By Jas Singh
Most of us have something we want to say. A message we wish to communicate. A product or service we want to sell. Even our beliefs we wish to express.
To be successful in business often all we need is that first chance. The initial breakthrough. That glimmer of an opportunity.
Yet in today’s crowded world, it’s harder than ever to be heard. People are being bombarded with information from all angles – call it digital overload, big data or just good old fashioned noise.
Everyone is competing for attention. To cut through and deliver a sustainable message, one needs to build loyalty. Just like companies know existing customers are a much better source of additional income than targeting new prospects from scratch, likewise your more likely to get more productive engagement from your existing followers than simply targeting new ones.
Hence the huge investment in social media. Everyone is clambering to get to the front – more followers, means more views, means more likes, which hopefully means more engagement (sales, leads, popularity etc).
Social media marketing is already a billion dollar industry – and is set to grow hugely over the next few years. Companies and famous people invest extensive amounts to increase their following, brand positioning and online reputations.
Yet everyone has a right to be heard. I speak to many people each week who have lots to offer, yet just can’t seem to get the critical following so that they start to see results. And more importantly, this is something essential to those aspiring to be in positions of leadership.
I usually write about leadership issues but I really wanted to write about this subject today because I wanted to give my perspective as a “non-technical” social media user. In fact, I even think understanding social media well is fast becoming a leadership issue! I truly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be heard. My suggestions aren’t rocket science – to some they may even be blindingly obvious – however I am sure there are a large proportion of people who might find some of the suggestions useful. Or at least a reminder.
You see the ironic beauty, is that there is more than enough to go round. Often, people just don’t have enough guidance to get started.
So what simple steps can we all take to increase our followers on social media?
Whether Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, here are a few easy steps we can all take.
1) Know exactly who you want to target – and WHY
Unless you are famous, it’s almost impossible to try and build a large scale following by being generic. You have to focus – exactly who do you want to speak to and more importantly, why?
When building a following, the initial phase is the hardest. The first 200 followers you get will take much longer than the next 200. As your connections grow, your message spreads faster. To target the initial following, you need to give them an even more compelling reason – the more specific and “exclusive” you are, the greater your chances.
Once you have built a stable base of followers, scaling becomes easier. Even Facebook itself started as mainly targeting exclusive universities across the US and then across other parts of the world. After developing a loyal group of initial users, scaling to the general public became much easier.
2) Offer relevant and useful content
Simply being on Twitter or sending speculative LinkedIn connection requests has limited effect. For people to wish to follow you, there has to be a reason. Some value you can offer.
The best way to do this is to create relevant content. Relevant to your target group. It doesn’t need to be a blog – it could simply be an update on your industry, website link, inspirational photo or annual report on your business.
However nowadays, content does have to original. Cutting and pasting a famous Steve Jobs quote – although inspiring, is being done thousands of times a week. Creating your own content is arguably the hardest and most critical part of building a sustainable following. It takes practice and taking an iterative approach – what works for you? What doesn’t?
3) Comment constructively on others
As humans, we have an ingrained tendency to reciprocate – to return a favour, to reward appreciation.
Rather than trying to contact people out of the blue, break the ice first. Comment on their blog. Like their update. Share their link.
Most people who use social media for business, want to increase their following. It’s been shown to increase opportunity, improve quality of new leads and enhance reputation. In the very near future, our digital profiles will most likely be the most important asset we own.
So to receive, give first. It’s not being underhand – it’s simply obeying a fundamental law of nature – that people are more likely to give back to those who have given to them first. Perhaps offer a suggestion on their post or give credit where it is due.
A well known CEO of a privately held technology company in the US, gets up at 4am each morning simply to spend 30 minutes commenting on other people’s blogs and updates across social media – many of whom he doesn’t know. He realises the impact of this on spreading his own personal brand is huge. People will remember you much more if you comment on their post, than if they commented on yours/
The more effort you make with others, the more results you will get back.
4) Be consistent
So you’ve understood who you need to target and why. You’re creating useful content for them. And your also being proactive in commenting on your target group. You’ll have a million followers by the end of the year right?
Unfortunately there’s one vital ingredient you also need. Time.
Once your clear about your strategy, you need to execute consistently. The major reasons why companies, brands and individuals fail to build momentum on social media is simply because they are inconsistent. Your online followers will only be loyal if they know what to expect – and more importantly – when to expect it.
Just like a TV station wouldn’t expect viewers to tune in if they didn’t have programmes at the same time of the week, you can’t expect followers to engage unless you are consistent with them.
You don’t have to post every day – might be once a week, maybe even once every couple weeks. In fact, as many social media experts will tell you, it is better to create less content and be more regular than to create lots of content but be inconsistent.
People generally have routine and are likely to engage with you at the same times – first thing at work, over lunch on the phone or on the commute back home. By being consistent yourself you are more likely to get consistency from them.
Your social media identity and following is having an increased impact on your career.
Hiring managers themselves need to ensure that their personal brand and exposure in capable of reaching the right audience.
Are you going to increase your followers?
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