Growing Your Audience
By Mark Cameron
Social media marketing can be very effective if the strategy is sound and the execution is well managed. But that is not enough. There are now over a billion Facebook users worldwide and over 55% of the Australian population now have a Facebook account. That doesn’t mean they will all “like” your page. Growing your social media following takes time and effort. Having a lot of followers on Facebook doesn’t necessarily translate into sales either, but it is a very important step along the conversion journey. There are a number of now well-defined principles for ensuring you effectively engage your audience and, by doing so, see it grow.
It’s not about you
The key to developing a high quality community is understanding that your audience is your most valuable asset. Yes, they have connected with you to find out more about your brand, but for the brand to remain relevant it needs to fit into people’s lives. The saying, “The customer is always right” is especially true in social media. Your brand is entering social media to engage with your audience. If you simply talk about yourself or try to “sell, sell, sell,” you’ll end up looking like the boring guy at the party.
It is important to make your audience feel respected and tell them they are part of something that’s fun. The audience members are not “fans”, they have influence. The more they feel a part of something, the more they visit and interact, and the faster the community grows. Everyone wants to belong to something fun and exciting. So make it that way.
Some brands have been slow to adopt social media. They have been afraid that their audience may express negative views. The problem with that perspective is that, by failing to provide your customers a forum to have their say, you are in effect censoring them. This is not a great idea if you want to build relationships and grow your customer base. You are much better off inviting conversation, and dealing with negative opinions openly and honestly.
Be clear on the rules
Engaging with your audience doesn’t mean that you have to put up with the inevitable troublemakers that online media seems to successfully attract. Some people, alone with their computers, can feel protected by the disconnected communication that online media sometimes provides, and this can lead to abuse or bullying. In your brand community, irrespective of the social media platform you are using, it pays to be up front and clear about what is acceptable and what is not. If you have to remove a comment, let everyone, including the person who wrote it, know why you took it down. Your audience will respect the fact that you are looking out for their interests and are spending time managing a space from which they can get value.
If you are not using apps on your Facebook page, you are missing out on a big opportunity to generate value. Facebook apps do more than just run competitions and promote “likes” of your page. They can be really great ways of engaging your audience and gathering valuable data. The ‘Big-data’ that apps can generate is really the start of the conversion process, and a key determinant of the ROI.
Develop a content plan
Growing your social media audience requires that you publish content. Approaching this in an ad-hoc way is a formula for failure. There is nothing worse than seeing the Facebook page of a brand that has been ignored because a clear plan was not in place. There are now a number of tools for scheduling content updates, and you can use Facebook’s scheduled posts and targeted sponsored stories to make sure the right people see the content intended for them. Carefully planning what you are going to say and how the content will roll out is time well spent.
In the end, growing your audience really boils down to common sense, proper planning, clear strategy, good execution and the willingness to spend some time and money. But the really clever part comes next. Once you step back, look at the data that you have collected from your audience and work out how to use it to generate sales.
Mark Cameron is CEO and lead strategist of social media conversion and commercialization agency Working Three. While his agency is based in Melbourne, Australia, he works for some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking brands. As a regular speaker and writer on social media and digital strategy, Mark stays focused on customers and outcomes, not the technology, leading to simple strategic conclusions.