How To Build A Social Media Following

Many small business owners use social media in their personal lives, but it can also be a powerful tool for growing their businesses. A lively social media presence can help you stay connected with current customers, reach new ones, build brand affinity and drive traffic to your business or website. The key to success is an engaged audience. And, while it’s easy to create an Instagram or Facebook account, it’s not as easy to get people to follow along.

Unless you have the time and resources to invest in a social media advertising strategy, starting out means gradual, organic growth. Here are a few tips and best practices that helped Brit and Sean Wilkins, co-owners of veteran-owned Etsy boutique Freedom Found Co., develop an engaged, passionate following, one post at a time.

Hand out your handles

Even in our digital age, physical products will always leave a meaningful, memorable impact. Having your social media details on a variety of printed marketing materials can encourage customers to stay connected with your brand even after they make a purchase. Freedom Found Co. uses business cards and hang tags to promote their social channels and extend their customer’s brand experience to continue the conversation on social media.

Start with your handle. If it’s available, use your business' name or something as close as possible. This makes it easy to remember and easy to search for so you don’t lose any potential customers along the way. It’s also preferable to use the same handle across platforms, so your brand’s name on Facebook is the same as Instagram. Then, get creative. How can you share your handles? Business cards are a must. If you sell clothes, print them on the hang tags. Does your business’ t-shirt feature your logo on the front? Consider placing your social handles on the back. Paper bags and totes are a great way to put your social presence top-of-mind at the point of purchase. Prominently displaying a memorable social handle gives people a clear call to action and brings interested buyers to your channels to engage further.

Promote your purpose

At its heart, social media is about creating community. Telling your business' story can inspire your audience to share your mission and rally new followers around your business' purpose. This is true for Brit and Sean, whose lives—at work and at home—are driven by their strong faith, love of their country, and their mission to support their fellow veterans and military families. To put this mission into action, they donate a portion of Freedom Found Co.’s proceeds to a non-profit organization that pairs veterans with rescued emotional support dogs and helps combat veteran suicide.

Brit and Sean know that growing their business means making an ever bigger impact. So, to raise awareness for their cause, they created a customer engagement campaign designed to convert customers into social media followers. Together, they set a goal of 1500 followers and pledged to fund an additional service dog adoption if the goal was met. The key promotional piece was a printed postcard that was included with every purchase. It told the story of their mission, along with the concerning statistic that 22 veterans take their lives every day. The hashtag #22toNone became a rallying cry for their campaign and their purpose. By putting their mission first in their promotions, Freedom Found Co. invited their audience to participate in giving back.

“For us, growth is about being able to fund a lot more adoptions. We believe so strongly in what our service dog has done for us and our family.”
Brit Wilkins, co-owner of Freedom Found Co.

Create content that’s true to you

Small businesses have an advantage on social media. They’re able to connect with their audience in an authentic, person-to-person way. Authenticity matters to customers. In fact, 86% say they want brands to have authentic and honest brand personality on social media.

For Freedom Found Co., integrity, authenticity and strong community relationships are core values of their business. These values translate naturally into their approach to social media. For one, Brit is adamant about growing their audience honestly and organically, instead of paying for “fake” followers that create the illusion of a large follower base without delivering genuine engagement. When it comes to content, authenticity means being yourself. Brit and Sean consistently create posts that reflect their real lives and values, from patriotic “America the Beautiful” travel photos to shots of them having fun as a couple, to quotes and facts of the day that invite a direct response from their audience. Rather than pushing a sales message with every post, Brit and Sean create a balance of promotional, inspirational, and entertaining content that drives likes, shares and continued conversation.

“I would rather have 500 engaged followers than 10,000 non-engaged followers.”
Brit Wilkins, co-owner of Freedom Found Co.

Social media helped Freedom Found Co. elevate their brand from an Etsy startup to a small business. Through printed collateral, promotions, and passionate brand purpose, Brit and Sean continuously grow their follower family one like, share and follow at a time.

About the businesses

Freedom Found Co. designs American-made, contemporary apparel and goods for the wild-hearted. Owners Sean & Brit Wilkins dedicate their lives and their business to serving veterans and their families.

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