The Ultimate Guide to Building an Online Following: Part 1 – “Something from Nothing”
In the beginning there was nothing, well there was Myspace and Bebo. And then Zuckerberg said, “Let there be Facebook.” Social media is a powerhouse, but you don’t need us to tell you that. Adspree works with many influencers who’ve established profitable, respectable channels. We’ve scoured the most reputable blogs for the best advice about how individuals can follow in their footsteps. This is the first article in a three-part series.
1) Make a Plan. When you envisaged a life as an online personality, sitting down to make a thorough detailed plan-of-action may not have been what you had in mind. Nonetheless, it’s an essential component of success – 28% of brands name lack of a SMM strategy as their biggest barrier. There are various social media plan templates available to help you; one third of the way down this page, you’ll find a simple flowchart that will be helpful for potential influencers in any industry. A good plan will force you to define your audience, objectives, platforms, and evaluative criteria. When in doubt, follow the ‘S.M.A.R.T. Goals’ template.
Specific – Vague goals of ‘get more famous’ aren’t helping anyone.
Measurable – Define the metrics by which you will measure your success.
Achievable – Success takes time, realistic micro-targets work better than naïve aspirations.
Relevant – How will these micro-targets help you reach your ultimate aim?
Time-Bound – By fixing dates for self-reflection, you’ll ensure you won’t get slack.
2) Discover your USP. “USP” or “Unique Selling Point” was the business buzzword of the nineties. And for all the things that the nineties got wrong (I’m looking at you super-flared jeans), having a USP makes a lot of sense. The internet is incredibly crowded these days, it’s become increasingly difficult to get noticed. That means you need to carve out a niche. As for what your niche is, only you can decide. Whether your content is funny, helpful, fascinating, silly, insightful, or critical, be you and don’t be bland. People connect with authenticity, don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
3) Choose your Platform Wisely. Choosing your platform is about knowing yourself and knowing your audience. There are certain sectors where this choice is obvious. If you’re looking to make a future by streaming games, you’re going to want to focus on Twitch and YouTube. Others are going to have to analyse their options more carefully. There are unique advantages to each of the social media giants: Facebook is well known to be the largest platform, less known is that their largest growing demographic is the ‘baby-boomer’ generation; if you’re looking for a younger following, consider Instagram or SnapChat; Twitter has real-time appeal and a truly international reach; YouTube is now the second biggest search engine in the world, with over 3 billion searches per month; LinkedIn is an excellent place to establish yourself as a thought-leader in the professional industries; and there are a whole load more smaller platforms that provide their own USPs. Some people might advise you to try all of them, we recommend against that. Social media is surprisingly time-consuming, don’t spread yourself too thin. Research your audience, play to your strengths, start with a couple of channels, and work from there.
4) Know Your Channels. Your channels are your new best friends. Treat them as such. Nobody likes a one-sided friendship, so don’t go around telling Twitter and Facebook what’s on your mind without getting to know them first. Research individual platform algorithms, explore them and enjoy them, learn how successful influencers use the platform. It can be painfully obvious when an individual or brand is naïve to the particulars of a channel. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but condense your learning-curve by taking time to really figure out how things work.
5) Follow Etiquette. This point follows naturally from point 4. If your platform is your friend, don’t spend your time spamming it or begging people to follow you. Don’t go overboard on telling the world how great you are. Don’t be needy, be clever. The exact logistics of this will come down to your platform and your strategy. Consider auto-DMs (automated-direct-messages) on Twitter, if handled well, you may find yourself with increased engagement. But you also risk annoying a lot of people.
6) Present a Quality Persona. This one should be obvious, but sadly it appears it’s not. Having high-quality images, logos, branding, and bios is essential. Most people’s live-feeds are chaotic and crowded. People will immediately reject/ignore profiles with blurry images and grammatically incorrect bios.
7) Post Consistent, Quality Content. You might think that influencers just pop-off a live-video or Instagram post whenever they feel like it, but many of these posts will have been planned weeks, if not months, in advance. That means getting the ol’ spreadsheet application out and making a schedule. Find and create meaningful, quality content (low-quality content is an excellent way to lose followers), then decide exactly when you’ll post it. Social media is too often neglected; using a schedule ensures that you won’t forget to post. You’re not John Wayne, tumbleweeds and cricket-sounds aren’t a great look. That said, don’t be afraid to adjust your schedule to take advantage of trending topics. You can find free-to-use social media management schedule templates here.
8) Cultivate Relationships with Followers. As any good barman will tell you, if you treat your regulars well, then the rest will look after itself. When someone has shown interest in your content, take time out to thank them, reply to them, interact with their content, etc. This doesn’t mean replying to every auto-DM, you need to choose your battles after all. But if someone has taken the time to message you, take the time to respond to them in a timely, personal way. Not only is this behaviour good manners, but it supports social media algorithms. It’s no coincidence that your Facebook live-feed is filled with the posts of the people you interact with, and not those strange acquaintances from secondary school who look like they’re one road-rage incident away from some serious jail-time.
9) Forget Vanity Metrics. Want 2 million twitter followers? Why bother? Having a huge number of followers is as good as meaningless if people don’t care. Any Twitter-user has seen accounts where some ‘Entrepreneurial Guru’ has 250,000 followers and a 251,000 following. Yet a brief look at their account highlights the fact that they only have two likes on their post announcing their debut eBook “Finding Yourself to Find Your First Million”. Anyone in the industry will tell you that a small, dedicated community is far more effective than a vast apathetic one. It’s been said that if you can find 1000 loyal followers that will share your work, then that’s all you’ll ever need. Oh, and DON’T BUY FOLLOWERS.
10) Unify your Brand. If you’re using multiple-channels, make sure that your styling is uniform on each. If you’re hoping to be remembered, make sure you have a distinctive image across all mediums. Take a similar approach to content, but keep in mind that content relevant on one site may not be appropriate for another. Your LinkedIn posts aren’t going to be the same as your Instagram posts, so don’t post a hashtag-filled picture of your kale cupcake.