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How CNET Grew 5X on Facebook and Twitter Without Ads

  |  August 17, 2011   |  Comments

Consumer tech site shows engagement tactics can boost social media fans.

cnetnathan-bransfordSan Francisco - CNET brought Nathan Bransford (left) on board late in 2010 as social media manager to revitalize the consumer tech site's stagnant presence in the space. What's taken place since then suggests that brands can significantly lift their Facebook and Twitter numbers without buying ads on the platforms.

Bransford, a one-man team, has been able to increase CNET's Facebook likes from 69,000 to 428,000, while pushing Twitter followers from 24,000 to 105,000. He came to the web company from the publishing world, where he was a literary agent and author of children's books like "Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow." Speaking at SES/Connected Marketing Week in San Francisco on Tuesday, the social media manager explained how he produced the dramatic jumps on the social sites.

"It's not the result of some huge ad campaign or anything we've done spending a bunch of money," he said. "It's all about organic growth. My philosophy is that there is not a social media bullet. You can't do 'X' to get to 'Y.' People always say, 'What do I need to do? What do I need to do?' There's not a magic to it. What's important is being consistently good, and consistently giving people things that they want…. I think you can get in the weeds of social media and forget the important things."

Here are the important things, Bransford said:

  • Include Facebook Like and Twitter Follow buttons in the site toolbar and make them available on every page.
  • Optimize the size and look of the buttons .
  • Regularly monitor what works vs. what doesn't. In other words, test and observe.
  • Don't overdo the messaging. He posts four to six times a day on Facebook, while tweeting 10 to 20 times. For Twitter, avoid tweeting back-to-back messages and bogging down followers' streams. "You can definitely make people unfollow you by posting too much in a brief span," Bransford explained. "Social is not just about broadcasting. It's about interacting with people."
  • Use tools like HootSuite to schedule posts and Bit.ly to track links, as well as Wildfire for insights on how the competition is doing on Facebook and Twitter. "You can see if your competitors had a spike," he said. If so, he then learns "if they ran some campaign. Did they get mentioned somewhere? You can benchmark yourself against your competitors."

Ultimately, Bransford detailed how a mix of best practices and engagement tactics can work when applied diligently. So for social media audience-building, it's not entirely necessary for companies to buy Facebook ads that like-gate or purchase Twitter's Promoted Accounts.

"For Facebook, I really focus on likes and comments because engagement is so important," he said. "It determines if your posts are going to be at the top of the feeds. The more people interact with your content, the more people's friends are going to see your content and like the brand themselves. For Twitter, it's important to track the number of times something gets retweeted, what gets retweeted, and how your message is amplified. It helps refine the types of content you post."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

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