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How to gain social media followers


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Growing your brands Social following

OK, let me just start this post off by dismissing any concerns that you may have about me thinking followers are the most important measure for your social. Put simply it isn’t. But whilst we all outwardly say your followers, likes friends etc aren’t important, there is that element of vanity that means we all pay attention.

How to gain social media followers

How to gain social media followers

When looking at these numbers in context of a brand, there are genuine reasons why you need to consider follower numbers, but again, don’t make it your only focus.  A good example of this was when I first joined N Brown Group. We had a focus on growing Social Media for Simply Be in the US to enable us to generate organic traffic, buzz and awareness.  However the follower count on Instagram was very low (low double digit thousands).  This prevented people taking us seriously in the social space and caused a restricted engagement level from our audience.

We set a target of 100k Instagram followers to enable us to look credible to the audience, which in turn would improve engagement and drive organic KPIs.  Whilst I won’t go in to the specifics of what we did, the following tips on how to grow your social following will give some clues.

We hit our 100k Instagram target on SBE USA instagram

We hit our 100k Instagram target on SBE USA instagram

1. Be part of and lead conversations

The most important part of any social media approach is to be part of the conversations that your audience are interested and engaged in. Be relevant.  The days of brands not following and not engaging with their community are over.

You need to know who your audience is. Don’t deviate from that to chase followers. Be credible and relevant to those people and they will share, which should gain you more followers

Obviously there are some hygiene factors that you also need to ensure are in place:

  • Complete profile – make it interesting, provide as much info as concisely as possible and add links if relevant – this is your opportunity to convince the doubtful viewer
  • Whilst ensuring your content is always relevant is the first rule, but don’t forget to use keywords you want to be known for, hashtags etc
  • Make sure your feed is valuable and varied. Depending on the platform, sharing relevant posts is a good way to be part of the larger conversation but also allows you to tap in to other audiences.

2. Be active and engaged

Slightly linking to the previous point. People are often looking at how their numbers are perceived and from a very basic level, they do clean up the accounts that they follow. Make sure you aren’t one of the accounts they put on their consideration list to be unfollowed.

Test posting frequencies and test what content works well and when.  Comment on other relevant accounts post. Communicate with your audience, seek out others and communicate with them.

For others to consider engaging with you, make sure you are present on your target platforms. Make your account worth following.

Now the counter to this is, don’t overdo it. You can become a pest, post too much and cause people to unfollow you as well. Testing is key.

3. Always Listen

Its important to always listen to your customers

Its important to always listen to your customers

Both points up to now have been more about your behaviour and what you post. But equally important is how you respond to your audience.

Now the obvious thing to mention here is genuinely listen to your followers, its surprising how many brands don’t read or respond to comments.  You should also have a means to track sentiment to your brand and understand the feelings and perception to your brand that may not necessarily be directly posted to your platforms.

You can adapt your content strategy to help build on positive views or to address any negative perceptions.

A potentially less obvious point is look at how your followers are responding to the content you post.  If they continually speak with their feet by not engaging, their could be something wrong with what you are producing.  If they respond to a certain type, don’t just think you have the winning formula, but obviously look to see how you can expand on that theme. Don’t become a one trick pony though.

Remember, there is no shame in posting something and if it gets no engagement, take it down.  Its not interesting to your audience so it doesn’t deserve a place on your feed.  Even if it looks beautiful and you have spent time and money on the content, if your audience doesn’t like it, why is it there?

4. Build networks not just followings

Going right back to the start of this post, you shouldn’t just focus on the number of followers you have. You should be building a genuine network or community. Do this by seeking out relevant people in your network that you should be associated with. Sometimes this could simply be the accounts or people you follow. Don’t be tempted to just follow accounts with large follower base, follow relevant people, interesting people, people that you may want to share content from or engage with

Have a reason to be followed and reason why people would want to be part of your network. Could you post other accounts content on your platforms, share the audience reach and increase your follower base and that of the other account.

Its not just about influencers. Yes influencers are the new celebrities and depending on your sector, they can play an amazingly important role. But consider other brands, consider events, consider your customers. Bring those in that can enhance your network and get them active.

5. Have a point of view

Most importantly your platforms need to stand for something. It might be stunning creative. It might be a cheeky edge. It might even be deliberately controversial. Whatever your point of view you need to have one. Who wants to follow a vanilla account?

6. Hashtags

Use relevant hashtags

Use relevant hashtags

On some platforms (at the time of writing) hashtags are still useful. At this stage primarily Twitter and Instagram.

  • Don’t overdo the hashtag use though as it can make posts look desperate or unprofessional
  • Be careful on the hashtags you use. Research them before you post. Make sure the content is right to be seen next to your brand
  • Make them relevant to the content. Its easy to jump on trending topics and you might gain some short-term followers, but why would you want them if they aren’t relevant and why would they hang around if the hashtag or content posted isn’t what you are about

7. Don’t forget the traditional

Now this is an obvious one. But most brands have other marketing channels that they use.  Take the opportunity to include your focus social channels on all other channels.  Don’t forget printed material. Don’t forget outdoor. Don’t forget TV. Your site and emails are key. But if you move goods around the country, use your vehicles, receipts, delivery notes etc

If you can round all of this up with one campaign theme that lends itself to social then you are on to a winner.

The campaign idea #WeAreUs that me and the team came up with when I was at boohoo was a classic example of this. It put social at the heart of everything we were doing and also created a movement that our customers and target customers wanted to be part of.  It was such a success the #WeAre idea was adopted by many and is still in use.  That in itself is a fantastic endorsement of what we did.

Summary

Remember, followers numbers should not be the be all and end all of your social objectives. Whilst it is often frowned upon, depending on where you are in your evolution, it is a valid KPI as long as its in conjunction with other KPIs, for example engagement.

Know why you want to increase followers and what you hope that will deliver. Have a target in mind and be as obsessed with that target as you would with others, but again not in isolation.

Above all, recognise it as a little bit of vanity and put it in context against your other objectives.

Finally, be aware of fake followers as they won’t last and don’t be tempted to buy followers.  You really don’t want bots or accounts that just repost or follow paying platforms in your base.

Hopefully these tups are of interest and help. I would love to know the views of my readers so feel free to add in the comments or of course, tweet me on Twitter

Finally, don’t get obsessed with it all. Watch this video by DitchTheLabel to see what taking your social life too seriously can do

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder


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Young Entrepreneurs

We all hear about the younger people out there innovating and becoming genuine entrepreneurs. In my recent career I have been lucky enough to meet some of these people.

When I meet somebody who is young(er) and has amazing talent, I try to help and support.  Whilst this may sound altruistic in nature, the truth of it is, I believe we are all always learning. I learn and develop my knowledge and approach by speaking to them.

So I will highlight, on an ad-hoc basis some of these great business people I ave personally come across. The only rules. I have to think they are great and under 30.

First off, and I haven’t asked him, so I hope he doesn’t mind.

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

Steve Bartlett Social Chain CEO and founder

  1. Steven Bartlett (CEO and Founder) Social Chain

I first met Steven when I invited him to come in and speak to me at boohoo. This was off the back of a Youth Marketing contract he spoke at (and I was meant to be speaking at).  The issue that we wanted Social Chain’s help with? Well effectively to help magnify what was already a strong social media presence.

We needed to grow a global audience, but ensure that that audience was fully engaged.

Steven was refreshing in that like other “agencies” he came in with a deck. The difference though was he was reacting to the conversation, rather than just slavlishly going through the deck. He was pulling insight from tools, showing examples and coming up with ideas on the fly.

This was different and exactly how we ran at boohoo. A good plan, but always able to move as things change, a real agile way of working.

We gave Steven and Social Chain a trial, which was hard to explain, given we were already one of the most engaged social brands in the UK. But his passion was infectious and his ideas were new.

Needless to say, the proof was definitely in the pudding and Steven along with his Social Chain team fully delivered to expectations.

I also took Social Chain to my role at N Brown where the backdrop was completely different. We were operating in a smaller sector with an unknown brand in the US. With a tiny 15-20k Instagram followers for SimplyBe and nobody engaging, we had an issue.

Using different techniques and really working with me and my team, we came up with  strategy and series of activities that led to us driving 100k Instagram followers for SimlyBe in the US in around 6-8 months. Overtaking the UK account.

Social Chain Environment

Social Chain Environment

Now, you could argue the Social Chain team are the ones doing all of the work. To be fair, Steven is one of the nicest and most humble professionals I have ever met and he would probably say the same. But his team and his business operate in his mould. They are hard working. The are passionate about what they do. They are all hungry for results. But they all act in a professional yet down to earth and friendly way.

Looking around their Manchester office, where it all started, albeit in a much smaller way.  Steven’s personality and vision plays a central role. From the huge slide dominating the main office, to the working/sleeping pods, this is no normal place to work.

If you need to get to grips with your social media and aren’t afraid to try new things, get hold of Steven, I promise you will not regret it.

Sorry Steven, I should have asked first, but I didn’t.

Oh and one final thing, he likes a nice hat

Social Media Icons on a mobile


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Social Media – Beyond the Numbers Game

For too long, when brands have looked at their social media strategy they have been obsessed over their Facebook fan numbers or likes.  This is in part to prove their investment is worthwhile to their management teams or boards.  The other component to the equation is that of bragging rights.  I have sat in many meetings as an independent and heard many organisations talking Facebook and Instagram likes, albeit (I hope) by the way of banter, but it still adds weight to the value brands place on this as a measure of success.

Social Media Icons on a mobile

Social Media – Beyond the numbers

The key to social media success isn’t how many people like your page or posts.  A better success measure is how entrenched your social media activity becomes in your audiences every day life.  That may be through sharing, return visits, recommending or generating conversation.  For me social media can offer so much to both customers and brands, in fact the media half of the term is a little bit of a red herring.  Social Media is another digital channel, just as websites were when the web first gained momentum.

Of course, it isn’t just likes people talk about. A large number of brands will still obsessing over the number of fans, followers, friends or likers they have, now understand that they need people to interact.  With this in mind, they have started to measure what they deem engagement.  The standard ways most brands look at engagement is how many times a pic on Instagram has been liked.  How many retweets their post has had or how many shares their Facebook post has received.  All of which is interesting, but in essence, its not really engagement.  How many of us have personally, or have observed people just double tapping the insta post, without really reading or viewing the content properly.

For me, engagement isn’t even just about the buzz or sentiment we measure. It is about the genuine affinity our customers or social crowd feel towards us and/or their likelihood to recommend us.  This really can’t be measured through standard social metrics.  However, if we really do have a highly engaged Facebook page (for instance) then it goes without saying these people should eulogise about us, at least our content and hopefully also our brand.  With this in mind, our followings should increase on an organic basis.  So engagement in isolation isn’t enough.

However the crux of all of this text is, we need to start thinking beyond the numbers.  We need to care about them as we are targeted on them and often its what investment decisions are made of. But, we as profession, Marketing Professionals are increasingly worried about making marketing decisions without reams of data to support us.

Some things we need to do to help us grow, to accelerate growth is to make decisions that have no or little data.  If we only look back at data on what has happened, or compare ourselves to the success or failures of our peers we are instantly constraining our thinking and our ability to innovate.

If you as marketing people know your audience well enough, you should succeed.  If you as marketing professionals speak to your audience, they can help you succeed. If you as marketing professionals allow your audience to collaborate with you and help produce content, you will get what they want and they feel bought in. In theory that should bring even more success and a feeling from content providers they are part of your brand.

Remember one key thing for your social channels. Be credible.

Produce content that your audience will want to see. Engage and communicate with your audience to understand what they want. Work with your audience and they can help you produce what they want. With this in mind, I think we can look beyond the numbers of social media and produce better content, have better engagement and ultimately drive the numbers after all.

Love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to challenge, critique argue or endorse by adding comments here or by tweeting my @richclarkmktg