How to strategically build your social media following

Building a qualified social media following feels a bit like a dark art for many. As a digital marketing agency we get it all the time: ‘can you get me 10,000 followers?’ 

Of course this is appealing to everyone who has an interest in growing or maximising their online presence – but it’s important to understand that it’s not black and white and it’s not even always worth it. Yes, really – coming from the social media agency.

Wait, what?

At Patch our whole business is based on transparency and we’ve got to be frank: not every business needs or is capable of getting 10,000 followers. Sure, it’s nice, but it’s a lot of effort for little reward all too often – plus, if your business is ultra-niche, you’re likely to find it more difficult to find 10,000 relevant, qualified accounts that care about what you have to say.

It would be lovely to have 10,000 friends but imagine all the time, money and energy you’d spend on managing those relationships? Plus, where would you find 10,000 friends to build solid relationships with who all have an interest in leopard print trousers for men?

The investment in time, money and resource to build this kind of following is huge – it takes work, a proper social media strategy and commitment – this isn’t going to happen overnight (unless you find yourself on a reality TV show – if that’s what you want to do, go for it, you’ve got our vote).

Before you do anything, work out what exactly you want to be using social media for – you can utilise your social media channels as shopfronts and communicate with customers without having a huge following, and based on whatever your product or service is you will need to think about how your customers find you and which marketing channels are best to prioritise based on that. For example, if your customers usually start their search for your product on Google, or your services require an extensive research process, it might be wise to focus your efforts on an awesome SEO strategy with social media marketing in the periphery for when people come and check out your brand.

Remember, if you chase numbers, you get numbers. If you chase value, you get value.

There are two rules of thumb here, really.

  1. Do not buy social media followers – no matter how tempting it is. You might find yourself whizzing up from a few thousand followers to tens of thousands very quickly but you know they’re not real people, right? Your following will be made up of bots – they’re not going to engage with you, talk to you, find your content useful or do you any favours whatsoever, frankly.
  2. It’s better to have fewer of the right followers than lots of unqualified ones – and that’s why when clients come to us and say ‘can you get me 10,000 followers?’, the answer is usually no.

Now we’ve got the stern bit out of the way – how can you strategically build a social media following organically?

green plant growing from glass pot of coins

Identify and understand your niche

Knowing your audience is key to any social media strategy – but as well as knowing all about who you’re targeting, you need to accept your niche for what it is. Don’t try and be too broad – some of the most successful social media accounts and their influencer owners work so well because they are so specific.

If you know the specifics of your niche you can target effectively. Ultimately, if you’re talking about something irrelevant to your business or online brand, the wrong people are going to follow you and have no interest when you start talking about your products, services or content topics. They’re not going to engage with you, go to your website or read your posts and your stats will tank. This will kindly let your social media platforms know that you’re not particularly valuable and then you’re in a battle with the algorithms – and you don’t want that.

Delve into the ideal social media user for your business and identify what matters to them, what they may find interesting, what is likely to solve their problems or provide value, and you’ve got yourself some content ideas straight away.

Find the right hashtags

If you know who you’re targeting, you can identify the hashtags they’re using and where you’re likely to find them spending their time. You can research industry specific hashtags pretty easily: you’ll need to know which ones are the most saturated and which are the most popular, and find your own sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

Join relevant groups, conversations and lists

Identify Facebook and LinkedIn groups (if those platforms are relevant to you) about relevant topics and engage with users. For example, let’s say you sell books. You could find book review groups on Facebook and speak to authors and readers, build relationships and become active in communities that you know are likely to be interested.

Twitter enables users to create lists of accounts that fit into a certain bracket, so for example you might have one for clients, suppliers, influencers, people who tweet about bitcoin, whatever you like. This is a great way of giving yourself a quick and easy way to access the accounts that you like to engage with most rather than scrolling through your feeds looking for something to like.

Engagement is absolutely key on social media (the clue is in the name) and you want to be speaking to lots of other accounts about relevant content and building relationships with other users. It doesn’t have to eat up all your time either – take a look at our time saving social media tips to help you be more efficient online, or adopt our five-hour social media work week.

Build relationships

Social media management can be a bit of a you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours scenario. But hey, who doesn’t want their back scratched?

Building relationships with followers and prospective followers is vital, otherwise you’re essentially the guy who sits in the corner alone quietly with his pint (we get that we all need that sometimes, but now isn’t the time) – but equally, you don’t want to be the guy who talks about himself constantly, forcing all of the other pub-goers into boredom about plumbing.

First – not everyone in the pub is going to be interested in plumbing.

Second – not everyone wants to hear you talk about yourself all the time.

You should be listening as much as you’re talking – if not more. It’s a two-way street like any other relationship and it’s important that you talk to others about things that matter to them, tell them their content is valuable too – you don’t need to be in competition with every other account, even if you’re competitors in business – yes, really. Remember that tweet from Aldi about their 30th birthday?

 

 

Strategically building a social media following takes time and effort and it’s important to work out whether it’s feasibly worth it for your business. But if it is, social media marketing can bring real benefit to many businesses. It can be a tool to amplify your message, to build brand advocates, increase reach, house media, show what you’re about, a one-stop shop for reviews and content, yet it can be time-consuming to get right and it’s important that a business determines the ideal time to build and maintain that investment in social media marketing. It can be done – you’ve just got to do it right.

To find out more about understanding your audience, building a social media following or how to create content for social media, contact us to speak to a Patch specialist.

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