We've been programmed to believe that numbers rule on social media, so we're constantly assessing our own popularity and success by the number count on our social media feeds, and also comparing those against other people.
Some of you might have seen recently that Jennifer Aniston joined Instagram, reaching 1 million followers in just over 5 hours, breaking a Guinness world record in the process.
Now for us mere mortals, those numbers will almost certainly never be reached. Sorry to burst your bubble, guys. There's really nothing in this article that will put you in that bracket.
However, I do want to share with you a little more information about the best practices you can use to help grow your following and to create and share content that will help you reach more people.
So if you're interested, keep reading.
The first thing to do, funnily enough, is to forget the numbers.
Even the social media platforms themselves are considering changing how we view, and I mean literally view, those numbers.
Instagram has been trialing this across several countries, by removing the ability to view other people's likes on their posts, so you can only see your own. This means you can still use the data to see how well your posts are performing, but you're no longer able to compare and contrast with others.
Instagram put out a statement about this, saying the reason they wanted to do this was because they want your followers to "focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get". Facebook is also currently discussing doing the same.
From a business perspective, whilst we can't (and likely won't) forget that we are on social media to try and attract new clients, we have to consider how it is that we do that through the content of our posts.
It's often said that consistency is key, and that comes in two forms on social media: the content and the timing.
You really should be ensuring that you and your brand come across consistently on your social media in the following ways:
First, where possible, use the same identifying information, that is your name, your profile photo and your bio. If possible, your URL too, so that's part of the address, so /clairescottdigital. This means people can find you easier and when they do, they know it's you. Simple as that.
Secondly, make sure that what you post on your business social media accounts truly represents you and your business. It doesn't need to be purely about promotion or information, but sharing pictures of your pets or your random weekend trip away should be used sparingly. If you want to do that, that's fine, and the upside is that it can help connect you on a more personal level with your followers - if they happen to like those things too. But essentially, most people follow you on your business profiles to find out about you and your business, so you should have the majority of your posts reflecting that.
Thirdly, make sure that you are cross-referencing your other platforms to help lead people there. This has to be done quite cleverly because generally, the algorithms behind the platforms want to keep you on theirs, so those posts with external links don't always go down as well. But if you have space in your bio or within the framework of your profile, then make sure you put down your other accounts and especially, your website. I've spoken already about the importance of having a website and how it is your best 'information destination', so if you haven't seen that yet, check out my previous post.
As you can already see, there are a lot of different things to consider when trying to get your social media to perform better, so let's now consider how timing can help.
If consistency is key, then so is timing.
It goes without saying that posting in the middle of the night won't necessarily attract the most views, however, do you know when, statistically, is the best time to post on social media?
Given the different time zones across the world, you do need to consider that posting here in the UK will show up somewhere else at a whole other time, but here is a general overview.
According to Shareable, the best time to post is during the lunch break. It makes sense, doesn't it? That's when we all reach for our phones. There is also some success to be had during the working commute, so early between 7:30am-9am, and later between 4pm-6pm. Interestingly, weekends don't often show up as a favourable time to post, so avoid that if possible.
How many times should you be posting is also something that is worth thinking about. There is no hard and fast rule, but generally, the more consistent and active users of social media seem to be favoured by the platforms, who use that information from the algorithm.
A general recommendation, which isn't always the easiest to maintain, is posting once a day, but at the bare minimum, once a week across each of your platforms. Posting more frequently is good but you don't necessarily want to overload your feed or your followers with too many posts. Think quality over quantity.
In terms of what you post, videos really are the new big thing. According to Hubspot, posts with video have 48% more views, with 72% of people preferring to learn about a product via video. So do push yourselves to get you or your product or service on video.
Otherwise, make sure your posts are interesting, informative and relevant to your followers, but also visually striking. We all know what it's like to scroll through a social media feed and we only really stop when something or someone catches our eye. So consider how you are making people stop, whether that's through the text or the visual.
You can also look at writing blogs or creating infographics, both of which are popular on platforms like LinkedIn and Pinterest.
It's also worth noting that, according to Sprout Social, being responsive on social media is the number one reason why consumers buy from a brand, over things like offering promotions or sharing exclusive content. So check out those DM or direct message inboxes, and reply and acknowledge when people bother to leave you a comment or post. Not just to influence the algorithm but because it's actually a decent thing to do!
So let's get back to the question – 'How can I increase my followers on social media?'. So far we've covered:
Valuable and varied content
Something else I want to talk about is the power of the share button on Facebook.
I recently did a little social media experiment with my Facebook followers, to see what happens when a post is shared rather than liked.
So taking one my previous unshared posts, the overall reach – that is, how many people viewed the post – was just 23.
The 'sharing is caring' post, by contrast, had 16 shares with a reach of 1073 people.
If you break that down, those 16 people each helped another 60 people to see that post...!
So a like is nice, but please share the posts that you see on Facebook, especially if you've stopped to engage with it, and if not, just leave a quick comment, because those actions influence how that post is shared across your Facebook network.
Also, do tap into your friends and family when getting started out because their friend and follower networks serve like a sort of digital word of mouth, and if your posts get shared, that can really help your exposure.
When it comes to which social media platforms you want to be on, Facebook is king.
Statistics from Comscore show that Facebook still dominates the market across all age demographics, with a 90% reach in the UK, versus Twitter with 60%, Instagram with 51% and Snapchat with 50%.
But it's worth noting that just being on social media will increase your chances of being found, especially on Google.
I invite you to Google your business name directly and see what comes up in the first five results for you. So for me, first is my website, then it's Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. So it's worth bearing that in mind and trying out some new platforms if you haven't yet already.
And if you think you'll have to create more content, that's not necessarily the case. It is absolutely okay to repurpose your content, so for example, I share some of my Instagram visuals as Pins on Pinterest, and the ideas in this blog will also form the basis for my next YouTube video.
People like to consume their content in different ways, so it makes sense to create less but have it spread more widely and in different ways to reach a bigger audience.
Lastly, don't forget your hashtags and keywords! So adding hashtags to your posts on Instagram and Twitter, and tags for your YouTube video, help people find your content and in turn, follow and subscribe.
Using trending or timely hashtags such as #mm for Monday Motivation quotes or #tbt for Throwback Thursday will also attach your post to a sort of popularity stream, and can improve your chances of being seen.
However, you don't always want to use the huge hashtags such as #yoga, with around 73m posts, because you're going to be a very small fish in a very big pond! So mix it up, use a location or a niche, and try to get a broader range, from the ocean-sized tags down to the puddles.
I really hope this article has helped you think about some of the ways that you can help increase your followers on social media, but try to remember that chasing followers and likes and judging yourself against others isn't going to help you in any way.
I haven't even spoken about how people can actually pay for followers using digital bots. So don't always trust those accounts that have been online for a month with two posts and thousands of followers...
The truth is, that having people genuinely supporting what you do and finding your content useful or valuable is the true value of social media, and in turn, that support and interest can and will turn into clients and customers down the line. And those are the numbers you really should be working towards.
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