How to Gain Fans and Followers When You’re Starting at Square One

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

You have an established brand. You’ve got some customers, even a few devoted fans. But you are just about to dip your toe into the murky waters of social media. So in many ways, you are starting from scratch. What do you do? How do you gain Facebook fans and Twitter followers? You’re ready to join these social communities but you don’t want to look like the new kid on the block.

This is the biggest issue for many brands starting out in social media. They may know which social media sites are the right fit for their audience, and they may even have an existing fanbase there. But since these fans have not had an official page to join yet, those first few months can feel very lonely. Who’s reading those updates? Why don’t we have 100,000 followers when our email list is 5 times that?

These fears can be enough for some brands to throw in the towel. It takes time to build a loyal, consistent fan base. And what brands need to understand is that 1,000 engaged fans, who comment on your updates and buy your product, are better than 10,000 fans who all ignore you and serve no purpose but to inflate your fan count.

As for the disparity between total customers/website visitors/email subscribers and social media fans, Facebook advises brands to shoot for 10% of their total actual customers as fans. Not everyone is on Facebook, and even fewer people are on Twitter. Many people use these sites differently, and may not want to connect with a brand. And still more may simply not know you are there, despite your best marketing efforts.

To that end, here are a few tips to help you gain more fans and followers:

Communicate Off-Site

Use the tools you have, such as website placement, in-store signage, email marketing, etc. Provide a good reason for current customers to like or follow your brand on a new channel. Try something unique and exclusive to your social media channels, whether it’s a discount, eBook or sneak preview of information. Communicate this exclusive in the places where current customers interact with your brand and give them a good reason to add another communication channel with you.

Earn, Don’t Buy

Don’t get suckered into buying fans. While buying fans will give the outward appearance of success by boosting your numbers, hardly any will be actual customers with a real connection to your brand. Cheap fan buying services will provide numbers only, with no interaction; better ones may provide interaction to raise those metrics as well, but this still isn’t a real indicator of your brand’s social media performance or ROI. Real fans provide meaningful engagement and actual sales.

Engage With Everyone

As your fanbase grows, reply to everyone so that you can turn these early adopters into brand ambassadors. Look at some of the most successful brands on Facebook; they reply to nearly every comment, good and bad. On Twitter, look at sites like We Follow for ideas for accounts to follow, and engage with people as much as you can. Tweet at them and let them know you’re there, or reply to the Tweet that made you want to follow them and tell them why. Set up searches for terms related to your brand or product and reply to people asking questions about what you do or sell.

Build a Promotion

Create campaigns, content or contests that encourage sharing to spread your message and get more eyeballs organically. It’s a tried and true method; sales gimmicks work, and social media is no exception. Make sure you have your pages set up the way you want them and have contacted as many current customers as possible as outlined above, then make a big splash with a promotional campaign. Think of it like a widespread advertising campaign, even if it’s just Facebook.

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