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Here’s what to do when you’re starting from scratch on social media

Here’s what to do when you’re starting from scratch on social media

Perhaps you’re new to social media – or maybe your social profiles and pages have been neglected. Don’t worry; you may be down, but you’re not out. Here are some simple steps to acquire your social legions.

If you’ve got the budget, then advertise

There’s no shame in using advertising to acquire Likes and Followers to quickly grow your social audience. Be clever, be truthful, or offer some promotion in exchange for their social doff of the cap. A few dollars spent wisely can help acquire a fair amount of followers.

Do not, I repeat, do not pay to acquire drone followers

As soon as you pop online you’ll be hounded by offers for cheap ways to acquire a 1000 Twitter followers or Facebook Likes for your page. Don’t do it. It really won’t help you and might harm your overall reach. Most of these offers are scams that offer drone or dummy accounts or “worthless” followers from overseas. Not that foreign accounts aren’t valuable, but they’re probably not legitimate accounts or are simply not relevant to your business. And they’ll likely not engage with your posts - and therefore throw off your organic reach ratios.

So what do you do if you have no money to spend

First, let me state that in the beginning you’ll be focusing on increasing your numbers. This isn’t for vanity’s sake. It’s simple a means to an end – you need to build an audience. So keep focused on increasing your numbers of Followers, page Likes, connections, circles, etc.

So the budget is small or non-existent… not a problem. You’ll simply have to invest something else, and that’s time. You’ll need to work a bit harder to post regularly and to interact with others frequently to build out your social network. Start posting and scheduling posts, Follow people, Like pages, and then engage with others. Try to keep your Likes and Follows relatively close to your own stats. That is, don’t jump onto Twitter and follow thousands - instead work to keep your Follower to Following accounts relatively close. Initially, we like to keep our numbers only a few hundred apart - so if we’re following 400 people we’d want to have around 200 followers. Later, as you grow, you’ll start to unfollow accounts that don’t follow back to keep your ratio tight - and eventually the goal is to have more followers than you’re following.

Facebook is a little different, since you’re promoting a page most likely, there’s not a direct comparison to following and followers. But you can have your page engage with those that Like your page. And continue to engage with individuals or their pages to improve your engagement metrics. This will tend to improve your Edgerank which helps your page’s posts appear within the timelines of those that Liked your page. Pages have notoriously low organic reach without a really good Edgerank - so you’ll need to work hard to get your page posts seen. Or you’ll need to advertise… but we have no monies… so you’ll be spending the time to engage with folks.

Social media is veering heavily towards visuals

Skipping over Pinterest and Instagram which are essentially built to be visual, even Facebook and Twitter are now gravitating towards more visually compelling posts. Twitter posts with images or video have much higher engagements than text / link only posts. So don’t skimp on creating a good visual for your witty Tweet. Facebook also favors visual content… so get with the image-makin’ my friends. Fortunately, if you’re not Ansel Adams or Andy Warhol, there are abundant resources online that can help you create or acquire stunning visuals: Buffer’s Pablo, Canva, Visually, Gfycat, etc.

Assuming you’re not Stephen King or Mark Twain you’ll need content to share too

Since most people and even teams can’t create endless amounts of content on their own, eventually you’ll want to start curating content too. This means finding content that might be interesting to your social minions. Your first resource - those you’re interacting with. You can retweet, reshare, and/or reschedule the content in your feeds. Retweeting and resharing have the added benefit of improving your engagement. But every so often you’ll find a post in one stream that’s worthy to share to all your others too.

But you’ll also want to find other content too. Flipboard, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Pocket, Topsy, the list is endless. You’ll have to figure out which online outlets have the most content that’s relatable to your audience. More than likely, you’ll be using several sources, along with industry publications, websites, etc.

So how do I manage all this content and scheduling?

As you can tell, as you get into this, you’ll quickly need a way to collect and schedule your content and possibly manage your engagement across platforms. Again, there are plenty of choices that can handle all the major social platforms. Hootsuite, Sproutsocial, Sendible, and my personal favorite, Buffer, can all get the job done. They’ll collect and schedule sharing to all the major social networks - and given enough posts - can offer to optimize the times you share to improve your engagement rates. (Note: it can take a lot of data to correctly analyze optimum post times, so until you have a few thousand or more posts, recheck your optimum schedules every few weeks.)

Engagement… it’s go time

We’ve used Sendible and Sproutsocial and both are great and offer very attractive additional features, such as keyword and brand mention monitoring, but they can get expensive and be overkill initially. And since we’ve already established we’re starting off with little or no money and working as an individual or in a small team - generally we’ll advise clients to simply handle engagement directly by logging into each social network. That’s not to say you can’t use a tool such as Hootsuite to handle scheduling and engagement - but if you’re starting from scratch or with low follower counts it can be an expense that’s unnecessary until later. What you need will also be determined by how quickly your follower count increases and how substantial your engagement is - that is, if your social profiles become the goto channel for customer service issues - then you’ll likely need a more robust social media management tool earlier.

Generally though, as we’ve said, we’ll advise setting up Buffer to handle scheduling content and then advise direct use of the social platforms. If you’re dealing with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram you can manage most from your computer and mobile devices quite nicely. It also helps you to gain familiarity with each platform.

Do what it takes to keep your numbers climbing

You started with nil or next to it so the main objective for the foreseeable future will be to keep acquiring Followers and Likes (or Circle friends on google+). Contact and connect with friends, family members, old school pals, and even the uber driver who took you to the airport. Friend them, follow them, etc. to gain their reciprocal follow or like. You need to get your numbers up so you don’t look so pathetic when attracting others. An account with a 1000 followers looks more impressive than one with 10. Don’t worry too much early on about the quality of your followers provided they’re real followers. You’ll clean it all up later. Eventually, you’ll start to see a core audience that’s relevant to you, and you’ll engage with them. Then their followers will see you, and hopefully follow you too. So you will build good audience members along with the garbage.

When it’s time to take out the Garbage

Once you’ve grown your numbers or when your ratio gets out of kilter… you’ll want to clean up your audience. There are lots of tools to help here as well. For Twitter you can sign-up for Tweepi or ManageFilter and clean out the garbage. Other networks such as Facebook and Pinterest don’t give as much weight to your ratio of followers to followed… so it’s not as important to clean these profiles up - but sometimes it’s just nice to do it.

So which network should you focus on?

Here’s where we’ll disagree with some others on what networks to start with… we generally tell clients to start with them all. Even if it’s simply setting up your profile on all the major social networks so you can capture your brand name for that profile. Create your profile on each, fill it in as completely as possible, then post to it as best you can. Of course, if you’re not a visually exciting brand or will have trouble creating visual content, then after you setup Pinterest or Instagram to capture your brand name - you might opt to let them simply sit for use in the future.

After a short while you’ll also gain insight into which social networks are favored by your customers or audience. If you’re growing a B2B brand you might gravitate towards Linkedin more or find that Twitter has a larger audience than Facebook. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all answer here; you’ll have to setup and add content to all the major social platforms initially to see where you need to focus your time and efforts. It generally doesn’t take long and then you can hone in on the networks the offer the best return.

So when can you consider your social media build-out complete?

Never. It will never be done. Once you start, you have to keep at it and keep going. That’s not meant to be alarming or disconcerting, it’s simply truthful. Once you acquire an audience and begin to interact with them you need to keep growing and engaging. You need to keep being social. You’ll also continuously have to adapt since what works this year probably won’t be effective next year. When twitter started it was text and links. Then came images, video, and now live streaming. All the social networks are evolving and will continue to change. So be flexible in order to keep growing your audience.

Oh, and one last bit of advice… don’t be a sales-bot

Social media is meant to be social. To share knowledge, thoughts, and experiences. Don’t plaster your social media channel with sales and ads and self promotions constantly or people will simply tune out – or worse, unfollow you. Be interesting and drop an occasional self-promo but don’t over do it. I tell people to imagine they’re at a party - you don’t walk over to people and try to sell them something when you first meet them. You talk with them. Get to know them and let them learn about you. And, you don’t yell or insult people (well you shouldn’t) and avoid fights. You want to be the life of the party everyone remembers, not the louse who got in a fight, insulted the host, knocked over grandma’s urn, and puked in the ficus plant.

So go be social… build your audience. And when you have a larger following and you’re wondering what to do next… well that’s for another future post. Like our page, follow us, circle us, connect with us, or join our email list and you’ll be sure to know when we write it.

Oct 27, 2015
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