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10 Ways to Build a Social Media Audience

In direct marketing, it’s long been said that a bad offer to a good list will perform better than a good offer to a bad list. The point being that without a decent audience, you may as well forget about it. You may have a great product or service, but unless you have a long list of people who are at least prospective customers, even the best marketing efforts in the world probably won’t be able to sell it.

That’s how it is in social media, too. You can spend a ton of time and money in creating content that absolutely rocks, but if you aren’t reaching enough people, your efforts will be in vain and you won’t have a chance of going viral. You’ll be like the proverbial tree that falls in the middle of the woods with nobody around to hear it. The return on your investment won’t be anywhere near satisfactory. You’ll be left wondering why you’re hearing nothing but crickets while your competitors are hearing the sound of the cash register going “cha-ching.”

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to accumulate a large enough number of followers and fans to make all your activity on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like worth it. Here are 10 ways for brands to build a social media audience that is loyal, engaged, and responsive.

1. Point People in the Right Direction.
Unless you’re a celebrity or are lucky enough to have an iconic brand name, you can disregard the notion that if you build it, they will come. People won’t even know you exist on social media unless you point them in the right direction. Wherever possible – on the wall, in the lobby, on the counter – use signage offline to drive your constituents online.

Vineyard Vines
This sign in the window of the Vineyard Vines store at The Shops at the Prudential Center in Boston draws attention to their presence on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Shout It Out Loud.
Anyone in your organization who’s on the speaking circuit should be incorporating into their presentations the fact that your business has a social address. They should strike while the iron’s hot. Caught up in the moment, a live audience has an urge to connect with whomever is on stage. Tell them where your brand lives on social media and invite them to join you there.

3. Arm the Troops.
Divide and conquer. There’s strength in numbers. Identify those employees who have strong social followings themselves and encourage them to passively recruit on behalf of your organization. Provide them with talking points. Reward them for their thought leadership. The more employees you have spreading the word about your brand’s social activities among their own personal networks, the quicker you’ll grow your audience.

4. Drop Names.
Why would you even thinking about mentioning someone else in your own content stream? Well, for starters, it’s simply good form, especially when you’re citing the author of a third-party article that you’ve chosen to share. Tagging others is also a good way to pique curiosity, attract new followers, and trigger mutually beneficial engagement.

Boston Park Plaza
This tweet from the Boston Park Plaza hotel includes several Twitter handles and one hashtag.

5. Showcase Your Social Streams.
Get much more mileage out of your activity on social media by embedding this content elsewhere. There are numerous widgets available from either third parties or directly from channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest that make it possible for you to export your timelines and display them somewhere on your website. Not only does this put your content in front of a broader audience, it increases the likelihood of establishing more lasting social connections among your constituency as well.

Whole Foods Market
The homepage of the Whole Foods Market website includes some of the supermarket chain’s social media feeds.

6. Put Others First.
Don’t be a brand that only talks about itself. You know the ones. They spend far too much time being promotional as opposed to social. No one is saying you can’t toot your own horn on Twitter, Facebook, and the like. I am saying, though, that one of the best ways to attract new fans, followers, and business in general is to be known for helping others in as many ways as possible. Your turn will come.

Sullivan Tire
This tweet from Sullivan Tire provides followers with a good tip about checking their tires’ air pressure.

7. Make a Ridiculously Good First Impression.
Are your profile and cover images the right size? Have you written a clear and convincing description of your business that’s infused with keywords and hashtags? Did you link back to your website and other social properties? Is your logo featured prominently? Do you respond promptly to questions, comments, and mentions? Do you thank those who share your content with their own constituents? Are you the host with the most gratitude for his or her fans, followers, customers, and prospects?

8. Host a Chat.
Build a faithful community of like-minded followers and fans by interviewing popular guests on both Twitter and Facebook. Like a talk show or panel discussion, a chat is simply two or more people talking about a topic of broad appeal. Promote the event in advance. Use a strong hashtag. Take questions from your audience. Employ an experienced moderator. Become known for bringing people together for education and entertainment at your expense, not theirs. You’ll be the center of attention.

The Today Show
This post on The Today Show’s Facebook page promotes a live chat with co-anchor Savannah Guthrie.

9. Give Something Away.
People practically come out of the woodwork to participate in contests. But while offering something for nothing is almost a surefire way to attract a large following, the prizes you’re offering should be aligned with your brand attributes. This helps increase the likelihood that any new connections are qualified prospects, not those who are only in it for the swag.

Will Leather Goods
In this Instagram contest by Will Leather Goods, participants can win two bags of their choice from the brand’s website.

10. Pay to Play.
Last but certainly not least, there’s paid media. In fact, many brands find that allocating a good portion of their marketing dollars for advertising on social media is a necessity, not an option, if they want a bigger audience. With so much competition for eyeballs and engagement, promoting your content and accounts to prospective new followers and fans is a smart way to stand out among the clutter and win over the masses.

This sponsored Facebook post by Coastal.com includes an offer to “get your first pair of glasses free” as well as an invitation to like their page.

Note: This post, “10 Ways to Build a Social Media Audience,” was originally published on ClickZ on June 17, 2014. To read the post there, click here.

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