How to Grow Your Social Media Following

In social media’s early days—back when brands first began getting serious about building their followings—the thinking went like this: Avid social media users were eager to follow brands solely for the purpose of aligning themselves with that brand’s identity. Essentially, if you cultivated an exclusive-feeling brand via a series of ultraslick posts, followers would flock.

Maybe that tactic worked for a time. But the recent ­Millennial Shopping Report, published by popular coupon website CouponFollow, found that consumers no longer follow companies simply to join their branded tribe.

Just 7 percent of the 1,000-plus millennial-age respondents said they follow brands to “participate in an online community.” By contrast, a whopping 79 percent said they follow to find deals and save money.

But if deals and discounts were the only motivators, Tiffany & Co. and Red Bull—just two big brands that don’t discount—wouldn’t have ­Instagram followers in the multimillions.

What other factors tempt users to hit the “Follow” button? We asked Warren K. Carlyle IV, a social media strategist who specializes in helping brands grow their following on Instagram, to share some key insights.

Native Content

Content that’s native to any given site will always attract more followers. So if you post a video, be sure it’s the right slice of video for the platform—in looks, length, and tone. Carlyle says he’s never surprised to see brands falter when they pull their content from other sites: “They’ll write in a post, ‘Click the link in our bio to watch the rest of the clip’—which truly means, ‘We didn’t optimize this video for Instagram.’ ”

Engaging Education

How-to posts that show users how to style a piece of jewelry, for example, incentivize users to join the social party because “they want to know exactly how they’d use your product or service,” says Carlyle. “Brands that make customers feel as if they are missing out on all the fun by not having something are always [tempting] to follow.”

Inside Information

Social users also generally love behind-the-scenes content, he says, because “sharing the process of everyday business life makes them feel connected.” That connection, forged through the process of curating and posting unique insider content, can lead to heightened brand recognition and user engagement.

Strategic Reposts

Reposting content that looks great and raves about your products is always good business, says Carlyle, adding that the practice not only helps build a following but also adds to your reputation. “Over 70 percent of customers trust customer testimonials over professionally written content,” he says. “People want social proof that others are benefiting before they purchase.”

(Photo: Eva-Katalin/Getty)

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