Brands, organizations, and institutions use social media platforms every single day to connect with their audiences, raise awareness, and drive leads and business.
With an engaged following on one or more of the major social networks, brands can effectively spread the word about campaigns, new initiatives, and new products and services. However, simply having 1,000 Facebook fans or 200 Twitter followers is not the best indicator of social media success.
It’s possible to have thousands of followers who never read your posts or click on your links. The key is to build a thriving online community of your ideal fans, the ones who'll actively engage with your content, share it with their networks, and ultimately, become paying customers.
It takes work to establish such, but that effort can pay off, big time.
Looking to grow your social media audience? In this post, we'll look at eleven simple ways in which you can grow your social media following.
1. Hold contests
Contests can be a great way to get new people to Like and follow your accounts, while also keeping your current fans engaged with your Page.
It's worth experimenting with contests on every social network on which you are active. Some examples of social media contests include:
- Comment to win – Participants leave a comment or answer a question
- Caption contest – Either the best caption (you choose) or the one with the most likes wins
- Fill-in-the-blank Contest – Ask participants to answer a trivia question
- Photo contest – Either the best photo (you choose) or the one with the most likes wins
- Multiple choice contest
Tips for a successful social media contest:
- Promote it everywhere - Use your website, email list, and other social networks to drum up participation.
- Do not give away prizes completely unrelated to your brand - For example, if you give away a new iPad, you might drive a lot of engagement and participation, but not necessarily from people who will eventually become customers or lifelong fans.
- Follow the platform rules - Each social platform has its own rules and regulations around contests - here's an overview of the key details.
- Follow up with entrants who don’t win - Send them a thank you for participating, along with something about your brand/organization’s work.
2. Include a visual with every post
Visuals are high-performers on social media, so be sure to include an eye-catching, colorful image or graphic with each post.
Consider these visual marketing statistics, compiled by HubSpot:
- Content with relevant images rack up 94% more views than content without images.
- Compared to other types of content, visual content is more than 40x more likely to get shared on social media.
- Instagram photos showing faces get 38% more likes than photos without faces.
You can use free graphic design tools like Canva to add graphics to your blog entries and social media posts.
3. Share more video
Video is the most engaging content type on every social media platform, so if you can, it's a good idea to create at least some form of video content to maximize engagement.
Be sure to upload your video directly to your platform of choice, rather than posting a link to an outside website (like YouTube). This way, your video will autoplay as people land on it while scrolling through their feeds, grabbing more attention.
Lots of views can lead to increased reach, engagement, and exposure for your brand.
4. Be proactive in listening to and responding to your online community
Did you know that 83% of your Facebook fans, and 71% of your Twitter followers, now expect a response from you on the same day that they pose a question on each respective platform?
In fact, 32% of Twitter users now expect a response within just 30 minutes.
Give your followers a fantastic user experience on social by being exceptionally responsive. Listen to their needs, and respond accordingly.
You should also look to publicly recognize people who retweet, favorite, and mention your organization on Twitter, and thank users who comment on Instagram and YouTube.
When you make your online community feel heard and acknowledged, they're more likely to become raving fans, and your most loyal social media ambassadors.
5. Change your Page profile photos and cover photos
Your profile photos and banners are some of your best and most-viewed social profile elements. Use these visual tools to showcase the impact of your work, and the stories of those who benefit from your services.
On Facebook, consider changing up your cover photo at least once per month, and remember to write a great caption.
On Twitter, use your profile picture and banner photo to highlight your great work.
Don’t just stretch out and pixelate a horizontal version of your logo - no one wants to connect with just a logo on social media. Personalize, humanize, and customize every channel you can, with a visual image that speaks volumes.
Also, make sure you use the right social media image sizes for each platform.
6. Give people a reason to follow you
Give both prospective and current fans reason to follow you on multiple platforms.
Don't simply “set it and forget it” with generic, automated links blasted across all of your social media channels. Tailor your content for each channel’s users.
For example, you should use Twitter to share latest news and real-time alerts, while you can use Facebook to tell more compelling, longer stories about the people who benefit from your work.
You should look to strategically use each social media channel based on its strengths and demographics, and give your target audience a good reason to connect with you on that specific network.
What value are you providing? What are you offering that will entice them to stay tuned in?
Think about the reasons people use each network, then formulate a plan to consistently post and share content that will resonate with your specific audience, wherever they congregate online.
7. Encourage tagging
An effective strategy to engage your followers is to encourage them to tag other people who may benefit from, or enjoy a specific post.
If you post an inspiring quote, write “Tag a friend who needs this today”; If you share a video about Mother’s Day, encourage your online community to tag a friend (or better, friends) who means a lot to them, and with whom they would like to share your message.
Ideally, these new people can be drawn into the fold, and join your online social media followers.
But a word of caution - ensure you employ this method sparingly and only where it makes sense, or it can look spammy.
8. Use hashtags to get found
There are two great ways to use hashtags to increase your social media followers:
a) Use popular hashtags strategically and sparingly
I suggest using one popular tag per tweet or Instagram post, such as #OOTD (outfit of the day), #TBT (throw-back Thursday), #fail (self-explanatory), #FOMO (fear of missing out), etc.
There are thousands of hashtags out there - check out Hashtags.org and Hashtagify.me to find ones that are relevant to your audience and your content.
b) Participate in relevant trending topics and current events
I check my Twitter feed regularly to see what's trending for the day. If it's something that I think would be of interest to my followers, I share a tweet with the relevant hashtag.
For example, on Monday you could use the trending hashtag #MondayMotivation to share a quote or an inspiring story with your followers.
People searching that particular hashtag might come across your post, and will hopefully check you out and even follow you.
9. Be entertaining, and use humor to engage
Take a note from the Frederiction SPCA, an animal adoption and protection agency which often shares entertaining memes and photos on their page.
Brands that show a bit of humanity and humor do well on social media - but that said, you should always ensure that any content that you do share makes sense for your particular audience and your brand voice.
There's no point in sharing cat memes for the sheer sake of sharing cat memes. Even if such posts do get a few likes, it can confuse your messaging, which won't help in your broader brand-building effort (i.e. connecting with the right people for your organization).
10. Explore paid social
Leveling up your social media success often involves allocating ad spend, however limited it may be.
One of the best ways to grow your audience and gain more exposure is to invest a modest amount into paid social advertisements. When done well, paid social ads can promote your content, increase conversions, and help you reach new people.
Precise audience targeting enables you to focus your ads on "warm" audiences - people who've visited your website (if you use the Facebook pixel), people who are subscribed to your email list, and your current fans and followers.
Facebook's advanced options, in particular, can be hugely beneficial in reaching just the right people with your paid outreach.
11. Never, ever buy followers and fans
Some people assume that purchasing fans and followers is a shortcut to building a huge online community. This is not only bad practice, but it will largely end up being more of a problem than it's worth.
The biggest issue here is that it pollutes your audience with robot profiles, which will ruin your audience insights, limit your ongoing performance, and will end up restricting the organic reach of your posts. And that's before you consider ads. For example, if you tried to boost one of your Facebook posts, Facebook's system would look to show it to more people like those who already follow your Page. You'd essentially be paying to reach bots, and the same implications apply to various other ad targeting measures.
You should focus on creating posts and sharing information that will attract the right people - the people that you need to engage, take an action, and cultivate for a deeper relationship along the line.
When used strategically and thoughtfully, social media platforms can be a great way for brands and organizations to connect with stakeholders, cultivate loyal followers, and expand their reach and audience.
Try out some of these tactics to start building your social media following today.