Organically Growing Social Media Communities
It’s no secret that social media has become a crowded space. With advertisements always popping up in our news feeds, major brands competing for our attention and what seems like endless posts from over-sharing social media “friends,” it seems as if there’s practically no space left for anything meaningful.
Yet in order to remain competitive, today’s marketers must continue to find ways to stand out from the crowd, especially because social media use among businesses and consumers continues to skyrocket, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
The proof can be seen in the statistics: Social media use has seen a nearly tenfold jump over the past decade. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately two-thirds of American adults used social networking sites in 2015, up from 7 percent when the research center began tracking social media usage back in 2005.
So what’s the key to rising above the noise when it comes to your company’s social media channels? For starters, concentrate on organic growth tactics, a strategy that can help you build momentum and value for the long term.
Organic vs. Paid Social Media
Unclear about the definition of organic versus paid social media? Ultimately, organic social media is about quality, not quantity. Yes, you might be able to quickly recruit 300 new followers via paid social media methods like buying ads on Facebook or Twitter, but if they aren't engaged, they really don't matter.
Organic reach stands for the number of unique users who have seen your content through unpaid distribution. The number includes both people who have interacted with your content, (i.e., they liked, tweeted, re-shared or commented) and the people who have discovered your content via other users’ actions. Think of organic as the ripple effect. When you skip a stone (your social media post) on a pond, you can see the ripples grow into bigger circles as the stone skips across the water.
When used correctly, social media is the most direct, personal and easily accessible way a company can truly connect and foster relationships with followers. With an organic social media approach, companies benefit by having real, honest conversations with customers who have a better chance of becoming lifelong, loyal fans.
Best Practices: Organically Growing Your Social Media Communities
It may sound obvious, but the point of social media is to be social. Brands should be actively engaging and interacting with the individuals and companies following them via social media sites like LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. How can this be accomplished? Ask questions, answer questions and leave comments. These are all positive ways to engage. And people will likely follow you because you’re engaging with them on a deeper level. The key is to post relevant, educational content associated with your industry, products or services. Remember, you want to be seen as an industry expert.
Finally, no one wants to experience significant churn. By growing your company’s following organically, you will engage and connect with users who are less likely to stop following you. Think of it this way—before sending a request, ask yourself: Does this company or person have an issue my company can resolve? Would they be interested in my solutions? Do they relate to anything about my company or industry? If your answer is “yes” to most of these questions, they are likely to accept your request.
Where Do I Start?
Growing your social media accounts one relationship at a time can be more time-consuming than paid methods. However, for marketers who truly understand the value in this type of organic growth, the ultimate rewards are plentiful and long-lasting.
Here are a few of the many ways you can start to build organically via social media marketing.
Truly engage. Don’t just talk to talk. Engaging with your social media audience means a number of things, all of which digital marketers have been trying to better understand for years. To make it easier, break the concept down into simpler terms: To truly engage means to align with the interests of your followers. In some cases, this may mean sharing amusing images or compelling video. In other scenarios, it may require sharing comprehensive research and studies boasting measurable results. Once you establish a following—even if it’s small at the start—it means to support and share your followers’ content, to respond to their comments and to help them with their needs. To truly engage in social media is similar to having a real, face-to-face discussion with a lead and taking time to listen to what is important to them.
Be consistent. One of the best ways to organically grow a LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook account is to remain consistent. Stick to a posting schedule and decide what should (and shouldn’t) be shared on the account. Take the time to think about it thoroughly. You should have a vision for these accounts before you get started. For example, random and unrelated images will not get much attention and will make a company’s social media page look unprofessional. Keep everything consistent and always have your brand’s target audience in mind.
Make social media customer service a top priority. In social media, your customers are literally at your fingertips. You have the opportunity to impress them every day via social media. Any messages on LinkedIn can and should be responded to immediately. Want to really make an impression? Reach out to those who follow you on Twitter, those who like you on Facebook, and send them a “Happy Birthday” message or recognize something they have achieved. It can be helpful to relate based on interests that go beyond a purely professional focus, so be sure to brainstorm ideas that align with their personal interests.
Create real-life relationships. Why not take some of your social connections to a more meaningful place? Whether this means on the phone, on Google Hangouts, in a physical coffee shop or even in your office conference room, make it happen. Remember, you can tweet to someone all day, but until you actually speak to them, you don’t truly have an understanding of their exact agenda or personality. Even a 10-minute phone introduction can create a start to a fantastic, working relationship.
At the end of the day, organic social media is about connecting with people, not just playing the number of followers game. It’s about segmenting your influencers and advocates and building genuine relationships with them by engaging with their posts and content. And in social media, as in any other area of digital marketing, the best measure of success is not how big your network is, but how qualified.
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