Building a Social Fanbase: What You Can Learn from Baskin-Robbins, Aristotle, and Three Important Questions

You’re used to people asking questions about you and your business.

How do you compare to your competitors?

Are you worth the cost?

Is your customer service any good?

Whether they’re asking you directly or using social media to gather opinions, before people feel confident enough to do business with you, they’re gonna need some answers.

And so should you.

The majority of people only follow one to four brands on social media, so if you want to be one of those brands, you need to know your followers (and potential followers) as well as they know you – or better.

The social media analytics experts at Simply Measured recently conducted a study of 1 million Twitter users who follow brands on social, and learned a lot about what makes them tick. You can download the study here, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at what they discovered, and how it can answer some of the most important questions you have about your audience.

How do you get more followers on social media?

Because let’s be honest – who doesn’t want a higher follower count? Building your audience on social has a real snowball effect, because the more people you’re reaching, the more opportunities you have to get shared and get your brand in front of even more people, the alrger your social fanbase grows.

Generally, people find your brand on social in one of three ways:

  1. They know and like your brand
  2. Somebody they follow shares your content
  3. The social network they use recommends your profile

First, knowing and liking your brand.

[Tweet “It takes more than brand familiarity to get someone to follow you on social – it even takes more than somebody being your customer. “]Remember again that most people only follow one to four brands, so somebody knowing who you are isn’t enough to make them want to follow you.

For that, you need them to know you and to like you, and that means liking both who you are and what you post.

Here’s an example.

Baskin-Robbins makes ice cream. Ice cream is awesome. And hey, ice cream is photogenic, too – so Baskin-Robbins has over 89,000 followers on Instagram.

(Admit it – you totally want some now.)

Now, let’s look at General Electric. GE is a big, faceless conglomerate corporation. They don’t offer 31 different flavors of hard-packed bliss. (They don’t even offer rum raisin.) There’s nothing cute or cuddly about them.

But General Electric has 181,000 followers on Instagram – more than twice as many as Baskin-Robbins. Why? Not only do they share photos of their more impressive creations being designed and built, like jet engines, but they post inspirational quotes about the nature of creativity, innovation, and progress – topics that are appealing whether or not GE manufactured your microwave oven, and that reinforce a brand identity that endears GE to its followers.

GE is engineering a brand image on social that’s about not just what they do, but what they stand for – and those universally-appealing values have attracted a lot of followers. (More so than appealing solely to your sweet tooth.)

Use social media to establish and maintain a strong brand identity, so the people familiar with you become the people who like you.

The second way new people find you on social media: someone they follow shares your content.

When your followers share your content, it exposes your brand to an audience that might otherwise never see what you’re posting – and those are all people who might become followers themselves.

(Want people to share your stuff more often? Try this blog post about the five reasons people share content online.)

Finally, new people find you on social media because the social network they’re using recommends you.

When you log on to Twitter, for example, you probably notice a little box to the left of your feed that looks like this:

Twitter Who to Follow Suggestions

Twitter recommends accounts that it thinks will appeal to you – but how does it determine what those accounts are? And why does it matter if you show up on that list? (After all, this is only one of three ways that new people will find your brand on social, isn’t it?)

The median total number of accounts that someone follows on Twitter is 127.

social fanbase

In fact, according to the survey conducted by Simply Measured, almost 1/4 of Twitter users follow 50 accounts or fewer – so the sooner you get discovered, the better.

How do you get a social network to recommend your brand to its users?

Unfortunately, there’s no secret to getting recommended without paying. (You can’t just fill out a form, or send Twitter’s home office an Edible Arrangement.) For example, Twitter describes its algorithm that determines recommendations as a program that looks for “a bunch of key ingredients such as how much of the profile is filled out, certain indications that the account is interesting to others in some respects, and a few other signals.”

That isn’t the most helpful description in the world, probably. But it’s also not hard to guess at what some of those signals, ingredients, and indicators are.

Consistent tweeting and strong engagement rates are signs of an active social presence, so don’t allow your account to go stale for long stretches of time. Post regularly, and carve out time in your schedule for live interaction, like responding to your followers and participating in Twitter chats. Share content that attracts engagement (like those shares we talked about) and clickthroughs to your website.

A strong social presence indicates to the network that you’re worth following, and that can help you earn recommendations. (Similar to how Facebook’s algorithms reward high engagement rates with higher organic reach.)

Now that you know a little more about getting new followers, it’s time to get a better understanding of just who those people are.

How do you better understand your followers?

Aristotle probably wasn’t talking about social media when he said, “The fool tells me his reasons – the wise man persuades me with my own.” (Probably.) But if you needed a compelling argument for why you should know your audience, that’s as good as any.

The better you know your followers, the better you can communicate with them. What are their interests? Who do they listen to besides you? What sorts of references would they appreciate, what sort of language do they prefer?

The social networks you use have built-in ways to get to know your followers.

For example, the Followers tab in your Twitter analytics has all kinds of information about them, like:

  • Where they live
  • Who else they follow
  • Their top interests
  • Their gender breakdown

This cross-section of information makes it a lot easier to get to know your audience, and predict what they might be looking for from you. It might also reveal connections you wouldn’t necessarily expect – for example, Simply Measured found that Starbucks shares 16% of its Twitter followers with H&M (considerably more than its overlap with any other fashion brands featured in this study).

Your Facebook Insights tab provides a similar set of data:

What’s particularly notable about Facebook’s data is that it shows you not only your own stats, but how they compare to the rest of the social network – for example, though the majority of Facebook users are men, the majority of Edgar’s fans are women.

You can actually do a little more sleuthing to find information about your Facebook fans, too – here’s how.

Just like Twitter shows you who else the people in your audience follow, Facebook will show you what other pages your fans have liked. It only takes three steps:

  1. Go to your Facebook page and click on the “About” tab.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see your Facebook Page ID number. Copy it.
  3. Copy and paste this URL: https://www.facebook.com/search/XXXXX/likers/pages-liked and paste your Facebook Page ID number in place of the Xs.

That will show you a list like this:

While it isn’t as tidy as Twitter’s analytics, it does allow you to scroll through and develop a clearer picture of who/what your Facebook fans are interested in. (And remember that your breakdown of fans on one social network can be drastically different from on another.)

Don’t forget, too, that you can always learn more about your audience the old-fashioned way: by asking. Asking your followers questions on social media helps you get to know their interests, challenges, and priorities, and that means you can tailor your content all the more effectively.

Even once you know where new followers come from and who those followers are, there’s still one big question you should be asking:

How active are your followers?

You already know the statistics regarding how often most people log on to Twitter, and while this new study takes a closer look at just how active users are once they’re visiting, the data isn’t a whole lot more encouraging.

Of the users studied, only 25% tweet once a day or more – and 48% of users don’t even tweet as often as once a week.

The lesson? Your Twitter followers may be active, but they aren’t that active – and that means you can’t make any assumptions as to how many people will see or interact with a status update.

Your best course of action is to post consistently and monitor your analytics, so you can find patterns in what performs the best and when. Determine your own best times for posting certain types of content, and post at those times regularly – because while you can use your statistics as a guide, you can never guarantee how many people will see any given post.

Answer these questions, and you’ll find that building and maintaining a community of followers is easier than you thought.

The better prepared you are to attract new fans, keep the ones you have, and share the right content at the right times, the easier it will be for you to become one of those very few brands that someone chooses to follow on social!

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