You Won’t Like It, But This Is What Works On Social Media Now

I’ve worked on social media for a few different brands now and there’s something odd going on that no one’s really talking about. It’s what amazes me most when I see certain agencies and individuals promising unrealistic social media follower counts and Facebook likes, or any type of massive output with minimal input. Because the truth is, with intelligent algorithms and an increasingly crowded space that has no entry cost, brands will only now get out of social media what they put in. There is no ‘free ride’ and no ‘magic formula’ to gaining, likes, site referrals and comments. Social media has become difficult. Great posts, amazing visuals and a stellar tone of voice will only get a brand so far.

The trick behind really getting ahead in social media? Time and money. The two things that most brands haven’t got. This is the reality and it’s a difficult one, but from firsthand experience, only by a huge level of commitment to the ‘everyday’, occasionally monotonous tasks, will brands get ahead and actually get themselves heard on social media. What are these tasks? Let me tell you…

Disclaimer: from experience, this is what has worked for me and have helped the brands I work with to achieve their social media goals. There are almost certainly other ways and I would love to hear them! (tweet me or comment below), but these are just some of the things that I have found to work.

1. Everyday engagement

What.. you mean actually talk to people? Yes, exactly that. It seems odd that for most brands, using social media is at complete disparity to what the channels were made for. Post, after post, after post that just talk at followers, has the same chance of success as when the contestants of Castaway scoop a big net into the sea and hope to catch something: it’s a lot of effort for not a lot of fish. And half the time those fish turn out to be stones anyway. The real key to gaining followers and getting noticed? Engaging on a very personal, one on one level with the people you’re trying to target. This means replying to tweets to ask questions, commenting on Instagram posts with something honest or thoughtful and just generally talking to people and showing that you can be human too. It’s hard work and it takes much more time than just rolling out statuses but trust me, it works. Try it for half an hour a day, for a week and I guarantee you’ll have at least a 20% increase in followers by the end of it. (Come hunt me down if you don’t, I’m over here)

2. Monitoring well

How do you find the right people to engage with? This all comes down to learning how to monitor well. I find Twitter to be the best channel for this, due to how advanced its search filters are, but it’s certainly worth a go on other channels too. Firstly, think of the type of topics your audience might tweet about, that might be of interest to you. For example, a brand of suncream for sensitive skin might look for ‘can’t wait holiday’, ‘recommend suncream’, ‘sensitive skin sunscreen’, ‘suitable sensitive skin’

Just from doing a quick Twitter search I’ve found three customers who are absolutely, qualified leads for any brand using social media, who sells sensitive sun cream:

And yes this takes a little time, but really, the cost per acquisition to find qualified leads is usually much higher and this is a guaranteed way to target people who may be interested in the products. Plus, once you have the right keywords nailed you can save the searches in Twitter or use a monitoring tool such as Twilert, to do most of the hardwork for you.

3. Twitter chats

Another time consuming Twitter task, but one that undoubtedly increases followers and engagement, are Twitter chats. Sure, your marketing manager might not want to spend their Wednesday evening engaging with #EventHour, but talking to customers and others in your industry in a predefined chat, is a great way to make connections and get noticed. Don’t believe me? Mark down your follower count before the chat and then look at what it is afterwards, along with the amount of site referrals you’ve had from any links shared. Guaranteed engagement.

4. Advertising

I knew you was wondering where the money came into it. As businesses (and yes I said businesses because that’s what they essentially are), Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram are all channels which need to make money. This is mostly done through brands who advertise with them. This hasn’t sat well with businesses, who’ve become accustomed to receiving exposure for free up until the last few years, but when you think about it, the channels are giving you access to your target audience, did you really think you wouldn’t have to pay for it? Luckily, both Facebook and Twitter have very good advertising platforms which allow you to target customers by anything from age and location, to interests, who they follow and which other brands they like. This really does help you to get more bang for your buck and when done well, can be a really effective way to acquire customers and achieve your goals.

5. Realtime marketing

Getting involved in conversations and events, as they happen, is one of the best ways to show off and attract new customers. Just look at how many retweets and favourites Cadbury’s got (and how many chocolate bars it sold) when it tweeted this idea for Shrove Tuesday:

And you don’t have to be a big brand to make the most of realtime opportunities either. Create a calendar where you mark out all of the key dates throughout the year, such as holidays, seasons and ‘International’ days and then think about how your brand can create authentic, engaging content to use around them. Simple ideas are often the best and will really show your brand to be relevant and someone to follow on social media.

6. Collaborations

If you have a smaller audience on social media, collaborating with someone who has a bigger audience is just common sense. Get in touch with bloggers, or influencers in your area of expertise and see if they’d be interested in running a giveaway of your products. This gives you access to their audience, while helping them to be seen as a kind person who likes to reward their followers with free stuff. You can also use interviews, sponsored content or features on your website, that involve other brands or influencers, to help drive traffic and grow your own following through association.

7. Champion others

This seems odd when you first think about it. Why would championing someone else, help you to gain more followers? Well firstly, it’s a nice thing to do. Sharing a blogpost or image you like, from someone else’s site or social media, shows that you are not only intersted in helping others but that you are someone who’s on the pulse of what’s going on within your industry. It also helps you to build favour with those influencers in your area, who may retweet or share your post in order to say thanks (exposing your brand to their much larger audience in the process). This can be done through a ‘blogger of the week’ campaign, a shared linkydink account where you collate the most interesting posts of the week, or a feature or interview with a blogger or influencer that you think your audience should know about. Get creative and just remember; it’s nice to be nice (and it pays off in followers too).

So what do you think, have you tried any of the above for helping a brand to grow on social media? Have you found them to work? Or do you still think the shouty-shouty approach can be effective? Comment below or tweet me to let me know, and let’s carry on making social media better for both brands and users, in a way that works.

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