This blog post could just have easily been entitled “Why Everyone Should Listen to Sean Blanda at Least Twice.” Allow me to explain why.
In October 2011, I attended WordCamp Philly, in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to learning a lot from Dave Konopka (@davekonopka) and Pete Schuster (@pete_schuster), I attended a presentation by Sean Blanda (@seanblanda) about connecting a WordPress blog with Facebook as a tool to increase readership, conversations and the like. Sean Blanda runs the tech news website, Technically Philly and is an engaging and clear speaker.
During his talk at WordCamp Philly, Sean walked through the simple, yet slightly technical steps of integrating Facebook’s Open Graph tags into the WordPress templates of the Technically Philly news site. I won’t repeat everything that Sean said, but what I want to highlight are two of about four steps that Sean took to improve the return he was getting on Facebook:
- He stopped using plugins or other automated services to push his blog content to Facebook. Instead, he took the extra time to manually add a link or note to Facebook.
- Sean also added a number of tags from Facebook’s Open Graph to the header files of Technically Philly’s WordPress templates. The Open Graph tags help Facebook learn about the content on the Technically Philly site.
I was impressed with the numbers that Sean related to the audience during his talk. In the course of only five months, with what sounded like only one or two days of coding (by his own admission, Sean is not a developer; he is a journalist), Sean was able to grow the number of Technically Philly Facebook fans by more than 250%, adding 7 to 10 new fans per day.
Inspired by Sean’s suggestions, I decided to apply these two techniques on my own blog, chickenmonkeydog.com. Up to that point, I had not been overly focused on Facebook as a means to promote chickenmonkeydog. I felt like this gave me a few new and practical steps to try.
Unfortunately, life and a busy work schedule intervened.
In early January 2012, I noticed that Sean would be speaking at an upcoming Philly WordPress Meetup. As Sean is a dynamic and entertaining speaker, I was up for hearing his presentation again. I wanted to be a good student and go into the presentation prepared. A few days prior the WordPress meetup, I started organically adding blog posts from chickenmonkeydog to Facebook. By the second time that I was in the audience to hear a Sean Blanda presentation, I had been manually posting on Facebook for about five days.
During that second presentation, I was glad to hear that Technically Philly’s Facebook numbers had continued to climb. When Sean began to cover how to review Facebook’s insights, I took a moment to check out the same for chickenmonkeydog.
Wow! In only the few short days since I had begun to organically add my posts to Facebook, I had seen that the number of people talking about chickenmonkeydog on Facebook had more than tripled. Our reach had more than doubled as well!
As the evening came to a close, I took a moment to thank Sean in person. I confessed that it was the second time that I had seen him deliver this particular presentation and that I was now a convert. He had shown me the light!
In the days that followed, I took the time to learn more about Open Graph (OG) and implement a number of OG tags on chickenmonkeydog.com. Not only did the OG tags help Facebook pull the right thumbnail image into each of our daily posts, it also seemed to help grow our reach even further. By the end of January, we had quadrupled our reach from December. The best stat of all is that we grew our Facebook fan numbers by more than 10%!
Let me slow down just a minute to point out that our fan and reach numbers are still very small. Yet, the fact that I was able to achieve quantifiable growth in a very short time is promising indeed. I shall continue to follow the practices that I learned and will be sure, at some point, to report back on our progress.