Paying for Facebook likes or Twitter followers can seem like the easy answer, but it won't necessarily help you do better in business. In fact, it can sometimes mean you attract a lower quality community, or simply the wrong type of customer.
Ignore vanity metrics (number of likes and followers) and focus instead on reaching your business objectives.
Paying for likes - in the form of sponsored stories or sweepstakes - has its advantages. It's a quick way to inject attention into your brand, but the shine will wear off quickly if there's nothing of value for your new followers. Create value first - only then should you consider paid promotion.
Here are five ways to build a genuine social media presence:
1. Do your due diligence
Focus on the right channel first:
Just because Facebook provides access to a larger platform of users, it doesn't mean you should spend all of your resources there. Understand which channels are the best for your company based on brand fit, user and the referral channels that do well for you already.
Track the numbers:
Which social channel brings the most traffic to your site? Which platform tends to refer the 'right' type of customer for you? Test every message and medium and invest in those that help you reach your objectives.
Know your customer:
Where does your customer do their research? What are some common interests among your customer base? Use this information to understand where to focus your attention.
2. Create value
Produce original content:
One of the best ways to increase organic likes is to create content that people should pay for and then give it away for free. Creating truly valuable content helps demonstrate your expertise while forging a connection with a potential customer. Not to mention that the best content gets shared too.
3. Build your community
Demonstrate social proof:
People rely on friends to tell them what's popular and useful. Utilise open graphs and widgets on your site so people know when their friends like your page. Simple yet powerful.
Build your influencer network:
Even more so than friends, people rely on those who influence - bloggers, industry leaders, journalists, etc. - to tell them what's on trend. Court influencers by complimenting them in your content, providing them with freebies or a first look at news. They'll likely share it with their own large networks or return the favour with a mention of your brand.
Influencers can include people in your community who just really love your brand. Reward them with special deals or one-off products, and incentivise them to refer their friends.
4. Amplify your reach
A digital PR campaign is a strategic way to amplify your reach to a relevant audience. Host a live event on Facebook, hold regular
Tweetups or lead the conversation on a trending topic. If you have an active email strategy to communicate with your customers, don't forget to incorporate social.
Offline connections are also good opportunities to grow your social community. Refer people to your Facebook page for relevant information at a conference or offer follower-only promotions in store.
5. Incorporate paid promotions
Sponsored stories are targeted ways to promote your brand to your users' wider networks. You pay to promote an already existing like, which boosts social proof.
Provide context for competitions:
A sweepstakes promotion with a required like in the entry is an easy way to boost numbers. The prize should reflect your customer's core interest, however. Offering an iPad as a prize is desirable, but does it help you attract the right customer? Instead, offer something from your own range or in a similar category.
As with any marketing effort, social media should help you achieve your business goals. Measure the impact on your objectives before and after every promotion or social campaign - paid and unpaid. If it doesn't increase your success, switch it off and implement a new strategy.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Johanna is a communications professional with a background in content, social media and public relations. Johanna has more than six years experience working on campaigns in the design, lifestyle, and personal finance categories. In her own time she blogs about food, travel, and life on her personal blog, wordsbyjo.com.