When it comes to social media, so many of us focus on quantity over quality. It’s easy to assume that the Twitter accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers are always the most successful, or that the Facebook pages with plenty of likes are automatically more interesting than ones with only a small following.
But as social media has started to take such a crucial role in marketing campaigns, we thought it was important to ask the question:
What does it take to build up an engaged and loyal following on social media, rather than just a large one?
So that’s what we did. We reached out to some of the world’s biggest experts on social media to see what their thoughts were on encouraging quality engagement over quantity, and they replied in full force! Have a read to see what they said:
1. Gemma Went – Gemma has been a big player in the marketing arena for over 15 years. She now works as a Digital Marketing and Online Business Consultant and has her own site gemmawent.co.uk. (UK)
Building an engaged audience on social media is where the real time investment comes in. You need to spend time listening to your people, really understand their problems, their dreams, the stuff they love, the stuff they hate. Getting inside their minds really helps you to understand how you should be engaging with them, how you can help them and how to create content they will love. Then you need to be there. Every single day. Listening, responding, sharing content they’ll love. It’s an investment, but it pays off when you get it right!
2. Felix Tarcomnicu – Felix is the co-founder of the cross-promotion tool for online businesses. His website Cross Promo makes it easy for business owners to find partners with real users and manage cross promotion campaigns. (UK)
To build a real and loyal social media community, you have to be active and only publish content that provides value to the reader. Those that are obsessed with the number of followers they have will rarely have a good engagement and get the true benefits of social media. Buying fake followers is simply a waste of time, money and often hurts your reputation.
What works best for me for getting more real followers on social media is writing quality guest posts on very popular and well-established sites in my industry. I always place the link to my social media profiles in the author bio and tell people to follow me for similar posts. Naturally, the people that enjoyed reading the post that I published tend to follow and interact with me on Twitter and Google Plus. Repeating this process helped me get thousands of followers without spending any money.
3. Dr Paul Johnson – Paul has worked in the travel industry for more than 25 years and has travelled extensively, from his home in Cumbria (UK) to places all over the globe. He is now Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog, one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, and is also a Director of The Dedicated Partnership Ltd. (UK)
Building an engaged and loyal following takes time, effort and patience. Commenting and sharing the posts of others, becoming an authority on your subject, attending industry events, being yourself, posting information that provokes reactions – these are all just some of the things that help engagement, but even then it doesn’t come overnight. It takes persistence and dedication that is sometimes hard to justify, so outsourcing at least some of your social media requirements is definitely something worth considering.
4. Mark Webster – Mark is one of the brains behind Authority Hacker, a business which helps companies grow their own sustainable authority sites from scratch. He teaches people on content creation and promotion, as well as revenue growth. (Budapest)
As a brand on social media, you are essentially a trusted content filter. This means that users value the content you share. Facebook also recognizes this in the way it calculates your EdgeRank and determines which of your stories get displayed in news feeds. So to build an engaged following, make fewer posts but make them all amazing. If you are posting your own links or content then, focus 100% on quality. If you are linking to other sites or stories, then make sure you properly vet these to ensure the quality is at your level. If this means that you are posting less frequently, that’s fine – most users prefer to have less frequent but great content than more frequent but average content.
5. Luan Wise – Luan discovered social media in 2009, and hasn’t put her smartphone down since! Today she runs a successful marketing consultancy, providing marketing advice, practical hands-on support, and training. luanwise.co.uk (UK)
For engagement, the process is simple: relevant content and two-way conversation.
You need to think about your followers and what is of interest to them (but also relevant to your business), before posting content that is likely to start a conversation. And it’s important be consistent. Post often and stay focused on your key messages.
6. Rick Ramos – Rick Ramos is the Chief Marketing Officer for HealthJoy, a full-service healthcare technology platform uniting consumers with doctors, healthcare specialists, and bundled medical saving plans. (Chicago, USA)
I think if you want to build a loyal following on social media, it’s really helpful if you pick a niche and stick to it. Personally, I’ve been working on the online marketing space for almost 20 years and that’s what I mostly talk about on my social media. People follow me to find out what I think is relevant in today’s marketplace and get informed when I’ve published a new blog post – which could be in a few different outlets. Since I started working with HealthJoy.com, I’ve started to cover the healthcare space slightly more, but I make sure to make the content relevant to a broad audience and I keep the coverage below 20% of my newsfeed. I occasionally share something goofy or that catches my eye, but I rarely talk politics, religion or any other taboo topic that could put people off. You’re never going to change someone’s beliefs from a tweet, so don’t bother. Be regular and timely with your updates.
7. Warren Knight – Warren is Head of Think Digital First, as well as being an International Keynote Speaker, Author, Business Growth Trainer and Social Media & Digital Marketing Expert. He’s also an ex-hip-hop dancer! (Massachusetts, USA)
Brands must talk to their followers and customers in a way that connects with what’s important to them in their buying cycle. As consumers we’re overwhelmed with different products and services to buy, but it’s the brands that help answer those all-important questions before we are ready to buy which are the ones that will survive in the new digital age.
Consistency and good content are king and queen in this game, and without either of them, the growth of loyal fans will drop as quickly as it grows.
8. Monica Stott – Monica is a British travel blogger. She set up The Travel Hack blog back in 2009 and still loves exploring new countries and cultures whenever she can! (UK)
To build a loyal social media following you have to love what you’re doing. If you’re using a social media channel you enjoy using, you’re sharing content you enjoy consuming, engaging with people you find interesting and generally talking about something you’re passionate about then it shines through and each update is fun, informative and engaging.
This is why I often see bloggers with more engaged followings than brands – because they love what they do and feel passionate about what they’re sharing. When social media managers are employed for brands, they’re often taken on because they have social media skills but have no love, passion or knowledge about the brand or their products. Social media isn’t about customer service, it’s about sharing things you’re passionate about and connecting with people all over the world who share their passion.
9. Chris Guthrie – Chris said goodbye to the 9-5 job in 2009, and since then has been self-employed, helping businesses with their online marketing and websites. His blog is called UpFuel.com (Washington, USA)
I believe the key is to focus on engaging with your audience. There are many ways to do this, whether it’s Facebook Live Q&A’s, Periscope, webinars or anything in between. When you provide your audience direct access to you and focus on providing value first, that value always gets returned in the long run.
10. Ashley Faulkes – An SEO and WordPress Specialist, Ashley’s company Madlemmings.com is dedicated to helping small businesses and solopreneurs succeed online. (Switzerland)
In the beginning I made the mistake of chasing a large following over an engaged one. Although I must say that numbers do provide social proof at least if nothing else, what I’m trying to do now instead is to interact one-on-one with new followers and learn more about them. As social media is full of networking opportunities, I also try to see how myself and my followers can be of help to each other. After all, that is how you get ahead online and in business. So, next time you fall into the trap of chasing followers, remember, numbers make you look good, but not much else.
11. David Meerman Scott – David is an internationally acclaimed Online Marketing Strategist. He presents to audiences all over the world on the ways to generate attention and build business. (Massachusetts, USA)
Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell.
12. Sue Anne Dunlevie – Sue spends her days coaching people on how to get clients and sell their products and services with integrity and success. She helps bloggers so they can work at home, be their own boss and spend more time doing what they love. Check out her blog at SuccessfulBlogging.com (Florida, USA)
The best way to build a loyal following on social media (without having to advertise!) is to help people solve their problems. When you are solution-focused, you come across as someone who cares and is willing to help. Start by posting/tweeting how-to posts, instructional posts and videos and, even more important, answer questions that you find on social media.
By focusing on solving problems, you’ll build loyalty and trust and an engaged audience. This will drive more business your way because your audience will talk about you as a trusted friend.
13. Ferg Devins – After 30 years in the beverage alcohol and hospitality industry, Ferg gained exposure and experience to communications, public relations, marketing, and all things social media. He is now the Communications Strategist at The Devins Network Inc. (Canada)
Building an engaged and loyal following on social media takes full-on social engagement. By maintaining a human, authentic, active voice and dialogue in one’s social networks (brands, small businesses, medium size businesses or solopreneurs) the effort will pay dividends. By then engaging directly with one’s community, the conversation will lead to opportunities for collaboration, purchase or referrals. I strongly believe that the power of social media is still grounded in the conversational “social dynamic” that these channels provide. It is far too easy for brands to slip back into one way push marketing and abandoning the rich connectivity that social media channels can provide and support. It takes work to engage, but there are rewards long term. You can “buy audience” but you “earn loyalty and engagement”.
14. Suzanne Hoenig – A writer by nature, a content marketer by circumstance, and a lifelong student of community and belonging, Suzanne consults on social media strategy, content creation and curation, with a healthy dose of random copywriting and copyediting thrown in! (Texas, USA)
A: Three things: a philosophical shift, empathy, and patience.
1) The philosophical shift may be easy or you may find yourself skipping ahead to the next answer. You and your stakeholders will derive the highest and most sustainable returns when you embrace your social media following as a community. To put a very fine point on it, you are not building an empire. You’re growing a community. Empires are top down and they crumble. Communities are enmeshed networks — resilient and resourceful. Whether you’re the host-calling for a new community or you’re one among many in already crowded and colorful bazaar, your connections, based on mutual benefit and reciprocity, will serve you better (and you them) than the money changers in the temple.
2) Your audience aren’t just metrics in a spreadsheet — you’ve got to approach them with deep empathy. If you’re like the Hair Club for Men President, then you’re already a native member of your audience. Like Biggie Smalls, not just a player, but the Player President. If you can’t put yourself in your audience’s shoes, you can’t take their pulse or mix their metaphors. An in-house staffer, once trained, is far better than a freelancer on contract. Your employee is more likely to have implicit, inherent knowledge about your business and clientele, including industry jargon and who’s who. If they haven’t developed those chops yet, they’re more incentivized and able to develop these bona fides than an outsider would be.
3) When growing an engaged, loyal, enduring community, keep in mind the analogy of an organic garden — it’s slower than industrial ag, but it’s healthier. No fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, no cheating. It takes time, faith, patience, and forbearance. And, it’s totally worth it. A bountiful garden and a successful social community both yield far more than just their fruits.
15. Marko Saric – Marko has been busy creating websites, producing content and growing audiences online since 1997. His site How To Make My Blog features practical, action-oriented and easy-to-consume blogging advice. (Denmark)
It takes a lot of work. You need to provide value and build a connection. Be entertaining, be informative, or educational… Help people answer questions they have. Help make their day better. If you do this consistently you will grow an engaged and loyal fanbase.
16. Nate Shivar – Nate is a Digital Marketing Consultant and Editor of his site ShivarWeb, which helps DIYers, freelancers & small businesses build better websites for more effective marketing. (Georgia, USA)
First, as with all marketing, you have to look at your target personas and figure out what they care about. You can use every tactic in the book or create the “best” content in your industry – but if it’s not exactly what your target audience cares about, it’s going to fall flat. Second, go for a “flywheel effect” – building an engaged following requires a lot of work up front, but if you can do consistent work to build a core group of followers – you’ll be able to maintain that loyalty as you grow larger.
17. McKinzie Brocail – With a passion for words, sketches and all things creative, new and inspiring, McKinzie is a freelance writer and digital communications specialist. McKinzieWrites.com / HealthLabs.com (Texas, USA)
To build a loyal following on social media, it is crucial to offer your followers engaging posts. You want interaction, so give your audience posts and tweets that they want to share and respond to! If you have a local business, share things that matter to or interest locals that are relevant to your company in some way. If you are a smaller business (especially those in the customer service realm), be sure to add personal touches to your social media postings. Snap a few photos of big days at the office to keep your audience’s interest and to give them a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes. This makes things more social and friendly than strictly sharing posts that are “all business, all the time,” and reminds people that you and your employees are people too!
If you have a nationwide business, be sure to share posts with your followers that are not only relevant, but that also remind your audience why they like or love your business or products in the first place. A large following means nothing if no one is interacting– if there is no interaction, there is no interest.
It can be difficult to keep your followers consistently coming back, but if you frequently share posts that are not only relevant and interesting to your audience, but also make sense coming from your business’s social media accounts, interaction will occur. Oh, and don’t forget to use visuals –graphics, photos, videos– we all like to share visuals.
18. Harris Schachter – Harris is as a Digital Marketer, Speaker and Consultant. A self-professed all-around marketing geek, he also owns and operates his own blog OptimizePrime. (Virginia, USA)
To create an engaged social media audience (not just a large one), provide opportunities for them to interact with you, for you to interact with them, and for them to interact with each other.
One way to do this is to run contests and giveaways through selected channels. Facebook is great because of the sheer size of the platform, and Instagram works well if visuals would benefit your product or service. Contests are great because you can leverage organic reach by letting your audience carry your message through their personal connections. They can also create loyal fans because if you hold these frequently, you’re less likely to be unfollowed or ignored.
Another way to create an engaged audience is to facilitate conversations, like Twitter chats. Pick a hashtag your audience can use to follow along, and if possible do everything in the most unbranded way possible. Remove your specific company from the conversation and just focus on the industry, common questions or problems, and invite people to participate. Hold these weekly and invite influencers to guest host them. This will bring in even more viewers by tapping to into the existing audiences of those influencers.
19. Tor Refsland – Tor has been busy mentoring businesses for the past decade. An expert in all things time management, productivity and goal setting-related, he is the Digital Strategist and Business Coach at Time Management Chef. (Norway)
Your goal is to build up an engaged and loyal following on social media, right? It’s actually quite simple. However, simple doesn’t mean easy. The best way to build an engaged following is to care and engage with them. But you also want them to be loyal, right?
Because what’s the point in building followers if they don’t stick around? You need to over-deliver by sharing great content that your followers are interested in. Content that can help them solve their biggest problem and change their life. The social media platform is not about you. It’s all about you serving your audience wholeheartedly. Do that and awesome stuff will happen.
20. Brian Honigman – Brian is a Content Marketing Consultant and the CEO of Honigman Media, a content marketing consultancy that provides strategy on content distribution and production. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur and more. (New York, USA)
Hard work. An engaged community is one where the company uses social media to interact one-on-one with people in their audience on a consistent basis, providing value, entertainment and support for others. Once trust is built in the long-term, that’s when a following is truly engaged.
21. Chris Makara – With over 13 years of digital marketing experience, Chris is an Interactive Marketing and Digital Strategist, offering solutions to a wide range of clients through his website ChrisMakara.com. (Texas, USA)
Building up a loyal following takes dedication. For me, one of the best ways to build up a loyal following is to help others out. This can be done through sharing other people’s content, answering their questions, or just being a good social citizen. And when you do this over time, your loyal following will be strong as well as be more engaged with your social accounts.
22. Jacob Cass – Jacob is the founder of JUST Creative, his design studio and graphic design blog. He specialises in logo design, branding, web design and offers design services to businesses of all sizes around the world! (New York, USA)
Providing value to your audience is key when building up a social media following. What are the reasons that one would want to follow you? What value are you providing? If you can do answer this and deliver then you’re well on your way to social success.
So there you have it – the best advice from the best in the business. Follow this advice, and get social!