Image by Sean MacEntee on Flickr
These days, businesses no longer rely on traditional media to spread the word. They recognize the power of social media, specifically its ability to reach a wider audience—on a global scale. Startups in particular turn to various social media platforms to spread the word about who they are and what they do in the hopes of getting their business off the ground. In general, businesses with a strong social media presence have the potential to increase sales and garner a strong following in numbers that could far exceed your expectations.
Here's the rub: Gaining a strong following in the first few months after you create your social media accounts for the public can only go so far. The key is how you maintain their interest long enough to stay with you for the long haul. And here is where the problem lies. A lot of businesses would often find—much to their disappointment—that they eventually lose a good percentage of their followers. What gives?
The reasons could be wide and varied, and getting to the bottom of it will take time, patience, and a lot of effort on your part. And before you start a campaign to boost your social media following, finding out what these reasons are should be first on your agenda.
To simplify things for you, the three most common reasons why subscribers or followers hit the "Unfollow" or "Unlike" button are content, relevance, and interaction. If you are personally managing your business pages or accounts on social media, you might say that these are simple enough to manage, and you can do it effortlessly. But there's more to it than meets the eye. There are various elements at play here, and taking all of them into consideration could give you the boost you need to gain back the followers/subscribers that you lost, win over a new string of followers, or both.
Below is a breakdown of these factors and suggestions on what you can do to improve your social media standing, and ultimately increase your number of followers.
If you spend a lot of time on the Internet, and you've done your own research, reading about the importance of content might not sound new to you anymore. As a matter of fact, a lot of social media and online marketing gurus always put content creation on top of the list of things to do to ramp up social media presence. Here's the caveat: certain rules for content should be applied to each specific social media platform. For instance, the updates that you post on Facebook may not be suitable on Twitter for a number of reasons, foremost of which is, of course, character count. You're limited to 140 characters on Twitter.
While your main purpose for creating a social media presence on various platforms is to spread word about you and your products or services, sticking to product endorsements or sales pitches is the fastest way to lose followers. Why? Because over time, these will become boring.
You can use social media analytics tools to find out which content types got the most likes or the ones that your followers engaged with.
SumAll features tools that can help you analyze data across various Web platforms, including social media. Find out which tweets received the most retweets, Facebook posts were shared the most, or Google+ updates that were commented most by your audience.
Klout is a great tool for determining the types of content that your audiences will like. It features tools that let you know about publicly available content that your audience may not have seen yet, help you with content that your target audiences will like, and a tool for tracking the impact of your posts on various social media platforms.
One last thing to remember about social media content: do not assume that your followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Twitter are the same individuals or entities. Each of these sets of followers has their own voices, opinions, and preferences. Unfortunately, some social media account administrators or managers are simply too lazy to distinguish one from the other. This is a common pitfall and one that causes pages or accounts to lose followers. And this brings us to the next item.
Know who your audience is for each of your social media accounts or pages. This will greatly help you create content that is relevant to them—something that they can relate to on different levels: mentally, emotionally, and socially. This is of particular importance to audiences who bring value to your business; perhaps a business entity that can bring in new customers for you or an influential individual who is highly regarded by your niche market. The rule of thumb here is to pay attention to your audiences. Listen to what they say. If it's a business entity or an influential personality (regardless of whether or not they are directly connected to your industry), make sure to follow them as well. And with their permission, share some of their posts on your accounts, too.
Remember we mentioned that an overload of product endorsements will eventually become boring? This is where paying attention to your audiences will come into play. Find out what their interests are. You can do this by checking their general demographics, reading their comments, or even following them on social media. From this information, you can share or create content that will appeal to them. It doesn't always have to be about business. Share something funny or entertaining, or create content that is informative or one that will invoke a strong emotion from them. The point is to get them engaged.
Still in line with posting relevant content, be careful about the hashtags that you use. Make sure that before you use a popular hashtag on your posts, you know the significance of each one. Do not use them simply because they're currently trending. And for that matter, use them within the right context. Many a personality or business entity has fallen into the trap of using a hashtag out of context that spiraled down so quickly that not only did they lose their followers, they tarnished their once-stellar online reputations as well!
For Twitter, here is how you can find the latest trending #hashtags.
And for Instagram, you can use Apple's Hashtap available on iTunes.
Or Letstag for Android-enabled devices
These apps can help you find trending hashtags that are relevant to your post. And remember to use them within their proper context because studies have shown that about one in every five individuals will likely unfollow social media accounts because of hashtags used out of context. It proved to be the one thing that completely turned them off. In other words, the improper use of hashtags is generally considered socially distasteful.
One other important factor that has to do with content and relevance is frequency. With posts and updates, you can use scheduling apps to automatically publish these at intervals you deem appropriate, which also depend on the social media platform onto which these will be published. Hourly updates might be a bit of a stretch, especially if these focus on sales pitches and hard sells. About two to five updates at well-timed intervals should be enough.
3. Social Interactions
Engaging with your audiences is one of the best ways to keep them. Actual interaction in real time is the only way to go about this if you want to your social engagement campaign to be effective. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses take social engagement rather lightly. In fact, there have been quite a number of business pages or accounts that lost a good following because they failed to proactively interact with their audience. A common mistake that proved to have dire consequences is to use automated responses in social interactions.
Image by: Garfield Anderssen on Flickr
Your audience doesn't want to be acknowledged by a Web bot! They will feel that their efforts to reach out to you were unappreciated, or worse, that you couldn't be bothered with talking to your followers who could actually be some of your existing clients—or potential new clients. Whether the comment is positive or negative is beside the point. Always acknowledge your followers first, and then talk to them about their comments. Social interactions can tell you a great deal about your audience's response to your business as well, and you can use these to improve your products or services.
Interacting with your audiences creates a bond on a more personal level, and this encourages loyalty. However, merely talking to them isn't enough. Listen to what they have to say and respond in a positive way even if the comments are negative.
Your social media presence is a form of branding strategy online, and to take care of your brand, you have to be careful about what you say and how you say it, and how you relate to your network of followers. And remember, for your social media relationship with your audiences, there is no one-size-fits-all rule. Commitment, consistency, and adaptability are key factors in long-term social followers.