Social Followers & Likes from A-Z

Before chasing followers and likes, remember that followers per se are of no inherent value, and likes are just a pat on the back. They might make us feel good, but they will not translate into more business. In fact, going after followers can be the poison in a brand’s marketing efforts; it puts the whole strategy on a footing of looking good and fear of looking bad; the authenticity of the conversation never figures into it, and that means all future marketing efforts will be diluted.

Before giving you 26 tips to do this well, lets look at 3 warnings against doing it poorly:

Speed Kills in Social – Don’t Take Shortcuts

The temptation to go fast rather than go right is 100% illusion, because social media is not A to B; it’s A to B to C. It’s several steps removed from getting business. You won’t get business from a few posts, or a few weeks of effort. You’ll get it by long term consistency. This is one reason Social should be only *one* of multiple channels for your marketing campaigns. It’s like stocks – if you flinch at momentary changes or when you don’t get immediate results, you don’t belong in the game.

Put the Emphasis on Amplifiers and Reshares

Which would you rather have:

  • 5000 followers, with no information on how helpful they are, and no reason to think they’re particularly disposed to you and your brand
  • 500 followers, ten percent of whom have over 1000 followers, and 10 percent of those being ‘amplifiers’ who routinely feed those audiences by re-sharing stellar content

It depends on strategy. If you want to look good more than you want more business or to reach an audience, go with the first option. But if you intend to broadcast high quality content and want it to have a lot of reach, motivating and creating brand evangelists on the way, go with the second choice. If you want to be the Patagonia or Tom’s Shoes of your brand, go with option two. If you choose the first one, that doesn’t happen. You look back after a year or so, and the conversation you wanted never occurred.

Remember, a thriving audience of content broadcasters is your own media network. A list of followers that ignores you and doesn’t share your stuff to the world is a badge of mediocrity, not honor.

Learn How Social Networks Work

One reason people find it hard to get more followers and likes the fun and authentic way – the powerful way – is they don’t see the commonalities in all social networks. They have to learn Twitter, then Facebook, then Pinterest like they’re all separate things with separate rules. Social Media Managers do a bang-up job of trumpeting that, too: “Oh, they’re all VERY different; don’t ever do the same thing in more than one network.” I’m here to tell you that anyone prescribing that is either smoking crack or trying to sell you something – maybe both. Most of the tips in this thoughtful guide are not specific to any one network; they’re ideas that apply to MOST networks.

The terminology may vary: re-tweet/repin, comment/mention, like/favorite, follow/friend but that variance underscores how SIMILAR they are. It’s not hard to see why; the behaviors we’re looking for are roughly the same; doesn’t it stand to reason that the strategies are roughly similar? Learn the basics of social networks, like brand page vs. personal profile, and learn how to use any two networks, and you’re off to the races.

One sure way to get more followers is to follow the right people, and then treat them like kings once you follow them. If there were a way to sum up all 26 tips below, that would be it.

26 Ways to Get More Followers and Likes – Without Shortcuts

Here, we’ll use Facebook as the example, and take our terminology and specific instructions from Facebook:

  • a) Amplify Often: Be a Trusted amplifier. Re-share their stuff to your audience, but only when it’s 1. original and 2. valuable to your audience. You want to reward that behavior of feeding you good material. As a good rule of thumb: if it would make a good ‘promoted’ post, it’s probably a good candidate for sharing – same as retweeting or repinning in Twitter/Pinterest. Trusted amplifiers get amplified, and that gets more followers.
  • b) Brand Advocates: Get everyone in your company (voluntarily – you *cannot* force this) who is interested in helping your marketing (e.g. yourself) to re-share the brand’s social posts routinely to their own audiences. Can you do that? Of course. Why wouldn’t you, if your audience would benefit and you love the material? This works best with delightful places to work; you can’t fake this one; it’ll be lackluster.
  • c) Cross-promotion: For instance, promote your Facebook or Instagram page in your company newsletter, in all company e-mail signatures, in print materials you use (flyers and newsletters and invoices too!), on swag (your mugs, stress balls, whatever), and in other social channels (e.g. Twitter), etc. If you want more follows, ask for them; seems obvious. You can even mention it in your voicemail or hold message.
  • d) Distribute Directly: Post purposefully-designed custom posts (images and captions, etc) directly to other business/orgs brand pages (in Facebook), especially in support of a campaign they’re running. For instance, if some organization is running a puppy love campaign, post a custom pin you made for their campaign directly to their timeline, instead of your own. Post as your business brand page. You’ve just handed them content; they usually love that. Go ahead and @ your brand page when you do the post. When you share content in their campaigns, you get their attention and their audience’s attention.
  • e) Explainer Video: Include permanent videos where possible (like an explainer video on a tab in Facebook). That could be an interview with the company stakeholders or a video explaining what the page is about. This works in Pinterest too. Want more followers? Tell them why they should.
  • f) Friends First: Likewise, use the “suggest to friends” feature on a Facebook brand page to suggest the page to your own friends. Ask company brand advocates to do the same (if they want to help).
  • g) Giveaway and Farm: Run a giveaway that asks people to do 3 things a) post a piece of original content to your page directly, b) like the page, and c) share your post about the giveaway to their own timeline. Think about what kinds of content they could provide you that you could use for months in other social networks, featuring it and amplifying, etc. What would be good for an album on your Facebook page or Pinterest board? Start collecting albums from your contests. As they share the contest, your audience grows.
  • h) Hashtag Strategy: Use hashtags always, and develop a hashtag strategy (MadPipe can help). Hashtags can be the name of a catchy campaign you’re running, a target demographic, a concept, or part of someone else’s larger campaign. Hashtags are search terms – they prompt people to find more posts from your campaign or prompt people to find you through a given hashtag.
  • i) Involvement in a Cause: Champion causes that align with your brand – not generic causes, but rather support existing campaigns being run by people who are doing something about a problem. Keep it positive – save something or fix something; don’t wail about the fact that it’s broken, or go on and on about why.
  • j) Join-Worthy Community:  Be the community manager; ask opinions on and critiques of company products/features/etc. Respond to feedback, dialogue with commenters, be super-responsive to any complaints, and mention their expertise where relevant. Build the discussion that results in a thriving community. Be a community people want to join, not just a brand they are supposed to follow.
  • k) Klout-stalk Your Leads: Install a tool in gmail/chrome like Rapportive to show the social networks/activity of anyone you correspond with in the company. Then (if appropriate), friend them in the networks where they’re truly active, with the owners’ personal account(s). That lets you now “Suggest to Friends” at the page level, because now they’re friends at the personal profile level!
  • l) Look Good After All: It’s not all about looking good, but it’s not about looking bad. Completely flesh out your brand’s bio/info on each social network. People will look at it when they follow your posts back to your page. Don’t leave the info about the brand sparse or ugly, so it discourages follows. Keep it current, as your brand message evolves. Set it and forget it is neglect. Don’t neglect your audience. Likewise, change the CALL TO ACTION button on your Facebook page to something creative, You can even create an occasional landing page to point it to, There are options available/visible when you click to customize the button on your page.
  • m) Mention Me: Don’t just like someone. Like or Friend them (depending on if they’re a page or a profile) – same as following a Twitter or Pinterest user. When you follow/like/friend someone, have a reason, and demonstrate it by @mentioning them or re-sharing their stuff or commenting on it. At a minimum, click Share on their page and share it to your own network (logged in as your company brand page). Find the best people, by searching for conversations about things you care about it, and looking at how influential they are, and about half of them will be beneficial connections.
  • n) Name Names: Call out audience members. Occasionally mention someone in your own original posts, if you think they’d be *particularly* interested. That means you should probably read what *they* are posting, so you know what they’re interested in. Don’t mention them so heavily that you spam any one person, and don’t mention in bulk. Mentioning is using an @ in either Facebook or Twitter. In a good meeting, you call out participants to reward contributors and keep people engaged. As unstructured as a social network is, it’s incredibly structured.
  • o) Originality is Everything: Share lots of original content, frequently, at all hours, into your social timeline – within a reasonable limit for each network (e.g. 2 posts/day in Facebook, sometimes 3). Keep the balance of original content to curated content (8-15%) high. Also, make as many of your posts visual as you can (images/videos) with accompanying text. Making great content, curating great content, and building an audience for great content are the three most important social activities.
  • p) Promote Posts: Pay to promote posts occasionally. This will require an ad budget, but you could invest $100/mo for instance, and focus on promoting your best posts – the ones you think will travel far, or that immediately get a lot of play the first day you post them. You can do that in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – any social network that allows promoted posts. Promoted posts get suggested to new people, who in turn can become audience members.
  • q) Queue the QR: Put your Facebook or Instagram (or whatever) link up (with the recognizable icon) anywhere you are physically meeting the public – events, storefronts, even on products and product tags. If you’ve got a showroom or are going to an event, get it up in front of people. At an event, using a QR code can get people there fast.
  • r) Reliable Commentators: Comment on others’ posts (don’t stalk/saturate but do a little) – same as @mentioning someone in Twitter. Don’t say “nice job”. Say something nice, when you mean it, and when you have something to say. Other people reading their material are likely to join your page, if you’re good at comments.
  • s) Suggest Page: Use the “suggest page” feature when logged in as the brand’s page on Facebook. It lets you upload an e-mail contact list and suggest your page. Download your contacts from Gmail and/or Linkedin, for instance, and suggest the page to them with this feature.
  • t) Tag – You’re It: Tag users any time they’re featured in a photo you post – that’s what tagging is for. You can also ask fans to tag themselves: “If you can spot yourself or a friend, tag this photo!”.You can even tag people if their hometown or alma mater or sports team or something else they’re deeply invested in is mentioned. Just call it out in the actual reason for that post. “Yay, Stanford!” or “Go Green Bay!”
  • u) Unconventional Ads: Yes, we’re saturated by ads, and they convert less than great organic posts, or properly thought out promoted posts. But they do get seen. Curiosity ensures that, if nothing else. Go with that – EXTEND the curiosity. Run a Facebook ad at $1-5/day, and do something fun for the headline, such as “LIKE IF YOU LUUUUUVVV YOUR DOG!” or edgy: “Love your dog; just don’t LOVE your dog.” Check the “get more page likes” feature and make sure it targets “only people not connected to you”. Optimize for impressions, and you’re off to grabbing some likes. You can experiment also with optimizing a 2nd identical ad for fans and A/B testing them against each other for what performs better.
  • v) Video Uploads: When you take videos at events or through digital reporting about the company or its products, don’t just post them to Youtube or as Youtube links to Facebook, but post them also as direct Facebook uploads, and don’t forget the captions/comments. Facebook treats your posts better, if the videos are native.
  • w) Watch the Clock: Time your posts for highest engagement. There’s no fixed rule across all industries or brands or audiences. It’s different for every audience, and actually evolves over time. Study Facebook Insights, Followerwonk/Buffer, Tweriod, or another tool to analyze your social audience for what times/day on what days they engage the most. Hit them then.
  • x) Before You Click X: Make sure your website has a *like* button from Facebook – just like a +1 button from Google – so people can like your page. That goes on the home page and contact page, aside from the individual buttons for blog posts, which are a separate issue. Do NOT just trust that your web designer has done this properly for maximum conversion.
  • y) You’re My Sales Force: Instead of going to loud business networking ‘mixers’ with a stack of business cards, join a more systematic business networking group that’s highly structured (like BNI), where it’s each member’s role to act as sales force for each other member. Friend-request every member. They made a commitment, and so did you, when you joined. Collaborative growth beats growing alone any day of the week. And ask them to then suggest your page to their audiences, using the Suggest Page or Suggest to Friends features.
  • z) Zoom and Pan: Be a broadcaster, by hosting your own online events – your own dog (and pony) show – on something like Google Hangouts on Air (HOA). It takes some setup and practice/learning, but the learning curve is forgiving, and it’s free. Promote it on your Facebook page in the week, days leading up to the event (and after several trial runs for a limited audience). Ask your audience to invite others, and give them the link to do it. In your event, ask them to like your page.

And One More Audience Growth Tip – to Grow On

Done all of this already? Here’s a bonus tip, but keep in mind it’s not officially supported (and sometimes officially frowned upon) by various social networks. Create a landing page that offers something of great value: e.g. A video course/webinar on a hot topic or an e-book on a highly valuable or sought-after piece of knowledge. Don’t hand someone a useless brochure or this won’t work. Put a “Like gate” on it. Your web guy (or MadPipe) can help you. A “Like gate” reveals the desired content in exchange for liking your page. Now get that information out to people who *don’t* already like you. This is good for your other social channels and great for an e-mail blast. You can also promote it via an ad on a different social network.

You’re Best off In Open Networks

With Twitter (unlike Facebook) there are tools like riffle, klout, followerwonk, tweepi, peerreach, topsy, tweetdeck and others to help with strategic follows and follower delight, and there is a whole world of Twitter chats available, but that’s because Twitter is the most open of social networks. With a more closed network like Facebook, if you’re highly focused on audience growth in general, not on the network per se, it might be good to either put more into freer networks, or else every 2 weeks ask Twitter followers (at varied times) to find you on Facebook. That goes back to cross-promotion. We’re still in the stone age on 3rd party Facebook tools, because it’s such a closed loop. If you have a choice of networks, prefer the most open network you can find, not the most restrictive or least promiscuous.

Social ROI Doesn’t Exist

A fully fleshed out social strategy is NOT just about numbers, and it’s NOT just about followers. It’s about how to get from that initial focus FARTHER down the path toward people amplifying and sharing your brand message, brand culture, and brand interest and loyalty. The reason return on investment (ROI) is so elusive in social is that social isn’t A to B. In that sense, there’s no such thing as Social ROI. No one wants to hear that, because business owners want it, and every big bad wolf in the woods is waiting to sell them the magic beans.

But you don’t need Social ROI anyway; you need Social to play a role in generating Marketing ROI. That requires you get awesome at social, but also that you bring all the parts of your marketing together into fully functioning, overlapping campaigns that are going strong. Then, when you’ve got the inputs and outputs lining up, we can optimize to make it better and more productive.

So how can you get past the immediate ROI of social and focus on the ROI of a total marketing strategy that integrates all the parts? That’s where MadPipe comes in. MadPipe will get you launching campaigns in multiple channels so that, when they coincide, you begin reaching a critical mass to create, feed, and activate an audience. Make contact, now.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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