Social media is an extremely effective and (relatively) inexpensive method of marketing, but only if you have a social media following that appeals to hundreds, and even thousands, of potential customers and fans of your business.
Here’s why social media can be an extremely effective marketing tool.
Social media marketing lets you target only your audience
You can build your social media following to reach only your target demographic. Print and broadcast reach a general audience, and you can only hope that your particular audience is among that group at that time.
With digital marketing, you can target your message so it only reaches your social media following.
And if you build your following the right way, it will only be filled with people who are in your target audience and not non-prospects.
That way, you can reach exactly the people you wanted to reach without “wasting” your ad on a general audience that will never become your customer.
You can reach a particular demographic or geographic area
With Facebook advertising, you can make sure that your marketing and advertising only reaches a particular audience, based on things like the audience’s gender, age, occupation, geographic location, and even some of their likes and dislikes.
Twitter works in much the same way: You can target your audience based on their gender, language, geographic area, their interests, keywords they use, or even the followers of a notable account.
If you do any sort of social media advertising, you can be sure you’re only reaching the people who live nearby and are likely to come into your store.
You can measure your social media marketing results
With social media marketing and Google Analytics, you can see which pages people are visiting, what brought them there, what path they took through your website, and even which ones eventually made a purchase.
If you use customer relationship management software and tie it into your website, you can track your customers from the point of sale all the way back to your initial contact. This lets you see which social updates and marketing campaigns are effective or ineffective.
6 steps to build a social media following
So how do you build your social media following? Where do you even start? There are so many social networks and channels, which ones should you even focus on?
Here are six steps to take to help you grow your business’s social media following.
- Find and follow potential customers.
- Do NOT cheat at step No. 1!
- Don’t only advertise.
- Share interesting stuff.
- Let people get to know you and your company.
- Have conversations, create relationships.
Let’s get started.
1. Find and follow potential customers
Like I said earlier, one of the great things about social media is that you can specifically target those customers who are likely to buy from you. Maybe they fit your target demographic, they’re in your local area, or they work in a specialized industry.
One way to find your potential customers is to go to a place like Twitter and search for everyone with specific keywords in the title.
For example, if I wanted to reach everyone who worked in publishing. I would go to Twitter.com and type “publisher” in the search window.
Next, I would click on the People link at the top of the page. From there, I would see all the people who put the word “Publisher” in their Twitter profile.
If you have a local business, like a new donut shop, you can do a similar search for people who are in your geographic region. Just search for your city and then select Near you in the search filters in the upper right corner.
You’ll want to do that search a few times with a few different terms, just so you get people who mention the state or the city in their 160-character bio, or even listed their city and state in their location settings.
From there, you can follow everyone who fits your chosen target audience.
You should also be sure to write a clear, concise bio that explains who you are and what you do.
If you opened up a donut shop in downtown Indianapolis, then make sure you say that. People will decide whether to follow you back based on your bio (among other things), so make sure you give them a good reason to do so.
You can perform similar searches with Instagram, although most of those searches should happen on your phone rather than your laptop. Your phone’s app has much more functionality, but it can be slow going.
There, you can do searches for a particular keyword, such as “donuts,” and then search for accounts or places with that word in the title. Then, you can just follow those people to your heart’s content.
If you’re a business-to-business company, LinkedIn will be your top social media tool. You can do searches for people in particular industries, companies that you know of, or my favourite, find someone well established in your chosen industry and then start connecting with their connections.
2. Do NOT cheat at step No.1!
It’s possible to cheat at social media, and I’m going to briefly explain how, so you don’t trip and fall and accidentally cheat.
Let’s pick Twitter as an example, although this basic idea works with most social networks. (Reminder: You should NOT do this at all!)
- With new Twitter accounts, you are limited to following any more than 5,000 people until you get 5,000 people following back. (You can also only follow a specific number of people per hour, which means you can’t go click-crazy and follow 5,000 people in 3 hours.)
- Let’s just say that you followed your maximum 5,000 people, but only 2,000 people followed you back. You will not be allowed to follow anyone more until you get 5,000 followers. The problem is, those 3,000 people aren’t going to follow you any time soon. If they didn’t follow you in the first few days, they’re not going to.
- So instead, you unfollow the 3,000 non-followers so you can follow some new ones. In fact, let’s just go ahead and unfollow all 5,000 people! Then, you follow 5,000 more. That gets you another 2,000 followers and now you’re at 4,000. (If this seems like a lot of clicking, there are actually companies that have created software that will do all of this following and unfollowing for you.)
- Now you unfollow all 5,000 people again and follow 5,000 more. This gets you another 2,000 followers, and now you have 6,000! You have broken Twitter’s magic number and you can go as much as 10% above that number.
- Let’s do it again! Unfollow all 6,000 people, follow 6,000 more and get 3,000 followers, and you’re up to 9,000. Do it again, get 5,000 more followers, and you’re up to 14,000.
Intoxicating, isn’t it? You can do this over and over and over, following and unfollowing, building your numbers ever higher, until you’ve reached the hundreds of thousands!
Except you should never, ever do this!
Seriously, this isn’t even a wink-and-a-nudge kind of thing. It could get banned from Twitter if enough people report you.
The reason people want these high numbers is because it looks like they have a lot of people who like their work, products, services and overall brand. They look like a popular company or a person with lots of fans.
The problem is, those fans aren’t paying attention to that account.
There’s no conversation taking place, there’s no relationship being built, and no one is actually giving any good reason to pay attention to this account at all.
It’s easy to these Twitter cheaters: They’re the one with tens of thousands of followers but have written fewer than 1,000 tweets.
Bottom line: Cheating at social media doesn’t actually get you anything but artificially high numbers and an increased risk of getting dropped by your social networks. So don’t do it. Really.
3. Don’t only advertise
The biggest mistake businesses make is in treating their social media following like an advertising audience.
They think, “Hey, we can advertise our stuff for free!” and then just bombard the bejeezus out of their audience with ad after ad, commercial after commercial, all the while missing out on the fact that their audience is dwindling, and the people who are sticking around aren’t even paying attention.
Now, I’m not saying don’t ever advertise. You can, especially if you’re doing something cool, or you’re doing something seasonal, like 50% off all your products for the big Boxing Day sale. That’s absolutely worth promoting.
But advertising should not be the only thing you’re pushing out on social media.
I always recommend the 90/10 rule to businesses trying to reach their social media following. That is, 90 percent of the time should be spent on other people, 10 percent of the time should be about you.
In other words, you should be answering people’s questions, having conversations with them, sharing news stories from other sources, and boosting the works of other people.
Share blog articles your customers have written, share news articles that affect your industry.
Then, the remaining 10 percent of the time, you can talk about your products, your services, and your company.
4. Share interesting stuff
As simple as that sounds, you would be surprised at the number of people who fail to heed even that simple instruction. They write mediocre blog articles, they share photos of themselves, and they do nothing but advertise their products and special offers.
Your best bet, once you define your target audience, is to figure out what kinds of things they like or want to know about, and then start sharing items that will appeal directly to them.
Still not sure of what to post? Here are a few ideas:
- Share news articles from your industry trade journals and websites.
- Post helpful tips that will help them in their own businesses or personal lives.
- Record video lessons that show people how to solve problems they face.
- Publish blog articles that answer some of their questions, give them advice, and educate them on the important issues and problems your company can solve.
5. Let people get to know you and your company
Share things about you, your employees, and your company. Let them see the people who make your company an interesting place to work and do business with.
This is different from talking about your products or services, your sale prices, and special offers. That’s still advertising.
Instead, share things that build up personal relationships between you and your customers. A few examples can include:
Share photos of you and your staff. Photos of you and your staff can help customers understand there are real people at the company. It can make you seem more personable and friendly.
Participate in #ThrowbackThursday. Take a look back at the company, especially if yours is an older family business. Share old photos of your employees and even your old products. If you’ve got old photos of your offices or even your old logo, let everyone see them too. You might get some old customers coming out of the woodwork saying, “Hey, I remember that person!” or “That was our very first unit of yours that we bought.”
Spotlight employees and staff members. Do a “Meet Our Team” feature in your newsletter and/or blog, and re-share it on your social networks. If your associates have their own social accounts (which they should), ask them to share their features on their own networks. Explain what they do and how long they’ve been with the company, as well as anything significant in their lives, like having a new baby, getting married, getting a promotion, or even joining or leaving the company. Let your customers see that you value your team.
6. Have conversations, create relationships
There’s an old marketing saying: “People buy from people they like and trust.”
Good salespeople understand this and will often form friendships and relationships with their customers. The customers learn to trust the salesperson and know that the salesperson always has their back.
Social media marketing can (and should) follow the same philosophy. Your job is to get your business’s social media following to like and trust you, and the best way to do that is to have conversations with them.
Build relationships with them. Give them advice. Share knowledge. Inform and entertain.
Show your network that you want to be a resource to them.
You can do that just by talking with your customers about their issues, helping solve their problems, and finding solutions for their pain points.
That doesn’t just have to be your own products or services. If you’re knowledgeable about an area and can provide expertise, just do it.
If people are interested in the information you’re providing, they’re more likely to investigate who you are and why you’re an expert.
They’ll come to you on their own and are more likely to buy your product because you created a relationship first rather than pushed the sale.
Building your business’s social media following is actually not that difficult. Just follow people who are interested in you, but don’t cheat or advertise. Share things that are interesting, have conversations, and build relationships.
If you can follow these basic steps, you’ll build up a strong customer base of people who love your company and love your products.
They’ll know who to go to when they have a problem, and they’ll be more likely to share your brand with their friends and colleagues.