Eight ways to build a social media following

Social media can be a great way to reach people, gain customers and keep them engaged, as well as growing your brand as a whole. But how can you make sure you’re using your valuable time effectively?

The idea of growing your following on social media can seem daunting, but there are a few really easy steps you can take to be well on your way to success. Once you’ve done some of these, you’ll realise it’s actually nowhere near as scary as it seems! With a little bit of planning and thought, your follower numbers will be climbing in no time.

Understand who your audience are (and focus on the networks they use)

First of all, who are your audience? Are you mostly targeting a certain age group, or a certain lifestyle category, such as young parents or travel enthusiasts? If so, find out which social networks they’re most likely to use. There are loads of great resources like this article from Hootsuite which will help you to understand where you need to place your focus.

If you’re not sure who your audience are, don’t worry! Looking at competitors; talking to your existing audience; just thinking about who you want to be interested in your products – there are plenty of ways to get a better idea of who you’re targeting.

Make the most of useful apps and tools

Even if you’re focusing on one social media platform in particular, it’s likely that you’ll need to at least occasionally use other platforms. Juggling messages, comments, likes and tags on several different platforms can get overwhelming – especially if (or when!) your following increases. Fortunately, there are loads of tools which make managing multiple accounts as easy as managing one.

As well as using products to link your accounts, make the most of the existing connections between the platforms. If you post regularly on Instagram, for example, why not turn on post sharing to Facebook, so you can update the two pages at the same time?

Be human

We may be all for automating processes, but that doesn’t mean that your posts need to lack personality! Social media is a great way of connecting with your customers as individuals. Interact with them, respond to their questions, and engage with any mentions of your brand – if they’re positive, it’s free advertising!

Over two-thirds of customers are more likely to recommend a brand if they’ve had a positive experience with it on social media, so it’s really important to try and ensure that you’re creating a positive environment on your page. There are loads of ways to do this, but the best thing you can do is be yourself. Your brand is all yours, after all!

Help, don’t sell

In keeping with the above point, your customers want to be treated like individuals, and to feel like they’re speaking to a human being. It’s best not to focus too much on selling, as a rule – if you can build a good enough rapport with your customers, you’re more likely to make sales anyway! It may seem like a contradiction, but if you can establish your company as a helpful presence on social media without constantly selling to them, your potential customers will react much better to the idea of buying from you.

Use great photos (it doesn’t have to cost a lot)

People are more than twice as likely to engage with a Facebook post with an image, and tweets with images get 150% more retweets than those without. Wherever possible, keep your posts engaging with images. Most smartphones these days have pretty good cameras, so it’s actually easy to take great photos with minimal effort. If this isn’t really your thing, or your product isn’t something you can photograph, make the most of the interactions you’re already having. Have they tagged you in a post you can share? Has your product helped them to achieve something they would be happy for you to promote?

When you don’t have any images of your own to share, you can also use stock images to liven up a post. There are loads of free websites where you can find great images which are suitable for reuse, without the risk of copyright issues arising.

Build a community; don’t buy one

It may be tempting to go for a ‘quick fix’ and go down the route of buying followers, but this isn’t how you’re going to grow your brand long term. Slow and steady really does win the race on this one. If you can create an engaged community of followers on social media, you’re much more likely to see your brand having a wider impact further down the line. This is especially true seeing as Instagram has begun to take steps against inauthentic follower numbers.

The best way to build a real community is to really listen to your target audience. Ask questions, engage with their responses, and keep up a rapport with them. Why not run a competition, or even a weekly photo challenge featuring your products? There are endless ways to keep people engaged, but perseverance is key – engagement fluctuates, and that’s totally normal!

Work with influencers (but be careful)

Over the past few years, there’s been a huge rise in the number of brands working with social media influencers: accounts with a lot of followers, and therefore a lot of influence over people’s decisions – hence the name. There are a few different ways to go about this: you can ask them to review your products or services; you can set up giveaways; you can ask them to feature your products in one of their posts; the possibilities are broad-ranging.

This said, there are a few things to be aware of. Sending your products to an influencer does not guarantee exposure: the more popular an influencer, the more likely it is that they get sent a lot of products – and that they are selective in what they post. Make sure you choose who you contact carefully; don’t send your products to someone whose account (and therefore follower base) isn’t in keeping with your goals and values. Not only will they be less likely to feature you, but it probably won’t build you the right audience if they do. Last but not least, don’t do anything you can’t afford to do! If you can’t send freebies out just yet, that’s okay – focus on other ways to grow your audience for now, until you’re in a better position to come back to this.

If you have the budget, try some paid ads

Paid social advertising can be a great way to widen your audience, gain a better understanding of who you’re reaching, and know if you need to retarget at all. It’s definitely worth looking into its benefits if you have the budget, but, as with the above point, don’t overstretch yourself! Some social media sites will offer advertising credits from time to time – make the most of this wherever possible. If you don’t have any credits, it’s totally fine to leave advertising until you can spare a bit more budget, or to set a very low limit for a pay-per-click campaign. Focus on growing a community organically, and you’ll soon find you have the budget for advertising after all.

This might seem like a lot, but it’s actually surprisingly simple! The key things to remember are:

  • Stay relatable
  • Make your life as easy as possible
  • Understand your audience
  • Be helpful

Keep these ‘rules’ in mind, and you’ll surprise yourself with how quickly you can end up with a successful social media presence.

Once you’ve got all the followers, make sure you give them a way to become customers! If you haven’t already, you can create a great new website today: download the Go Sitebuilder app on Google Play or the App Store, or access it through your browser here.

Do you really need a website as well as social media? (Yes!)

Now that most social platforms have a form of ‘business profile’ option, you might find yourself wondering if you really need a website as well as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. While it certainly makes sense to ask this question, especially with new features like product tagging on Instagram and Facebook, having a website is still very important for your business. The two platforms have their own benefits, but they are always at their most beneficial when used together; in this case, more actually is more!

The benefits of social media for your small business

It’s rare to find a business that doesn’t have a presence on at least one social media platform, as this has always been a good way of opening the doors for communication with potential and actual customers. Since such a huge majority of the business population is now active on social media, it’s no longer a particular advantage to have social media accounts – but it’s definitely a disadvantage not to.

It’s quick, free and easy to create an account on any of the main social media platforms, meaning that you can begin to build an online presence almost immediately. The interactivity of platforms like Facebook and Twitter means you can start to interact with your customers straight away, while also getting your brand seen by the friends of people you talk to, as your conversations show up on others’ newsfeeds.

The drawbacks

While social media offers some of the functions needed by small businesses, it lacks permanence and security. Instead of having ownership over your online presence, you are effectively ‘renting’ online space from the social media sites you use. This means that you are totally at the mercy of any algorithm changes that may prevent your page from appearing on newsfeeds. More and more frequently, businesses are being forced to pay for advertising in order to gain any exposure, rather than being able to keep using social media as a free way of growing their brand. In addition, while it may seem as though the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be around forever, there’s no guarantee that they won’t eventually go down the same route as websites like Myspace and Friendster – meaning that you are also at the mercy of the fate of the platforms themselves.

Opportunities for branding and credibility are also limited on social media. Your branding has to fit in with that of the platform in question, which can seriously limits your options. While no business can have particularly strong branding on social media, not making up for this elsewhere can leave you lacking credibility and memorability. As mentioned above, while using social media can add to your business’s credibility slightly, this effect is now limited by the saturation-levels of social media, leaving everyone on a fairly even playing field.

The benefits of a website for your small business

In light of these drawbacks, a website can act as the perfect solution to the problems posed by social media. It’s possible to have much more ownership over a website than over social media, meaning that potential impermanence and changing algorithms are no longer an issue. There’s also a greater sense of credibility included in a website. This works on a sliding scale: just a website gives a certain amount; a domain name and personalised email address gives even more. A website also serves as a central location for information – instead of having to ask questions on social media, your customers can find answers on your website. This reduces the need for repetitive questions on social media, freeing it up as a platform for customer feedback, reviews and more favourable questions – all with the potential to build your brand. This directly benefits you at the same time as your business, freeing up your valuable time, as you’ll only need to answer these questions once.

While social media has more functionalities than it did a few years ago, websites still have a much broader range on offer. From blogs to eCommerce and more, they offer a smooth and complete way of operating that social media can’t. All of these functionalities work in conjunction with advanced website analytics – whether these are included in the website builder itself or from an external system like Google Analytics. While social media includes some analytics, they are not complex or complete enough for a growing small business’s needs.

Best of both worlds

It’s easy to pitch websites against social media when it comes to your web presence; in reality, they can work together in perfect harmony to make a much stronger online presence than either could alone. Both methods strengthen SEO, and a good social media following can drive customers to your website when it matters most – such as during a promotion or a big event. While this driving force aspect of social media is incredibly important and useful, it can’t help your business to reach its full potential without the stability, security and flexibility of a well branded website. A promotion, for example, can find popularity on social media, but can’t become a reality without the eCommerce functionality of a website; similarly, an event which requires customers to register their interest with their details will run much more smoothly with a dedicated contact form.

However you choose to use the two, you can (and should) use social media and a website in tandem to get the most out of both of these versatile, potential-packed platforms and grow your ideas into a great business. To get started today, download the Go Sitebuilder app on Google Play or the App Store, or access it through your browser here.