3 22 blog

One reason Facebook remains so popular with brands is that you can rather efficiently increase your business’s following using advertising. With the help of professional looking ads and effective targeting, you can offer value to a targeted group of potential followers who will engage with your content. That’s not the only way to add followers by far, but it’s helpful – particularly for new brands that are just starting out.

This is much more difficult on other social platforms. Twitter also offers advertising for followers but it is far less cost effective per follower than Facebook. Other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest don’t even offer an advertising route to increasing one’s following.

This is somewhat expected. Twitter and Instagram are fundamentally vehicles for celebrity. To a small extent, you would follow your friends (like Facebook), but to a much larger extent you follow content publishers, famous people, and people who have found a way to be especially interesting. Should you really be able to advertise your way into that group?

So, not being able to invest money directly for followers, we’re left with investing time, and investing ingenuity. Mostly time.

If you decide that your business should invest in a social media following on platforms where advertising is ineffective or unavailable, here are some of the tools that you have available:

1) (It should go without saying, but) Interesting or Useful Content That People Want

I hate to lead off with something so obvious, but most published content is noise that no one cares about. For Instagram, this means visually interesting photos, and not (for example) product shot after product shot. If your business does not produce a lot of original photography and video as part of its operations or culture, then save your time and leave Instagram alone. For Pinterest, this means investing a lot of someone’s hours creating interesting boards and interacting with communities.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that whatever content you post is something that your followers will want to see. No other technique in this article will work if there’s nothing interesting there to follow.

2) The Almighty Follow-back

This is a time-intensive technique and it has the potential to ruin your feeds if you’re not careful, but it will move the needle on followers. Part of the etiquette of certain platforms like Instagram and Twitter (not so much for others like LinkedIn) is that there’s a chance that people will follow you if you follow them.

It’s not a certainty. You may get one follow-back for every 8 or 10 people you follow, depending on whether or not you are interesting (see #1 above). But if you invest enough time you can assemble a substantive audience through follow-backs alone. This will, of course, ruin your newsfeed unless you go back and remove these likes later. A bit rude, but there’s no notification that goes out when you do this so you probably will not be removed in kind. And there’s also no reason to think that people who gave you a follow-back will engage at all with your content. The quality will be dubious this way.

And as you can imagine, this process will take a long time unless you use something like:

3) Social Media Automation (Use At Your Own Risk)

Bots. They’re annoying for everyone, and usually they violate the platform’s terms of use and put you at risk of losing your account, but people do use them. They are particularly popular on Twitter and Facebook.

Instead of using a 3-month intern to follow enough social users to get you massive follow-backs, you use a service that does the same thing in three days. You choose some relevant hashtags or content categories, and the service chooses accounts within those categories to follow, and posts to like. Some of these services will even leave comments automatically, but based on this test experience, you probably don’t want a piece of that.

Just to be absolutely clear and disclaim fully: social automation usually violates a social platforms use policy, and we are not advocating their use. But no article on this topic is complete without mentioning their existence.

4) Hoping for/Asking for Shares (The Almighty Retweet)

The cornerstone of a social following is getting your stuff shared. Every social media “expert” out there tells you that you accomplish this through posting incredibly useful, interesting and/or innovative content (again, see #1 above). And, of course that’s right, but that’s the minimum ante. That just gets you a seat at the table. But if you’re starting with a small following, how can you expect shares?

There are degrees of soliciting others’ shares. The least offensive option is to simply include their handle (Twitter) in the post, so that they see it. Maybe you write an additional “thought you might find this interesting,” or that kind of thing. Only really works if they recognize you from their community, or if the content your suggesting fits a very specialized need.

If you want to upshift from this more innocuous method, you can reach out to people with significant audiences directly and ask what a share would take. This is common on Instagram, where people are aggressively looking to monetize their followings. Look for people who publish their email addresses on their profiles – it usually means they welcome opportunities to do business. Many times, if audience sizes are comparable, you can arrange a reciprocal share. Still other influencers are looking to be paid, and you’ll have to determine what those impressions are worth to you.

5) Consistent Tagging

On Twitter, people still use hashtags to get their comments found, although more and more Twitter Hashtags are becoming akin to: “P.S. Snark Follows Here:”. Instagram, on the other hand, turns hashtag category searching into an art. Instagram allows using up to 30 hashtags per post, and as Bufferapp points out, many power users max this out. It’s incredibly easy to get your hands on a list of top hashtags. Good hunting.

6) Ask Users to Tag A Friend (Use Sparingly)

This only works if the post talks about something that one’s friend would genuinely want to know about. We’ve used this successfully for special events that are hard to come by, like certain health-related workshops. If you put a call-to-action like this into an ordinary post, you’ll look desparate and dumb.

7) Cross-promote Everything (Including Your Website)

So I’m assuming that you’ve read enough of this type of information to at least have social sharing buttons on your website. Good first start, but you can do more. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest have widgets available, for example, so that you can give your website visitors a taste of the feed they’ll be following. Don’t be tacky with these – make sure the embed placement makes sense.

Are you mentioning your exclusive Facebook offers in your Twitter feed? Have you announced your Instagram photo contest on Facebook? The easiest followers to get are followers you already have, getting them to follow you on multiple networks. Of course, this presupposes that you have interesting and useful content that’s exclusive to a certain platform (see #1 above), or else, why would they bother?

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And there you have it. There are other techniques too, of course, but these will tend to move the needle. Remember, if a social following is important to you, you have to invest at least two of the following: money, ingenuity or hours. Make sure you’re clear on which two you can spare.

For a free consultation on your company’s social presence, contact Social Media Beast today!