The digital space has helped to level the playing field for so many of us business owners. For many of us, building an online following is an essential part of attracting customers and clients.
Still, because the ability is available to anyone, it’s becoming an increasingly “noisy” world out there. Use these three essential principles to develop a quality online following:
1. Focus on engagement and community, not vanity metrics. Conventional marketing and advertising ideology would have you believe that the more eyeballs you have on your website or your social channels, the better. And while more exposure and awareness of your brand or business are great, it’s not necessarily the most effective way to connect and convert.
I’d rather have 1,000 true fans and followers than 100,000 online lurkers on the margins.
Those 1,000 loyal fans are going to do a few things for you: (a) they’re going to read or listen to your content when you consistently create it (consistently being the operative word here); (b) they’re going to sing your praises and share what you’re doing with others; and (c) they’re going to eventually love you enough to buy what you’re selling (if you’re adding value).
Strive to develop what marketing guru Seth Godin calls a “tribe“—a devoted group of people who will engage with you and grace you with their presence in your online community over and over again. So if that’s 100 people? Good. 1,000 people? Great. You can eventually build up to a tribe of 100,000 or even 1 million who are truly there engaging with you rather than merely sitting on what platform-building expert Michael Hyatt calls vanity metrics: followers who merely lurk on social channels or on your website.
2. Be incredibly generous and trustworthy. And that doesn’t mean giving away the farm with constant, gimmicky giveaways and contests that only draw folks who are looking for freebies, either.
You want to create content or provide a service that has so much value that people can’t help but notice you (and subsequently follow you) online.
Some of my clients often get burdened with the idea that in order to accomplish this they have to constantly create viral content. Nothing could be further from the truth. What you do have to do, though, is show up consistently offering something that your community can use. One key way to do this besides creating it is curating it. There’s no shortage of great content online from which your tribe can obtain tremendous value. Why not bring it to them?
Doing enough of this, paired with the right strategy, can create a powerful sales funnel as well.
3. Nurture your community outside of social media channels. Surprised to hear a social media strategist say that? Don’t be. With the gradual, recent changes to social channels like Facebook and Twitter, it’s becoming more difficult than ever before to get your content seen organically by a critical mass of users. Essentially, many of your favorite go-to social channels are becoming “pay to play,” encouraging you to “boost” or “sponsor” posts and updates for more reach.
And while it’s certainly frustrating for most of us, these changes underscore the point that it is absolutely imperative to nurture your community outside of social media.
You need a way to nurture the relationship with each and every follower that you can own. One key way I encourage my clients to do that is by taking advantage of e-mail campaigns.
Why? It’s one of the more personal mediums to communicate through, and e-mail, for the most part, withstands changing trends (unlike ever-changing algorithms in social). Facebook and Twitter can change algorithms all day long, but you will always own your e-mail list, which automatically gives you more agency when building a community online.
Focusing energies on building a solid e-mail list will help you cultivate and nurture a quality online following and increase ROI.
No longer do you have to devote millions of dollars in ad spend on television or radio commercial spots or on massive billboards lining the freeways of major cities to connect with your target audience and get attention. You can do that at a much more feasible way now online and effect an even greater impact by keeping these three key principles in mind.
How are you building a quality online following?
Courtney Herring is the founder of The Champ Media Agency and a consulting entreproducer dedicated to helping time-starved entrepreneurs execute their content strategy to nurture inspired and engaged online communities by taking the headache out of editing, social media, and Web content maintenance, allowing clients to be successful in other pursuits. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.