Increasing your social media following these days can be such a challenge.
As you get a strategy together, platforms start fiddling with the algorithms or changing the way users interact with content. In response, everybody and their aunties put up 12 different blog posts detailing how you can increase your followers on social media. The information seems conflicting and it's difficult to separate the wood from the trees.
Let us help you with that.
Here are some easy ways to increase your social media following that we 100% DON'T suggest.
1. Buying Followers
Whatever you do, please do not get drawn into purchasing followers. We can tell you for free that this is a terrible idea. Why? It's one of the fastest ways to damage the authenticity of your brand and the credibility of your brand story. Imagine the scandal…
…it doesn't bear thinking about.
Firstly, people are pretty good at being able to tell the difference between a genuinely engaged community and one that has been bought.
Secondly, all social media platforms are getting better at filtering out spam comments and spam accounts. If you get caught out purchasing followers, social media platforms have the tech to make sure your content and your profiles never see the light of day.
Finally, buying followers will damage your reach because your content will be displayed to fake accounts…
…where nobody is looking.
It also weakens the impact of any paid advertising you do because it makes it harder to target the right audience. This means your ads will cost you more in the long run and not be as effective.
Think About What You Really Want…
Instead, ask yourself why you feel the need to have large numbers of followers on social media? What does this vanity metric do for you? If you can't provide a good answer then ask yourself what it is you really want to see happen?
Perhaps it's increased social engagements, higher click-through rate from your social media to your website or more conversations with potential customers. There are ways of tracking pretty much everything on social media, so instead of wasting money on buying followers, work out what outcome you really want and spend your time and money on that instead. The followers will come organically.
2. Follow for Follow
"Follow for Follow" is a method whereby you encourage people to follow your social media profiles and in return, you follow their social media profiles. On the face of it, it seems fairly innocent; they help you out and you help them out and so on.
However, it's not a method for increasing your social media following that we would recommend.
Firstly it comes back to authenticity; you want people to engage with your brand because it has a story or a product that aligns with what they are interested in. The quantity of followers you have is nowhere near as important as the quality of followers that you have.
A quality social media following allows you to build a community of brand supporters who then become a huge part of your customer base. There isn't much point in having thousands of disengaged followers who aren't interested in your content or your products and services. It will just become a vanity metric that has no bearing on whether your business is successful. Some folks have said that this method means you sacrifice your morality for fame…
This method means you end up with followers who aren't actually interested in your content; they just show up to get a "follow-back" from you. They don't actually engage with your content which is never good and leads to lots of wasted effort. The lack of engagement signals to platform algorithms that your content isn't well…engaging. It then makes the decision to not show it to as many people; that rule goes for content sharing strategies as well as paid ad strategies. Again…
A real, organically built community will always trump a shallow, disengaged community built on the idea that "if you follow me, I'll follow you."
In short, integrity is everything.
So, we heartily recommend that you avoid "Follow for Follow" as a way of increasing your social media following.
The Spam Feed…
Follow for follow also fills your social feed with information you aren't interested in. Yes, these days you can mute social media accounts you aren't interested in (and so can the people following you) but this can be time-consuming. Also if neither of you are seeing each others content anyway then what's the point?
Think about what other brands, influencers and everyday users are talking about to your target audience. What are they doing to engage with people online? Could you be adding to this conversation? Get involved in the existing community and like and share their content, engage them in conversation, build up a relationship.
Sales and marketing managers have been talking about the importance of relationships with customers for decades. Social media, when used properly, is the ideal way to initiate and nurture these relationships and create a following that is loyal and genuinely engaged with your message.
3. The "Follow/Unfollow Technique"
Another approach you definitely do not want to be engaging in is the "Follow/Unfollow" technique. This is particularly an issue with Instagram and Twitter but it is also an issue across other social media platforms. The basic premise is that unsavoury characters will follow your profile for maybe a day or two under the premise of creating a genuine connection between you. Once they receive a follow back they will unfollow you in the hopes that you won't notice. They'll seem popular and you've gained nothing.
The people that do this have no interest in your brand and they have no interest in your products and services.
This may seem like a quick and easy way to build your social media presence but it can damage your brand. The internet is full of tools like Friend or Follow and FollowMeter that help social media users track who's unfollowed them. If you've gained a follower by following them first and you're found to have unfollowed them, the first thing they'll do is unfollow you back. What's worse is that may be enough to stop them engaging or buying from your organisation ever. You've gained nothing but spent a lot of time chasing vanity metrics.
4. Using 'Clickbait' Content
When you're frustrated and you want to see rapid growth, your mind may travel to a completely random viral cat video you saw on Facebook, or Instagram one day. In your mind's eye, you see how these completely strange videos, catapulted different pages to stardom. The temptation to utilise that same method can be overwhelming.
But before you take the plunge and post a cat video on your social media platform to bring the crowds in…
Do You Really Need That Cat Video?
If cats have nothing to do with your brand, millions of people could end up watching your cat video with a funny caption, but they aren't going to be interested in your brand or brand offering. You've enticed them with a completely random cat video; they'll consume the content for fun, but they won't stay or they'll think your brand is something it isn't.
They'll get a completely incorrect message about what your brand stands for as you build a following based on content that has nothing to do with your company mission. Then when you try to pitch your products and services, it'll feel like it's coming out of left field, and that you're trying to take advantage of your following in a way nobody signed up for.
Alternatively, say you're trying to use blog content to increase your social media following. Using catchy titles to draw traffic, but then not backing up the title with great content, may bring the numbers in, but they'll bounce straight off of your social media profiles when they realise you've conned them out of a click. In their mind, they'll write your brand off as phoney. This is also bad for SEO – a high 'bounce rate' is normally a sign that your content is not what people are looking for.
This is why we recommend you avoid using 'clickbait' content. You want your social media following to increase because people make a choice to follow your brand, your mission, and your values. If you go off in a different direction to build popularity, nobody will thank you for it later on down the line.
Don't Get It Twisted…
Having said all of that, optimising your titles for clicks and shares is good practice; in fact, we encourage this in our content marketing training. But optimising for clicks and shares very quickly becomes clickbait if the content is poor quality.
You want to make use of a juicy title that draws the eye, but make sure your article is related to that juicy title and you'll be well on your way to not being a con artist…
…think about how newspapers and magazines do it. They get displayed on the newsstand and your eye is drawn to the titles and pictures. Your website and your social media are just the same but online. The search engine is the newsstand, your content the news. Work hard to get your content displayed well and make sure that it's worth viewing.
5. Over Automation
Yes, automation can be a social media managers best friend. The right bots and scheduling tools can save you time and provide a more streamlined experience for your audience, BUT… there is a limit. Over automating social media makes your accounts cold and soulless; people stop feeling like they are talking to a real person and, as we all know, people connect with people more than they do with brands.
So use your automations with intent in mind, not ease. Do schedule new social posts about your latest blog release, do use chatbots to provide quick answers to people who reach out to you but don't only schedule posts, be present! Respond and engage with people who love your brand. Automation should be a tool to speed things up, not a tool to take over.
6. Using Spammy Influencer Groups or Pods
Influencer groups is a good idea in theory but in practice often lead to negative experiences. Influencer groups can be created on platforms like Whatsapp or Telegraph around a common theme. When you join the group, you agree to interact with other people's social media and they agree to interact with yours.
If the group is legit and people are genuinely interested in one another's content, then this is actually a really cool way to reach new people. But if the influencer group is not genuine, then, unfortunately, this method of increasing your social media following becomes problematic.
What tends to happen, is that group members use secondary accounts to engage with content and very often, engagements in the form of comments can become spammy and unrelated to your content. Also, you can end up with engagement from group members who aren't your target audience. The social media algorithms could double down on this and then target your content to the wrong people.
Some groups now come with a fee to be part of them and strict rules meaning you must engage with content within a short space of time, often not enough time to engage with all the content individually. If you break the rules, don't engage with the content, miss the deadline (often within the next hour with hundreds of comments to write), or simply disagree with a leader of the group then you'll be kicked out and sometimes even have your social accounts punished by the group members. It's been known for groups to leave negative reviews of a business, report content or make fake copyright claims. The potential damage to your brand is huge.
It's all in the 'Why'…
Increasing your social media following is an admirable mission. It's one that we recommend you invest in, but the means don't always justify the ends. Ask yourself some questions about what you actually want to get out of your social media presence.
What was the reason that made you decide to use social media in the first place? Was it to gain new customers? Was it to build a community around a topic or brand you're passionate about? If so then the vanity metrics of 10,000 unengaged followers are meaningless to you.
It's better to have 100 active followers that are focused on engaging with you and each other. As a business, you'll achieve far more if this is your focus and it will do wonders for your brand. 100 active followers genuinely interested in your brand, product and service will bring you more income then 99,000 followers who have you on mute or have no interest in anything you say or do.
The moral of the story? It's time to stop chasing vanity metrics and start focusing on how social media and help your business.