Mother duck with chicks following in pursuit.

It’s no question a social media presence can turbocharge your business. But like most things in life, it can do more harm than good if not done right.

So, what’s “right?” The answer is, “It depends.”

What works as a social media strategy for one company won’t work for another. But there are several universal strategies to build a social media following that will work for everyone.

It goes without saying your content needs to appeal to your target audience and have great copy and visuals. If you’ve got that going for you but just need more eyeballs on that content (and followers), turn to these 9 strategies:

1. Don’t Try to Do Everything

So, where does your target audience hang out online? If you can’t answer that, go back to square 1 and find out.

Unless you’ve outsourced your social media management to an agency or contractor, you probably don’t have time to handle more than 2 or 3 social channels. Sure, you can make 1 post and share it to all 10 of your social networks, but I’m talking about doing social media well.

That means having time to engage with your followers, maximize content types and find what works for each channel (more on all of this below).

When starting out, choose 2 or 3 social channels maximum to be active on. For many tech companies, that looks like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter — but it can be anything.

Remember: the ideal social channels for you aren’t what you’re most familiar with or use the most, it’s all about where your target audience spends the most time.

2. Make a Schedule and Stay Consistent

It sounds basic, but the biggest problem most businesses have when it comes to social media is keeping a consistent content calendar.

Don’t post sporadically whenever you feel like it. Or worse, bust out a post every day for a week and then crickets for 3 weeks after that.

Not only does this make you look unprofessional, but it means your audience has no idea what to expect from you. Not to mention the Algorithm, which really should be the name of a dystopian thriller blockbuster by now.

We’re Not Dealing With the Social Media of Yore

Most channels have an algorithm that decides who sees what content and when. In the early 2000s, it used to be simple: Content shared by people you follow was viewed chronologically. You could scroll and scroll through every single post from everyone you followed and end up where you left off 12 hours ago if you really wanted to.

But that’s changed. People follow more and more humans and companies on their social feeds. And with the exponential rise of paid media, social networks wanted a way to show the “best” content to each user.

“Best” is again a relative term, as what Johnny thinks is the best content is vastly different from what Bob thinks is the best. But that’s the algorithm at work: making decisions about what content to show you based on what it knows about you (demographics, interests, job, hobbies, browsing history, etc.).

All of that means that you can’t count on all your social media followers seeing your posts. On Facebook, for example, only an average of 6.4% of your followers will see your post, according to media company We Are Social.

By sticking to a schedule, such as 5 posts a week per channel, you increase the chances of people seeing your posts as the social network realizes you are active and the more posts you have, the higher chance of it being shown to the right people at the right time.

3. Post Unique Content for Each Platform

Name something that’s great for last night’s takeout but bad for your content.

… Recycling.

Write one post, make one image, maybe resize it for each channel, upload, schedule and done… right? Absolutely not.

The fastest way to alienate your audience is to recycle all the same content across all your platforms. Besides being boring, this accomplishes nothing. To successfully grow a social channel, you need to know what works on that channel.

For example, the way people interact on TikTok is very different from the way people interact on Facebook. TikTok is a video-only platform, like YouTube, whereas Facebook includes all content types. Besides format, TikTok is full of vibrant dance challenges and short videos set to music or comedy scenes, whereas Facebook is full of article shares and infographics or photos.

The same content isn’t going to work on both of those platforms.

Know what each platform’s strengths are and create content designed to take advantage of that, e.g., short videos to build an Instagram following, question-and-answer threads on Twitter or tutorial videos for YouTube.

4. Engagement Goes Both Ways

What’s the point of building an audience on social media? So that they interact with you and, eventually, buy from you.

To get to the juicy sales part, you need to get to the engagement part. If there’s nothing but crickets on your posts, it’s time to change up your strategies.

Here’s the secret to getting people to like, comment and share your posts: Interact with them first.

Extend the first olive branch. Ask questions, highlight people from your audience you admire, share content from your users (with permission of course). Be open and sociable. It is called social media, after all.

Show that you’re there to genuinely engage with people and you’ll start getting responses and interaction. Always make sure to answer direct messages and comments people leave, too, even if it’s just to say thank you.

Plus, this does a great job of building your brand at the same time.

For Instance

A notable example is Glossier, a makeup brand that was practically born on Instagram. From the beginning, the company engaged with followers in unique ways, including asking them what products they want. It’s as simple as that to make your audience feel heard and valued.

Makeup brand Glossier was practically born on Instagram.

5. Use Hashtags

Pretty basic one here — hashtags. They’ve been around for a long time and almost every social channel uses them.

But are you being truly strategic with your hashtags? Are you using the same 30 hashtags for every Instagram post? When did you last do hashtag research, over a year ago?

Hashtags are the search engine optimization (SEO) of the social media world. You would adjust your keyword strategy more often than once a year, right?

When it comes to hashtags, these are the strategies to follow:

Have different groups of hashtags to use on different types of posts.

Let’s say you have 3 main categories you post content about: tutorials for your software-as-a-service product, office culture and funny memes. You need a hashtag group for each of those content categories.

How many will vary per platform. Only 1 or 2 make sense on Twitter or Facebook, but you can have between 20-30 on Instagram.

Save your hashtag lists where you can easily copy and paste them into future posts.

Research new hashtags at least quarterly.

Social media changes quickly. Maybe a new, bustling hashtag in your niche was invented 2 months ago, or some old ones stopped being relevant. Do the following at least once a quarter:

  • Search existing hashtags to make sure the content posted is still relevant to your brand and that they’re actively being used by others.
  • Research new potential hashtags for your content. You can either brainstorm things to type in or use a hashtag research tool like KeywordTool.io.

6. Analyze Your Analytics

Every social channel has its own analytics reports — or, for simplicity, you can use an all-in-one tool such as Hootsuite.

Take the time to look at these reports every month and ask yourself:

  1. What’s my most popular content? (Then do more of that.)
  2. What are my core demographics? (Age, location, gender, income if applicable, etc.)
  3. Which posts received the highest engagement over the last month? What resonated with people? How can I repeat that?
  4. Where are my new followers coming from? (Not all platforms have this tracking capability.)
  5. Any big gains or losses in followers? For example, did you post a slightly controversial post and lose 2,000 followers overnight? Eek. Rethink that strategy next time. Alternatively, did you post something amazing and get 2,000 new ones? Figure out what worked and work to repeat that.

The key here is to figure out what’s working to grow your social media and have the data to back up that growth. It isn’t enough to see your follower number tick higher without knowing what types of content are driving that growth. When you know, you can scale that up.

7. Follow Your Competitors

There’s room for everyone on social media. Give your competitors a friendly follow. It’s a good way to keep an eye on what they’re doing. Not to copy them, but to get a sense of trends in the industry and what types of content people are responding to.

You can be inspired by your competitors’ social strategies and use that to develop your own unique content.

You also can be inspired by what your competitors aren’t posting.

For example, social issues. If you notice others in your industry aren’t speaking up about important social justice issues that your company feels strongly about, don’t wait around to see if they will eventually or not. Be the leader and just do it.

One brand known for its activism for decades is Ben & Jerry’s. Where other brands have been criticized for performative social-media posts, Ben & Jerry’s has taken real action. A recent example is their 2020 limited edition Pecan Resist flavor, which celebrates inclusion and proceeds are being donated to various social justice causes in the U.S.

Where other brands have been criticized for performative social-media posts, Ben & Jerry's has taken real action.

Of course it needs to come from a genuine desire for that social justice movement to succeed, not simply to get attention or for others to think you’re so great. But when done right, being the leader can pay off for your brand and your conscience. About 64% of consumers expect companies to be actively engaged in social, environmental or political activism, according to a 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study.

8. Paid Ads and Influencer Marketing

A surefire way to fast-track your growth is with paid media. However, you can’t throw money at it and expect big results right away. A strategic action plan is necessary for paid campaigns to hit their targets and drive real business results, such as sales and follower growth.

It’s a huge topic to dive into but at the surface level, you first need to know who your target audience is for the campaign. No, really, everything about them.

How old are they? Where do they hang out? What do they want to see from you? What other brands or content do they like? What do they need help with? What do they want to learn how to do and/or accomplish in their lives? How does your product or service help them learn or accomplish that?

You need to answer every single one of those questions before you ever run a paid social media ad or hire an influencer.

When done right, these tools can skyrocket you years ahead of where you’d be otherwise.

9. Consider Emerging Channels

Now a staple for corporate social media managers, TikTok is still relatively new. It wasn’t on most people’s radar in 2019. But brands who jumped on board and embraced the channel’s unique attributes are seeing a huge payoff.

For example, the #DistanceDance campaign by Procter & Gamble is one of the most successful ever, with more than 17 billion views and counting. The campaign capitalized on TikTok’s dance challenge culture, where copying a dance from another user is a cornerstone of the app experience.

The #DistanceDance campaign by Procter & Gamble is one of the most successful on TikTok.

By fitting in with a content type that users were familiar with, the campaign was widely viewed without much additional publicity. Of course, choosing the influencer is a key part of it as well.

What’s next for 2021? Instagram Reels? Is Myspace coming back? Who knows, but once it hits, make sure you’re not the last to know.

That said, don’t jump on a new platform simply because everyone else is. Remember: It all needs to tie back to your target audience. If they’re widely using the platform, then you should consider it, too. If they’re not, don’t sweat skipping that trend.

Building a Social Media Following Is Only the First Step

Growing your social media followers can feel successful, and in a way it is, but it’s only the beginning.

What are you going to do with all those followers? Cash them in at the Follower Bank? I didn’t think so.

Businesses exist to make money so sooner or later, you need to figure out how to sell to that audience in a way that feels good, builds up your brand and continues to deepen the relationship your customers have with your company.

A little recap of the key rules?

  • It’s OK not to do it all. Pick a few choice platforms and focus on making them great.
  • Be consistent with your posting schedule.
  • Be smart about what you post where. Capitalize on each platform’s strengths by customizing the content to the network.
  • Don’t wait around for people to talk to you first. Go forth and engage first!
  • Know your numbers: use analytics to determine what content is working for you.
  • Consider running paid ads, hiring influencers or using emerging platforms, like TikTok Ads or Reels.

Social media is their front-row ticket to see how your company behaves and what you believe. Make it a show worth watching and you’ve got an audience, and a paying customer base, for life.

Not sure how to start growing your corporate social media accounts, or don’t have time to strategize, write content, schedule posts, analyze results, engage with your audience or even feed the dog? We can help with 90% of those things (hint: the social media-related things).

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