Engagement – The Key to Social Media Growth
Throughout the years, we have helped many of our clients build up a following on their various social media profiles. We’ve used a number of techniques to help gain likes and followers, while also maintaining quality content for fans to read and interact with. But there is one constant that never fails to help grow the audience, engagement.
Now I’m sure, in the broad sense of the word, everyone knows that engagement is the key to building a community around your brand. But what types of engagement are truly effective in helping grow those numbers? Anyone can post content on their social media page, but just posting content isn’t going to attract users to the page. It will, however, get people to stay on the page and possibly like or follow you.
Start with Consistent Content Creation
At the core of all of our strategic social media plans is content. Content is the reason that people will want to be a part of your community. It’s the reason your fans will engage with you and it’s the reason why you’ll continue to grow organically as you push forward in your efforts.
You absolutely need a content strategy and you need to stick with it. This will be the key to everything else I mention throughout this article. Even if you are starting completely from scratch, with zero fans/followers, flesh out a content calendar and make sure you stick with it, no matter what. You’re not going to see huge growth numbers overnight, but as you continue to show people that your page/brand is worth following, the people will come. And be sure to stay consistent in your posting. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you get discouraged that nobody is interacting with the content you are producing. Just keep moving forward.
Also, a major key here is to make sure that not all of your posts are self-promoting. Nobody wants to be constantly blasted with advertisements for your brand. Pretend your brand is a person, give it a personality, and post out things that you think your audience would be talking about. It’s ok to post links to sites that aren’t your own if you read a good article. It’s ok to post your opinions on stuff as long as it’s appropriate and you don’t think it will alienate you or get you in trouble. It’s necessary to not always post about your own self-interests, please keep that in mind.
Now that you have an overall idea of the types of content you’re going to produce and promote on your social channels, it’s time to work on building up a following.
Building a Fanbase on Social Media
Building a community on social media is kind of a double edge sword in that people are less likely to follow/like you if you have no fans/followers, but it’s hard to justify creating content for essentially nobody. And it’s for this reason that I suggest you start with building your Twitter and Instagram accounts before you focus on Facebook.
Now this does not mean that you should not setup your Facebook page and start building out content, it just means that I like to focus more of my fan building strategy on Twitter and Instagram first because they have something powerful that makes it easier to establish a fanbase… hashtags.
Before we get into using hashtags to help grow your fanbase, there’s one thing that many people overlook when trying to build a social following from scratch: friends and family.
The easiest, most effective way to gain fans/followers, that are very likely to engage with the content you are posting, is to simply ask your friends and family to like or follow your accounts. If you truly believe in the brand that you are building, you will have no problem spamming your contact list and asking for help. Even if these people never interact with your account in the future, it helps build up an initial following that will help strangers see the worth in your brand. And like I said, since they are your friends and family, they more than likely will be willing to support you and will drop likes, shares, retweets and comments if they see you post.
Take advantage of your friends and family, you’re leaving extremely low hanging fruit on the tree if you don’t.
After you’ve exhausted that resource to build up an initial fan base, it’s time to buckle down and work on getting strangers to want to follow you. This is where things can get discouraging, but you need to stick with it. Things are not going to happen overnight, but the more you stick with it the more people will come.
As I mentioned above Twitter and Instagram utilize hashtags in a much better way than Facebook does, so it’s much easier to get your content in front of people on these platforms.
Hashtags allow you to “tag” your posts with certain keywords that then become clickable in the platforms and display your content in a curated list of other people talking about the same topics. Anything with ‘#’ in front of it is a hashtag and can be clicked to reveal what other people are saying, or posting, related to that topic. These curated lists are unfiltered, which means that your post will be seen by anyone that clicks to view the hashtag list. The obvious downside here is that if it’s a super popular topic, your content will disappear from view rather quickly.
Every post you make should have a couple hashtag keywords in it. Don’t go overboard, and be sure the tags are relevant to the topic you are discussing. You can use tools like Daily Purposes to discover popular hashtags to use.
If you’re using hashtags on Instagram, we suggest writing out your posts in another text editing application (like Notes) and putting a single dot on 5-6 lines below your actual content and then putting your list of hashtags. Instagram doesn’t have a content limit as short as Twitter does, so take advantage of that and tag your photos with 15 or so hashtags. Don’t go too crazy, keep it below 30. But by putting the single lines of dots, you can force the hashtags below what the user will see when they are scrolling through their feed, and it will appear less spammy to them, but you’ll still show up in those curated lists for each keyword.
When it comes to Twitter, you just have to get more creative and try to work the keywords into your actual post content, and then add the ‘#’ to those keywords. The 140 character limit makes it a little more difficult to spam hashtags, but you can figure out what works best for you.
Now those are the essentials of getting your first followers and getting your content in front of a few strangers. But more than likely, just publishing posts with certain hashtags isn’t going to get you a ton of followers…
Engage with People
The title of this article is “Engagement – The Key to Social Growth”, but it might not mean what you think. In the long run, yes, getting your fans/followers to engage with the content you put out, whether that’s liking or sharing or commenting, will absolutely help grow your social following. But by engaging with people yourself, you’re more likely to have an impact on someone and gain them as a fan.
We have found that by liking, replying, and commenting on other people’s posts or photos, we have been able to grow our clients’ social channels faster than if we just send posts and photos out into the vast unknown of Twitter and Instagram.
And yes, there are services out there that you can hook your accounts into that will automatically like posts and photos, or follow/unfollow people, and even leave comments. But there are a couple things we don’t like about using those services.
For one, the use of these services is completely against the Terms of Services of Twitter and Instagram. So if they catch you using it on your account, they could very well terminate it. And since we’re dealing with clients accounts, we can’t risk getting them shut down. Plus, it’s not that hard to do the same things on your own with the same reward.
The second thing we don’t like about these automated services is that you basically just plug in a keyword and the robot goes out and just starts liking anything that contains that keyword in it. The posts could have absolutely nothing to do with that keyword. But because someone happened to use that hashtag in the post, your account is going to like it. I don’t know about you, but I like to know what posts we’re liking through our accounts.
Despite not liking these automated services, we do really like Crowdfire, which allows us to easily search out and follow people that are talking about certain keywords, or unfollow people that had followed us, but are no longer following us. You can do all of these same things right on Twitter.com, but we it’s a little easier on Crowdfire.
Like, Follow, Comment Your Way to Fans
As I just said, the key, we’ve found, to gaining fans on Twitter and Instagram is to engage with their posts. Search for a keyword or hashtag relevant to what you’re trying to do as a brand, or relevant to the last post you made, and just go through and start liking posts related to that topic. If you find someone that seems to know what they are talking about related to that topic, maybe drop them a follow.
When you follow someone, it will bring up suggestions of other people you might want to follow based on that person. Most of the time these people are very relevant to the topic you’re searching, so we always like to follow a few more of those people as well. If you realize they are posting things you don’t want to be a part of, you can always unfollow them. Combine that with leaving a few comments on posts, or @replies, as you go through and you’ll start to see people liking and following your content in no time.
The whole reason that engaging with other people helps grow your own brand is that the majority of everyday people will have their notifications turned on, and therefore when you like, comment/reply, or follow them, or their content, they will get a notification and your name will pop up on their phone. Because of this notification, they are more likely to go in and see who you are and what you’re doing, and since you’re posting relevant content consistently (as we talked about at the very beginning), they might just click that Like or Follow button.
By using just these methods I’ve discussed in this article, we’ve helped grow social media accounts by 1000% over the course of a couple months. And since we’re focusing completely on related content and keywords, the newly gained community are interacting with the content that we are putting out, which has helped our clients’ accounts grow exponentially as the days, months, and weeks go on.
I promise you this method will help you grow your audience as long as you stick with it. Maintain a steady stream of posts on your accounts (not all of which should be self-promoting), and interact with other people that are talking about the same topics you’re trying to target, and you will start to see your follower count grow as the months go on.