Recently, I got my 1150th Instagram follower. In the same week, I passed 4000 followers on GooglePlus, to go along with the contacts I have on LinkedIn and Twitter – about 12,000 connections in all.
If you are one of the internet famous set, you might not be impressed those numbers. Although they are significant for me, it’s true that lots of influencers have much bigger networks than I do (and non-influencers have considerably fewer). But, if the size of my following doesn’t blow you away, the kind of engagement I get might.
I regularly see from 50 to more than 100 likes, shares and comments on my posts. Those kinds of percentages are virtually unheard of in any topic area, much less the ones I participate in.
That makes the followers I have worth more, in terms of marketability, than the tens or hundreds of thousands that some of my peers have. The individuals in my networks aren’t robots, or people who scroll disinterestedly through my updates – they are live men and women who interact with me on a regular basis.
That’s the real goal of social (from a marketing and brand-building perspective), and something pretty well every company struggles with. So, how have I managed to “crack the code” when it seems so elusive to many? Everything I do really comes down to following three simple learnings around social engagement:
#1 Know Your Format
The type of content you post, the length, and the topic or tone should all be dictated by the medium you’re using. The kind of photo-based strategy I use on Instagram, for example, would be less effective on GooglePlus and might fail completely on LinkedIn. Conversely, I can post long, in-depth articles in Pulse for followers on LinkedIn (and in GooglePlus as well), but would get very little traction with that kind of approach on Instagram or Pinterest.
This might sound like a basic point, but lots of marketers try to use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to social engagement (spotted any auto-shared content lately?) which just doesn’t work. You have to keep your audience and the medium they prefer in mind. Otherwise, what you add to your feed will be irrelevant at best and annoying at worst.
#2 Be Authentic and Stay Focussed
Aside from crafting content to the specific social platform I’m using, probably the most important thing I do to encourage engagement that grows my personal brand is simply to think about things from a follower’s or connection’s point of view. This gets into authenticity – that means not posting ads, not following any group or individual that isn’t relevant to my topic, and refusing to share anything that’s not in line with what ties me to my contacts… even if it comes from a close friend or colleague. (Not always easy as I build new friendships all the time.)
Remaining focused is a particularly important aspect of success on Instagram. Followers there follow you because of your visual content, and advertisements are served to you based on a combination of your topic and what you ‘like’ or comment on. To avoid ads on Instagram, simply keep your posts and your likes on topic. The few ads that get through will likely be the ones you don’t mind seeing because they will most likely be relevant.
#3 Pay Attention to Engagement
Even with the first two tips in place, my engagement wasn’t always at the levels it is now. I had to learn, one post at a time, what topics, ideas and formats (strategy opinion, quick tips, etc) were the more interesting to my connections. I paid attention to the things that got them fired up, and then tried to deliver more.
This is an often-overlooked point, but the biggest part of social engagement for brand building isn’t just finding the right things to post, but becoming good at listening and paying real attention to what’s going on around you. If you are genuinely interested in helping your contacts to learn and grow, you’ll begin to see what they respond to. Consider building an editorial calendar around those insights, just don’t lose the spontaneity of real dialogues in the process.
BONUS TIP: When I log into my social accounts, I’m not looking to make sales. Instead, my focus is on building friendships and starting relationships. Because just as in real life networking, the relationships you develop are the most rewarding, more apt to result in referrals. That point of view is the basis for all these tips, which has served me well.
If you’re not getting the kind of engagement and new business you’d like from your social interactions, ask yourself whether you might be starting from the wrong place. Are you talking to or communicating with your ideal contacts? It’s not about the numbers on social media, but the results. And that will lead you to a focus on engagement every single time.