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No-Cost Ways to Grow Your Social Media Following

When you think of the word “organic” these days, the word “expensive” probably also comes to mind. But when it comes to social media, organic reach is all about the influence content has without paying to boost it.

Growing your following naturally can be painfully slow sometimes. So why not just pay for it? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: when it comes to followers, you want quality, not quantity. When you buy followers, there’s a strong chance that the company you bought the followers from just created a bunch of fake accounts to pad your numbers, and you’re going to be working hard to create content for an empty room with no engagement. Without people to interact with, what’s the point? Also, most social media platforms are vigilant about clearing out fake/spammy profiles. You may quickly gain a legion of fake account followers, but that number will drop just as quickly when those accounts are deleted, and then you’re back where you started, but with a few dollars less. Seriously, it’s just not worth it. Sidenote: paying for followers is not the same thing as boosting ads. This method does work and it’s not sketchy; however, we’re only talking about free methods in this post.

So give your credit card a rest and set up a plan to gain real, actual people who will love your content: Here are some ways to up your engagement naturally, without paying a penny.

Post Eye-Catching Photos

I know it’s obvious that you need visual content to make an impact on social. But you can’t just put a blurry, grainy photo of your product and hope to see your numbers spike. Professional, visually-striking content that makes people stop and look is what will increase your following. And making pretty content isn’t as expensive as you think, but it does take a little know-how. Use what you have, look up some tips, and get creative. Look at the content you like and try to recreate your own version. Even if you are totally clueless about photography and design, there are free apps & tools out there (Canva is one of my favorites!) with templates, stock photos, fonts, and anything else you can think of to help even the most amateur designers create thumb-stopping content. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Photo credit Lad Fury

Use Hashtags

I’m sure you’ve heard of hashtags and you probably already use them. Hashtags are basically a social platform’s way of labeling content so that it’s easier to find in searches, like how keywords work in search engines. However, there are a lot of people using a lot of hashtags out there, and their usage can become over-saturated quickly. You’re going to want to use hashtags that range in usage, so you rank in popular searches but aren’t always drowned out by the millions of other people using that hashtag. You also want to use trending hashtags, and relevant hashtags. For example, if you’re a cheese company posting a recipe of the best grilled Gouda cheese on sourdough, you would tag it as #food, #yum, #nomnom, and #cheese, but you’re also going to want to use more specific hashtags, like #grilledcheese, #sourdough, #gouda, and #bestgrilledcheese, while avoiding random hashtags like #puppies, #coffee, etc. Bonus points if you can use branded hashtags and encourage your fans to use them. Branded hashtags can also help you find UGC, and if people used your hashtag, then they are more likely to be OK with you reposting their content. You do want to be careful with this one though: don’t use stuff without permission. If you get sued, don’t come at me; you were warned. (Learn a little more about copyright info for social media here.)

Photo credit Jon Tyson

Engage Outside of Your Brand Channel

You ever get the feeling people are talking about you? They probably are (about your brand, that is). And it can be a good thing, if you know how to use it to your advantage. Monitoring conversations about your brand outside of the comments and mentions directed at you is a great way to engage people and find new potential followers. Use social listening to find conversations you can jump into and introduce your brand, or to learn more about what people like (or don’t like) about your brand or your competitors. Let’s say you’re a razor brand. You would want to look out for conversations about shaving that you can engage in, as well as people complaining about your product without tagging you or, better yet, complaining about a competitor’s product where you can jump in and hopefully offer a better experience and maybe a coupon. People will appreciate that someone out there is listening.

On a similar note, you can increase your following by engaging with your current community. You want more followers, comments, likes, shares, and retweets? Start giving more of it back. One of the biggest reasons we love social media is that it triggers the reward center in our caveman brains every time we get a notification. We all like to feel special, so recognize that your fans have spent their valuable time and money with your brand and share the love. If your followers know you see their comments and they aren’t just shouting into the void of cyberspace, they are 1. More likely to form a connection with your brand and interact more often (and bring their friends!) and 2. Less likely to leave nasty little troll comments they think no one will see or care about. People are also more likely to create UGC if they think the brand might see it, and are definitely going to share it with their friends and family if you use their content (as long as you properly credit them; see my tip about hashtags). And don’t underestimate the power of the small interactions, either. Not every person out there is a wordsmith, and not every comment is going to strike up an engaging conversation. That’s ok. It may be as simple as clicking the “Like” button 200 times for you, but to someone who just got a notification that their favorite brand just liked what they had to say, it could build some serious brand loyalty.

Photo credit Oleg Magni

Promotions

The actual price tag on this one is debatable: if you’re going to give away something, you more than likely have already paid for it in some way. But technically speaking, if you hold a giveaway and ask people to tag their friends to enter the drawing pool, they will do it for free and the friends they tag will likely do the same because literally no one hates free stuff. Some things you could run a promotion for: a giveaway for surplus products, raffle for gift certificates/tickets/coupons, have people share UGC with your product in order to be featured. However, if you don’t continue produce quality content regularly after your promotion, these new fans will unfollow quickly (see my next tip). A little fuzzy on how to run your own promotion? Read this.


Photo credit Don Agnello

Consistency is Key

People follow you because they want to see more of what you have to say. So when they don’t know when they are going to see anything from you, that’s not the kind of value they are looking for. Think about it: would you tune in to a TV show that came on at random times during the day, sometimes twice a day, then nothing for a week, then randomly at 1am, then nothing for a month? It just wouldn’t be worth it. If you want more followers, stick to a consistent schedule. This doesn’t mean you have to post every day at the same time or else, but humans are creatures of habit and they like knowing they can depend on something to be there when they expect it to be. If you consistently post photos of the office dog Toby on Tuesdays, people will start to look forward to your #TobyTuesday posts and are more likely to tag a friend and share your content.

Photo credit Behy Studio

That wraps up my no-cost ways to boost your follower count. I hope these tips help you increase your reach and find some more people who will love your content. I’d love to hear any advice you have for getting more followers organically!

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