In social media marketing finding the first followers for a new account is always the hardest part of growing a social media presence. That is why social media often sounds so easy when you read some case studies and success stories: Because most of the time these tell the story of how to be successful when there already is a social media audience. But they do not tell you how to get followers when you are starting out.
A few days ago someone asked me if there would be a calculation or statistic to figure out how many Facebook fans a new startup can expect for a new Facebook fanpage after two months when they follow the strategy of posting great informative, engaging and helpful updates.
And I said there is no answer to this question because the preconditions are not clearly defined and are lacking a crucial factor: A strategy on how to find the first fans.
The theory behind successful social media marketing is that by posting valuable information and engaging updates, your audience will engage with and share your updates and thus help you get yourself in front of a larger audience. This will, in turn, help you grow your audience, find more followers and fans and your next update will, in turn, reach an even larger audience. And that is precisely how social media works.
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But only if you already have a relevant and targeted audience that will engage with your posts.
When you are starting out in social media especially with a new business, you do not have that. You have no audience to speak of and no brand that can function as a magnet and draw your customers and brand advocates; you will not see your updates spread magically to an even larger audience when you have no audience to speak of in the first place.
Each and every social network needs a critical mass of followers. IF you reach that, your account will grow as promised only from posting great informative and helpful updates and engage with your audience. It will spread through your audience which will share your updates. But only if you reach that magic threshold of followers or fans. And this threshold is not a fixed number, it varies from network to network and from niche to niche. It can be small in a little niche, and it can be relatively large if you are competing with a ton of huge accounts. It depends on how connected your audience is to you and how strong your brand. It depends on the skill of the social media manager who is running your accounts and how much own content you have. But the threshold is real and to harvest your social media fruits you have to reach this threshold first.
To be honest, one of the most important questions, when you are turning to social media as a marketing channel, is: how are you going to attract the first (targeted) followers? And I am not talking about inviting your best friends and siblings to like your page.
If you have no answer to this question, your social media is doomed to fail. You will make the same experience, so many others make in social media: You will invest time and effort into creating content, into being active. You will share the best content from your niche. And still: Your accounts will keep talking to yourself, your best friend and your colleague.
Here are 9 ways to attract your first fans or followers
In many social networks, you can use different advertising options to get your account or page in front of a targeted audience. But don’t be fooled what sounds so easy can be a very expensive failure: As with everything in social media you need to know what you are doing. Even paying money for your followers does not come with a magic red button.
The risk of advertising is to waste money on attracting an entirely untargeted audience – or to present your ad to an untargeted audience that will not convert to an audience in the first place.
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Advertising your new social account is entirely legitimate if you have the money to do so. Still, even if you have the budget for advertising to build your initial audience you should consider using some of the other methods, too to make your accounts grow fast and targeted.
2) Follow other people/accounts
This method does not work on every network. For instance, you cannot grow fans for a Facebook fanpage by following Facebook users. You would be following that person as a page, and the person will most likely not even notice what you (or your page) are doing.
However, in other networks like Twitter or Pinterest, this can help to grow your account and millions of users have done so. Just keep in mind that aggressively following people is regarded as spam in most networks and success only comes if you get your targeting right. For Twitter, there are several tools to help with follow and unfollow to avoid any spammy behavior.
3) Add your social accounts to your blog or website
This method does work IF your blog or website already has traffic. Most of the time it is the other way around; You turn to social media to generate traffic for your blog or website. However, if you have visitors to your blog that are not already followers in social media it helps to offer a follow button or, at least, show your most important social accounts on your blog or website.
4) Mention your social accounts in your email newsletter
If you already have an email list, it totally makes sense to tell them about your social accounts. Especially if you already have a list of people you regularly send updates and information via newsletter, simply mention your new social accounts and ask them to connect there. Some will be happy to do exactly that.
5) Use Comments
There are several places where you can bring yourself in front of an audience with comments. And in some of these places, you can show your social accounts, too. Here are some examples:
You can comment on blog posts. Often you are invited to include your Twitter handle, too.
You can comment directly in the social networks on other peoples’ posts. Often it helps if you manage to leave one of the first comments on a post that inspires an active discussion as the first comments often get more attention as later ones.
Wherever you comment, keep in mind that a simple “Great post” most of the time will not encourage others to follow you. A comment that only hints to your products is only inches away from spam. And nobody likes the spelling and grammar police. Your comment should add value as everything you do in social media: Post a link to further information on a topic, take a stand with a different point of view on the topic or answer questions with knowledge. Be helpful.
6) Be active in Groups
Activity in groups does not work on all social networks. For instance, on Facebook, you are not allowed to join any groups as a Fanpage you only can join groups with your personal account. In that case, groups are not your best option: People would have to notice you and be interested enough to look up if you are running a Fanpage. It may still help yo be active in Facebook groups from your niche.
It is different for instance on Pinterest for group boards. Business and personal accounts on Pinterest and Twitter are treated similarly. That means you can post to group boards from your personal account and your business account.
Group boards have the advantage that you can post (pin) to a larger audience even if your account does not have any followers.
7) Guest post
While writing articles for other peoples’ blogs may seem like a rather time-consuming effort to gain some new followers, it still is one of the most efficient methods. By choosing blogs from your niche that already have a good audience, you can get yourself and your knowledge right in front of them – without spamming or intruding. Use your author bio to mention where to find you in social media and add a call to action: “Follow her/him on Twitter.” Guest posting may well prove to be your ticket to the social media game.
As with the following of other accounts I mentioned in #2, this is all about showing appreciation for others without interfering or spamming them. There are some more network specific methods of doing this like putting people on a list on Twitter or sharing other people’s content.
Liking what other people do is one of the simplest way of showing that you exist in social media.
9) Get others to share your posts
Now, this is a little trickier than it sounds. Remember, you do not have an audience to speak of so far and to get anywhere with this, you want a rather larger account to share your content. So you have to find a good reason to, first of all, mention the other account and for them to take action. An example is if you mention them in your content (i.e. a list of the best blogs from your niche) or if you post the content of others. Often this will lead to them retweeting or sharing your post.
On Twitter it can look like this:
The best blogging ideas for 2016 LINK by @authoraccount
Where @authoraccount is the Twitter handle of the author of the article you tweeted.
Mentioning others in your updates can also work on Facebook, but Facebook is sometimes a little picky which accounts you can mention in your posts.
(Keep in mind that you need a reason to mention other, only tagging a large number of accounts in pictures or posts without a clear reason is simply spam).
Now, there are multiple ways to attract followers to your new social account. I am sure the above list is in no way complete. In social media, creativity, and new ideas are often rewarded. This list is just to give you an idea that your job is not done with setting up your account and posting great stuff. There are millions of people out there doing just that, but they still fail in social media marketing, because they struggle to find the critical mass of followers. Do not fall into that trap, make your accounts grow!
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