How to grow your social media - the big do's and don'ts
First of all, before I get started on this article, I just want to refer you to an awesome doodle by one of my favourite illustrators Christoph Niemann:
Whenever I find myself stressing out about social media, I like to glance at this pic. I think what Christoph intended for the meaning behind this piece of art is that just because a picture got a load of likes, it doesn't mean that it's your best work.
What I think Christoph intended for the meaning behind this piece of art is that just because a picture got a lot of likes, it doesn't mean that it's your best work.
I feel him on that for sure, but I also like to think of it meaning something else too. To me it's also a reminder that a thousand crappy/fake followers isn't as good as a hundred followers that actually give a damn about my stuff.
Social media is about engaging with people who really care and believe in what you're doing. It's not about each post hitting 1k likes and having a million followers. (Although I'm sure that if you have that kind of reach organically, that must be nice!)
However, the constant struggle/race for maximum likes is the cause of many peoples anxieties these days, especially when it comes to their brands/bands/art/businesses. And I'm going to be honest, I am not exempt from that! I've gotten caught up in that train of thought in the past and I think anyone who denies that is plainly lying.
Anyway the reason I'm blabbing on about this is because I do truly think that those anxieties are what usually lead a person/brand/band to feel as if they need to buy fake likes/followers/subscribers/whatever else there is.
They see their peers/"influencers" getting thousands of likes and comments each picture, as well as having a million followers and it creates a feeling of inadequacy.
A feeling that "No one is going to care unless my stuff is getting the same amount of praise". Here's the fact on that:
Feelings like that are completely normal.
In fact they're pretty much a by-product of human nature, humans like to feel "part of the crowd"/accepted, wherever they go. There's no doubt in my mind that everyone has felt that way at least once or twice, unless you have a mental state made out of iron or you were raised by the Hound from GoT or something.
So here's why I think that buying fake likes and followers is a bad idea.
Why people interact/The 1000 True Fans analogy
Take a look at a page you like, not a relative/friends personal page, but one that is popular and that you feel adds value to your life. It could be a band, an artist, a clothing brand or a actor/filmmaker's account, Facebook or Instagram.
Now ask yourself, why do you follow that page?
If I ask that question to myself about the things I follow it's usually because:
a) I'm a huge fan of their art/photography/music/films/etc. and they inspire me in a certain way
b) The page gives me useful information/insights that help me with my life/business in someway
c) It's just something I am genuinely interested in
d) It's cute/funny pictures of dogs man...
It's because of those reasons above that I follow, interact with and sometimes, even purchase from these pages. NOTHING else!
It is said in the well known article "1000 True Fans" by Kevin Kelly - that you don't need a million fans or to be known around the world to earn a good living/be successful, rather just 1000 true fans. These are people who don't just follow you on social media, but buy all your stuff and follow you religiously on everything possible (which is a serious over-simplification, click here to find out more, it's a great article).
In my opinion, there's no shortcut on the time it takes to build that dedicated following, one that results in these "true fan" type followers.
Because it consists genuine real people being interested in what you have to offer, you add value to their lives in some way and that's why they are true fans of yours.
For all you know, you might be well on your way to building this fanbase for yourself, but things take time and Rome wasn't built in a day.
When you buy fake followers, sure you might get the numbers initially, it might look cool and make others think that you're doing well, but does it translate over as to why they like you?
Put it this way, if someone knows of your band but isn't a fan of your music, would seeing 3k likes/comments on every post from now on convert them into liking your music?
In my opinion, no, in fact it makes things worse and here is why I am led to think that.
Algorithms and the saturation of your reach
Let's talk algorithms, something that all social media applications operate on. For the purpose of this example let's use Facebook.
Your personal algorithm allows Facebook to show you content that it thinks you will interact best with. The more you interact with a certain page/piece of content, the more Facebook will show you.
That's why Facebook offers paid advertising, because they know for a fact that a certain demographic of people are sure to interact with certain pieces of content, so they get you to pay in return for direct advertising to those people.
If you run an ad campaign on Facebook, you can choose the area, age, musical interests and much more for the types of people that you want your posts to reach, and Facebook will start featuring your stuff in news feeds of those that match your criteria.
However, if you don't pay for those services and are posting stuff on Facebook, your posts are filtered, meaning they won't reach everyone that fits the criteria, just a fraction.
So in summary, unless they've made a genuine search for you or already interact with your stuff, your reach to your ideal punter is extremely limited without opting for the paid advertisement stuff.
So let's reverse that, say that your band has 300 organically generated likes/followers to start with.
Meaning that they are 300 people that are genuinely interested in what you do and decided to click follow, subscribe, like... whatever (Note: Not all of those 300 people will be "true fans" in the way Kevin Kelly puts it, but for examples sake let's say they are, because the point is the same).
Now let's say your band decides to buy fake followers which results in an extra 10,000 extra followers.
Cool right?! You've definitely kept up with the Jones' (the big band you're competing against maybe), but has it helped?
If it's from a third party application that sells fake followers/likes and so on, I think that this is catastrophic and COMPLETELY counterproductive.
Most of the time, the likes are from dud/bot profiles, usually generated for click-farms. They give no value in interaction, apart from the odd "HI PLEASE SEND BANK DETAILS IN RETURN FOR CHEQUE OF A MILLION DOLLARS PLEASE THANK YOU" or a DM every now and again that looks like binary.
Imagine that you had to post something important on Facebook to your audience.
You could be a band that has spent the past year and a half slaving away on an album that you're super proud of, it almost broke you to get it done, and now you just want to show it off to your fans at a live show:
"Please come see us perform our album release show, details below"
Or you could be a music studio with bills to pay or you'll be closed down in Spring:
"We have slots to fill in January please get in touch for discounted rates!"
Knowing now that Facebook will automatically filter your post, how many out of your original 300 followers that actually give a damn will see the posts if you now have 10,000 fake followers in the mix too?
Having fake followers saturates your genuine reach and interaction with REAL followers.
It's completely counterproductive and it actually drags you further from reaching the people you need most for your band/studio/brand etc to build into the thing it needs to be.
Not only that, but people (the real ones) can always smell rat. If your bands been going for a month, and suddenly you've got 23k followers but haven't posted anything yet, people are going to get the impression that you aren't genuine somehow, unless you're Leo Dicaprio or something.
You're going to send some dishonest energy out there and people will pick up on it, because if something seems too good to be true, it usually is right?
The Apps usually aren't safe
Basically, unless they're approved by Facebook, they are going to be doing something dodgy. Using some kind of t&c loophole or breaking some kind of data/GDPR agreement somewhere along the line.
This could spell disaster in a number of ways:
It could result in all the followers suddenly disappearing if the app goes down, which would be more than just a little bit embarrassing right?
It could result in your page for your band/studio/personal brand being tampered with, blocked or even deleted.
Worst of all, it could also jeopardise/compromise your personal data, the data connected with your brand/band/business page. With the way that the world is going these days, that is something that should never be taken lightly.
GETTING THERE THE RIGHT WAY
I don't want this article to be completely negative, so let's look at ways you can generate traffic to your social media accounts organically, for this example I'll use Instagram.
The golden rule of managing any social media account, is consistency. Post the same volume of content, at the same quality standard, at the same times, every - single - day.
The modern culture of social media is like a slot machine at a casino. Mindless scrolling until something catches the eye. You're not going to be on someones news feed enough for it make a difference unless you're posting a certain amount every day, it's that simple. Problem is, it's near on impossible to be staring at your phone at the same time every day in 2019, so scheduling apps work a treat for this. My personal favourite is Buffer.
2. Quality posts
You should always strive to put out the highest quality content at all times. Blurry pixelated pictures are so uncommon with the smart phones you can get these days that younger audiences will find it off-putting and weird if they see it.
If you suck at taking/framing/editing photos, sort it out.
Watch a few tutorials on iPhone photography, framing good photographs or something. I bet there's a hundred free e-books out there for stuff like that. Just do it and your social media results will get better, it's that simple.
Your posts should always be honest. As I said earlier, people can always sense when something is not the real deal.
If your posts are created/put out by someone who knows nothing about what they're selling, it will be painfully obvious to your audience.
People these days like to interact with pages that have real honest cares and thoughts about what it is they are posting about, whether that's a t-shirt company or a band, whatever.
You'll see far better traction from a thoughtful caption about a product that you're so proud of selling because it looks and feels great on, than something like: "Our new T-Shirt, all sizes available. Buy now."
4. Patience An important note. All of the methods I'm outlaying in this article take time. I dedicate an hour a day to doing this kind of stuff, it's a slow burner like I said, but it's absolutely necessary! If you're genuine, the results are genuine.
5. Gaining followers/likes organically
Let's start with hashtags. Instagram is the app that harnesses the hashtag more than any other social media platform, so adding the right hashtags to your post is a very powerful way of reaching more people on the app.
Yes, a lot of the bot accounts use them to comment "YO WAVY BEATS BUY MY E-BOOK"... but there are also real humans that use/follow the tags, so it's worth bearing through the bait comments like that.
It's basically how Instagram is used by people to discover new profiles that relate to their interests, for that reason alone, it's important that you regularly research and keep up with them. You should be constantly up to date with best hashtags to use for the content that you create, as it will greatly affect your reach on the app.
(You should also change the hashtags you use at least once a week, to save your profile getting put to the bottom of the pile in the search criteria)
Furthermore, it's a great idea to sift through the hashtags and interact with a load of the recent posts in the hashtag search right before you post something with the very same tag, as these people will likely still be active on the app and can now find your profile via the tag and return the favour too.
Location based interaction
Another way to organically gain traction is location based interaction. It's a slow burner but I think it's very, very effective.
I first learned of this method from Gary Vee on his Youtube page, and it's proved really great for me so far.
Here's how it works: Type a location into the Instagram search.
Then, sift through the thousands of posts on there until you see something that relates to what you do. Like it/follow it/comment something genuine on it.
GENUINE being the key word, remember that people can always smell a rat, so if you're not sincere it's pretty bait to someone that you're not being genuine in your praise.
(I've mentioned the book "How To Win Friends And Influence People" a few times before, but it really is great for this kind of stuff.)
Let's say you run a music studio in Manchester, so you type in Manchester into the location search.
Let's then say that you find a video post by using a location search on Instagram, about a band writing for their next album.
You follow their page, like the post, listen to the song in their post, and comment something genuine about the structure of the song or something.
That will go so much further than the "flame emoji three times" or trying to hard sell your studio services to them via their Instagram comments.
Sure, the band might not interact with you away, (or maybe they won't do so at all, this method is a numbers game and you can't win them all). But if they do start interacting, it will be genuine because you've reached out in a real way and built a real connection there.
It's a way of reaching out to people that doesn't feel snide or cheap, because you've been genuine in your appreciation for what they do/what they've posted.
It also helps you stay top of mind with your target market. What's to say that after seeing your comment and interacting with you about music afterwards, they wouldn't be thinking of you as an option when it's time to record that song in the post? You've already established they're in your area, so that's one box ticked, and you have an in by interacting with them in an honest way. Either way you put it, it's put you a much better position than going in cold and trying to convert them into a customer right off the bat.
Another important piece of advice for gaining traction organically on Instagram, is reply to EVERYTHING. Messages, comments, story features, the lot. Even if it's bots.
Doing this keeps your page circling the top of peoples activity feeds and the hashtag searches also.
Keep the conversation going and it will keep your page going, that's what social media was based on in the beginning after all.
If you've got this far, I really want to thank you for reading this article of mine, I know it's the longest one I've done at this point, it's taken me a few days to go through it and make sure that I'm conveying what I wanted to say well enough. I just wanted to say that this subject is something that I'm constantly learning about myself, the big guns in social media are always adapting and changing their ways of working, so I try to always keep up to date with any major changes to how the apps run/work, but I like to think of the above methods as fundamentals for me.
There is so, so much more that I have probably missed in this article, so I'll probably add more to it over time, but I hope this article has helped some of you who may be struggling from social media difficulties, it can be a daunting and incredibly lonely problem to have when you can't figure out why your profiles are quiet.
If you have any questions about the stuff I've talked about above, or if you'd just like to discuss parts of it and what you're doing on social media that you feel is working well for you, then leave a comment or send me a direct message, I'd love to chat.
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