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When it comes to social media, every brand wants in on the action. It’s no secret that social media marketing works only if a brand actually has fans or followers. Amassing a respectable audience on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (is that still a thing?), Linkedin, Instagram or any of the other platform du jour is tough.
Many brands and small businesses want their social media presence to be organic, meaning no money invested. Having a good, or great, social media presence can help any business grow like wildflowers. But, this will only happen after it develops a large following and then works consistently to engage, educate, and cultivate this audience. Brands want the growth and audience, but aren’t willing to pay for it.
Seems like a catch 22.
Can a brand simply grow their social audience organically? Is that even possible in today’s pay-to-play landscape? Here are some metrics.
No, this isn’t a fairytale in the land of make believe that is social media. It’s actually the metrics after recently (within past two months) concluding a relationship with one of my first social media clients ever.
The client, let’s call them DFX (name changed), works in the financial sector so the competition is high, with tight regulations in terms of release of specific information, and it just so happens to be that within this aspect of the industry, some brands are known for tactics that fall within the “grey area” of digital marketing.
After closing up with the DFX, it’s pretty clear that brands can still boost their audience even without investing money. Will it take time and effort? Absolutely, but the euphoria of surviving numerous Facebook algorithms and outperforming your competition is worth it all. Trust me, I’ve been there.
So, how did they succeed in growing organically? Here’s a 10 step recipe for growing an organic audience on Facebook and Twitter (and it even worked a bit on Google Plus too).
Organic growth is based on three fundamentals:
Brands must be consistent. If any brand attempts to implement any of these strategies for even a month and then gives up, I guarantee that they will fail. Social media is a long-term game. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Limited on time? No problem, just pick a few of the strategies and be relentless in executing them.
Brands must know their audience (we all know what happens when we assume things about people)? Understand their patterns, their preferences, their input.
Social media is always about being real. There’s no room for bots, auto responders, auto DM’s, and egg heads. It’s about conversation. Organic growth on social media is just as much about knowing, educating and maintaining current followers as it is about gaining new ones.
With that introduction, here’s how DFX grew their social media audience organically (all images and screenshots of content are used with permission).
With this information in hand, any brand can launch an organic growth campaign.
After vowing to embrace the fundamentals, an important step in growth is to first assess what’s been done. Conduct a social media audit of your existing process, strategy, and flow.
After conducting a detailed, unbiased, social audit it’s time to move on to the fun part: successful organic growth.
In order for a brand to truly grow its organic audience and, by default, its reach, it needs to be strategic about its posting of content. Creating a proper schedule that drills down to the topics, the word choice, timing, style on each social platform, what call-to-action (only one per post please), awareness of important calendar dates within the industry or relevant holidays, will focus all marketing and communication efforts.
Synchronizing these efforts is the most important. Why? Knowing these critical pieces of information eases the entire flow of content to be a deliberate process. A complete content calendar spans over a few months and includes all of the postings and themes that will be focused on during this time frame.
The calendar should be amenable to change, as trends shift and brands need to modify accordingly. A calendar should not only include campaign themes, but also any events, sponsorships or webinars. CoSchedule offers a very detailed content calendar for free.
For several clients, I’ve found that the best way to identify which content should be posted on what days, was to reverse engineer the calendar based on hashtags.
How can hashtags define an entire content calendar?
Hashtags simply let a brand associate their content, tweets, or posts with a larger conversation on a global scale?
So a brand can easily grow their page by using a hashtag? Yes! It’s like adding keywords to your message to make it globally searchable. Which hashtags are right for your brand? Use Hashtagify to identify the relevance of a specific hashtag and other relevant ones associated to the main one.
Once identified, brands can then leverage this information for competitive research, content curation, and influencer mapping. Every industry has hashtags. Remember, they’re like keywords.
Recommended Reading: How to Use Hashtags Effectively Without Being Annoying
Once a brand has mapped the right hashtags, go one step further by searching for relevant Twitter chats. These weekly or bi-weekly online conversations on Twitter are a secret way to grow an organic audience. Use the Twubs to search the extensive calendar for relevant conversations:
Access a global network of relevant people, engage in meaningful conversations within its industry, and identify active users all organically.
For the sake of example, a company working in the travel industry. Every Tuesday, there is a conversation called #ttot, travel talk on Twitter. On this day, travel professionals from around the world engage in industry related conversations. Why not leverage this to grow your audience?
Bam! Your brand has just created its content bible by reverse engineering a content schedule framed around relevant conversations, industry topics, and optimal engagement.Tuesdays are now set in terms of branded content. Continuing with the travel theme, any destination is rich with history. Why not use the popular #TBT (throw back Thursday) to highlight the changing landscape of a location over time?! With two days of content framed around hashtags, the rest of the week should be much easier to plug in.
Once you know what to post, now it’s time to determine when to post it.
Organic growth starts with knowing when your brand’s audience is online. Timing for each platform does vary. We even wrote a post the best times to post on each platform, which digs deep into the topic of timing content for optimal viewing. For a day-to-day analysis, CoSchedule conducted extensive research on optimizing the timing of content for best engagement.
For DFX, Sundays, an otherwise slow time in the trading/ financial sector, was a chance for the brand to offer valuable information that is relevant to the upcoming week. It was also a time to highlight some key figures and personalities in the industry.
Why? By offering valuable content on a slow day, DFX positioned itself as an active participant in the online conversation. It also presented itself as community-minded brand since every week the content on Sundays was focused around other brands.
The proactive content and engagement approach, during an otherwise quiet time in the industry, significantly grew the brand’s organic audience.
Once your brand knows when to post the content for optimal viewing, now the question is how often should a brand post its content.
Guy Kawasaki is famous for his unique social media content strategy, sharing the exact content four times a day, eight hours apart.
Why? Simply stated, why get 600 views when you can get 2400 by sharing it multiple times? Besides, if your audience sees your content more than once then they’re probably sitting in front of their computer for way too long.
A twist on the Guy Kawasaki method, which has helped many clients, is to share the same piece of content on Twitter four to six times a day and on Facebook two to three times a day, but each time either the image or the content (not the link) varies.
How does a brand repurpose its content for multiple sharing throughout the day? Think about each blog post as a newspaper article. Every article has multiple angles that may interest a reader. Why not offer them as ‘new’ content options?
Here’s a sample of the same link being shared three times in one day. This link got over 120 views in one day.
Organic growth on social media can be as simple as mapping your target audiences.
Start by telling BuzzSumo the category of content that best suits your brand, BuzzSumo will produce a list of the most influential people in the space, it will also share a list of content pieces that have performed extremely well. This makes your job a whole lot easier.
If you have a BuzzSumo subscription, start by logging in. Then, select Influencers:
Next, enter a keyword related to your industry, and click Search:
Now, start following these people:
For DFX, we mapped over 3,000 influencers and brands that we’d like to work with and engage in meaningful conversations (more on that later). 3,000. It took a long time to map them but the ROI was impressive.
Once a respectable list is generated, sort each member of the audience, especially competition, by their social following.
Next, is to follow these brands on Twitter and Facebook who share content that resonates with your brand profile. What will most likely happen is that top ones will rise to the top. Use their metrics as a benchmark.
At DFX, we followed them across social channels, like Facebook Pages to watch, signed up to their newsletters, and subscribed to their RSS feeds.
Use a service like Nuzzel to do scour the internet of your main audience and their best performing content. They will email the most-shared content from your audience. If the list of influencers is really good, then the results will be super relevant, making organic growth a cinch.
Guess what? Your brand has just mapped the right people and now it also knows what content is doing well. Once you know what’s doing well and what others are writing about, wouldn’t it make sense to add some value to the conversation by writing a content piece about the topic and mention these people?! Of course it would! Then, post the content and tag these brands.
Unique, valuable content, targeted to your audience, and garnered by the leaders of your space. Organic growth was never so easy.
Want to take the audience mapping to the next level? Create an interview series with these influencers as the guest contributors offering their thoughts on the industry and their vision on certain topics. Influencer marketing does work (for proof, here’s how Huawei rocked their influencer marketing efforts).
Now it’s your turn to share it and engage these people.
Unless your brand is Superman, there’s never enough time in the day to post content around the clock. Automation helps with making social media growth more efficient and effective. It’s not intended to be the only form of social media. Automation is half of the solution. Care to guess the other? Yup, engagement. See number 6.
Once a brand understands that automation and real conversations are both important, that real organic growth can take place. Looking for automation tools? Here’s a list of 9 social media management tools that cross all platforms.
Social media is a behavioral shift.
It’s not a broadcast platform. Engaging an audience and a community is one of the toughest aspects of social media marketing. Finding the right balance between branded content and audience generated content is not easy. For every brand it will vary. For some it can be funny pictures, memes, videos, gif’s, or a white paper. Once a brand does have a following it means engaging, supporting and sharing their content, responding to their comments, and helping them if necessary.
How do you get more people talking about and interacting with your brand on social media? Stop talking about your brand! Yup, that’s right. Avoid being overtly promotional. The more narrative based content or industry related content and interesting pieces of information that aren’t brand focused will show the community how real the brand is. It may sound counterintuitive but it works.
Want to engage an audience? Find a conference. No brands don’t have to attend every industry conference. Why not use the conference specific hashtag (there’s that reverse engineering thing again) as a means to engage in conversations?!
Here’s a targeted conversation with a global influencer from DFX before a conference:
Look at that! The brand engaged in a meaningful way and landed a meeting (face-to face) and took the conversation offline.
That’s right, one of the best ways of growing an organic social audience is to find ways to take it offline. That could be a phone call, a webinar, a meeting at a conference (via the hashtag), or webinar. Bridge the online offline gap and a put a face to the brand. Make it happen. Tweeting and posting can be done all day, but until a real connection is made, the deal won’t be sealed.
Visuals can make the entire difference in organic growth. It can boost brand visibility while supporting all digital efforts. With such a cluttered social space, high quality, attractive visuals make a brand memorable. Visual content is easier for humans to process and is an easy way to generate more views, click throughs and followers.
Rather than just use the same text, or the default image that comes up when putting a link to Facebook or Google Plus, why not be creative?
Consistent style of content and embedding of images that are high quality and relevant can make all the difference in organic growth and brand awareness.
Social media marketing is a marathon. It will take time. The best metric of success in social media is the quality (not quantity) of your networks. Any brand that approaches social media from an organic perspective, the quality of their community will be a natural progression of the effort put in.
That does it for this post! Do you have any organic growth tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below.
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