher ranking than sites that appeal to people who are more concerned with other types of content – such as literary work. Alexa can't measure the browsing habits of people who don't install the toolbar, which may account for why regional traffic in India is often much higher than the U.S. (India is a major source of website and internet technology.)

How can you make Alexa work for you?

If you have just launched a website, don't even think of trying to improve your Alexa ranking. No matter what you do, your rank is going to be abysmally low (your number will be in the multi-millions), and there is no amount of backlinking, blogging, or giveaways that will get you under 100,000, which is the cut-off point for viewing demographic statistics.

Instead of trying to improve your own ranking, you can use Alexa much in the same way other businesses do. (If you have published a book, in any form, you are a business.) Let's say you would like to increase your visibility as a writer (i.e. build your platform). If your blog isn't getting a lot of traffic, it makes sense to either guest blog or write articles for sites that get significantly more visitors than yours. The easiest way to research the most-trafficked sites for posting guest blogs and articles is by looking at their Alexa ranking. You can get a quick view by installing the toolbar, or you can go the website for more specific data.

I have used Alexa ranking to help decide where I guest blog. Whenever someone publishes an article on the top sites for books, articles or blogs on my topic, I immediately look up their Alexa ranking. If the rank is high (i.e. the number is under 100,000), I check to see who visits the site. If the site appeals to my demographic, I submit a guest blog or article. Chances are, the article will be accepted, because I'm submitting an article geared towards the needs of their market.

Writing requires time and effort. Make sure you get the most out of your labor by placing your work where it will work for you.

Resources:

Alexa
http://www.alexa.com/
     This is where you go to search Alexa rankings. To install the toolbar, click on the tab     "Toolbar." Installation takes a few seconds.

What is Alexa Ranking and Is It Worth Striving For?
http://www.demondemon.com/2012/06/05/what-is-alexa-rank-and-is-it-worth-striving-for/
     This is a nice little article that spells out what Alexa is and does … and doesn't.


 

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