Social Media Blogs by Aliza Sherman
Aliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

5 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Following

5 Ways to Grow Your Social Media Following

Social media marketing has changed since the early days of social networking. As the companies behind social networks have grown, they face the demands of generating more and more revenue. As a business owner, increasing your customer base and growing revenues makes sense.

The downside to the massive growth of the top social networks is that the visibility of your social media posts is controlled by these companies. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the rest limit how many people see your posts in order to convince you to pay for ads on their networks.

Other than paying for ads on social networks, how can you grow your social media following? Here are five things you can do to get more followers.

1. Promote your social networks everywhere you can.

Marketing online through social media should not be an isolated effort. In order to attract the people most likely to follow you on social networks - those doing business with you or purchasing your products - you want to make it obvious where they can connect with you online. At a minimum, look for places where you can put either your relevant social media icons or your social network account handles, or both. Some common places include:

  • Product packaging
  • Product inserts and printed instructions
  • Stationery and business cards
  • Other print marketing collateral such as brochures, flyers
  • Print newsletters and mailers
  • Trade show booths and banners
  • Promotional items like T-shirts, mugs, and pens
  • Print ads
  • Shown on TV ads and spoken on radio ads

If you do media interviews or do public speaking as part of your role, don’t forget to invite people to follow your company online and tell them how.

2. Invite your current customers to follow you to connect.

Your customers are not only the most likely people to follow you online but also the ones who are more likely to invite others to follow you, too. Don’t hesitate to ask your customers outright - and often - to follow you on your most-used social networks. You can do this through your email newsletter, in your signature file in emails, and even when speaking with them on the phone or in person.

3. Actively engage online and involve your followers.

Automating your social media posts may sound like a great way to save time, but if you rely too much on scheduling and automatically publishing posts, you miss out on the "social" aspect of social media. Commit to logging into your social media accounts regularly to not only monitor what is being said but to look for opportunities to comment.

Don’t underestimate the value of social media-based customer service. If your followers - or other social network users - are talking about you or a topic related to your company, look for ways to be part of that conversation. Don’t shy away from addressing negative comments. Instead, look at them as opportunities to provide stellar customer service to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one.

Ask your followers questions. Use polls or surveys to encourage participation and to get to know your followers better. Invite your followers to contribute content, such as photos of their pets if you’re a pet store owner, vet, pet groomer, or pet sitter. Ask for short videos from customers showing them using your product. Get their permission to share what they’ve shared - or if they’ve shared it publicly, repost them to your feed. Third-party praise is often better received than an ad.

4. Optimize your posting strategy.

Finding the right balance between scheduling social media posts and engaging actively online is key to getting more out of your social media marketing. Simply scheduling messages, however, isn’t the best method. Be more strategic about what, how, and when you post.

For example, examine your social media metrics on each social network you use and look for clues to the following:

  • What days and times are your followers most active? (not all social networks show you this but Facebook and Instagram do)
  • What types of posts - videos, graphics, animation, text - are the most popular? This can be deduced from Top Posts.
  • What content seems to resonate most? Look at the engagement on your Top Posts, particularly the number of Comments and Shares.

Adjusting your posting and your engagement on social media based on the behaviors and preferences of your audience can help increase engagement which could in turn help build your following.

5. Pay attention to trends - carefully.

Toward the end of every year, social media marketing experts and software companies publish trend reports for the following year. Take a look at several, particularly ones from sources you know or know of, and consider how the trend predictions might affect your social media marketing efforts. Be careful not to dive into new tactics based on trends without first making sure they fit your brand image, are appropriate for your audience, and match your available resources.

For example, some trend reports emphasize small businesses working more with creators and micro-influencers. Working with influencers can be cost-prohibitive for small businesses, however, the trend reports note that big brands are moving away from influencer marketing, potentially opening the door to more affordable collaboration opportunities. Do your research first for influencers who are appropriate for your brand and inquire about pricing to see if this type of social media marketing is within your budget.

Other trend reports suggest Augmented Reality will finally take off. Consider if cutting-edge technology that could require special software and additional expenses is right for you this year or if you should hold off until it becomes more readily available to consumers.

Growing your social media following is mostly achieved through paid advertising, but there are still ways to stimulate organic growth. Having more followers doesn’t necessarily mean they will see or pay attention to your posts, but you may have a greater chance of reaching more people as your following grows. Think "quality" over "quantity" when it comes to cultivating your social media following. Your goal should be connecting with real people who take action instead of accumulating empty numbers.

Read other social media blogs by Aliza Sherman