This guest post is by Shari Lopatin of www.sharilopatin.com.
I had a writer friend tell me the other day I have the best social network she’s ever seen.
“What?” I asked, shocked. After all, I only have about 380 Twitter followers (I follow 200-something). “You should check out these people instead,” I offered, with three other usernames. “They have way more followers than me.”
But she persisted. “They may have more followers, but your network is much more engaged.”
So many people think the more followers you have, whether on Facebook or Twitter or your blog, the better. But numbers aren’t what counts. Who cares if you have 20,000 followers, when no one pays attention to your posts?
Six tips to engage your networks
Whether you’re selling a product, a service, or even your writing, you want people to care.
The key is to build loyalty. My writer friend discovered the loyal nature of my network when I tweeted a question for her. She immediately began receiving tons of responses. What does that mean?
My followers are listening to me—and taking action.
Your social networks will eventually convert into (loyal) blog followers. I’ve had many blog subscribers discover me on Twitter. But just how do you get people to care? Well…
1. Reach out
Twitter is abuzz with tons of professionals looking to connect. Use Twitter’s “search” feature to type in keywords related to your business. For example, if you’re a writer, search “writing.” Begin following people tweeting about this topic, and see who follows you back. Then study their Twitter profiles.
What’s their follower/following ratio? Do they seem engaged with their network? If so, take it a step further. Visit their blog. Comment on their posts. Reply to their tweets, and maybe even fan them on Facebook. Then, direct message them on Twitter (or email them through their site) and invite them to guest post for your blog about their expertise. This will develop a trusting relationship with people who have the ability to influence their networks for your site.
2. Promote others
This can be done on Facebook, on Twitter, and even on your own blog. Let’s say you’re a lawyer, looking to build your expert status. Follow the steps in #1 to find other influential lawyers who offer great advice. Then, tweet a link to their site or blog post (i.e. “Great advice on handling angry bankruptcy clients from @joesmithlaw, www.joesmithlaw.com/bankruptcy”). Do the same on Facebook.
This does two things: first, it lets your followers know you’re not selfish, and you’re out to educate them (which builds trust). Second, people feel flattered you thought their work relevant enough to share, and they’ll most likely return the favor.
Everyone knows you should always answer questions posted to your Facebook page. But let’s take this a step further. Maybe you’re a media consultant. So use Twitter’s search feature to type in keywords like “blog.” From there, seek out general questions you can answer (i.e. “Anyone know how to connect my WordPress blog to Twitter?”). @Reply, and answer it! Maybe even follow the person.
If someone you follow poses a general question in your newsfeed, answer it, too. People want to be heard, and you can gain new (loyal) followers this way.
4. Ask questions
People love talking about their thoughts and opinions. For example, on my blog, I always ask a question at the end of my posts. For a recent topic, I wrote about, “Kindles: Writer’s Best Friend, or Worst Enemy?” Rather than just finishing with my thoughts, I asked my readers, “What do you think? Are Kindles securing our relevancy as writers, or helping to kill our profession and demand?” That generated 24 comments. You can also pose questions on your Facebook page related to your business, and watch the responses pour in.
This one is my favorite, and one of the most under-utilized, strategies. I recommend it all the time. When another expert guests for your blog, have them cross-promote to their networks. Ask them to run a blog post driving traffic to your site the day their article runs. Have them promote it on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+. And you do the same.
On average, I’ve seen this technique double the traffic to a website in one day. Plus, if you partner with someone influential, new visitors will be more likely to subscribe to your blog, follow you on another social network, and best of all … engage with you moving forward!
6. Be real
Don’t sound like a product or corporation. No one wants to interact with a brand (unless you’re Coca Cola or Nike). Sound like a real person who people can connect with. But beware! Don’t overshare—just offer enough to make yourself real to your followers (i.e. Relate to my opening story in this post).
I’ve found the golden rule of social media is this: the more you give, the more you get.
What do you think? Do you find highly engaged social networks equate to more loyal customers and blog followers? How do you develop relationships with your followings?
Shari Lopatin is a former daily newspaper reporter who now works in the corporate world as a professional writer, journalist, and media strategist. Find her on Twitter at @ShariLopatin, or read more of her marketing and writing tips on her blog, “Shari Lopatin: Rogue Writer.”