Growing your social media presence can be an arduous task, and the idea of a ‘quick fix’ can seem very appealing – but is it as good as it sounds?
If the end game for your social media presence is improving your bottom line, it is essential to consider how your growth strategy will shape the kind of followers you attract.
Many social media campaigns appear successful from the outside, but in reality, result in a large following of individuals who have no intention of in actually investing in the relevant brand.
To build the kind of following that will invest in your brand, your social media campaign should be aimed at a very specific target audience.
To identify what your target audience should look like, think about characteristics including:
- Age, gender, geographical location or other demographic factors relevant to your brand’s target market;
- An active interest in the industry or product to which your brand caters; and
- The kind of relationship with or disposition toward your brand that is conducive to translating attitudes into action.
So which strategies for growth will build a following with characteristics like these?
Below we look at three common strategies for fast and slow growth on social media, and the kinds of followers that they are likely to attract.
Fast Growth Strategies
Gaining a large number of followers quickly has its advantages, particularly for those just starting out.
It is a useful tool for first impressions and can make your page seem more legitimate and your brand more prominent.
However, most fast growth strategies – including those examined below – have significant weaknesses when it comes to creating genuine followers who will engage with your brand in and outside of social media in the long-term.
➢ One: run a ‘giveaway’ promotion
Running a promotion where users need to follow your page and repost or share an image advertising the competition to enter is a common fast growth social media strategy.
If the prize is well chosen and reasonably high-value, this strategy is reasonably likely to produce a high number of followers in a short space of time – mainly due to the exponential effect of the competition reaching your followers and the followers of everyone who enters.
For the duration of the competition, engagement with your page is also likely to increase. But consider this – once the competition has ended, only the prize-winner (or winners) will have gained what they sought when they decided to follow your page.
The rest of your new followers will probably have far less of an interest in investing in your business or personal brand than someone who has followed your page of their own accord without any other incentive.
So running a ‘giveaway’ promotion in isolation probably isn’t the most efficient way to translate your social media following into revenue. That said, it still has a use. If you are starting a page from scratch, it can be an effective way to simply ‘get your numbers up’ in order to make your page appear more established.
➢ Two: arrange a one-off, high exposure ‘shout out’
This strategy involves finding a well-known social media personality or brand with a large following, and paying them to direct followers to your page.
This can be done by way of caption, status or tweet with a link to your page, by arranging to have your content reposted on the prominent user’s page, or by getting them to create visual or written content featuring your brand.
This kind of endorsement works best if the representative you choose has followers belonging to the same kind of demographic that will also be interested in your brand.
A mismatched endorsement on social media can mean a large some of money is wasted procuring just a few followers.
The major drawback of this strategy is cost. The expense of having a high profile social media influencer endorse your brand means it is rarely a suitable long-term strategy for many start-ups and newcomers to the social media scene.
➢ Three: follow a large number of users
Another common strategy for fast growth is to play the ‘numbers game’ of following a large number of users and then, after a short period of time, unfollowing those who do not follow you back.
There are numerous aps available for each social media platform that enable you to see which of the users you are following aren’t mutually following you back.
Some social media users go a step further and even unfollow the users who did follow them back, in order to maintain a follows to followers ratio that gives the page an appearance of popularity.
The risks of these follow/unfollow strategies are obvious. Firstly, the fact that the followers gained by doing this have not sought out and followed your page of their own accord means they are less likely to invest in your brand.
Secondly, you run the risk of falling foul of disciplinary or banning measures put in place by almost all social media platforms to prevent mass following – including Facebook and Instagram.
Finally, you risk actually creating adverse publicity for yourself; at least amongst those who realise you have unfollowed them.
Slow growth strategies
Growing your social media following slowly and ‘organically’ will have a number of positive effects on your following.
For one, building a steady following over time through consistent strategies like producing great content will help develop a relationship whereby your followers regard you with an amount of trust and familiarity.
Such a relationship will impact positively on the probability that your followers will eventually become consumers of or investors in your brand. This is especially the case where followers have sought out and followed your page without other prompting or incentive.
➢ One: develop long-term relationships with influencers
The reason social media players should opt for long-term relationships with influencers and brand representatives can be summed up in two words – effective frequency.
This advertising term is used to refer to the number of exposures it takes for a message to cause a response in the person receiving it.
Research suggests that potential consumers (of media or products) should be exposed to a brand’s message at least three times before the recipient is positioned to react.
The chance that followers of your chosen brand representative will migrate over and become your followers is far better if they are exposed to your content or brand on multiple occasions.
This is also more likely to give the impression that the relevant influencer is genuinely interested in your brand and is a part of your social media community – an impression that will have a positive effect on the possibility that your new followers will invest in your brand.
So when you are deciding how to spend your social media budget (if you have one), make sure you consider the need for effective frequency as well as reach.
If you are looking for free ways to develop relationships with influencers, you can also consider arranging mutual brand representation or exposure, or offering your brands products or services in return for representation.
➢ Two: consistently create engaging content and integrate your platforms
Creating great written and visual content is far and away the best way to build a solid following on social media, and one that will engage with your brand on and outside of social media platforms.
The content you create should be high quality, involve engaging subject matter and excellent execution, and be consistent. You can read more about the ideal posting frequency here ➥ longevity in social media.
It is also important to ensure the content you create includes a relevant and well-constructed visual element. Content featuring compelling images will receive, on average, 94 per cent more views than that without.
Posting regular and engaging content to your social media page will give you the opportunity to portray the ethos of your brand as standing for values that are likely to be common amongst current and potential followers.
The cumulative effect of this, over time, will be that followers view your brand as familiar, well established and trustworthy.
The content you create can also be adapted and utilised across multiple platforms, including websites and blogs.
This way, you can gain more exposure for a single item of content, and coordinate your social media efforts to drive traffic to a desired source. Note that some platforms, like Instagram, only allow you to put a link in your bio, so individual posts will need to draw attention to this.
➢ Three: run loyalty-based promotions
The types of promotions you administer as part of your social media strategy can include more than just sporadic giveaways involving a small number of prize-winners.
While these competitions may be useful if you are just looking to build a large quantity of followers without any concern for quality, if you want to increase your rate of engagement and chances of converting followers to consumers, think about promotions that reward loyalty.
Rewarding followers with exclusive access to new content, sales or discount codes before they are made available to the public is one way to do this.
You can also ask followers to generate content matching brand-specific criteria and in order to enter a competition. Or, if your brand is product based, you can offer exposure to followers who create content showing your product by featuring their content on your own page (this is a great way to get free content too).
What strategies have you used to grow your social media reach, and how have they impacted your long-term rate of engagement? Leave your answers in the comments section below.