While we’ve advised against buying followers on any platform for years, a lot of social media users have done so anyway in order to quickly grow their social presence regardless of the consequences.
Now that every platform is cracking down more consistently on engagement bait and bots, those consequences are increasingly being paid.
So what’s the right way to go about getting more followers? You have to put in some work, but you’ll end up much more likely to keep those followers in the long run than lose them in a bot clean-out or get suspended for violating any platform’s terms of service.
Got questions or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.
Building your following on Twitter
Twitter is the best place to set up social listening that will help you build your following. You can use something like our Trackers- or even start with free snapshot reports or Twitter Assistant- to monitor hashtags and keywords that are important to your brand and industry.
Through that you can build the list of Twitter users that you’re following, seeking out accounts with similar interests that share your target audience, like influencers in your industry. This should result in some mutual follow-backs- you’re interested in the same things, after all- but it doesn’t guarantee it.
Here’s where more of the work comes in: You need to interact with your Twitter community genuinely. Don’t just use it as a bullhorn to make announcements. That style of tweeting certainly has its place, but if it’s all you ever do your followers might not be inclined to stick around. Customers can just check your profile for any big news if they need to.
Think about what you’re sharing aside from important brand announcements and news: Is it helpful? Is it valuable to this audience you’re trying to connect with? Does it make sense to start a chat? Chats are one of the best ways for your brand to connect with like-minded individuals in your industry.
Finally, pay attention to who is following you: Follow them back and interact with them.
Building your following on Facebook
Facebook is a little different; you still want to pay attention to who is Liking your Page, but you can’t “follow them back” the same way you can on Instagram or Twitter.
On Facebook you have to encourage engagement and nurture your community as you build it. Pay attention to who is leaving comments on what you post. Do they comment often? Do you always reply? Even if a comment doesn’t warrant a written response, you can react with any of the Like formats or even with a GIF response if that makes sense for your brand and the tone of the conversation.
Facebook encourages Pages to go Live, so consider a Live video strategy for your brand.
Don’t be afraid to tap into email marketing to let your existing customers know where to find you on Facebook and what they can expect from you there.
Influencers are another option for Facebook; more brands consider them for Instagram, but they’re an option for boosting reach with the News Feed algorithm.
Building your following on Instagram
Much like Twitter, the old standard first move was to monitor hashtags on Instagram relevant to your brand and industry and follow the accounts who are using them the most to post relevant content. You can still do this despite the recent API changes, using the hashtag following feature that’s native to Instagram. Some will follow you back, and some might follow you back after you engage with them for a while.
In place of the old hashtag listening on Instagram, your brand should monitor brand mentions and photo tags, both of which are new abilities with the Graph API. Our Co-Founder Jenn Deering Davis explains in a recent TrendKite blog post:
“If you have a public Instagram profile – and all business profiles are public – other Instagram users can tag your username in another post’s caption or comment, or in a photo. For the first time in Instagram’s history, data on those actions is now available for reporting. That means we can monitor the mentions (uses of a brand’s username in a post caption or comment) and phototags (tagging a brand in a user’s photo) of your brand and you can keep track of what your customers are saying about your brand across Instagram.”
Influencer marketing is obviously huge on Instagram and working with the right influencer can help your brand tap into more of your target audience. Just be sure you’re following all the rules necessary to not get made an example by the FTC.
One trick to consider is Identifying relevant “Instagram pods” or groups of users who all follow each other and comment on one another’s posts. Usually they’ll all be similar levels of Instagram influencers. You can also look through their most active followers to find more relevant accounts to follow and interact with. If you’re following relevant influencers in your industry, this kind of activity will reveal itself organically. (You can no longer track Instagram accounts you aren’t an admin for.)
Finally and most obviously, you want to pay attention to who is interacting with you. Not just who’s following you, but who’s tagging your brand in comments or photos or Stories? (We can track this now!) Who’s using your branded hashtags? (Be sure you’re following these using the native hashtag following feature, and checking the results on the Explore page for it regularly so you don’t miss anything). Follow them back when appropriate and engage with them and their content so they don’t feel like it’s a one-way street.
And if you want the reasons why you shouldn’t be tempted to take the shortcut and buy your followers, here’s an explanation.
If you’re looking for more on how Instagram has changed for brands in the past few weeks, read our Instagram business profiles 101 post.
Yes, a lot of this might seem basic if you’ve been on social media for years, but it’s ignoring the basics that leads to a lot of problems down the line. Spring is a good time for hitting refresh on your strategy.
Remember you can also periodically remind your followers on the platform where your brand is the most popular where they can find you on other platforms. Have social buttons on your blog and easy to find on your website.
Tap into employee advocates and influencers where appropriate; both can help you expand your reach to tap into more of your target audience.
You can also follow your competitor’s most active and relevant followers.
Just have patience. A solid following and active brand community aren’t built overnight.