Going the Social Distance
Updated: Sep 1
Did you know I used to be a hip hop singer?
Yep. Feels like a lifetime ago now, but I had a music profile on MySpace, Sound Cloud, Reverb Nation and a variety of other online places. Beat Makers from all over the globe were sending me music to record my voice and lyrics over. Major music producers in Florida, California and the UK were calling me to see if I was marketably free (young and untethered) enough to gamble on a plane ticket. My name was spread far and wide on the internet.
All of this because I was doing what I did best—engage with as many people as I could about the things they were interested in and the work they were sharing.
How I built a following of 26,000 in 3 months
As a singer/songwriter, I learned in the early days of social media that engaging with other people's content was a great way to raise awareness. Having conversations with the people who visited my own profile was an effective way to build lasting connections. Not only did I get to know the people who enjoyed my music and my conversations, but I also found a core of people who followed me from platform to platform as new networking sites opened.
I quickly learned that my own personal principles around engagement with other people's social media profiles served me well; I earned over 26,000 followers in less than three months (and then repeated this experiment twice more after losing access to my first two accounts). I didn't need to use gimmicks or directly ask a single person to follow me, or even to visit my profile. I simply followed a set of ethics and remained genuinely me. I talk more about this in "Going the Social Distance."
What kind of audience do you want?
Building a sustainable audience on social media means finding the people and businesses that align with your values and your own interests. It also means finding people who are likely to enjoy the services, products or personal content you offer.
If you're a life coach, you'll likely want to seek out people who are interested in self-development, personal growth, quality of life and wellness. If you're a software company, your audience might be the people and organizations that match the area of personal life or work your software addresses, and also individuals and companies who are into tech, user experience and design, AI, Elon Musk and other forward-thinking pioneers, etc.
As our world changes and more people take their purchasing, networking and socializing online, companies and individuals are wondering how best to market their products and services. And because billions of people are using the top social media platforms, smart brands know that these platforms are where businesses will find a large portion of their consumers.
Did you know that you can curate the audience who follows you?
Marketing through social media is most effective when you have an audience to speak to who aligns with your goals and your business model.
While you may know that you get to choose who and what shows up in your social media feed, are you aware of the multitude of channels you can use to find quality content that speaks to your own business values and goals?
What does building a sustainable audience mean?
Whether your business is large or small, you need a consumer base. Ideally, your consumers are repeat clients and customers, brand advocates, or both. The most successful brands know how important loyal customers are and spend the effort to earn their loyalty.
A sustainable audience is a group of loyal people who love what you offer and stick around to watch you grow.
A sustainable audience is made up of people who share your interests, goals, values, and perhaps even your humor. Online, these people comment on, like and share the things you post. Some in your audience will be customers or clients. Some will tell others about you. Many will just be there, cheering you on. Let's be honest, who doesn't want their own cheerleading section? And then there's that basic human tendency—where there's a crowd beginning to gather, interest begins to grow more rapidly.
Not every person you meet would make a good customer
The larger your audience gets, the faster it grows. If you've thoughtfully built an audience of people who already align with your business when your brand takes on more momentum, the attraction to new followers will be a base of people you want as customers.
If you're a small business owner, or just getting started, you may be tempted to follow quick growth tactics for gaining a whole bunch of followers. Some accounts offer to promote your account for a fee, or bring you hundreds (or even thousands) of followers overnight.
Oh what a mistake this would be! Let me count the ways...
You'll get a whole bunch of followers who don't care about your business, services or products;
You're not building a consumer base, you're pushing a meaningly status number up artificially; because...
You'll have a disproportionately large number of followers who don't engage with your content—people who don't like or comment on your posts;
The social media algorithms may decide to push you down to the bottom of feeds for the people who do care about your business; or
Social media algorithms may decide to suppress your content completely.
Slow and steady really does win the race. With that said, it is possible to build followers quickly using simple techniques and principles. It won't happen overnight—but then, chances are, neither did your business. A solid foundation will last for years to come, and like a great business model, a well-curated fan base will take on it's own growth momentum.
Growing an audience of real followers is easy when you know how.
How to grow a sustainable audience of real social media followers
There are SO many channels and techniques within Instagram and the other social media websites that you can use for gaining followers who match your business products, services, goals, values and region, that this article can only begin to point the way. I dive in deep with simple, easy to follow instructions in my book, "Going the Social Distance," take your hand and walk you through all of these Instagram channels and techniques, one by one. These are principles and concepts you can use in any networking platform.
Let's take a quick look at some effective ways to begin building an ideal following:
Post valuable content. Know your audience and post a variety of content that appeals to them. Many of the most popular social media gurus have a few different types of content they share, intermixing: videos, inspirational quotes, beautiful moments, well-shot products, promotional graphics, etc. Look up some of your most successful competitors to see how they are going about this and use their accounts for inspiration.
Post with consistency. You don't need to post several times a day. In fact, this can become annoying and drive away your customer base. However, posting every once in a while or even once a week may not hold your followers' attention either. Try posting once a day, or every other day for a few months and see what happens!
Be authentic. Make it your own. Everything you post should match your own personal ethics and values, as well as your brand goals. If you're an inspirational speaker, you likely won't be posting videos of the raw, primal nature of the animal kingdom fighting to the death.
Comment often. Engage with other people's (and companies') content. Liking content is wonderful, however, it's the comments that really get things fired up. Leave comments on other profiles and you're more likely to get comments on your content too. Social media algorithms like comments more than "liking" and will push your content in front of more people because when people start talking about content, they are also more likely to share it far and wide—which is good for everybody.
Inspire. When in doubt, post an inspirational quote, picture or video. You can Google inspirational quotes. There are thousands to choose from, enough to keep you in content for a very long time. If you can put your own creative spin on the concept, even better.
These are just a handful of the things you can be doing to bring authentic followers your way. Download my free eBook "Seeding the Internet" to learn more about marketing online, and the ethics that will serve you in everything you do to build an audience of very real followers.
I love watching businesses grow and hearing your stories. Please let me know how your social media marketing is going! Leave a comment below to tell me what you're doing to promote your brand online and share your profile with me so I can come support you too!
(For a deep dive and easy-to-follow instructions on growing the type of followers who are perfectly poised to buy what you're selling, see my book,"Going the Social Distance.")