(For more resources on WordPress, see here.)
Making it easy for people to follow you
Take a look at some of the most popular bloggers in the world, and compare their sites. You will notice that, without fail, they all make it really easy to follow them by RSS and Twitter and more often than not Facebook or LinkedIn. Look at the copyblogger home page in the following screenshot:
(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)
Notice how prominently displayed at the top right of the page is a list of large visually recognizable buttons that allow visitors to subscribe to their newsletter, RSS feed, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook. Anyone who is interested in learning about online marketing can, at the click of a button, access all the latest content provided by copyblogger.
While gaining a follower on Twitter doesn't necessarily bring revenue directly, each and every follower is a potential customer, or someone who will potentially recommend your blog to a potential customer. This meets the hugely important business objective of increasing reach for the site and its content—something you must also do if you are to have any hope of penetrating the market.
WordPress.com has an RSS link widget that can add a nice orange RSS icon to any one of the widget areas in your theme. This is unfortunately not really suitable for our needs as we need a row of icons and links to a number of different things. In order to get a nice row of icons, we will need to write a bit of HTML code and add it to a custom Text widget.
WordPress.org users can simply install something like the Subscribe/ Connect/Follow widget, available at http://wordpress.org/ extend/plugins/subscribe-connect-follow-widget.
Creating a custom "Follow me" widget
Before you begin adding the links, you will need to find and download a set of icons. A search on Google for "social network icons" should bring up some useable results. Remember to make sure that you do not infringe on any copyright conditions. Only use icons that are freely available. Once you have the icons you want (preferably large, instantly recognizable ones), upload them to your media folder on your site so that they can be referenced in the links.
For example, the following screenshot shows the Upload New Media page being used to upload an RSS icon:
Note in particular that the icon has been given a File URL. It is this URL you will use to reference this icon in the HTML that follows. Once all the requisite icon files are uploaded to your media library, you are ready to drag a new Text widget to the top right of your page and copy and paste the following HTML into it:
<li style="display:inline;"><a href="path_to_email">
<img src="email_icon_file_url" alt="contact me via email"
<li style="display:inline;"><a href="path_to_rss">
<img src="rss_icon_file_url " alt="subscribe to my RSS feed"
<li style="display:inline;"><a href="path_to_twitter ">
<img src="twitter_icon_file_url " alt="follow me on twitter"
<li style="display:inline;"><a href="path_to_linkedin">
<img src="linkedin_icon_file_url" alt="connect with me on
linked in" /></a></li>
Make sure that you change the paths in the code to suit your own setup. For example, this code used in my social marketing crash course home page on WordPress looks as shown in the following screenshot:
With the icon files correctly referenced, the individual e-mail (you can add your own contact form using the Add New Post page and clicking on the Add a custom form icon), Twitter, RSS, and linked pages also correctly linked to, you can save the Text widget.
You might decide to add Facebook or other icons, or you might not want to use LinkedIn. It is easy to add and remove new icons by copying and pasting additional link (<li></li>) elements into the unordered list parent tags (<ul></ul>). In this case, the resulting links are displayed on the live site as shown in the following screenshot:
OK, so the icons here are possibly a bit too small. I could hunt around for bigger ones, but it is also easy to add a bit of text to the links (after the img tag), or use some HTML to modify the layout to suit. The goal is to make it very easy and clear for any visitor to convert into a follower.
By prominently displaying the various ways in which visitors can convert to followers, you upgrade your blog from the old baseball paradigm to the new black hole paradigm. As time goes by, you will benefit by building up a large network of followers who double as potential customers, and an army of marketers who can spread the word about your content, products, and services.
By utilizing your quality content and making it very easy for people so stay within reach of it through RSS, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other appropriate services, you drastically improve your chances of converting visitors into followers.
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