Imagine this: You are invited to a gathering of mostly strangers. You put on a t-shirt and hat with your company’s logo on them. You walk into this room full of strangers and start handing out business cards to everyone. If anyone talks to you, your response is something like, “I own the Acme Anvil company, you should buy one.” When that doesn’t work, you try to ride the coattails of an influencer: “Wile E. Coyote is one of my biggest customers. You really should buy one.”
By the end of the evening, you are standing in a corner, alone, wondering what everyone’s deal is. Not only have you not sold a single anvil, you see the trash can is full of your business cards and no one will look you in the eye, much less talk to you. What went wrong?
You were an asshole. That’s what went wrong.
Now, think back to the last cocktail party you went to where you came away either buying something from a stranger, or at least, beginning a business relationship with them. How did that happen? It probably went something like this.
The stranger approached you and broke the ice with some innocuous small talk. Then, once you were engaged in a conversation, they started asking about you and your family. What do you do? What do you like to do? That sort of thing. By the end of the conversation, several things happened.
They knew more about you than you knew about them. The foremost thing you knew about them was the product or service they sold. You were now somewhere on the spectrum of their prospect pipeline. Maybe you placed an order. Maybe you committed to a future meeting. Maybe you just took one of their business cards and promised to pass it along to friends and family.
What was different about this person and the one we started with?
They weren’t an asshole, that’s what was different.
So, there you have it. The entire simple trick to growing social media followers: don’t be an asshole.
You could probably stop reading now, but I wish you wouldn’t. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten to know each other yet. So, if you wouldn’t mind hanging around a few more minutes, that would be great.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever. They all have distinct styles and customs, but in one thing they are the same: to get, give. If you just pop in trying to sell something, or post nothing but links back to your content, you will not only not gain followers, you will find yourself, blocked, muted, unfollowed, or worse, gulp, unfriended.
And nobody wants to be unfriended.
Treat social media platforms like that person at the cocktail party. Walk in, introduce yourself, and start talking to people. On Twitter, remember to keep it short. On LinkedIn, keep it businesslike and professional. On Instagram or Pinterest, include an image of some type. On Facebook… who knows? It’s Facebook.
Just don’t be an asshole.
Think of everyone you have ever blocked or unfriended. What did they do to cause that action? Maybe they said something to offend you. More likely, they tried to sell you something. Over and over and over.
They were assholes, so you dropped them like that classmate from high school that went into the life insurance business.
If you want to meet people quickly at that party, what would you do? Stand on a chair and start yelling? No, you find the person in the middle of a crowd. You hang on the edge of the group and when the moment presents itself, you interject yourself into the conversation. That person is an influencer. He has a lot of followers.
And just maybe, because of what you said, you pick up some of his followers. Or better yet, that person follows you and the next time he has a crowd gathered, mentions your name. Then his followers become your followers. See how this works?
The next time you are on social media, resist the urge to post something new. Scroll down, skimming posts until something catches your eye. Someone makes a comment that interests you or reminds you of something. Stop and say hello. Click on their post and make a comment. Don’t post a link, don’t try to sell, just leave a friendly and relevant reply. Then move on to the next one. If someone asks a question you know the answer to, answer it. If someone is interested in a topic that you have expertise in, stop and chat for a post or two.
And here’s the kicker.
If someone asks about the exact service or product you are trying to sell, reply with some helpful advice, but don’t post a link or try to sell them anything.
If they engage with you, then you not only have a contact, but probably a follower, and hopefully, a future client. That’s when you give them your contact info or post a link back to your site or blog.
Here are two of my experiences with Reddit. If you aren’t on Reddit, you should be. There are many people there discussing almost anything. It also has the advantage of being able to hone your focus to specific subjects.
On one sub-Reddit (what they call their communities), I jumped into a thread and said, “Here’s a link. Take a look.”
I got banned for life. Being banned for life is not a pleasurable thing. I felt like Abbot and Costello in the French Foreign Legion.
On two more subs, I engaged with the group for a bit and joined a couple of conversations. Later, I interjected with a post that mentioned I had some experience, and here’s a free article you can read if you are interested. I also offered to help anyone or answer any questions anyone had on the subjects.
They became my first and seventh most-read articles. Neither was in a publication or curated.
I will leave you with one last example, this one on Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter for 12 years, a lifetime in social media. Over the years, my number of followers slowly grew to somewhere in the low 400s.
About two months ago, I read an article that said pretty much what I am saying here, just not as eloquently. I wish I remember who it was, but I don’t. But the point is, I started putting these things into practice. All of my social media engagements went up, but Twitter is the easiest in which to engage, find influencers, and get traction. In those two months, I have gotten almost 300 followers. No magic or apps or complex strategies. Just one simple trick.
I stopped being an asshole.
Well, that’s probably not true, but I stopped being an asshole on social media.
Most of the time.
If you want to grow your social media accounts and followers, just be social with your media.