Joining a new social network is pretty exciting – except for the whole “you don’t have any followers” part.
That part’s actually pretty lame.
Especially because it seems like everyone else already has their fanbase on social built up! It’s like you showed up late to the party and all the hors d’oeuvres are gone. (Only this feels way worse than a shrimp cocktail shortage.)
When you just start out on a social network, where do your fans come from?
Whether you’re creating a Facebook page for that new business you just started, you just installed Snapchat on your phone, or you’re finally getting serious about starting that Instagram account, the big question is, now what? How do you build something from nothing?
How to get your first fans on a new social network
1. Fake it ‘til you make it
Imagine two street performers starting the day on opposite corners. Nobody is stopping to watch either of them, so one decides not to bother trying, and sits down on the curb. He figures if anyone comes by, he’ll perform for them – but nobody does.
On the opposite corner, though, the other performer is jamming away, even though nobody is watching yet. And as he keeps on going, eventually more and more people take notice and stop to watch him do his thing.
You get the point. It might feel silly and even a little futile posting things on social media before you have an audience, but you’ve gotta do it! When people do visit your profile, they need to see that you’re active, and that you’re posting the types of content that interest them – that’s what’ll entice them to actually follow you.
Here’s some good news, though: depending on the network, being the new kid in town may actually be better for you. On Facebook, for example, the smaller the page, the higher the organic reach. The network’s algorithms are designed to make succeeding easier for the little guys – but if you’re sitting on your hands and waiting to build an audience before you start posting on a regular basis, you’re going to be waiting around for a while.
[Tweet “What kind of content should you post when you’re just starting out? Focus primarily on updates that will help you get shares and engagement.”]
There are psychological reasons people share content online – learn what they are, and post accordingly. If someone who has 100k+ Twitter followers shares your tweet, it doesn’t matter if you only have three of your own. Their audience becomes your audience, and you can count on some of their fans becoming your fans, too.
While shares are technically a type of engagement, other types – like clickthroughs, comments, and likes — are important, too. For one thing, Facebook factors in engagement when it’s determining how much reach to give your future posts, which means a high engagement rate can actually put your content in front of a lot more people.
Even on social networks where engagement doesn’t impact visibility, like Instagram or Twitter, visible engagement like users commenting on your posts makes your profile more appealing to others – it has the same psychological appeal of a crowded cafe, or a popular product. We’re attracted to what attracts other people, so the more engagement other people see taking place on your profile, the better.
When you see that something is popular with others, it piques your curiosity.
(Not sure what types of content might be the most engaging when you’re just starting out? Here are a few ideas!)
2. Make your new profile a traffic priority
It’s tempting to want to use every last opportunity to drive traffic on sending it to your website, but funneling your audience toward your social profiles can be just as valuable – even more so.
So, how do you send people to your new social networks?
For one thing, use your existing social networks.
To a lot of people, that sounds almost disgustingly self-promotional. “They already follow me on Facebook, but now I’m supposed to ask them on Facebook to follow me somewhere else? I’m going to look like a JERK.”
If that’s your perspective, it’s because you’re thinking like a marketer – and you shouldn’t be. You’re grateful for your fans and followers, which you should be, but that gratitude tricks you into thinking they’re following you as some kind of favor.
Sorry, but they’re not.
If people are following you on social media, it’s because they want to. (Unless it’s, you know, your mom. She’s just supportive like that.)
And when someone follows you on one social network, it stands to reason they might like to follow you on another – especially if you have something unique to offer there. There’s a reason the marketers having the most success on Snapchat are the ones using it to offer promotions their fans won’t find anywhere else. Same with Instagram – the way networks like these work is different from ones like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and that makes them the perfect outlet for content that wouldn’t make quite as much sense somewhere else. Show your existing social fans that there are unique benefits to checking you out on other networks, and they will.
Visitors to your website should be able to find you on social with absolutely zero effort, too.
You know that feeling when you’re hunting around all over a website looking for a company’s phone number? You’d think they would want that front and center, right?
If that’s the case with your website’s links to your social accounts, it’s time to make those things more conspicuous. (Because frankly, people aren’t going to bother hunting all over looking for them.)
Scroll down to the bottom of this page, and you’ll see links to our Twitter and Facebook profiles. (Or just take our word for it. You don’t have to stop reading to actually check.) Assume that every person who visits your site is only going to look at ONE page. Can they get from that page to your social?
“But isn’t sending people AWAY from my website a bad thing? I don’t want people to leave!” Hey, that’s fair. But with tools like Facebook’s Page Plugin, you can give your site’s visitors a little preview of what’s on your page AND the opportunity to go ahead and like it, all without navigating away.
You can do similar things by embedding Instagram updates in your blog posts, and so on. Basically, there’s no excuse for not having easy-to-find links to your social profiles on your website. Same with easy-to-overlook places like your site’s checkout pages, emails, and newsletters – just because you see every little thing your business publishes doesn’t mean that your audience does, so give them as many opportunities to get from one place to another as possible.
3. Put yourself out there
Say you’re brand new, though. Not much of an email list, and hardly any followers on ANY social network. How do you start completely from scratch?
You’ve gotta put yourself out there. If you don’t have an audience anywhere, you can’t just treat your social media content like a tractor beam that’s going to pull people in. Sure, your updates are discoverable when you do things like use hashtags and geo-tagging, but that still depends on other people finding you. Wouldn’t you rather put yourself right in front of their faces?
Be willing to take the first step in engaging on social media. There are opportunities for you to get noticed, if you’re willing to take them. For example, we like to participate in Twitter chats as a way of networking with users as interested in social as we are:
Guest posting on other blogs and appearing on podcasts can also give you opportunities to branch out and share links to your social profiles:
Opportunities to put yourself out there are a lot less passive than just posting updates and hoping for the best, but they’re also a lot more effective – so don’t be afraid of them!
And most importantly…
In a time when you can find more information about going viral than baking a cake, it stands to reason that on social media, people want to get lots of followers and attention as fast as humanly possible.
But here’s the thing. Making yourself “go viral” and other gimmicks are magic buttons that don’t exist. The only “trick” to getting more followers is to be consistent and patient in your efforts.
(Not what you wanted to hear, probably.)
But all those intimidating pages and profiles with the thousands upon thousands of followers? Almost none of them got there overnight. They got there by posting, and sharing, and promoting, and engaging, over and over and over again. Kind of like losing weight, it happens little bit by little bit, and it happens because you never stop working at it.
That’s why Edgar does what he does, and why people who use Edgar often gain followers a lot faster than they did without him. Posting with consistency is the most important thing you can do when you’re building a following – just like the street performer at the start of the day, even if you only have a few people listening at the start, you’ve gotta keep playing if you want more to come.