Sunday, February 20, 2011

Attracting Followers for Your Social Networks

Many business owners know that people are aggregating, flocking together, around shared interests, and using social media to do so. What often seems mysterious is how to generate interest in a company's blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.

"I have a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page, but how do I increase the number of fans?" is a common question.

The wrong answer is: pay a spamming service to drive lots of unqualified, random visitors to your social networks. You'll get big numbers, but they won't convert to sales, they won't become loyal customers because they're not in the market for your products.

The right answer is:
content and interaction.

Before addressing the issue of actively pursuing people to add to your social network, in this post we'll focus on the right attitude to have and the content strategy required.

If people are driven to your social network, then see nothing but arrogant assertions, sales hype, and no mingling with people on a personal level, no matter how many hits you get, people will not stay. They'll shun you and move on to more interesting, compassionate, and authentic people to friend, fan, and follow.


Give people what they want, according to your expertise. In other words, your blog posts, Twitter tweets, and Facebook updates must be valuable. How do you provide value? By knowing what they're interested in and what they need.

You own a business. Your customers and potential clients have needs. You have two ways to benefit a customer: your products and your professional insights.

You can't just push products and discount coupons. If you're totally sales-oriented, the members of the online community will perceive you as spammy, nothing but hype, and maybe even a greedy person.

People don't join social networks to buy things or to receive non-stop sales messages. People join social networks to socialize. Of course, they appreciate a bargain. They like to discover affordable solutions to their problems. Sometimes they might have questions that need an answer. But they don't like aggressive, relentless marketing.

Social media is used to connect with friends, family, co-workers, colleagues, classmates, club members, and, in some cases, experts they respect and companies they like.

If you present yourself as representing a company, being the CEO, Owner, Marketing Coordinator, Customer Service, or Social Media Specialist, you need to bring the company's unique features to the forefront, while altruistically (non-commercially) helping them understand your products and industry better.

This means talking about aspects of your business, without always pushing a product or boasting about your company and your highly trained personnel. You want to be perceived as someone who, because you own or manage a business, are full of good ideas about solving problems people encounter, in the area of your expertise.

Another key strategy for content is to pay attention to what people are already talking about on social media, or events and issues that are getting a lot of mainstream media coverage. If there's some angle or spin you can put on a topic, that showcases your expertise, and relates to your business, do a post about it. Take that news item and handle it from your unique perspective.

You can also use social media to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Help people know what to look for when shopping for a provider. Guide them to the right product for their needs. Compare different types of products. Just by being a warm, friendly, responsive person in social media is a key difference that brings you a competitive advantage.


Social media is not about buying and selling stuff.

Social media is about connecting, which means caring and sharing. You don't follow a person or a business if you don't care about them. You have to have some amount of interest, even if it's just curiosity or for old time's sake, to add someone to your Twitter feed or Facebook update stream.

Caring and sharing.

You must show that you care about people, if you want more followers, fans, and friends for your social media. Display your caring, benevolent, friendly demeanor by getting involved with people in your online community.

On social networks, people complain, ask questions, request help, solicit the opinions of others on a topic, discuss news events, rave about TV shows and movies, make fun of celebrities, provide recipes, make recommendations, announce life changes, flirt, and seek others with similar interests, beliefs, and lifestyles.

Now, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Read their updates, tweets, and blog posts. Look at their photos. Watch their videos. Laugh (LOL) at their jokes. Post comments on their blogs and status updates. If you know them personally, tease them playfully, have fun with their confessions and gripes.

React to their content. Be funny sometimes, be serious most of the time, but always remain neutral and professional. You won't want to flirt, or attack someone's belief, mock competitors, or argue about politics. Aside from those basic taboos, just about any other kind of mature interaction is acceptable.

In fact, to portray yourself as an ordinary person, and not a vending machine trying to sell as much product as possible, lighten up. Tell a joke. Link to a comical YouTube video, especially if it deals with your industry or area of expertise.

Once people see that you're a person first, a business owner second, they'll warm up to you. They'll pay more attention to your content updates. They may even visit your store or place of business, possibly for the first time. You may be able to convert them to loyal paying customers, who will then spread positive buzz about you, both online and offline.

Never, and I mean never, ignore a question or request that comes to you from a social network.

Everyone will see that you don't care, if you let a question or request sit there, unanswered, rotting away. People will notice your lack of response, if it's in the publicly displayed section, like status updates. They'll come to the conclusion that you just want to deliver your own messages and sales hype, without really connecting with customers.

Reply as quickly, completely, and cordially as you can. This answering a question or fulfilling a request is a great opportunity to prove you are a caring member of the online community.

Take another example. A person on your social network has not contacted you directly, but has said, in passing, that they don't understand something, or they're having trouble with something, that relates to your business and expertise.

Jump in there, unasked, and voluntarily make a recommendation or offer a solution, even if it doesn't necessarily involve purchasing your products. Share a tip, a link to a tutorial, or some practical advice from a seasoned pro.

CARING and SHARING is the Key.

There are a lot of valid methods for increasing the numbers of people who fan, friend, and follow you on social networks.

But a good mix of content and interaction, based on a philosophy of caring and sharing, is the firm foundation that all the other techniques revolve around. No methodology will succeed in the long haul if you neglect these two vital issues.

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