Have a question about your business? Let’s see if I can help; write your question here.
Hi Steve – I am really enjoying all of the new content here on the Small Business Community. So, I have a question for you: A piece of advice I read here a lot is that we, as small business owners, need to engage with and utilize social media as much as possible. My problem is that I don’t really have a lot of followers either on Twitter or Facebook. Do you have any suggestions on how to grow my following?
I do indeed, and I will get to those in a moment, but let’s first consider all of the things social media does for your business:
- It builds the brand
- It allows you to talk directly to your audience
- It allows you to create a bigger audience
- It provides you with the opportunity to become a thought leader
- It helps you sell
While all of that happens with or without a big following, let’s be frank – it’s better with a bigger following, right? Of course, having a lot eyeballs on you is good on social media. However, a purchased audience (see below) is usually much less effective than an organic one.
So, how do you build that ever-elusive big following? Let’s look at Facebook and Twitter (for the record, I have used these strategies myself to create roughly 100,000 followers combined on Facebook and Twitter).
Let’s start with what you don’t want to do, on both Facebook and Twitter:
- Do. Not. Buy. Likes. Or. Followers.
Did you see the New York Times story, exposing all of the celebrities with fake followers? The list includes people like Paul Ryan, football star Ray Lewis, and Kathy Ireland (who reportedly bought 300,000 fake Twitter followers).
Not only are these followers phony, thereby doing you little good, many are also disreputable. I have a social media influencer associate who bought 5,000 Twitter followers, and almost all were from adult entertainment accounts. Let’s just say, those were not the sorts of followers she wanted media executives to see when they perused her social channels.
Here’s what you do instead:
1. Create great content. Great content gets people to want to share posts and follow pages. So, what kind of content is that?
- It’s emotional.
- Posts that are short, sweet, topical, and visual.
- Content that is real, authentic. Authenticity works. If your genuine voice is funny, even better. Either way, being honest and transparent is what plays in a cynical world.
2. Engage: The more you engage with the audience that you do have, the more likely they are to become, not just followers, not just fans, but fanatics. They’ll share your content and refer you to others. And in the end, that’s what we really want – word of mouth advertising. Social media begins to grow exponentially when people start sharing your stuff and talking about you, and they may start talking about you when you start talking with them.
3. Advertise: Yes, organic reach is great, but so is paid reach. Personally, I have had great success advertising on Facebook and converting those eyeballs to likes. Just look at the options Facebook gives you when you launch an ad campaign:
It can be very affordable, which is all the better.
Everything said above about Facebook applies here, with some tweaks. Here’s what you do on Twitter to grow a following:
1. Tweet quality: This is Rule # 1 for a reason. The best, organic, and most authentic way to get real followers is to tweet with real value and substance. Do NOT just tweet about you, your business, your lunch. Instead, tweet what will be of value to others:
If you tweet things that add to people’s day, they will follow you, retweet you, and therein lay the Twitter magic. That’s when you go viral.
2. Follow the right people: There is an unwritten rule, a Twittequette if you will, that says that you are supposed to follow people who follow you. So, by following the leaders in your field, you will see that many will follow you back – then watch when some of their followers begin to follow you.
3. Follow the right hashtag people (#): As you likely know, hashtags signify Twitter conversations. People who join in on hashtag conversations relevant to you and your business are people who will likely be interested in your quality tweets.
4. Advertise: Again, this is different than buying followers. As with Facebook, look at what you can do with ads on Twitter:
So there really is no reason not to have a robust social media following. All it takes is time, maybe a bit of money, and some great posts.
Get more great guidance on social media from our Small Business Experts
Social Media Primer: When to Post, How Often and What About by Shama Hyder
The Social Media Time Suck: How to Pick Your Platforms by Carol Roth
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation