Time and time again I hear people asking about the “trick” for increasing your following on social media.” People want to know how to get more followers. The concerning thing is why they want the followers — it’s almost always so they can grow their business and make more money.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with making money. It’s why I get up and go to my day job every day during the week, and it’s one of the outcomes of writing posts like this for me. Money is a necessary part of business. But the fact remains that many people are really asking “how can I get more followers so I can get more money.”
A better question is, obviously, how can I help more people?
Putting The People First
If you create a business that has the primary goal of delivering value, then you are in a great position to ask about the best way to help more people. The challenge is, does your business really help people? And maybe a better question is what does helping people really mean.
I’m not really talking about a strict definition of “helping people” like you might be thinking. I’m really talking about adding value. Does your business add value to peoples lives? If it does, then you can safely ask the question “How can I reach more people” knowing that the more people you reach, the more people you will help.
I’ll give you an example – maybe you run an art website. Maybe the purpose of your art is to inspire or delight people — or simply entertain. These are all helpful goals. When you create art with your customers in mind (or at least knowing that you will be delivering some value to them) you are in a much better position that creating art just for a payday — or at least that’s my opinion and experience. Admittedly, I’m no artist.
Taking things closer to affiliate marketing, if you create a website full of actual helpful information instead one designed solely to trick buyers into clicking on your ads or affiliate links, then you are creating value. Again, we all need to make money, but the question is really what value are you exchanging for that money.
So How Do I Reach More People
Sadly, the answer is one at a time.
I often hear my buddy Cliff Ravenscraft answer the related question “how do I get more podcast listeners”. His advice is to go learn a couple of things about 50 of your listeners and write them down (for example their email and where they work or where they live, etc). He asks people to make that list of 50 people and come back to him for further advice. No one ever comes back. Either they are unwilling to do the work to engage people at that level, or (more typically) they find that process of engagement works so well that no further advice is required.
It’s not just podcasting where this works — the advice applies generally to social media as well.
Ask your audience questions, reply to their comments, and engage them. Cliff advises that you shouldn’t pass up opportunities to ask that next question. If someone asks you a question on social media, answer (helpfully) and ask the next question. Just like you would do in a coffee shop. You’ll be surprised at the results.
Don’t believe me (or don’t think you have time)?
Look at Pat Flynn. Here is a screen shot from a recent blog post.
Look at all the comments Pat responds to — he is a great example of audience engagement.
Now, obviously Pat can't afford to reply to every comment — but he used to when he had fewer followers. And engagement is still important to him today.
Look at what Pat had to say on the topic of engagement way back in 2011:
It seems like that’s what everybody is talking about these days – but what about increasing engagement?
Is engagement even important enough to be something that we should increase?
To me, absolutely – and I’m sure that’s part of the reason why this blog has grown as fast as it has.
So, take the time to get out there and engage your audience. Do it for a week (or a month) — make the personal commitment to seek engagement from every “audience member” that you can. Be curious. Ask questions, and measure the results. I guarantee you’ll have more followers, and that the ones that you have will be higher quality. If you invest in your audience, good things will happen, and you will like the results.
What do you think?
Got other ideas about how to engage your audience? Think this is a practical strategy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…