With social media it’s easier than ever to get your message out to the masses, but just because you’ve put it out there doesn’t mean anyone cares. Let’s be clear, it’s not about getting x-number of followers in x-number of days, it’s about learning how to use social media to build audience engagement.
Your goal is to build a loyal following of engaged superfans who truly care about you and see you as their problem solver. Accomplishing this will not happen overnight. It’s going to take some hard work over time to get there, but it will be more than worth the effort.
Get rich slowly
‘Get rich slowly’ seems to have replaced ‘get rich quick’ as the new mantra for successful entrepreneurs. They know it takes time to get a product or service out there, get it right, and build an engaged audience. ‘Get rich slowly’ is a hard sell, but it really works.
It’s not about the numbers
Can we just stop focusing on the numbers entirely? There are services out there that promise to get you thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans in just a few days. Who are these people? Do they really care about what I’m offering? They don’t. It’s better to have 100 engaged superfans than to have 1,000 apathetic followers who don’t give a rip about you or how you can help them.
[Tweet “It’s better to have 100 engaged superfans than to have 1,000 apathetic followers. #socialmedia”]
So it takes time and effort, but there are some things you can do to move things along a bit faster and more effectively.
How to use social media to build audience engagement
Choose your platform wisely
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+? Which should you be using? Connecting with the right people is key here, so make sure you are using the right platform for your business and your target audience. I run a fairly popular vegan food blog. My focus has always been on providing great photography. I have built a small army of super loyal fans just from pinning food photos on Pinterest. Pinterest fits my demographic, and the platform is perfect for food photos. This wouldn’t work as well if I was sharing all of my recipes on Twitter, it’s just a different demographic.
So what’s the right platform for your business? Do a little research to see what might work best for you. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
Who are you talking to?
Pinterest users are more than 80% female, Google+ is over 70% male, and Tumblr is used more by teens and young adults. Find the platform that is best suited to your target audience.
What are you sharing?
Sharing video? YouTube is an obvious choice. Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest are tops for images. LinkedIn is great for sharing business-related info. Twitter might be your choice for daily updates and Facebook may be best for promotions. Choose the platform that best showcases your shared content.
Share the good stuff
In a previous post I talked about being generous with your best material as a way to build trust in your brand. The same rule applies when you’re sharing on social media. You’ve got to give away the good stuff. That means you need to be creating good stuff that people want, and want to share with their friends and followers. Someone who does this extremelywell is Marie Forleo. She creates amazing, high-quality video content and gives it all away for free. I’m always super impressed with the quality of her videos; I have no doubt they cost a lot of money to produce. Sharing the good stuff has allowed her to create a vast army of highly engaged superfans (I am one of them :-)) and so worth every penny spent.
Engage, connect & relate
Do it the right way
It can be annoying to follow someone online who says they want to help you, but then all they do is try to sell you something. A constant barrage of sales messages can get really old, really fast. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely want to be selling to your audience, but there’s a better, less annoying way of doing it.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
In his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk compares building an audience using social media with a boxing match. Jabs are soft “punches” – sharing good content, connecting with your audience via comments, sharing related news stories, sharing more good content, etc. Right hooks are the knockout punch – once you have an engaged audience it’s perfectly fine to go in for the sale. Just remember this – lots and lots of jabs and the occasional right hook makes for a great social media marketing plan.
In order to build a truly engaged fan base, you have to be able to connect with your audience in personal ways. Show them that you are a real person who cares about what’s going on in their lives. You can share moments of your personal life like pictures of you on a family vacation or funny photos of your cat. Don’t be all business, all the time. You’re not like that in real life, so don’t portray that online.
Show them that you truly understand their problems and are there to help them. One easy way to be helpful to your audience is to ask a simple question like “What’s on your mind?”, or “What are your struggling with?”, and then actively participate in the discussion. This is a great way to build personal relationships and also helps to uncover the root of some of your audience’s issues.
A great way to keep your audience motivated to stay engaged with you and your brand is to offer incentives for their loyalty. Give them a coupon for commenting on a Facebook post. Post exclusive offers available only to your Google+ fans. Tweet a link to a free ebook for just your Twitter followers. You can also reward fans by giving shout outs, running mini contests and giving the winner a prize or props, or by showcasing a “fan of the week”. Bands like Radiohead know the power of rewarding fan loyalty and have released entire albums to their social media networks prior to making them publicly available. As an ardent Radiohead fan, I really appreciate that.
Your fans are your fans because you have provided something of value to them. If you want to keep them as fans, keep providing value. Consistency shows that you are committed to your followers and fosters trust in you and your brand. Post something on Facebook or Instagram every day. Tweet several times a day. Share a video or blog post once a week. If you show a consistent commitment to your social media followers, they will show the same commitment to you and your brand.
It’s about relationships
Using social media to building audience engagement is not about big numbers or cheesy sales pitches, it’s about relationships. Offer something of value, encourage two-way conversations, reward loyalty, be consistent with your message, and you will build real relationships with your audience. And don’t forget a good right hook every now and again. This is business after all… 🙂
What do you think? What would you add to this list? How do you connect with your followers on social media? Take a quick moment and share a comment. I’d love to hear from you!