Growing a Social Following from Scratch
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.
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…
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.
How to Grow a Social Following from Nothing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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
Need help building your online community?