Creating an online following that commands authority in your field is on the agenda of just about every marketer or entrepreneur out there. If you're one of these people, no doubt you've experienced the highs and lows of the modern day circus that is social media. Creating an engaged and sustainable following is hard and commands our most precious asset: discretionary time.
Most of us don't like giving up our time, especially for something that doesn't have an immediate impact on revenue, customer engagement or benefits us personally in some way. But if you want to be successful in building your social media following this can't be your mindset. You have to make a commitment to nurturing a group of engaged people.
Here are some guiding principles that will help you create a social media following that commands authority in your field, and engages people that count.
1. Be selective - Don't spread yourself too thin, pick the platforms where your customer's access information and engage.
Have you created a buyer persona for your ideal customer? If not then I would highly recommend doing so; HubSpot offers a free template to 'Create Buyer Personas For Your Business'. If you have, make sure you know exactly where your ideal customer is accessing the information they require to make a purchase decision.
TIP: If your ideal customer doesn't have a Twitter account, don't spend your valuable time creating a Twitter following that is talking to the wrong people.
2. Be authentic - Anchor everything you communicate back to your core values, purpose and brand's story.
In Simon Sinek's book 'Start with WHY' he talks about how inspirational companies communicate from the 'inside out'. They know exactly why they do what they do, their purpose and core values. Once they know that, they find a way of connecting with customers who believe what they believe.
TIP: Marketing to people who don't believe in what you do, or why you do it, is a sure fire way of progressing your competitors. If this sounds anything like you, unfortunately you have two ultimate choices; get new customers, or change your reason for existence.
3. Be useful - Know what your customer's biggest challenges are, and endeavour to solve them
In his book 'Youtility', Jay Baer talks about the power of being useful to your customers. The key to this principle is to truly understand the daily challenges your customers face, and provide the relevant information for them to overcome those challenges. A great example of this style of social media marketing is Hilton Hotels. Check out @HiltonSuggests on Twitter.
TIP: Once again, the HubSpot 'Create Buyer Personas For Your Business' template is a great starting point. What you will find is that this persona evolves over time based on your experience. You will start to understand how to provide useful advice to your most prized customers over and over again.
4. Be social - It's called 'Social' Media for a reason. Create a two-way flow of communication.
Too many people see social media as a free version of traditional, one-way promotion. The real genius of things like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook is the personal nature of the relationships that can be created. If you actively listen to what your customers are saying, and interact accordingly, they will repay you with trust.
TIP: Your customers care more about themselves than they do you. Ask them questions about what THEY want. Don't fall into the trap of TELLING them what they want.
5. Be consistent - Be sure to post regularly across your chosen platforms.
Whilst it is important to remain present and post regularly on your chosen social media platforms, it is more important to be realistic and make this consistent with the time you have available. Set achievable expectations with your customers and if anything exceed them, don't fall short.
TIP: Plan ahead; a great tool is the 'Social Media Planning Template' offered free online by Bluewire Media.
If you use these principles to guide your activity, you will create a social media following that sticks. This group of people become an asset that continues to appreciate over time; as they share, promote and re-purpose your best content. By giving up your discretionary time now, you will reap the benefits in the long-term.