How to Build a Social Media Following When You Have No Budget

I’m often tasked with growing a social media audience, from the ground up, with no budget. Sound familiar? If you find yourself in this situation, whether you’re a small business owner, a social media manager, a community manager or working for a non-profit, here are a few things you can do to get your social proof off and running.

Complete Your Profile

Twitter Egg
No one trusts this guy!

This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many business accounts I see that have been tweeting, posting, liking and following for some time and still have an unbranded profile. Please, hatch from your egg. Having a complete profile is the first signal to potential audience members that you are legitimate. A complete profile includes your background image, your profile picture, your cover photo, your bio, your location, hours – all of it. AND it means adding a few posts to your timeline, even though I understand you aren’t talking to anyone yet. By adding posts to your timeline first you’re showing potential followers what kind of content they can expect from you and the kind of voice you’ll be using.  Here’s a cheat sheet for all those profile image assets and their sizes, in case you want to take a stab at designing your own.

Leverage your Friends

While they may not be your target audience, asking your friends to follow your new account is really the best way to get started with a following.  Your business social media account has so social capital, but YOU do. Your friends will get behind your effort and help give you the social proof you need. So use Facebook’s “invite friends” feature, or send an email asking everyone to follow your Twitter account. Don’t make them search for it either – provide the link in your email.

Leverage your Company

Who are your best brand ambassadors? Employees. They are the ones cheering for your success and the ones that understand the brand messaging. Send a company wide email asking everyone to follow your new account. Tell them what the strategy is, how they can help, what the target audience is and what you plan to share. Then give them easy ways to connect and share.

Mention People

This is for Twitter especially. As you begin to gain followers make sure to @mention them in a few tweets, especially if you can tie content you’re posting to their interests. Talk to them directly.  Demonstrate that you don’t plan to use the channel as a broadcast medium, but as a way to engage and have fun with your brand. Pay attention to people and they’ll return the favor.  For example, because of my father’s legacy of puns, I like to make a pun around my new followers. So, if a furniture company follows me I might tweet “I’m sitting pretty with @furniturecompany as my new follower. #puns” It’s cheesy, but it gets their attention. AND it’s real because it’s me.

Post Quality Content in Your Niche

Even if you’re not producing content of your own yet (but you do plan to start a blog, right?) you can curate content in your niche as a way to get started. People follow an account because they want to get something out of it.  By sticking to your message, keeping your posts on brand and becoming a trusted resource for a specific type of content, you’ll grow an organic following.

Use Hashtags

Now that hashtags have come to Facebook more people are gaining an understand of how they are used.  While the jury is still out on how effective Facebook hashtags are, they are still amazingly effective on Twitter and Instagram.  Use hashtags to spread your message to a wider audience. This is simple advice I know, but it still works.

How do you grow a following with no budget? Tell me your success stories here! And, please, follow me on Twitter @suereynolds – I promise I’ll welcome you with one of Dad’s puns.

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