Ever ask yourself why you even have a Facebook page, or a Twitter account?
Well, why does any business? Why does any PERSON?
When you use social media for marketing, it’s easy to forget that actual USERS don’t think of it that way.
That would be like advertisers thinking that people watch TV for the commercials. The reasons YOU use social media are way, waaaaay outside the reasons the average person uses it – reasons like building and maintaining social ties, sharing, and discovering.
And what do those things add up to?
Because while a social media marketer uses sites like Facebook for selling, driving traffic, or building brand awareness, the people they’re trying to reach use those sites to engage in online communities.
That’s why you need to make community-building a priority.
It’s been kind of inevitable for a long time – Facebook’s million-billion algorithm changes (both recent and upcoming), for example, all reinforce the importance of two-way engagement rather than advertisey self-promotion or sneaky tactics designed to drive low-value clickthroughs. They want you and your followers to stay on the social network, and they want you to actually INTERACT with each other.
Y’know, like in a – say it with me now – community.
That probably sounds a lot easier said than done, though.
It’s one thing if you’re a business with an established social following, but if you’re trying to build your numbers and get more fans online, all this focus on community sounds kind of impossible – like trying to build up momentum while climbing uphill.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
(You just have to follow a few important steps.)
So you want more fans on social? You want more engagement? A real sense of people interacting with your brand because they actually really want to? There are a few things you need to do.
1. Don’t start with social media
That probably sounds kind of weird, right? I mean, isn’t doing stuff on social the way you get noticed and build up your followers?
The answer is actually an enthusiastic mehhhhh. Because yeah, doing stuff on social IS important. You should be posting regularly whether you have 10 followers or 10,000. But if you want to get MORE followers – which you’ll need if you want to make your social presence a hub for activity – you’ve gotta focus your energies elsewhere, too.
I’m talking about email.
It probably sounds old-fashioned, but it’s true – when it comes to online marketing, email is still the undisputed boss. Look at it this way:
- 91% of consumers check their email once a day (only 46% of Twitter users log on that often)
- 70% of users report that they always open emails from their fave companies (compared to only 18% who never open commercial emails)
- Email is great at generating new customers – it’s almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined
Cultivating a list and sending irresistibly awesome emails is important not just for its own merits, but because you can leverage that list to drive people to your social media accounts. Just by opening and reading your emails, a person has demonstrated interest in keeping up with your business and hearing what you have to say. Using those emails to send them to your social profiles isn’t just good for building your audience – it’s giving those people what they want.
A stellar social media presence isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” sort of thing – people have to know your profile exists before they can care about it, and telling people it exists is waaaaay more effective than just crossing your fingers and hoping they’ll come looking for you.
2. Be prepared to hit the ground running
What are your goals with your social presence? (And don’t say, “to promote my brand!”)
What sort of content are you going to post? What sort of relationship do you want to have with your fans and followers? What’s your big Purpose with a capital P?
Don’t wait until later to figure this out. Just like you have a business plan with goals and strategies, you need a plan for your social media.
Here’s an example.
Last month, Team Edgar and I noticed that Edgar was quickly growing a pretty devoted fanbase, and also that people LOVE sharing their social strategies, giving out tips, soliciting feedback, and suggesting new ideas. Edgar already had a Facebook page, but we decided it would be helpful to create an online community where fans and users could come together and really interact not just with us, but with each other.
That’s what we had in mind when we launched Edgar HQ, a Facebook group open to users (and non-users) who want to do all those things I just mentioned. (Remember how important I said your email list is? When we first promoted the group via email – before we even mentioned it on social at all – we added more than 100 members in just a few hours. Don’t underestimate your email list!)
So while of COURSE you’re going to use your social profiles to promote your business, if you want people to really engage with your business, it’s gonna take more than that. Put yourself in your followers’ shoes – what motivation do they have to follow you on social? What do they expect out of that relationship, and how can you give it to them? Figure that out before you start sending people to your social profiles, so once they get there, you’re ready for them with a clear sense of purpose.
3. Be an active participant (and an active promoter)
Soliciting engagement on social isn’t a call-and-response activity in which you say something and your followers say something back, and then you’re done – it’s an ongoing relationship!
It might be tempting to act like one of those machines that shoots tennis balls. You send out an update, and whether or not anyone interacts with it, your job is done.
But that’s not the way it works! It’s not rewarding for your audience to lob tennis balls back at you and get no response!
Online communities are more like actual tennis games – instead of being back-and-forth, it’s back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth. You pay attention to what people like and don’t like, and how they interact with your biz, and you respond accordingly. (Take the Edgar Facebook group I mentioned before – the team and I are in there literally everyday, interacting with people.)
And remember that your own online community has the potential to ALWAYS be growing.
Know how I said you should promote your social in an email? Don’t just do that once and call it a day! Do it again and again. I have links to my social profiles in every single iteration of my free weekly newsletter that gets sent out, because every single week, I have new subscribers who haven’t SEEN those links!
Self-promotion like that may seem redundant to you, because you’re the one seeing all of it – but remember, the ONLY person who is exposed to every single one of your self-promotional messages is YOU! For a lot of people, that one mention of your Facebook page you added to an email is going to be the very first time they hear about it, so don’t rob potential new social fans of the opportunity to find you online just because it seems like yesterday’s news to YOU.
This has always been important – and it’s only going to become more and more important in the future.
With big changes on the horizon, building honest-to-goodness online communities is going to be more important than ever – so start thinking now about what you want your social profiles to accomplish, how you’re going to promote them, and what you plan to actually DO once you have those fans and followers you’re looking for!