How to Grow Your Social Media Following Without Selling Your Soul
“If you get bored with social media, it’s because you’re trying to get more value than you create.” Fast Company
Have you seen that episode of Silicon Valley where Jared, out of good intent and desperation, hires a click farm to spike his company’s user numbers? Click farms are real, and they’re a good example of how far people will go to boost their follower count. And then there are the robots that automatically like posts with certain hashtags, people who follow you just so you’ll follow them back before they unfollow you, et cetera. But you don’t have to swipe a credit card or sell your soul to build a following on social media... The first time I really saw a post of mine resonate with an audience was at my first social media job, when I wrote about harmful thoughts and how they block creativity. I was stunned at number of comments I received. People all over the world were pouring their hearts out to me about the inner critics they wanted to defeat so they could keep doing what they loved. That's when I realized that authenticity and speaking honestly about what matters most is key to getting shared and seen. If it mattered to me, it had to matter to someone else out there. Boosted posts and audience targeting have their place, but there’s no real substitute for human interaction in social sharing.
Jordan Dansky said it best: “In some way or another, your story will resonate with others. Sharing our collective human experiences is the most wonderful benefit of social media in my mind.”
Plenty of people use social media get attention and collect likes, but if you’re missing the puzzle piece of authenticity, it can end up feeling like the world's most difficult video game. Teenage Instagram star Essena O’Neill addressed this when she quit social media in 2015, and rewrote the captions on all her photos with honest but imperfect truths. This move got her more attention than her Instagram stardom ever had. What are we really looking for when we instinctively scroll through our Instagram feeds as we wait for our morning latte? Are we really trying to see how great someone else’s life is, or do we crave the authenticity that made Socality Barbie an overnight success?
Social media is a dialog, not a monologue. So give value. Educate. Entertain. Edutain! Here are some tips on boosting your visibility and getting growth, without feeling gross about it!
Tell your story
Throwbacks and flashbacks are totally a thing, so feel free to travel back and forth in time. Talk about the milestones in your past, what you’re up to today if you fancy it, or offer sneak peeks of what the future holds. And don’t be afraid to get real and a little personal. Like Bianca said, the posts that leave you a little scared to hit publish are everything.
Offer something unique
Maybe you have an amazing memory for meaningful movie quotes or Spice Girls lyrics. Share it! If you live in Vancouver, show everyone how beautiful your city is and offer insider tips on the best dishes at the hottest restaurants in town. If you know how to dress up a vintage cardigan, let the world know. Be original in the way that only you can!
Engage with your audience
Posing questions and putting calls to action into your post captions is a great way to get more comments and learn about what really makes your social community tick. Collecting feedback can also help you optimize the content you post. And, of course, take the time to respond to or at least like the comments you get! It’ll make your followers feel valued and apt to stay tuned.
Pick out some staple hashtags
You can fit up to 30 hashtags into a comment with your Instagram post. As you may have noticed, most bloggers put their hashtags into a comment with five dots on a separate line to hide the full comment with all the hashtags and give a cleaner appearance.
Use a text editor to save all your hashtags in one paragraph, like your phone’s built-in notes app. Copy and paste all the dot with the hashtags into the comment box below your brand new post. It’s best to do this as quickly as you can once the post is live, so try to have your hashtags picked out beforehand.
Different niches have different hashtags, and you can do a little research by exploring hashtags on Instagram. For example, if you’re all about the #girlboss hashtag, consider using #ladyboss and #womeninbusiness too. They’re less popular, which isn't necessarily bad -- it means your photo has a better chance of becoming a top post and won’t be pushed down in the feed as quickly. Twitter is also a very hashtag-friendly platform, but make sure you don’t overdo it. There’s no way to hide the hashtags with you’re limited to 140 characters. Utilizing trending hashtags works well here.
Start an engagement group
If you have some friends who are also interested in growing their social media presences, you can comment and like each other’s posts on Facebook and Instagram. You can retweet each other’s tweets, repin each other’s pins, you get the gist. The idea that you get as much as you’re giving is a great system to keeping everyone accountable. You won’t gain 100 followers per day, but you’ll steadily gain the right kind of followers. Social media is really an extension of how you present yourself to the world. Figure out what makes you unique and double down on it. Remember, your vibe attracts your tribe. Make it a good one.
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