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A no-pressure boost to social media engagement

With billions of users online, your work doesn’t speak for itself anymore — That’s why it’s critical to know the best strategies for your business in order to stand out amongst competitors and start reaching the people you’re trying to serve.

After all, you can’t serve them if you can’t first reach them.

The sustainability of your business rests on how many lives you’ve made a difference in, because if customers are unaffected your solutions aren’t as compelling as they need to be.

If you’ve felt like social media was the biggest headache in your business, right next to taxes, you wouldn’t be alone. Many companies, including small businesses, are outsourcing help because of the time investment. But, not everyone can afford to hire help.

This post will give you the foundational resources to target the right audience and find greater success on social media and on your website without spending too much time in front of your screen.

The good news is that you don’t have to throw out all your ideas, only make a few tweaks here and there to your strategy, so you can highlight the customer and what you can solve for them.

That should take a weight off your shoulders, so you don’t feel like everything has to happen all at once. In fact if you follow these easy-to-implement tips, over time, your return will start adding up like compound interest for your copy strategy.

How Can Social Media Look So Easy?

How can social media look so easy to some when it’s so hard for others? That frustration is true of anything when you’re in the middle of it.

If you focus on the corner of a painting alone, you’ll think the scene is completely different than the artist originally intended, which means you won’t understand the big picture at all.

Taking a step back can be pretty enlightening, but it means detaching from the countless details and to-dos required of your honorable role.

Small business owners quickly find out the same about business. It’s not always how you thought it was going to be, but that doesn’t mean we’re entirely powerless in making things align with our expectations and needs.

In fact, there’s a lot you can do to ensure your business becomes your masterpiece that you’ve envisioned from the beginning. Let’s take a step back from the pressures of social media and start afresh.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad for a little fresh air.

What Does It Mean To Build An Online Presence?

It’s not that you need to be everywhere, but where you are, you need to be present — that means being intentional and consistent; two things that help build relationships with others.

Creating an online presence for your business means:

  • Expanding your reach in a way that attracts the right kind of customer
  • Finding your buyers where they’re already hanging out
  • Creating a special hangout for you and your customers (on your website)

With thousands of ads and distractions vying for your customers’ attention online, you have to build an online presence that will reassure your visitors they landed there for a reason and they are, in fact, in the right place.

Any time you put your small business out there, you can expect to anticipate questions like “why should I care?” and other objections or concerns from customers.

It takes multiple times to convince someone follow through and building trust by anticipating what customers (or readers) are going through is a positive way to actively building up know, like, and trust factors. This goes even beyond basic copy housekeeping by seeking to understand the experiential, emotional aspect of the buyer’s journey.

Why Is No one Interacting With Your Posts

So, if you’re feeling frustrated because no one is responding to your posts and you’ve already interacted in facebook groups, pinterest group boards, instagram hashtags, and talked to fellow entrepreneurs to connect and still nothing is working, consider going back to your unique selling proposition.

What do you have to offer to customers that’s different than others in your industry? Why is this message coming from you, and why did you specifically choose to use your voice on this platform? How can you use what’s different about you and your story to help others solve a problem? And are you even talking to the right person to begin with?

Is It Just About Time Investment?

If trying to better understand your brand by going back to the basics doesn’t help, try approaching it from a more logical, time management lens.

If you’re thinking, “I’m already spending way too much time on social media,” I have a couple ideas I want to run by you.

Sometimes, when the situation can’t change, your perspective can.

If you adjust your priorities so you are spending more of your time promoting content than you do creating it, you could reach more of the people you want to help. Not just because you are doing the same things over again, but because you are dedicating new time at new hangouts with new faces — and getting to know your target audience online (what questions they’re asking, where they are looking, and what they’re looking for) is always a good investment.

There could even be exciting meet-cute moments in unexpected places like product reviews, your competitor’s testimonials, related hashtags, how-to publications, schema and more.

However, you don’t have to go so far that it starts taking away time from other important projects.

Derek Halpern created the marketing 80–20 rule that states: You should spend 20% of your time making the content and 80% of your time promoting it,” however, Heidi Cohen of Actionable Marketing Guide affirms the notion is old practice.

“To this end, content must be contextually relevant to the platform and device upon which it appears to break through today’s content explosion when prospective readers choose to consume it to ensure it attracts attention. This requires more than just promotion! The information must be adopted and modified to meet the needs of each media entity.”

The idea alone may be frustrating if you’re the type of person that needs to check things off your list and move on, but only move on quickly if you’re getting the return you need.

And sometimes moving on too soon can hurt your business, like it hurt mine, if you’re under the impression that others understand what you’re trying to say.

Ask yourself, “what do I mean by this?” or “why is this coming from me?” and “what would this mean from an outsider’s perspective?”

Your audience may want to go down the path you’re paving, but everyone will arrive there differently. It may be helpful to start creating content with that premise by asking yourself, “where is this person coming from?”

What could their background or perspective mean, and how has it led them here, now?

Creating content for one person is more real and effective than writing content that’s the equivalent to holding up a megaphone to the masses.

This is why it’s essential to build your content around your ideal audience by first asking how you can serve them and tailoring your content to a specific platform.

A way to get insider tips or best practices is to see how your customers are using the platform and taking notes from competitors.

Engaging With Your Ideal Customer Or Client

Be honest, you are looking at someone popular in your field and seeing their audience so hungry for their content. You just spent hours writing a blog post and even more promoting it, except your responses are, “cute pic” or “nice one” even though you asked people to comment what their greatest challenge was this week. Ugh! We’ve all had those moments.

The other reason people aren’t seeing your content is because you might not be engaging with your prospects at their usual hangouts.

Publishing and promoting your content written with your unique selling proposition (how YOU serve your target audience) is a great starting point, but it’s only a small part of growing your following. You also need to be interacting where your customers are already hanging out to expand your reach.

This means interacting with other people’s content by answering questions, posting comments, or publishing responses to their work.

The most successful people on social media take the time to have at least one person on their team (if not just them) engage on social. If one of the goals is to increase the number of interactions with your audience, this is a great way to start building that relationship; but remember to give thoughtful answers and comments.

Nothing says “you’re important to me” more than “I like your pic” right?

Sadly, some think this tactic is worth trying.

So how can you give a thoughtful answer without seeming like you have an agenda?

  • Be genuine by providing thoughtful responses, questions, or discussion to someone’s work. (For example, you can share why you enjoyed someone’s work, or why it’s interesting that you share a common interest, etc).
  • Show that you give more than you take by providing helpful resources, even when you don’t get anything from it besides a thank you.
  • Give tasteful, professional compliments. People tend to respond more positively to their name, while others get offended by informal greetings like “hey girl,” “thanks babe,” or “you bet chica.”
  • Respond by incorporating your story, the shorter version. What’s relevant about your background that connects with this person? And remember building trust isn’t about how much you disclose, just how present you are with the courage to be seen.

The biggest clue for how to interact with your customers is to see what they do.

Your company has created a culture and your audience has their own co-culture too. Each culture (consciously and subconsciously) lets others know how to abide with specific norms. So in that way, you can refresh your branding where needed to do things your way, and you can also take hints from your audience to understand how to become part of their story as well.

How do they use the platforms they’re on? What features do they use? What companies do they follow? Where do they shop? What hashtags are they following?

You can jot down takeaways just from observing your following plus relying on trusted market research to give you insight into how your ideal audience is responding to content online.

What About Instagram Growth Hacks?

Because of how time consuming it is to not only engage with others online but create new, valuable content, it makes perfect sense to cut back your time wherever possible. The goal is to work smarter, but it’s important to be very careful when trying to “hack” growth, especially on Instagram.

Many will promise overnight success but truly building a business and a following (and really anything worthwhile) is going to take time.

Break down how much time you are willing to spend each week (or month) on social media, calculate how much money it costs, and report the return you see after each campaign to get an idea of when to speed up and when to slow down.

Not everyone sees eye to eye on qualifying what a good return is for social media efforts, so it’s up to you to make that decision. If you don’t see a reasonable return, is brand recognition something that’s important to you anyway? Are you allowing a long runway for sustainability or thinking in short term goals to slowly increase customer interactions?

With this perspective, you won’t as easily fall into dangerous traps like buying fake followers, unintentionally playing follow for follow, or attracting spam.

Avoiding Spam On Your Instagram Account

Sometimes, it can be confusing distinguishing between buying ad space on large accounts, which will expose your content to a large audience or buying followers. If you’re looking to advertise, it’s best to just go direct to the source — Instagram.

Falling into the trap of “‘buying ad space” on other accounts can attract fake bot accounts or people that wouldn’t be interested in your niche anyways…uh oh!

The biggest clue that you need to purge some followers is if you have low engagement but an increasing number of followers.

True followers are generally interested in your content and interact with it.

Instagram growth tactics can make your account become a breeding ground for spam, not to mention many of the behaviors go against Instagram’s policies.

When you’re starting out small, it’s good practice to prune your follower list for accounts from foreign countries, who typically follow the maximum number possible, or have zero posts of their own (meaning they aren’t active on their own account anyways).

Just because you want more followers doesn’t mean you want just any followers. You want to be reaching more of the right people, so it’s important to start developing the courage to turn the wrong ones away.

Think of it like email marketing. One of the ways to maintain a good engagement rate, is to purge those consistently inactive to get rid of dead weight.

Why You’re Engaging In Follow for Follow Without Realizing it

It’s not a surprise that people follow for follow, even those that say they aren’t end up doing it anyway. Anytime you are following someone else only to gain quick visibility, only to later unfollow them, you are engaging in follow for follow.

You aren’t some kind of criminal. The only problem is that building a relevant audience relies on more than just quick tactics. What will assist the long term goals for your business? And also, what’s realistic for your own profile, feed, and capacity?

Even popular trailblazers follow new people everyday so followers will see their new online course and then later unfollow those people.

Listen, I get why that sounds attractive, but let’s call it what it is.

Other growth hacks require third parties to engage on your behalf leaving comments and likes on other people’s accounts via certain hashtags.

And while I think it’s ok to hire help on social, make sure it’s a real person and not a company using a growth bot to “beat” Instagram’s algorithm.

What’s The Deal With Comment Pods?

And then there are comment pods and giveaways. Comments pods are usually frowned upon, for many reasons, but there are some who think it really works for growth.

Whether it works or not, it’s first against Instagram’s policies because it gives the impression of social proof. It’s not a real measure of helpful content and that’s not even considering the extra time investment.

Any forced tactics won’t give your business the growth that it needs, leading to more website traffic.

What If I Want To Do A Giveaway?

Treat giveaways carefully. This can attract people who don’t care about your content and only want the free gift. But it can also be a wonderful opportunity.

If you have to do a giveaway, it can be valuable to get creative like offering your services at a discount or for free (social graphic, downloadable template, or loss leader). You could make the requirements be people part of your niche and have them talk about what content of yours they find most valuable, or even have them fill out a questionnaire to join. You could even have the free gift be a pre-service to prepare customers for your other services.

Remember you don’t really want the follow, you want the follow through.

Instead of this becoming a raffle for a prize, it can become an opportunity for you to learn about your target audience and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Overall, I would steer clear of anything that’s inauthentic when it comes to growth. It not only has the potential for bad PR and brand association, but shady tactics too. More importantly, it hinders your confidence as a business owner changing your perspective from opportunistic and creative to desperate and hurried.

Know What’s Going Right

Knowing what’s working can also help you put systems in place to help what’s not. This is why testing your content regularly can help increase engagement, which can increase website traffic too.

Test photos on pinterest to see which style of pin gets more clicks, check what headlines get more interest, and test out types of content to see what’s most effective with your group. You could even put in a “like this” plug-in on your website that offers reports on posts and pictures that your audience likes.

How Do You Find Time To Do This & Fight Burnout?

It’s undeniable how hard this is to accomplish on a consistent basis. At first when you are ready to build your business, you’ll spend any number of hours working and can’t imagine doing anything else.

That fulfilled feeling never goes away, but the ability to pull all nighters and be “on” 24 hours a day wears off quickly when there’s so much to do.

Break Down Information

Burnout is real, especially when you are a one woman show giving 110%. I’ve noticed the way to fight overwhelm (which leads to procrastination) is to break down information as much as possible and plan out what you need to do, estimating how much time & energy each task will take to complete.

Track Time on Projects

Homebase scheduler is an incredibly useful (and FREE) tool to keep track of how much time you are spending on each project, but any time tracker will work. Check your project management software to see if there is one available on projects to keep things simple and organized in one place.

This will show you how productive you are, what you need to shift around, and will help provide a little more focus when you’re executing to dos.

Get Specific

One of the best things you can do in business is to get specific; solve specific problems, talk to a specific customer, and do one small task at a time. Ask yourself the same question I ask myself daily, “is what you’re doing now contributing to your long term success?” If it’s not, you can make the needed changes as you see fit. Remember, not everyone becomes a successful business owner or writer for a reason; It’s difficult! That’s why it’s important to remember why you started this in the first place.

Prioritizing What Will Give You The Greatest Return On Your Investment

When it comes to your content marketing strategy, you can focus on three main things to grow your audience, leading to increased website traffic.

You cannot turn visitors into readers into paying customers until you offer consistent valuable content and engage with them continually. But you can also apply this principle to every task in your business too.

  1. Optimize & Publish Content (SEO Friendly Articles)
  2. Promote Your Content
  3. Engage with Your Audience

***These three things are after you have developed a professional website with a clear, consistent brand message, done research on your target audience, and perfected your products or services.

Struggling to Find Motivation? Read This…

So, does it take a different kind of person to succeed? In the past I was under the impression that the people who are disciplined to get up early and exercise or stick to an alarmingly strict diet just had something in them that I didn’t have.

I looked for the miracle cure while finding every excuse not to do the one thing I needed to accomplish, but I stopped when I was taught one thing: operating under the belief that you are unable to execute a task unless you feel motivated to do it is entirely an emotional response. In other words, it’s not true, it’s just a matter of perspective.

The need for motivation to follow through is an illusion and a luxury but not necessary to actually executing it.

As a business owner, you wear every hat for a while, and the tasks just require that you do them.

In Summary

So, we’ve established that growing a following takes time and a change in perspective, but it can mean a positive experience for you and your audience while you get to know them better. Once you have figured out who your ideal customer is and nailed down your branding, you need to be tailoring content directly to them (and the platform you choose) to make sure you’re making a difference to customers, and you can start with small goals like simply increasing the number of interactions with customers rather than achieving 5,000 followers.

People only buy from those they know, like and trust, so it’s important to increase the number of interactions with your ideal audience. Just make sure to add value, consider where they may be coming from, and give them a reason to care.

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