As a growing brand, you may be wondering how to grow your social media followers to a degree that matches your ambition for your brand. You know that what you have to offer is valuable, and there could be— should be— a dynamic online community of people following your work on social media. As you think about growing your social media audience, lean into a new mindset: you aren’t creating content about your brand or how great your offering is. You are creating content for your followers and, more importantly, for their followers.
There’s a powerful litmus test that you can use any time you are preparing content for social media: is it shareable?
Any time you are drafting a tweet, polishing a Facebook update, writing a blog post, or adding a filter to a post on Instagram, ask yourself, “Why would someone share this?” Ultimately, the purpose of social media marketing is not to tell the world how great your brand is or how useful your product or service is. That’s what print ads or website copy are for; when you are explicitly selling. The purpose of social media is to reach people and generate interest. You do that by creating content that is easily shareable.
Creating high-quality social media content that people want to share requires you to adopt a relationship marketing mindset as you plan your social media strategy. Your content should be about creating personal relationships with your current and prospective customers, speaking to them directly, and inspiring them to share information about your offerings with the people they know. They’ll want to do this because what you’re creating is so useful and well done.
Often, when people are wondering how to build their social media followings or how to become a micro-influencer, they feel inclined to overuse trending hashtags or to tag popular accounts (in the hopes that larger accounts will share to their own audiences) to increase the number of eyeballs on their posts. This approach isn’t the best use of time or effort. A sounder strategy is to create really, really good content that your followers will feel called to share with their own followers: they’ll do the work for you. Again, this is where we see overlap between social media strategy and relationship marketing: invest energy in the people who love your work, create personalized content for them, and they’ll do the legwork of sharing the positive gospel with more qualified customers just like them.
The core of this strategy, and this upward spiral of growing social media followers, is to pause when you are working on each and every piece of content, and ask, “Is this shareable?” Pause and get specific: why would someone share this?
As you are drafting your social media content, here are some suggested thought starters to use to examine each and every post you plan to publish:
“Would the person reading this feel that they would be increasing their social capital or doing their followers a service by sharing this content?”
“Would the person reading this be inclined to stop mid-scroll and really consider what they’ve just read?”
“Is what I am writing novel in a way that a thought leader in my industry would re-tweet this tweet, to get his or her own followers thinking in a new way about our shared area of expertise? “
“Does what I’ve posted add to the conversation?”
“Is my caption sufficiently compelling that when someone shared my post to their stories, they would take the time to add text to their story— ‘Read the caption’— because their followers would find what I wrote really interesting?”
“Is my blog post or latest newsletter so helpful that someone would read it and immediately start thinking of the people they’d want to forward it to, because it is so useful?”
“Does this content inspire someone to leave a comment? Can I strengthen someone’s connection with my brand by creating a space for them to share their story or their perspective on this post?”
When using community-driven platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Substack, or LinkedIn, lead with whether your post inspires people to share their own story. Would someone read your post and feel so seen that they take a few minutes—maybe longer—out of their day to comment with their own experience or perspective? Would they return to the original post throughout the day to see how others have reacted to their perspective or to engage with other followers?
While this is a separate topic entirely, if your social media content creates the opportunity for community and connection in the comments, there is a possibility that your followers will become “mutuals” with one another. “Mutuals” are online friends who typically keep in touch via DM, exchanging content related to their shared interests and developing a relationship over time. Some mutuals move the conversation over to text message or email and make plans to meet in real life, but most mutuals have intensely meaningful, personal relationships that exist entirely in their direct messages folder). When people make meaningful relationships through the online community that you’ve created through your social media content, this creates a level of brand loyalty that the world’s most extravagant Google Ad spend simply could not achieve.
But, before your social media properties can become online hubs for human connection, scale back somewhat: when you’re posting anything, ask yourself each and every time, “Is this shareable?”