The benefits of an extensive social reach are clear, but how do you attract the right followers for your company? As with most inbound marketing, relevancy can make or break the effectiveness of your strategy. So to ensure you have a social media following that helps you advance your marketing objectives, start by identifying a set of core topics that reflect the interests of people who typically become your customers.
If you're a HubSpot customer, you can use the Keywords App and the Social Media Prospects App to help with this. For example, we at HubSpot would choose the terms inbound marketing , social media , marketing automation , and so on to help identify the most appropriate followers. Getting your keywords right from the onset will make it significantly easier to find the most productive connections across social media sites. From there, it's just a matter of navigating your way through each social network . To make your job easier, let's break down what to look for on the four major social networks: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Finding the Right Connections on Google+
When you first sign up, Google+ automatically scans your existing connections to see if any of them are using Google+ and invites you to connect with them by placing them in one of your Google+ Circles. While this isn't a bad way to make sure you’re staying engaged with your current audience, it doesn’t really expand your reach or introduce you to new people. To do that, you'll need to submit your keywords for a more detailed Google+ search.
Top Influencers: You can find and search a list of top influencers through SocialStatistics.com's Google+ statistics . Narrow down the top influencers by location -- a feature that is particularly useful for local businesses. For example, a local business in our neck of the woods could narrow down their search to the top Google+ users in Boston .
Targeted Connections: Following top influencers alone, however, may not extend your reach very much, since top users often get too many requests to reciprocate. To achieve a broader reach, use Google+ search with the keywords you established to find other individuals who are interested in the things that matter to your company. HINT: When using Google+ search, you can get even more specific by enclosing terms in quotes -- like "market research" -- or excluding terms with a minus sign -- like “market research” –stocks.
Keyword-Driven Circles: When you find people discussing your keywords, selectively add them to your Circles. Think about naming Circles based on the shared interest area so your overlapping focus area is clear. To keep new connections engaged, just add a "+" or "@" in front of their name to tag them in a future post.
Finding the Right Connections on LinkedIn
Some people conduct a people search in LinkedIn for job titles, but this often casts too large a net for productive connections. Instead, try using the keywords you’ve identified to help you find connections through some of the subgroups and topic threads on LinkedIn.
Groups and Answers : LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Answers both provide great opportunities to find the right connections for your business. You don't need to start a group to get the full benefit of LinkedIn Groups; in fact, you should start out by searching for and joining groups that are relevant to your business, and then connecting with group contributors. You can use the same approach with LinkedIn Answers. Connect with people who are already talking about your core topics, and pose your own questions and connect with the respondents. The trick to making connections on LinkedIn is to avoid cold connections. Make sure you contribute to the group or comment on an Answers post before trying to connect with the individual who placed it.
NEW! Connect via Skills & Expertise : In beta right now, LinkedIn has a new tool called Skills & Expertise that enables you to search for individuals and companies based on the skills and interests they list. Let's say you want to connect with people who are interested in market research or have a background in it. You can search LinkedIn Skills & Expertise to find groups, companies, and individuals associated with that topic.
Finding the Right Connections on Twitter
Top Influencers: Much like Google+, it's fairly easy to find top influencers for a given topic on Twitter. You can find them by taking a look at Twitter's recommended lists of who to follow for the topics you've selected, or by searching Tweet Grader's Twitter Elite or Klout for top users. Again, remember to balance these "top tweeters" with more targeted tweeters who match your interests, despite their audience size.
Targeted Connections: Once you get past the big influencers in your space, take a look at the lists of people who follow them. Or, search Twitter for mentions of your keywords and follow individuals who talk about those topics frequently. Sometimes connections with lower follower rates can actually be better influencers for your company, particularly if they display a meaningful connection to your company and will become enthusiastic brand advocates online.
Beware of Auto-Follows: There are a lot of third-party Twitter applications that promise to rapidly scale up your followers by auto-following. Not only does Twitter actively discourage and remove you from search results when you use these apps, but this type of automation is also not a productive practice for your company either. Don't get mixed up with followers that use these applications.
Finding the Right Connections on Facebook
Making brand new connections on Facebook can be a little bit trickier because it doesn't have the culture of business networking that LinkedIn does, nor does it have the non-reciprocal follow expectations as Twitter and Google+. S till, there are a couple of good tactics for making relevant connections to your Facebook business page.
Leverage Your Existing Fans: Whether you start off with 12 fans or 200, it's worth engaging your existing fans in the effort to grow your page's reach. Give your fans content that is worth sharing; as each successive fan shares your content, your page's exposure will grow. A referral from a friend can be far more effective and targeted than any other outreach you do on your own.
Facebook Ads: If you've determined that Facebook is the right channel for your company and you have the budget to put toward paid promotion, you can use Facebook's advertising center to zero in on the right audience and promote your page. If you're promoting a page, target your ad to a very specific segment of viewers and ask them to Like your page right in the ad. For more on this, take a look at HubSpot' free ebook on getting Facebook advertising right .
Use the Right Incentives: Holding a sexy giveaway promotion may get you a lot of Likes, but it may not be the right types of people doing the Liking. Facebook page incentives can come in many forms; make sure you're deploying one that reflects the interests of your core audience. For example, if your company builds custom closets, you may want to give away a tip sheet on getting organized to anyone who likes your page. HINT: HubSpot customers should check out the Facebook Welcome App , an add-on tool that helps you set up incentives like these on your page.
Doing This All in a Scalable Way
When you're first getting started, growing your social media community can seem like a daunting task. The best way to tackle it is to dedicate ten minutes a day -- no more, no less -- to finding people online that would add value to your community and, in turn, get value from connecting with you.
Set small goals. Aim to add ten new followers to your networks a day and keep them engaged by scheduling interesting posts throughout the week. HubSpot users should take a look at the new Social Media Publishing App to streamline this even further.
Finally, use analytics to keep track of how your efforts are affecting your reach, website traffic, and lead totals so you can adjust your efforts accordingly. In the end, social media outreach isn't all that different than making connections in the real world; be friendly, persistent, and intentional.
How do you choose who to follow on your company's social media accounts?
Photo by: Luc Legay
Originally published Feb 8, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017