How to grow your social media following (with social calendar worksheet)

Social Audience
Social media enables businesses of all sizes to connect with their current and potential customers every day. When done effectively, brands can grow a loyal and engaged follower base across their social platforms, which opens them up to an increase of brand awareness and potential customers, the ability to foster customer advocacy, and a tool for understanding their customers' better. When done ineffectively, social media can become a burden for business owners that are not driving any added value. 


If you're starting out on social media or haven't quite figured out how to make the most out of your accounts, this article is for you. Let's get started!

Before you start tweeting, you need to have a clear picture in your mind on who you’re speaking to. While it’s important to know the very basic audience demographics, you need to think deeper about your customers to fully understand their daily challenges. 


1. Develop a customer persona for your business
Demographics

Creating user personas is a helpful exercise for thinking more about what your customer’s lifestyle looks like. A user persona is an imagined representation of your ideal customer. To create a persona, you should be thinking about your customer beyond gender and location: How old are my customers? What are their occupations? What do their families look like? What are their goals? What social platforms are they actively on and when? This article goes into more detail on identifying your market and customers.

There are a few ways you can come up with the answers to these questions. The first step is to observe. See what types of customers come into your store, email you, or follow your social accounts already. You also have access to demographic insights available on social media platforms; while they only give basic demographic data, it’s a good starting point for understanding your customers.

Don’t cast too wide of a net saying your ideal audience is “men and women between the ages of 18-64”. Being broad won’t help you craft effective messages that make your customers feel understood. 

 

If you're a small smoothie shop in New York City, here's what a persona might look like for your customer:
use case
Samantha is 28 years old. She is single, has one dog, and is a fitness instructor living in New York City. Samantha is always on the go and looks for healthy food options she can pick up in between yoga classes she teaches. She primarily uses Instagram to follow her friends and fitness/wellness accounts. Due to her busy schedule, she typically is online late at night.






Having a persona in mind will help the owner of a smoothie shop create social media posts catered to the lifestyle and interests of Samantha. For example, posting in the evening, when most fitness classes are over, might be the best for this go-getter.

An important part of the user persona is figuring out what social media platforms your customers are using. Your time is precious, and you don't want to waste it by being on a platform that your customers aren't using.

You can have more than one persona for your business, however, there's usually one that provides the most value. While it's OK to later expand your user personas, it's most effective to start with one persona.


2. Learn what to post on social media
Instagram Story

It may be tempting to fill your social feed with promotional information because you think that’s what will get you the most sales, but you need to take a step back and think about what your target audience wants to hear from you.

Are your customers looking for inspiration? In the smoothie example above, if Samantha is looking to get inspired, creating content around the benefits of adding more fruit to your diet might spark her interest. Are they looking for product or business information? In Samantha’s case, she may be looking for the ingredient list of the smoothies to ensure they fit her dietary preferences. Are they aware of sales and promotions? Samantha might be on a budget and wants to know when you are having BOGO smoothie sales. Or, do they have pain points you can solve with educational resources? We know that Samantha is always on the go, so maybe it would help if you created content like informative blog posts on time management for her to fit more into her day with less stress.

But how do you know what your audience wants to hear from you on social media? You could ask them, whether in person or on social media. The polling feature on Instagram Stories is a great way to ask your fans what topics they want to hear more about. If you don’t have a lot of followers or enough access to customers, you could also test different subjects and learn about which perform best. Try posting something educational followed by something promotional. Which post got the most comments, likes, and shares? Take a month to test which type of content works best for your audience. Make sure you have a system in place to record each post, the day and time it was sent out, the goal of the post, and any performance notes

Overall, it’s important to ask yourself these questions before posting anything on social media: “What am I hoping to achieve for my business with this post?” and “What is the value I’m bringing to my audience?” Once you stop only thinking about your own goals and start thinking about your audience’s desires, you will start attracting followers. 


3. Decide how often you're going to share that message with your audience

There is no right answer as to how often to post on social media, but answering these questions will help you decide what a good balance looks like:

  • How much time and resources can you realistically allocate towards posting on social media for you business per week?

  • How many relevant messages do you have to share with your followers this week?

  • How often do your competitors post on their social platforms?

  • Are you seeing audience growth with your current posting cadence? 
 
Social audience

Remember that not all messages have to go to all customers. Using the targeting features on social platforms will increase how relevant your posts can be. For example, that smoothie shop owner might target Samantha with posts about the store’s upcoming sales, while also targeting different “Samanthas” in other neighborhoods about local events.

You should also consider your advertising budget. While posting on social media is free, if you have a message you want to be seen you need to put money behind it. In the beginning, try testing certain amounts of budget (for example, $20 on one post and $50 on another post) and see how your social media performance on those posts compare to your non-paid posts. Look at the difference in reach, follower growth, engagement rate, and click-through-rate if you’re sharing a link.

Once you’ve seen how much of a difference promoting a post with your advertising budget a post can make, you can start looking for the sweet spot for how much to promote per post.


Author Headshot
About the Author
Jen Stefancik is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Vistaprint where she manages the strategy and execution of Vistaprint’s social media channels. She loves connecting with small business owners on Vistaprint’s social accounts, researching the latest social trends, and perfecting her own social profiles.

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