13 ways your business can attract more social media followers

Most businesses these days, especially retail and service businesses, have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn. But in order to attract prospective customers to your business page(s), you need to actively court and engage fellow Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn users. How? Here are 13 suggestions.

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1. Leverage your company social media bio/profile. “Make sure that your company’s online profile [or bio] is [informative] and designed in a way that quickly shows users who you are and what your business is about,” says Bernard Perrine, cofounder & CEO, SocialCentiv, a Twitter marketing tool.

2. Do some research. “Keyword research will help you identify what your target audience is searching for,” says Ashley Orndorff, market research analyst & copywriter, Visual Impact Group. “Once you know what questions they have and the topics they find interesting, you'll have a better idea of the types of content they're likely to find valuable.

“Also check your competitors’ pages to see what types of content get the most engagement,” she suggests. “Are their followers engaging the most with an image with a quote, a funny joke, something about their office day-to-day, certain hashtags?” Figure out what’s working for others and try a similar strategy.

3. Don't just talk about your business. Instead post content your followers will find interesting or helpful. “If all you do is post articles [about your business], people will lose interest,” says Patrick Gillooly, director of digital communication and social media at Monster. “Be a thought leader by sharing content from a wide variety of sources. That way, you create a compelling stream of information that a potential customer would have more interest following—and a lot of the people whose content you shared might start following you too.”

“Deliver content that is positioned in a way that you are solving a problem for the person vs. being overtly promotional,” says Katie Welch, digital marketing strategist at Flowroute, which provides calling and messaging for cloud-based companies.

4. Engage with followers – and respond quickly to questions. “Remember to keep on top of answering questions and responding to followers with thoughtful responses instead of generic answers,” says Alice Williams, communications specialist, Frontier Business Edge, which provides data, voice, video and equipment solutions to businesses.

Moreover, “if you offer up a custom response to someone who either has interacted with your business or has a need your business can fulfill (e.g., [someone] looking to book a flight [or a trip] if you're a travel agent), you are very likely to gain a quick follower,” says Gillooly. “Do 5-10 of those interactions a day and your numbers will grow very quickly.”

[ Related: 6 ways Twitter can help your business go beyond PR ]

“For example, if someone tweets, ‘I love the Dallas Cowboys!’ and you sell Cowboys fan gear in your shop, reply that he can shop with you,” and offer a discount or coupon code, says Perrine.

“Keep your finger on the pulse of industry-specific conversations and engage with thoughtful questions and helpful answers,” says Mostafa Razzak, principal, JMRConnect, a public relations & influencer communications company. “Do not patronize or waste people’s time by stating the obvious or making comments that show you haven’t paid attention to what they’ve written or the message they’re trying to convey.”

5. Follow other users, especially those following you. “Many times, following someone will get a follow back very quickly,” says Gillooly. “So make sure you're going out and follow[ing] those [people] who are or could be customers — or are thought leaders in your industry.”

6. Interact with influencers in your industry. “Interaction with influencers that is not promotional or furthering your own agenda will earn you respect and, by extension, convince [them and their followers] that it’s worth their time to follow your company,” says Razzak.

7. Join groups – and group conversations. “Join groups that are in [your] industry and [post] and comment on posts,” says Mary Cochran, director of marketing, Sleep Easily. “Post articles your company is featured in,” and share articles written by or of interest to others in the group. 

8. Give people an incentive to follow you, such as a discount code or free giveaway. “Provide compelling incentives that are available only via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn,” says Tim Lavelle, director of SEO & social media, U.S. Interactive Media. “Exclusive offers could include coupons, discounts, freebies, limited editions or other things of interest to your targeted audience. When your audience can only acquire a desired discount, deal or exclusive product/service via social media, they’re far more motivated to connect.”

“A great way to generate buzz about your business, as well as increase your social following, is to run a contest,” says Tracy Willis, content strategist, N2Q Consulting, a creative marketing agency. “Think of a quick and simple contest that encourages fans to share information about your business, and reward the winner with a gift card or tickets to an event.”

9. Ask people to follow you. “Use calls to action (CTAs) to directly request that visitors friend, follow, like, etc. your social media profiles,” says Lavelle. “Numerous studies have shown that telling people to do something (or asking them) makes them far more likely to actually do it.”

[ Related: 5 ways ecommerce business can improve customer service ]

10. Include easy-to-find links to your social media accounts on your website and/or blog. “You [may be] missing out on followers by not including a link to [your] Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages” on your website and/or blog, says Jennifer Matthews, a marketing specialist at Igniting Business, which provides web design, marketing and technical services to small businesses.

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11. Time your posts. “Post content at times when [it is] most likely to get shared [on] each platform,” says Matthews. People look at “Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter [at different times], making it crucial to test which days and times get the most attention for each platform. Finding your ideal audience is all about testing, and you want to post to social media when your target market is active on each platform,” she explains. Also, “make sure to keep track of which posts get the most interaction for each platform, and keep all that data in an organized document that you can refer to easily.”

12. Don’t try to be everywhere for everyone. “Being active and engaged on a few social networks will get you more followers in the long run than posting infrequently across many networks,” says Welch.

13. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. “Do not get hung up on trying to reach as many people as possible,” says Williams. “It can be more valuable to focus on a [smaller] community that is more likely to convert into customers in the long run.”

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