Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Wednesday, 2nd January, 2013 | By Natalie Lynn Borton | Category: Public Relations and Social Media

Resolved: How to Get Serious About Building Your Social Media Following in 2013

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It’s 2013, and social media has become deeply ingrained in our lives. For an increasing percentage of the population, using social media platforms to connect with friends, family, brands and even celebrities is second nature. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – these digital playgrounds are where your customers live day in and day out. As a result, if you want to reach them, you need to be there, too.

But it’s not enough simply to be present. You must cultivate a strong community around your brand. You must build a tribe of people who genuinely and passionately “like” what you have to offer – not people who have been paid or misled in order to follow you on a social media site.

It’s these people who will not only consume the content you publish but also willingly share it with their own friends, thereby exponentially increasing your exposure to new eyes and new potential customers. And the more followers you have, the more will want to jump on the bandwagon, and so on and so forth.

If you’re just entering the social arena – or if your number of followers has stagnated at a paltry few – how do you actively grow the community around your brand? While we all wish it could happen overnight, it simply doesn’t (unless you manage to make a viral video, the chances of which are about as good as winning the lottery!).

Creating real community takes time, effort, patience and persistence, but it’s well worth it. Your first few hundred followers are always the hardest won, and then momentum takes over, and your tribe begins to grow and expand organically as your fans become your evangelists and bring others into the circle.

To help you build your community from the ground up, let’s take a deeper look at the three big players in the social media game – Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – the value they offer, the audiences they reach, proven ways to create community and how to measure effectiveness for each platform.

Facebook

With over 1 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the king of all social networks. Though originally created in 2004 for college students, it’s now used by individuals of all ages and businesses worldwide and is one of the most visited sites on the Web. The majority of users are under 45 years old and spend an average of 20+ minutes per visit per month.

To leverage the strength of this social media stalwart to gain exposure for your products or services, follow these best practices:

Lay a good foundation.

This includes naming your page, uploading a logo and cover photo, including relevant information about what you do and customizing your URL so you can easily be found amid the vast sea of users.

Connect with people.

In addition to inviting friends and colleagues to like your page, Facebook ads are an effective way to grow your following by connecting with people who haven’t yet found you organically.

You can build an ad, create a sponsored post, promote posts on your page and even take advantage of advanced options like toggling your bidding options between CPM and CPC. Facebook also allows you to narrow your target audience by choosing the location, age and gender of the people you want to reach, as well as to set a maximum budget and to establish a schedule for your campaign.

Engage your audience.

The best way to do this is to regularly post relevant content that people will connect with and respond to.

Many businesses make the mistake of being overly formal, when in fact the language of social media is innately casual and conversational. Always keep your customer in mind when composing posts, and write naturally as if you were addressing them face-to-face.

As a general rule of thumb, you should be posting at least one to two times a week (although daily is better) with relevant, image-driven content like photos and videos. According to data from Facebook, posts that include a photo album, picture or video generate about 180, 120 and 100 percent more engagement, respectively.

Additionally, be aware of peak traffic times to maximize your post’s exposure. The optimal time to post on Facebook is between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., and engagement rates are 18 percent higher on Thursdays and Fridays when people are less focused on work.

Influence friends of fans.

Facebook has made word-of-mouth advertising easier than ever. When someone likes your page, one of your posts or even content on your own website, this action puts you in front of their friends in the form of an endorsement that shows up either in their news feed or on a Facebook-connected site (for example, you’re shopping for a book online, and next to the description of the item, you see an indication that five of your friends like it).

Effective strategies to help you get in front of the friends of your fans include creating signage to encourage visitors to check in to your business if you have a bricks-and-mortar location; creating events that people can invite their friends to join; posting questions or fill-in-the-blank status updates that promote user engagement; and sharing exclusive content and offers (25% off today only!) that people will pass along to others.

As you establish a following on your page, you can see what’s working and what’s not working through Facebook Insights, which can be accessed through your admin panel. This analytics page is rich with valuable data including total likes, friends of fans, people talking about this, weekly total reach and total subscribers – plus week-to-week comparisons of reach. You can also find stats on reach, engaged users, people talking about this and virality for individual posts.

Twitter

With 140,000,000+ active users who send out 340,000,000 tweets per day, Twitter is an excellent tool to help you influence potential customers and discover trends in your industry.

If you have a Twitter profile, you’ve likely received offers from services that will allow you to “buy” followers. This is not the right way to grow your community, as these are not people who will actively read and share your tweets. The value of Twitter lies not in the number of followers you have but in the number of engaged followers you have.

Instead, if you really want to rule the Twitterverse and build your community in the process, here’s what you need to do:

Share.

Share photos and behind the scenes information about your business. Even better, give your followers a glimpse into projects that are in development and upcoming events. Users come to Twitter to get and share the latest news, so give it to them!

Listen.

Constantly monitor the comments about your company, brand and products.

Ask.

Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and shape your product and service offerings in ways that show that you’re listening.

Respond.

Respond to compliments, complaints, questions and all other types of feedback in real time.

Reward.

Show your appreciation for your current followers and attract new ones by offering Twitter-exclusive special offers, discounts and time-sensitive deals.

Demonstrate leadership and expertise.

Share links to content that you’ve published on your own website or blog as well as other insightful resources that show you’re at the top of your game and that you’re closely following the shifts and changes in your industry.

Champion your stakeholders.

Retweet and reply publicly to great tweets posted by your followers and customers.

Establish the right voice.

Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine and, of course, likable tone when engaging with businesses and brands, so think carefully about your voice as you tweet. Make sure your choice of words reflects your brand values and that they will appeal to the type of person who is your typical customer.

One drawback to Twitter is its lack of access to analytics data. Although there are several free web-based products that can help you track your performance on the platform, such as HootSuite or Twitonomy, Twitter itself currently only offers analytics to paid advertisers.

Pinterest

Though impossible DIY projects tend to be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Pinterest, there’s much more to the platform than arts and crafts. Currently leading the pack as the fastest growing social network, Pinterest has now introduced business accounts to its offerings, making it even easier for those charged with growing a company to reach consumers with valuable content that fosters community building.

As a business account holder, you can register under the name of your business (rather than first and last name), verify your website so it appears on your main profile page and even convert your existing personal account to a business account. Additionally, Pin It and Follow buttons can be added to your website, and widgets are newly available for you to showcase your pins to site visitors, thus encouraging them to follow you on Pinterest.

To be effective on this platform and gain relevant followers who will drive traffic to your website and promote your brand, create strategic boards that contain shareable content and reinforce what you’re all about.

One great example of this is Warby Parker’s Bespectacled Bloggers pinboard, which features bloggers wearing WP frames. It’s a win-win strategy to showcase their product while promoting those who are helping them spread the word about their brand and who themselves are leaders of their own popular communities.

Warby-Parker-Pinterest

While Pinterest does not offer analytics services, it does calculate the number of likes and repins for all pins, so you can at least get a feel for which types of content receive the strongest response. To truly measure your effectiveness and reach on Pinterest, however, the best resource is Google Analytics for your website, which will show you the top sources of traffic to your site. If Pinterest is among them, you’ll definitely know that you’re doing something right.

Although building your social media following from the ground up is a daunting task, by no means is it an impossible feat. By creating profiles that represent you and your business well, applying best practices for each platform, measuring effectiveness and evolving your content strategy based on data and user feedback, over time, you’ll successfully cultivate a strong community of genuine fans and evangelists for your brand.

Natalie Lynn Borton
Natalie Lynn Borton is a magazine editor, writer, blogger and freelancer. With a degree in Public Relations and Marketing from Pepperdine University, she is a professional communicator and a unique blend of perfectionist and creative-type. She currently lives in San Diego, where she works remotely as a Managing Editor for Darling Magazine. You can find her blogging at Thoughts by Natalie, and learn more about her freelance work at www.natalielynnborton.com.