What do you do if your social following has plateaued or dropped off?
We have a lot of empathy for our small business clients who are struggling to make an impact on social media. It can be a challenge to devote time and resources to managing your social channels. It can be even harder to continue to tread that social water if you're not seeing results in the way of an increase in followers or engagements.
But if your primary focus on social media is worrying about content ideas and what to post, you may be missing out on opportunities to engage your followers and grow your communities. Here are six things you should be doing on social media besides posting your own content to help you be more a efficient and effective social media marketer:
1. Use a social media management platform.
Start by making things easier and reducing the overall amount of time you spend on social media. If you're not already using a social media management platform like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Buffer, check them out. A good place to start is to review PC Mag's review of The Best Social Media Management & Analytics Tools for 2019.
Regardless of which platform you choose, these social media management tools will allow you to manage all of your social channels - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube - within a single dashboard. And schedule posts out in the future.
We're big fans of Hootsuite, especially for our small business clients because the free plan allows for up to three social profiles to be managed in one place, all with one password.
The free plan also allows for up to two RSS feed integrations which means you'll be able to easily find and share compelling content from your two favorite sources right from your handy dashboard. And the best part is you'll be able to schedule up to 30 posts out in advance each month.
Using a platform like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Buffer will cut down on the time you spend on social media and help you become a much more efficient social media manager.
2. Follow up on your Twitter followers.
Not all followers are created equal. While the goal of social media is to encourage engagement from your followers and engage with your communities, not all followers are going to be worth your time. The reality today is that there are fake accounts and bots set up to appear to be real users that you'll want to avoid. But how do you do that efficiently? Luckily there is a tool for that.
Sparktoro has come up with a free tool, the Fake Follower Audit for Twitter, that you can use to quickly check the validity of your followers and uncover the estimated percentage of inactive, spam-producing, bot-driven accounts, and other fake followers.
Here's a look at the Sparktoro Fake Follower Audit for JKM:
According to Sparktoro's research, approximately 5 to 30 percent of followers on Twitter are fake accounts - either bots, spam or propaganda machines, or simply inactive users.
The problem with fake followers is if you rely on your total follower count as a measure of social media success, the results will be skewed. Likewise, if you're tracking the overall influence of your brand, or simply gauging the potential reach of your message, you could be way off without purging these followers from your metrics. So take five minutes and run the tool to ensure you're reaching your intended audiences and more accurately measuring your efforts.
3. Follow and follow back.
This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by how few small business brands do this. And the statistics and studies are clear that those brands that follow and follow back see better engagement rates and increases to the amount of followers they gain each month. Why? Most social media platforms have some form of follower mention, as in "Joe Smith is now following Shiny New Company."
Also, there is such a thing as a follow/follow-back strategy in social media marketing. While this strategy is something marketers have to do very carefully to stay in compliance with the terms of service for Twitter and Instagram, generally speaking, it does work. Here's how to implement this strategy safely to help you grow your following and increase engagement:
Step 1: Review your followers and follow back based on:
Step 2: Increase your followers by seeking out social accounts to follow.
Use the search function to seek out those relevant hashtags and locations. Then be sure to peep your competitor's follower lists. If you follow based on the same criteria noted above, the odds are good that a respectable percentage of these accounts will follow you back.
Step 3: Go slow!
Both Instagram and Twitter have a maximum number of accounts you can follow or unfollow in a day. The exact number is a bit of a proprietary secret (we assume to avoid gaming the system). But according to the Twitter Following Limit FAQs, "If you don’t follow or unfollow hundreds of accounts in a single day, and you aren’t using automated methods of following accounts, you should be fine."
Step 4: Repeat Step 1, and so on.
4. Welcome your new followers with a personalized post or direct message.
Nothing let's your followers know that you are a real person representing a real brand more than personally thanking your new followers either in a personalized post or by sending them a direct message (DM) a.k.a. private message.
While you'll want to do this for every new follower, it's just not realistic without automating this process. But resist the urge to automate your DMs. There are tons of chats, blogs, and social threads devoted to denouncing automated DMs as evil and a social scourge. And with good reason. They are to Twitter what spam emails are to your inbox. And yes, everybody hates them.
The best-loved brands on social media are the ones that are most genuine. It's ok if you don't respond personally to each new follower. Strive to thank every 20th follower or devote a short time slot each week to giving a few shout-outs to your latest followers. It doesn't matter how many followers you personally thank. What does matter is that when you do, you're keeping it real and being genuine.
5. Listen and respond to your followers.
Just like you wouldn't head to a party or social event in-person with a bullhorn and stand in the middle shouting, "Check out our latest blog post!" or "Download our new product datasheet!" you really shouldn't do that on social media either.
In order to be effective at social media promotion and engagement, you'll need to understand your buyers' behavior on social - where they like to hang out on social media and what they talk about and follow. This means following and listening in on relevant conversations via hashtags. And by relevant, we mean hashtags that are relevant to your customers and prospects.
These may not be the same hashtags you'd think of first to promote your business. For instance, if you sell pressure washers to car dealerships, car washes, and detailers, you might think first to follow #pressurewashers or #pressurewashing. But this won't be as effective at reaching and engaging your prospects as following and participating in conversations about #autodetailing #newcars #professionaldetailing #industrialcleaning or #autoshop.
Once you've identified the hashtags/conversations that attract your target customers, check in on these threads regularly and watch for conversations where you can genuinely contribute valuable, helpful responses. Then chime in! Answer questions, ask questions, and offer solutions. Or simply respond by giving a like, retweet, or a share where you think appropriate.
But the important point here is don't be the brand that only posts their own content. No matter how good your content is, this gets old fast. You'll likely see your followers drop off if you don't participate in conversations on social media in meaningful ways.
6. Monitor conversations and your brand mentions.
In the end, your small business brand's reputation is everything. It's your social currency and it's what will either help or hurt your ability to convert followers into fans and ultimately into happy, repeat customers.
So how do you keep your finger on the pulse of your brand's reputation on social media while you're busy doing so many other things? That's where social media monitoring tools can make a huge difference.
A social media monitoring tool like Social Mention, TweetDeck, or FollowerWonk will allow you to automatically track keywords, hashtags, and mentions of your specific brand, products, or services. You can also monitor one social network or tap into several and keep up with "tweetstorms" and live conversations. You'll also be alerted when your brand is mentioned so you can respond immediately.
Here's a look at Social Mention's interface and the social monitoring results for "small business marketing" as a tracked conversation:
There are many social media monitoring tools out there that can alert you to relevant conversations you wouldn't otherwise find. And each tool offers a different set of data to help you adapt your social media strategy over time. Luckily, the folks at Hubspot have made it easier to compare your options and created a great round up of the 13 best social media monitoring tools .
The most important tip is to be genuine on social media.
All of the tips mentioned here are intended to help you manage your small business brand on social media, round out your efforts and help you focus on genuine engagement and social participation. But the content of your social posts is still going to be mission critical.
According to Rob Marvin and Rob Watts with PCMag, "There is no substitute for organic and genuinely interesting content on your company's social media channels." So no matter how technically sound your social media strategy is, you'll still need to create a positive social experience and post content that your audience will want to follow and engage with.
But if you follow these six tips, the odds will be in your favor that you'll increase the reach and engagement of your social media posts and grow your loyal following. As an added bonus, you'll also find efficiencies over time.