Growing an Authentic Following
I had a request to share a little bit about how I've established an authentic brand in under a year and more specifically, how I've grown an authentic following in that amount of time.
Let me start by saying that I am not a social media person. Once upon a time, I was all over Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but then I caught myself staging the perfect Instagram of a new tattoo and thought to myself "Surely I did not put this on my body forever for a few likes on social media", promptly deleted all my accounts, and never looked back. I don't hate social media, and I absolutely think it has a cool and unique role in both business and personal relationships, but I do think it is almost always taken out of it's place and put where face-to-face relationships belong.
I have a background in PR and Marketing (ironic to my lack of personal social media, I know), so I knew when I founded Telltale, I'd have to get back in the social world to market myself and my services. With that, the most important thing to me was maintaining boundaries, maintaining who I am as a human being outside of my business, and being real. I believe in being authentic on social media, but I also believe in saving some things for more intimate friendships, so I try to share a little tidbits of real life in my captions, but I will never be the person to write the Jenna Kutcher here-I-am-for-the-world-to-see caption. I respect the heck out of Jenna, but that's just not my thing. All of this to say, setting boundaries and expectations for myself on social media was my first step in growing an authentic following. That might sound so basic, but it's got to come first.
1. Set Boundaries for your Social Media Presence
Will you keep personal and business accounts separate? Combine them? Post daily? Weekly? Will you post separately on each platform or post on one and link them all? Will you respond to comments and DM's? Will you engage with accounts you follow? Will you share personal stories in your captions or just a quick explanation of the post?
From a marketing perspective, engaging with your followers is key to growing an audience. However, I didn't want to be on social media constantly so I decided to plan my posts and check comments and DM's once a day first thing in the morning. I have the paid version of the app Moment which alerts me when I've spent more than 2 hours on my phone per day— you will be blown away at how much you actually stare at your screen.
2. Plan your Feed
For a personal account, I think planning your feed is silly; however, for a business, Instagram especially serves as a portfolio these days. More often than not, potential clients visit my Instagram feed to decide if they even want to visit my website. I estimate that around 70% of my clients come directly from Instagram. I use the app/website Planoly to arrange my feed, write my captions, and include hashtags. The free version lets you upload 30 images per month, but I just upgraded to the paid version because I was too indecisive to only upload 30. It lets you organize hashtags in groups so I have groups for logos, websites, and photography, and let me tell you, relevant hashtags are key. Do research on this. Aim to include at least some hashtags that are below 5K tags so that people can actually stumble across your posts. Thank me later.
3. Vary the types of things you post, but establish some consistent categories.
For example, I post one word vertically on one of my brand colors every 10-20 posts that speaks to something I've been thinking, reading, or learning recently. I also post moodboards, fonts I'm loving and blog graphics frequently. It maintains consistency without all my posts looking exactly the same.
3. Encourage your followers to engage.
If you haven't heard, Instagram recently changed the way posts appear in your feed, prioritizing posts with high engagement rather than the old way of chronologically sorting. The more followers engage with you and with each other (that's the kicker!), the higher your post will appear in your followers feeds. Ask questions, ask for recommendations, ask for personal or funny stories. It actually makes a huge difference.
4. Do a giveaway.
You have to time this one right, because if your account is brand new with only 50 followers, you don't have enough to make it work. However, once you get to 300-500+ followers, a giveaway is one of the best ways you can spread your account and grow your following. Partner with another business, give away your favorite work tools or a gift card to your favorite store, or give away your services in exchange for followers tagging several friends or subscribing to your email list. I doubled my following in a week through a giveaway!
5. Go back to the basics.
Make sure you're set up as a business account, follow back people who follow you (at least temporarily), take advantage of Instagram stories, link your Instagram posts to Facebook, invite your Facebook friends to like your page, the list goes on. A favorite of mine is scrolling through the explore page and reaching out to likeminded accounts! It's bold, but I've made many friends and booked several clients this way!
What are your best tips for growing an authentic following? I'd love to know your faves in the comments below!