The “best practices” recommended to grow your following on social media networks are as varied as the actual networks. Too often, these so-called “best practices” have you doing something rather silly. They have you growing your following on the social network themselves. I think the biggest misconception out there about social followings is that they inherently have value. That, somehow, simply having people following you results in money.
It is true that gaining many thousands of followers on certain platforms gives you something. For instance, on YouTube, you can make a nice chunk of change off ad revenue alone, but you need some truly astronomical numbers to do so. Most people aren’t capable of this — it’s unrealistic to think this is achievable for the average business. However, on other platforms, having a large following means nothing. Facebook has been reducing the reach of business pages for years, which means all those lovely likes you’ve worked so hard to accumulate have almost no effect on the reach of your posts. Twitter is overrun by bots, and Instagram… well, followers are good for your ego I suppose.
The point I’m trying to get at is simple — followers, in and of themselves, have a pretty low amount of value. Or, to put it a better way, the quantity of followers is meaningless.
What matters is quality.
A Small Quality Following Is Greater Than a Large Unengaged Following
Here’s a simple question — would you rather have 100,000 bots following you or 10,000 real people? That’s an easy one — here’s a better one: Would you rather have 10,000 people who you don’t talk to and who won’t buy your stuff following you, or would you rather have 100 who engage with you and buy your stuff? All those likes on Facebook aren’t going to sell your products/services. Remember, the whole reason you’re trying to grow a following in the first place is to sell something. If your goal is the following itself, you’re doing this wrong. Quality followers who engage with you, who talk to you, who buy your products/services, are infinitely more valuable than a bunch of unengaged followers who basically sit around stroking your ego.
Get Rid of Old Habits
If you want to grow an engaged, profitable following that’s going to actually help you grow your business, you need to get rid of some old habits.
First on the list is the idea that you just need to post obsessively. The most successful social media people I know spend very little time posting and most of their time engaging. Most people use social media the same way they use the newspaper. They read it, and they don’t actually do anything on it. Most people lurk. If you’re expecting those lurkers to engage with you just because you retweeted something, you’re SOL. The same goes for any platform. All those likes and hearts mean nothing if the people clicking the buttons don’t do something afterwards. How do you get those people to take action?
Engage with them.
Now, when you do this, you’re going to spend less time posting. Your heart is going to tell you this is wrong, that you should just shoot off a quick “Thank you!” when someone shares a post of yours and then jump back to scheduling. Your heart is wrong. It is well worth your time to spend lots of time (think 20 minutes or more) crafting a long, well-thought-out response to even the simplest comments or questions on social media. When you think of your comments on social media as a form of content, as carrying at least as much value as anything you might post, you start to understand how much time, effort, and care should be put into any attempts you make to engage your audience.
Best Practices to Grow an Engaged, Profitable Following
In a nutshell, here’s how you can grow an engaged, profitable following that will actually spend money on your products/services:
- Make an effort to identify where your ideal quality followers are, and then engage with them there (for example, if your ideal followers are hanging out on someone else’s YouTube channel, go to that YouTube channel and comment/respond/chat/share)
- Spend less than 10% of your time on social sharing or pushing your own stuff — spend 90% of your time engaging
- Respond to every engagement in some way
- Reciprocate in every case where someone does you a favor (a share, a like, a comment — do the same for them!)
- For higher level engagements (comments, shares), spend time crafting a detailed response that invites a conversation
- Periodically comb through your follower lists, find your top interactors, and then offer them something of value, for free, on an individual basis
- Periodically reach out to your top interactors and invite them to join your mailing list so they can see some of your higher-value content regularly (and you can start nurturing those potential leads)
- Periodically comb through your follower lists and identify the people you wish you interacted with more or think might be good leads and engage with them individually
- Periodically comb through the follower lists of your competitors and identify the people you wish you interacted with more or think might be good leads and engage with them individually
- Periodically visit places on each social media platform where people gather to interact (on a page’s comments, in a group, etc.) and identify the people you wish you interacted with more or think might be good leads and engage with them individually
If you do all this, with engagement as the groundwork of everything you do, the touchstone you always come back to, you can’t help but succeed. You’ll grow your following, but importantly, you’ll only fill your following with people who are going to help your business grow.
Once you’ve got the social thing down, it’s time to move beyond — read this article by Adebisi Adewusi to learn how.