Monday, April 18, 2011

Follow Me! Follow Me! Please, Follow Me...

We all want followers.  After all, the value of our social currency is often based on the "likes," fans, or followers we have.  The perception is, the more we have, the more we're worth.  I believe that's a false perception and I've already written about the concept that influence is far more than the raw number of followers that you have.

What is the point of having 50,000 followers on Twitter or Facebook when your business may actually rely on 10,000 unique customers, or fewer, during a year's time that keep you operating?

I've watched as businesses launched social media campaigns by attempting to build large followings right from the start.  They woo followers by offering to enter them into drawings for iPads, Visa gift cards, and other high value prizes if they will just follow them.  I've seen these businesses go from 0 to 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000 followers in a matter of days or weeks by offering these kinds of enticements.

But, I've also watched these businesses lose hundreds or even thousands of followers shortly thereafter.

Why?

An iPad is a hot commodity.  People want one.  Doing nothing more than clicking a "like" or "follow" button for a chance to win one is a minimal commitment with a low investment for the possibility of a high payoff. A business can gain a lot of fans by taking this approach.

But, who are those followers?  Are they customers of the business?  If they aren't already a customer, will they become a customer?  Do they want, need or use your product or service?

Odds are, many of these new followers don't care about the business, your product or your services.  Which means, they have no compelling reason to continue following you once the iPad has been given away.  Many will "unlike" or "unfollow" you.  Others may not bother to take the time to do that- they'll just ignore your updates.  You may have given that iPad to someone who took it and ran and will never return.  And, how many followers will they have gained that are interested in their business beyond the giveaway?

Having 500 dedicated, engaged followers is far more valuable than having 5,000 followers who are only there for the prizes.

So, how can you build a dedicated engaged following?

First, you can jumpstart the process with prizes for following, but realize that building a truly dedicated following, true fans, takes time and effort and more than just gimmicks and giveaways.  Be reasonable.  Prizes don't have to be expensive.  Give away a product or service you sell.  If you sell clothing, have a drawing for a t-shirt, or if you operate a heating and cooling service, give away a free duct cleaning.  A $10 gift card to your store will not attract 10,000 followers, but it will attract people more likely to be your customers than a $500 Visa gift card.  Focus on things that would be of interest to customers and potential customers.

Next, focus on current customers.  Do you send out a physical or email newsletter?  Postcards?  Coupons?  Do you have a website?  Attach social media links and logos to all these marketing efforts.   Can you program your cash register to print the social media info on your receipts?  If you have a retail store, inform your current customers throughout the store you are on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Build with what you have, not what you wish you had.

Finally, offer value in your social media output.  Give information, share knowledge, and be a resource.  Be a place where your customers can find valuable, unique, or entertaining information that relates directly or indirectly to the products or services you sell.  Being a resource, rather than constantly advertise will draw people into your conversations and raise their awareness of your business when they need what you provide.  Social media is high tech word of mouth and your current customers can be your best asset in gaining new customers.

Followers are vital to your social media engagement efforts, but the right followers are critical to turning that effort into return on investment.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Drew,

    You touch on a lot of points about social media that can't be said enough. The most important may be that numbers don't matter if you're not building a meaningful relationship with customers. It's sad how quickly people forget that.

    Thanks for posting,
    Alex

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