Not all exposure is created equal. When it comes to using social media for the purpose of building support for a personal brand, a company, or a cause, it's essential that you consider exactly how you'll ensure that you attract the audience that will give you the support that you need.
We'll walk through thirteen critical steps you must knock out to ensure that you're maximizing your visibility in a purposeful way.
1. Boil your purpose down into one impactful statement.
Before even beginning to dig into making a plan, you need to understand the purpose behind the plan. Vague phrases and good intent aren't enough to guide you. In order to figure out the direction that best suits your social media platform, you must first outline your purpose concisely and specifically. The majority of people who see your social media profiles won’t take the time to read a traditional long biography, click any links, or peruse your profile in depth unless their interest is piqued. A well thought out, purpose-focused social media biography will pique interest, increase memorability, and allow you to attract the like minded. If you're unsure of your purpose, consider asking these "15 Questions To Discover Your Personal Mission" via ThinkSimpleNow. Additionally, check out Huffington Post's article on "How To Discover Your Brand's Purpose."
2. Create a profile that conveys your purpose.
Everyone who sees your social media account will evaluate it quickly upon first glance. What explicit and implicit messages do viewers derive from your profile? The explicit part is a bit easier. Ideally, your biography will allow people to get a feel for the purpose of your platform. Depending on how personal your profile is, your biography can also allow people a glimpse of your personality. Ensure that your biography is enticing to people you’d like to be part of your target audience. Implicit is a bit more difficult to conceptualize, but equally important. Consider the message that your picture conveys. Is your attire within the norms of your target audience? A painter could likely get away with wearing a sweatsuit, while a financial advisor would be better suited in business casual. Evaluate the colors and patterns you use, as well. Don’t be afraid to ask the opinion of people within your targeted audience if your profile draws them in. Be sure to ask people who aren’t scared to give you an unbiased opinion. Ensure that your social media profiles speak to your ability to accomplish the mission you're on. Learn more about how to make your profile purposefully appealing with Forbes's "7 Basic Steps To Optimizing Your Social Media."
3. Connect with and observe influencers who have similar purposes.
You’re not developing a platform in a vacuum. No matter how unique your goals may be, there are likely influential social media users who will agree and identify with at least certain facets of your platform. Think of these influencers as case studies and future mentors, in that order. Do your research, and find those people. Use their profiles and posts to gain a feel for how they operate, so that you can gain more context as to what's made them successful, so that you can excel in your own individual way. By no means should you become a cookie cutter of anyone else, but noticing trends within interest groups will allow you to excel. Additionally, following these influencers allows you the opportunity to study them consistently, and quickly interact with posts of theirs that you genuinely have interest in. Tasteful, genuine interaction can lead to connections over time. Check out Copyblogger's "10 Point Plan For Connecting With Online Influencers (Without Turning Into a Suck-Up)"
4. Develop an individualized posting strategy.
You need to post consistently on social media to build a following and have an impact. That being said, figuring out what to post every day shouldn’t be a constant guessing game. You need to have some systems in place that allow you to efficiently generate content that is a natural extension of your platform. You have plenty of things to do off of social media. Figure out what parts of your story and your purpose you want to convey on each specific platform, and operationalize those facets to allow yourself opportunities to schedule content. Additionally, create a framework that allows you to react to current events and cultural happenings in a way that is consistent with your brand and useful to your followers. If this concept feels new to you, or you need help refining your social strategy, check out "What Is A Social Media Strategy" via Tribal Cafe. When you're ready to dig deeper, dive into "26 Tactics, Tools and Tips to Create A Strong Social Media Strategy" via Social Media Examiner.
5. Use analytics to gauge your strategy’s effectiveness over time.
It’s easy to make a plan based on what you think will work. Implementing a plan that effectively pushes you towards your goals is the hard part - not to mention modifying that plan as the social climate continues to evolve. Are you effectively using proven principles to fit your individual brand and engineer the long term growth and impact that you desire? Don't resign yourself to saying "I think so," based on anecdotal evidence. It's time to dig into the numbers and trends. Consistently taking note of your analytics will allow you to measure those questions objectively. Increased followership is a good gauge of growth, but it’s far from the only important metric that you should evaluate. Look into how much interaction you get on individual posts, and over time you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of what types of posts are most salient, and presumably useful, to your audience. Learn more about the most important ways to gauge social media success by reading "All Of The Social Media Metrics That Matter" via Sprout Social. Lay your plan to track those metrics with "19 Free Social Media Analytics Tools," courtesy of Buffer.
6. Spark discussion.
Saying what you believe on social media is valuable. Selectively talking with specific people who share common interests is also valuable. Another valuable way to spark interaction and generate interest on social media is to generate discussion and interact with a variety of people within those topics. Chances are, you’d benefit from connecting with particular people on social media who you have yet to become aware of. Ask specific, open ended questions that are likely to inspire discussion in order to draw in people outside of your typical audience. You will gain more exposure for your platform, and potentially spark interaction with new people whose goals align with yours. Additionally, sparking discussion on topics that you're experienced and well researched in allows you to conversationally display your expertise while providing utility to people who need your knowledge. Read "Breaking The Ice: How To Start A Converation on Social Media" and get your head in the game.
7. Be easy to find.
If you work hard enough to garner people’s interest regarding a specific cause, you have to make sure you’re not short changing your impact by being hard to find on social media. Ideally, your Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat names will all be the same so that people who enjoy your content on one platform can effortlessly find you on another. You get bonus points if your webite is the same as your username. Additionally, consider if your username is easily memorable when given to someone verbally. Underscores and misspelled words can work at times, but excessive, needless deviations can make your profile more difficult to find. In addition to your username, consider the words in your bio. Does your biography include words that people are likely to search in relation to your purpose, and your field? Carefully researching the right keywords to include in your bio can pay dividends over time. As you refine your profile to fit these specifications, check out "6 Easy Ways To Help People Find You Online" via Social Media Today.
8. Interact with people who share similar interests.
Don’t forget the “social” aspect of social media. It’s a lot easier to build genuine interest around the things you stand for when you display genuine interest in people. Focusing on building community as opposed to simply gaining exposure will lead you to consistently provide more value to more people. People who get value from your social media presence will take a more active interest in your affairs. If you see someone talking about recent accomplishments, don't be afraid to congratulate them and give credit where credit is due. If someone asks a question and you know the deal, don't be afraid to drop knowledge. Meaningful interactions over time add up. Need more thoughts on how to find and build your creative community? Get tips from Braid Creative and Buffer
"Don't forget the 'social' aspect of social media."
9. Gradually establish deeper connections with people outside of social media.
Chances are, you’ve been actively using social media for years. It’s not uncommon to connect with like minded people on social media without meeting them in real life. In fact, it’s possible to connect more deeply with people on social media when convenience isn’t as much of a factor as it can be with location-based friendships. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to meet social media friends in real life, once you’ve properly vetted them and have gained a feel for the compatibility of your interests and personalities. At times, these people can become some of your closest friends and biggest supporters. Be sure to meet with people in a public place until you can trust them, but don’t be afraid to take the first step and reach out. Taking the time to further connect with like minded people can help you to build authentic friendships with people who share your mentality, and the people you allow into your circle are huge indicators of the direction you will move towards in the future. Learn more about "Making Social Media Friends: How To Build New Connections" via Gibbons Digital" and "Can You Make Friends Through Social Media?" via Forbes.
10. Use different types of multimedia.
Different forms of communication will be more salient to different types of people. Mixing up your posting to include picture and video content is great way to continue to capture the attention of a diverse audience. It can also ensure that your message has a more lasting effect. Sharing original picture and video content that is on brand and within your purpose is an excellent way to extend your brand's influence. Even if you lack the time, resources, or skill set to create original picture or video content at the moment, sharing pre existing content to supplement the things you're talking about is also helpful. Make sure you're in the know with "37 Visual Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know In 2016" via HubSpot. Start to refine your plan with "7 Ways To Use Videos To Boost Your Social Media Marketing" via Social Media Examiner.
11. Be consistent with your message.
It's completely fine to talk about different things on social media. You don't have to be relentlessly on topic - in fact, if you only talk about one thing, you may start to lose people's interest overall. That being said, don’t get caught up in the moment and allow yourself to say things that directly detract from or make people question the motives behind your message. Authenticity is a big part of what draws people to particular people and brands, but it’s important to draw the line in regards to which parts of your authentic self you want to share. Integrity is an essential part of building any sort of support behind a noteworthy cause. Those who have unshakeable integrity can still create questionable situations for themselves on social media by making careless comments that can be taken out of context. Talking about random topics conversationally is fine, and a great way to connect and identify with your audience. That being said, the internet is still public. Remember that once you publish something on the internet, it's there forever. Be sure not to post anything that you wouldn’t want an investor or supporter to know about. Duct Tape Marketing offers a great resource in relation to this called "How To Maintain A Consistent Brand Identity Across Social Platforms."
12. Don’t be thirsty for exposure.
Absolutely nothing is wrong with wanting a bigger audience for causes you deem worthwhile. That being said, it’s important to not simply seek exposure for the sake of exposure. The difference between someone who wants to build an audience for a reason and someone who just wants attention is quite telling. People can tell the difference over time, and a lot of people are turned off by the latter. Additionally, simply seeking exposure without focus will not build you the type of audience that will even have interest in the purpose you’re seeking to build upon. Entrepreneur weighs in on this train of thought with "Too Much Social Media Can Drive Away Your Customers."
"If your social media accounts shut down tomorrow, would you have to start over from scratch?"
13. Use social media as a gateway, not a final destination.
So, you’ve grabbed people’s attention on social media. Great. You've made them aware of the purpose of your brand. Awesome. Now what? Social media is an opportunity to gain exposure, raise awareness, and garner support. That being said, once people have interest in you and your cause, it’s important to move past surface deep social media interactions. Do you want to incite large scale action or invite followers to a physical event? Do you want to sell particular products from your website? Are you actively building an e-mail list of your supporters? If your social media accounts were shut down tomorrow, would you have to rebuild your audience entirely from scratch? Keep in mind that social media can be an entry point into making a positive impact, but should not be the final destination. Learn more about how to convert social media followers to product sales with Kissmetrics's "Beginner's Guide To Lead Conversion." More specifically, check out "25 Simple Ways To Grow Your Email Marketing List" via HubSpot.