You’ve heard this advice before: To be successful on social media, you need to be social. But what does being social online look like for a business? In practice, it looks a lot like being social in person. It’s about making genuine human connections with other people by sharing relevant information and adding value. That takes time, but that’s also exactly why it works. Let’s take a closer look.
How do I put the social into my social media strategy?
Being social online and building your social media following is all about engagement. That starts with having a presence on the social media platforms where your target customers spend their time.
If you want to make new friends in person, you’d go to the places where your ideal companions go, wouldn’t you? It works the same on social media—don’t spend your time on Twitter if your ideal customers are all on Instagram.
Make sure you know your target market and invest your time connecting with people on the social platforms where they are most active. For more tips on how to do this, check out our post on how to develop an effective social media marketing plan.
Wait a minute, what about content?
The other social media mantra we all know is that “content is king.” There’s no doubt that producing great content still matters. But to effectively use social media to build your business, you need an audience to read your content, and that audience won’t magically appear overnight.
If your reason for being social online is to actively grow your social media following, you can’t passively wait for your audience to show up. Put yourself back in the coffee shop. If you want to meet people, you can’t just sit at a table and expect people to strike up a conversation. You might get lucky and meet a stranger or two just by looking friendly, but it’s unlikely. Likewise, you might gain a handful of followers just by posting great content that people stumble upon, but that’s not a good strategy for growth. To attract more followers, you need to make the first move. And that takes some planning.
Where is everybody?
To increase your chances of meeting people in person, you might attend an event where you expect to find other people who want to connect. In other words, you go where people are hanging out. On social media, you need to find the posts that people are talking about. Luckily, that’s what hashtags are for.
Gary Vaynerchuk developed a fabulous system for using hashtags as a starting point to initiate conversations on social media. In a post about his $1.80 Instagram Strategy, he recommends using the top 10 trending hashtags and finding the nine top performing posts for each hashtag, for a total of 90 posts. Those are the posts he recommends you engage with—or in his words, the ones you want to give your two cents on.
You can search for hashtags on all the major social platforms by using the search bar. Twitter and Instagram also recommend hashtags for you based on your previous posts. And Instagram will suggest additional ideas based on what you search for.
How do I know what to talk about?
If you’re really keen to meet people face-to-face, you need to have something to talk about. In face-to-face interactions, you’re likely to open a conversation with an observation about the event you’re attending. It’s the same on social media. When you find interesting and relevant posts, leave a comment describing what you liked best about the content. If the post asks a question and you have something to contribute to the answer, chime in.
“You don’t have to write a book or say something profound, you just have to engage and interact. That is what it means to be social.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
The key is to be genuine—in person, no one likes a fake compliment. In the online community, we have a different word for it: spam. The comments section isn’t the place to ask for followers or sell your products. Don’t be that person.
When will this translate into more followers?
How long does it take to make a new friend? It depends. Not everyone you meet is going to become your next bestie, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying. Similarly, not every comment you make on social media will turn into followers, but you need to keep engaging. Establishing yourself as a positive and helpful person, both offline and online, is how you build strong relationships that can generate business results.
To build your company’s social media following, the formula for success is quality plus volume. Gary Vaynerchuk‘s method described above uses a built-in a target to accelerate the process. Once you’ve identified the best hashtags to follow, the rest of the work is relatively quick. He suggests you spend two minutes reviewing a post and composing a thoughtful comment, direct message, or a personal post to share the content you’ve discovered. Over 90 posts (nine articles for each of the 10 hashtags), this adds up to three hours, which you can spread throughout a day.
Isn’t three hours a lot?
Three hours a day might feel like a lot of time, but attracting genuine followers in your target market takes time and energy. How much is your time worth? How fast do you want to grow your business? Whether or not you can spare a full three hours is up to you, but remember that building your social media following is a long-term game. If you think of it as a race, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
No matter how much time you’re able to spend, modeling your online behavior on how you behave in a face-to-face environment is a great way to ensure that your social media presence is authentic. Being authentically human is the best way to put the social into your social media strategy.
What tricks do you use to be authentic and genuine on social media? Let us know in the comments below!