Have you become skeptical on social media being a viable online marketing option? Have your current social media efforts fallen short of delivering any tangible results?

If you’re starting from scratch, then trying to build a social following can be a frustrating experience…when you don’t have direction.

In this article we are going to provide our tips on growing a social following from scratch so you can start leveraging your social channels to build your business.

Growing a Social Media Following

What’s Considered a Strong Social Following?

An online marketing strategy should consist of a few different components, all of which must work in sync for the strategy to be effective. Those components usually look something like this:

  • User-friendly, conversion oriented website
  • Sound on-site SEO
  • Creative off-site SEO
  • Unique, useful content
  • Content distribution and promotion
  • Community building
  • Targeted lead nurturing
  • Regular testing, tracking & reporting

One component that can be weaved into the majority of these, in addition to content, is social media.

Whether you believe in social media or not, it’s becoming harder these days to not see the business case for social media.

A strong social media strategy with a loyal following can create a lot of opportunities for a company to grow its business.

So, what is a strong social following?

You’re probably thinking that tens or hundreds of thousands of likes and followers are the only things that really constitute a strong following. While these numbers could be part of it, they are not valuable enough on their own.

Our definition of a strong social following is…

Definition of a strong social following

Establishing this will help your business extend its audience and reach; both of which can be leveraged throughout all of your marketing.

Let’s go through some of the steps we recommend for building a strong social following.

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Click Here to Access your FREE Social Media Calendar Template to get the most out of your social media accounts.

How to Grow a Social Following from Nothing

Grow Your Social Media Audience

One of the more deflating things in online marketing can be when you get excited about jumping into social media and then months go by without any activity from your audience.

People aren’t “liking” your content, no one is responding to your questions and the only people following you are your family members and friends who feel guilty for not following you.

Are you doing something wrong? Are your social media efforts destined for failure?

If you are being genuine, providing useful information and staying consistent, then the answer to both of these questions is “no, not really.” However, these things won’t build your social following on their own and you’re probably missing something somewhere else.

Here are some steps we suggest to build your social following the right way…

Steps to Building a Social Following Online

Want to build a social following of people that are searching for and interested in what your company has to offer?

Follow these steps…

Understand What You’re Building and Why

To successfully build a social following you need to know what exactly you’re trying to build and why your business needs it in the first place.

To answer the “what”, you need to think of your social following as a community that you’re building. An effective community, one that engages each other to create positive change, needs good communication. A community that can openly communicate with one another, whether its from your company to your audience or your audience to each other, is one that tends to grow quickly and organically.

To answer the “why”, you don’t need to look any further than one great example of a successful online community of brand enthusiasts. These loyal followers will practically sell your products and services for you if they’re cultivated and cared for the right way.

Example: Audi Audi on Facebook

Audi does a fantastic job of using their social media channels to not only build their fan base, but also to drive traffic from their primary social media accounts, like Facebook, back to their other web properties.

WHAT TO NOTICE:
Engagement on Audi’s Facebook page is very strong compared to many other businesses. Each piece of content they post to their page typically gets over 10,000 likes, 500 shares and 200 comments.
WHAT TO LEARN: Audi seems to understand their audience very well – Audi fans want to see Audi related content. Very rarely will you see Audi post any trendy memes or content that does not feature or talk about Audi’s automobiles. Sticking with this simple formula allows their followers to know what to expect, which decreases the chance of them “disliking” their page due to distracting content.
WHAT TO DO: Be like Audi. Figure out what your audience wants and deliver consistent, quality content (photos, videos, articles, data) to them. On top of that, engage your audience by asking questions and actually responding to them. You may even want to consider having some of your audience help to contribute content. Google+ Communities is a great way to start doing something like this.

 

Have a Plan

The most surefire way to see your social media efforts fail is to try and do social media without a plan.

We see it time and time again. Someone starts using social media, they think they can do it effectively on the fly and then they stop altogether due to lack of time, engagement or results.

Don’t make the same mistake, especially since it can be avoided by spending a little time upfront to put together a social media plan.

Social Media Plan

Assuming you’re starting from scratch, remember that you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with the task of putting a complex plan together in the beginning. Start with a basic plan that provides you with some direction. This will give you something to build off of and also allow you to make adjustments as social media evolves.

WHAT TO NOTICE:
 A big part of a successful plan is listening – listening to your audience and listening to others that use social media effectively.
WHAT TO LEARN: You can’t form a successful plan without knowing answers to some basic, but incredibly important online marketing strategy questions. Jumping into any social media efforts without these answers to provide direction will usually prevent you from seeing maximum results.
WHAT TO DO: Create personas for each of the different types of people that make up your target audience. Once these are developed then you can map out a content strategy that is tailored specifically to each of these personas. Each piece of content you distribute and promote to these specific groups will receive higher engagement rates as the material will be specific and useful to each of them individually.

 

Stick to a Schedule

A key element to a successful social media plan is an easy to follow schedule.

You could have the best plan possible, but if whomever is responsible for actually carrying out the plan, specifically your social media updates, does not have a guide or schedule to stick to then drop off can be common.

Social Media Calendar Template

Even a very basic social media schedule (like the example above) can help you to stay on track. One of the biggest advantages of a schedule as well is that it allows you to map out updates for the week or month so that you know you will have at least X amount of updates released without you having to stress over what to post each day.

WHAT TO NOTICE:
An effective schedule can be very basic (as seen above). The main things to be sure to include in a schedule are the theme and the update. Many other elements can be added, but those two things act as the foundation of your schedule.
WHAT TO LEARN: Decide what your daily or weekly themes are going to be and try to stick to those. Doing so will help you create updates far in advance and will also make it easy for followers to know what to expect. You want to make sure to always include hashtags, links and mentions whenever possible. And don’t forget to follow these social media tips, although simple, as they can mean the difference between a share of your update or not.
WHAT TO DO: Request access to our FREE social media schedule template so that you have something to start working off of. Once you get access then go in and try to create your 5-6 primary themes and then populate some updates for each of those. Before you realize it you will have a good month’s worth of updates to use or fall back on when your social efforts slow down.

 

Customize / Brand Your Social Media Pages

Keeping people on your website with great design, content and usability is vital to its overall success. The same goes for your social media pages and profiles.

If you’re going to invest the time and money to use social media as part of your marketing strategy, then each page or profile you use should follow the same standards.

Example: Starbucks

Starbucks Social Media

Starbucks does an excellent job of keeping their branding and their messaging consistent across all of their social media pages (from Facebook to Google+). Their pages meet the standards that their business exudes when you walk into one of their locations creating a memorable experience from online to offline and vice versa.

WHAT TO NOTICE:
Relevant, quality images make great social media design assets that can be used to make your pages look very professional and welcoming.
WHAT TO LEARN: You don’t need extensive resources, even though Starbucks has them, to professionally brand your social media pages. That said, using poor quality photographs or images stolen from someone else’s website can hurt your image so don’t rule out hiring a company or using a service to create quality social media designs for you.
WHAT TO DO: Understand what social media design guidelines you need to follow and then put together a list of assets you need to properly brand your pages. Once you know what you need you can then start putting together the assets you may already have or you can contract someone to create some really nice, custom designs to use throughout all of your social media accounts. Don’t forget to completely fill out all of your page / profile info as well!

 

Follow Etiquette

If you want to chase away followers from your social media channels, then all you have to do is ignore common social media etiquette.

Surprisingly, not many companies and “social media experts” seem to understand what social media etiquette is or why it even exists.

Since you’re just starting out with social media, then we want to make sure you are caught up on the latest etiquette so your efforts do everything but chase people away.

Examples: Quiznos and Kenneth Cole

Social Media Fails

Two of the more well known social media fails come from large, well-known companies that you’d think would have a handle on social media etiquette. In the case of Quiznos, they quickly learned that trying to base an ad campaign off a raunchy YouTube video (search “2 Girls 1 Cup” if you’re really that interested) can be detrimental to your company – especially one that serves food. For Kenneth Cole, an extremely poor attempt at newsjacking was the best social media etiquette lesson for a company that would seem to understand something so basic.

WHAT TO NOTICE:
There’s nothing tasteful about either of these uses of social media. It’s obvious that these companies, or the people in charge of these campaigns, were completely clueless as to who their audience was, what they had a tolerance for and how to properly leverage other online trends.
WHAT TO LEARN: Not every trend or meme is worth copying or spreading. In addition, not knowing how or when to properly leverage a trend through social media can do far more harm than good for your company.
WHAT TO DO: Create social media guidelines for your company that everyone is required to adhere to. These guidelines should include simple social marketing tips as well as a very clear explanation of what your company’s voice is so there is no possibility for someone to push out messages like those above.

 

Be Responsive, Genuine and Helpful

To truly attract and keep people interested and engaged in your social media channels and content you have to be responsive to their comments, genuine with your replies and helpful with your answers.

Companies that fail to do these three things are usually just talking at their followers and hardly see any growth unless their brand is so well known and established that customers don’t care.

Since you’re just starting out you don’t have this advantage so every interaction you have needs to be handled appropriately.

Example: Zappos

Zappos Social Media Customer Service

Zappos, well known for their “do whatever it takes” customer service approach, is one of the best examples of companies that get social media and continue to do it right. The Facebook exchange (above) between a prospect and their service / social media rep led to an elated customer (and probably even more referrals and positive reviews.

WHAT TO NOTICE:
Zappos was responsive (responded within an hour), genuine (didn’t pretend to have an answer right away) and helpful (provided a solution).
WHAT TO LEARN: Being communicative and human, like Zappos, can make your company more approachable and thus more likable. When a rep can use a social media channel like Facebook to spend a little extra time to provide a useful answer and acquire a new customer, then you know your company’s social media strategy is focused.
WHAT TO DO: Educate everyone in your company on social media. Even if they never use it they will at least understand it and be more inclined to contribute to it in their own way. The ripple effect usually leads to better customer service as employees become aware of how public social media makes things so every interaction is more important than the last.

Leave a comment

What seems to work for your business?

If you think we missed something that helps to attract and retain quality followers, then please let us know by leaving your COMMENTS BELOW.


Are You Building a Community?

At the end of the day if you don’t think that you’re building a strong community of fans, followers, customers and prospects that enjoy your content and interact with it, then you need to take a step back and rethink your strategy.

By following the steps we have outlined above (and summarized below) you will be able to grow your fan base of people that are actually valuable to your business:

  • Understand what you are building and why
  • Have a plan
  • Stick to a schedule
  • Customize / brand your social media pages
  • Follow etiquette
  • Be responsive, genuine and helpful

Some companies like to use paid advertising to grow their followers, which is not something to rule out when done correctly. However, this is not always an option for smaller businesses or companies that don’t have an online advertising budget and that don’t know how to weed through quality versus fluff.

Focus on building your following organically as it will force you to create better content and actually spend the time interacting with your audience where they spend their time online.

When you’re ready to get serious about building your social following, then don’t hesitate to reach out to us to get more information that’s specific to your business.

In the meantime, we invite you to find and interact with us online to see how we have we manage and grow our social following. Here’s where to find us: Get Social with imFORZA

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