The story of WhenInManila.com is the dream of anyone who begins a blog: What started as a collection of online posts has since grown into a thriving community and profitable business.
They’ve got the audience any company would dream of: 100,000+ Facebook fans, 100,000+ Twitter followers, 500,000 site visitors per month – along with the big brands who come calling to have this kind of advertising reach.
But beyond these numbers, they have a following true to their name: They are a favorite go-to site for people who want to find out what’s happening when in Manila (and indeed, the Filipino world).
I approached founder and publisher Vince Golangco for advice on how other entrepreneurs, no matter their business, could garner the same reach and engagement of WhenInManila’s social media.
Golangco spoke of the importance of content that is both emotionally charged as well as SEO optimized. In this way, people will be able to find your content via search engines like Google and be moved to share it through their social media.
He also spoke of the need to map out your peak hours, so you can post most frequently then, when your users are ready and able to engage with your brand.
Among them will be brand evangelizers – people willing to go to great lengths to speak to the merits of your company. According to Golangco, you should do what you can to empower your brand evangelizers, as their inspired efforts will make the biggest impact on the reach of your brand.
And while it’s important to track how well you’re doing via metrics like Google analytics, entrepreneurs should not be discouraged by slow but steady growth. Building a social media presence is a commitment: You must be in it for the long haul.
Here are snippets from our chat:
How do you define success on social media?
It really depends on the campaign. For instance, sometimes a restaurant just wants more people to know that they exist, so a simple blog post targeting the right keywords helps out tremendously especially when people are searching for them online. Other brands want more people to follow them on Facebook or Twitter, so we run campaigns and contests that do that.
For example, after featuring Tiño Suits and Barongs, we got a call from our friends at Tiño saying that they have already been getting new customers who claim they found out about them through WhenInManila.com – even Danny Seigle of the PBA.
So define social media success as just as I did: One story at a time. Don’t look for big numbers or crazy statistics, just look for one powerful story at a time.
What is the first step to achieving this kind of success?
For WhenInManila.com, it was really a mix of decent writing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When I first arrived in the Philippines and started looking at online articles, I realized that most of them either had:
1. great, award winning type of articles, but no SEO, meaning no one would ever find it, or,
2. amazing SEO where everyone would stumble upon the article even if it just had a smudge of relevance to what the reader was actually searching for, but horrible grammar and terrible writing.
I’m not the best writer in the world, but I’m able to write decently and I took initiative towards really learning content SEO for blogs. So I was able to combine both, and slowly but surely, our audience really grew.
Now that we have over 200 contributors, we make sure to also teach them how to write well and how to do it in an SEO friendly way.
In terms of actual content, which mediums have you found allow you to tell the best stories?
There is no one content that works best in terms of pictures, videos, or links. Also, there is no one genre that works best. We’ve had great success with funny photos, inspiring videos, crazy links, and others. It all comes down to evoking an emotion from people. Post content that will really make people say something or feel something. Those are the ones that will go viral.
Can you analyze how one post went viral because it evoked a particular emotion in people?
One of our senior writers, Shayla Sanchez, had an article (Top 5 things to keep you busy in Butuan City) recently.
I was totally caught off guard on how many likes, shares, and responses it got. I then realized that we evoked an emotion from that post, the emotion of pride. The Butuanons were proud and excited about that post. So they shared it with the world.
Do you have an overall philosophy on how a company should best engage its customers?
That’s just it, engage! As long as you are communicating with them and engaging them, that’s already the best practice. Don’t ignore them. As long as you are responding to the best you can and talking to them, then you’re good to go.
Do you have any special advice for when to engage with your audience?
Absolutely. I recommend that you figure out what times your audience is online. Most of the time, work hours are the heaviest traffic times.
You can gauge from the comments and responses and slowly map out your own peak hours. At the same time, it’s just good to post regularly, I recommend at least every 6 hours. The best part of all this is that you can schedule your posts. So you can actually sit down and schedule the posts for the rest of the week in one sitting. Then, just add extra posts in between scheduled posts for big news type of current events that happen on the spot.
How do you recommend crafting an overall social media strategy around this philosophy of engagement?
We function very differently at WhenInManila.com. We’re not really a full on business, but instead, we are a community of people who share stories. So I can’t really demand that our members do things a certain way. Instead, we just have very broad guidelines that they should work within.
We’re pretty much crowdsourced. Our contributors see value in writing for us for different reasons and they contribute to help the community and the site, which in turn, helps them in different aspects of their lives and careers as well.
So for entrepreneurs, I recommend finding your community! Like a celebrity assigning a super fan as the president of their fan club, brands also have followers and fans. Find them and treat them well! Invite them to help your brand succeed!
People who do things and help for things they are passionate about will give you 100 times better results than people who work just for a paycheck. So find these people who are passionate about your brand and find ways to work with them. Whether it’s hiring them or just setting up a rewards program for them. This will pay off tremendously.
Even with many brand evangelizers, it still must be challenging to post new timely content. How do you maintain the balance between timeliness and timelessness?
New is always “in” for the internet. We do understand this but also know that we are not a “news” type of website. So we can’t really jump in stating facts and giving stories about events and newsworthy things. Instead, we just comment on trending topics and inform our readers on why it is trending. We actually look up to sites like Rappler who is more of the leader in news to see what is being talked about, then just find a way to share that with our community.
For entrepreneurs, don’t try too hard to be the first and the newest, unless you’re really capable of doing that. But just being informed about current trends is enough to take you far on the Internet.
Building a social media presence may be different from other aspects of business in that the fruits of your labor are always continually visible, like Facebook page likes or Twitter followers. How do you encourage entrepreneurs to stay motivated when they may not be visibly getting the traction that they want?
The beauty of social media is that you can do it yourself, and for free. So just play around with it and learn from your daily interactions. See what works and what doesn’t. Keep on doing what works and start straying away from what doesn’t. As far as staying motivated, yeah, you need to understand that it isn’t an overnight type of thing. Just like going on a diet and trying to lose weight, you can’t step on the scale after skipping a cupcake and think that it will automatically drop 10 pounds!
Social media is a long term investment that pays off in the long run. So just keep your eyes on the prize and stop checking your Facebook fan count! – Rappler.com
Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz