As a business, it is essential for you to form a community of loyal followers around your brand. Not only are they (hopefully) recurring customers who are willing to market for you via word-of-mouth, they act as evidence of legitimacy to any newcomers. You cannot simply “collect” followers and leave them to sit, however—you need to engage with them, and other users won’t click that “follow” button if they see that you will ignore them.
But what do you say to your community? How do you go about gaining Instagram followers online? You want to be personable while keeping in mind that you and your followers have a business/customer relationship, so there are some topics of discussion that are off-limits. You also don’t want to try too hard and scare them off, or say the wrong thing, or be unhelpful. You’re walking a fine line, and you do have an agenda you need to balance. Here are a few ways you can interact with your followers if you are at a loss:
Some business owners might be hesitant to answer questions because they think it will set the wrong precedent. If thousands of people start commenting and asking questions, how can they possibly respond to them all, or how do they select which ones to answer? Do not be afraid of being overwhelmed, though. There are online tools you can use, and if you do not have an employee dedicated to responding to social media comments, then you can use your own time only to answer the most pressing questions.
Ask questions back
Communication needs to be a two-way street. Ask your followers thought-provoking questions about a variety of topics, or inquire about their opinions regarding the content you share. Avoid being vague, though: if you are a local restaurant, asking “What do you think about salad?” will probably go ignored or only receive responses like “delicious” or “yuck.” Instead, ask them what they think about locally sourced products, or if they gravitate towards convenience versus health.
Don’t just talk
One of the benefits of communicating via social media is that you can use more than text. You don’t want to sound like a robot, so instead of replying to comments or creating posts with only words, why not use a few emojis or gifts? Doing so may not be appropriate all the time, but using them properly reminds your followers that you are, indeed, another person working on the opposite end of the business. People tend to read a text a bit negatively (without facial expressions to give hints, it opens the door to misunderstanding good intentions), but Buffer Social notes that adding a bit of flair to your responses prevents them from growing stagnant.
Visuals (such as pictures, videos, and infographics) also do well on social media because they are more eye-catching and can contain vast amounts of information without text. If you find all the comments across your different profiles challenging to keep up with, Buffer Reply allows you to monitor your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram conversations in one place.
Be subtle with self-promotion
Besides being a business owner or marketer, you are probably a social media user in your own time. Don’t you find it annoying when companies consistently say, “Retweet if you like this,” “Like if you have been to such-and-such place recently,” or “Comment if you think this is cool”? They are asking a minimal task of you, but there’s something about it that rubs you the wrong way.
Do not be overly demanding with your followers. They, like you, can smell desperation a mile away, and no one likes being manipulated. Consumers are less inclined to trust brands that are always pursuing obvious ways to boost their stats and analytics. Remember to be as genuinely helpful or interesting as possible—not just when followers reach out to you, but with every initial post. Make your followers smile, make them laugh, teach them something new, give them behind-the-scenes looks, share news, or something else. When you establish yourself as a source worth going to, then blatant self-promotion is unnecessary.
Encourage user-generated content
User-generated content assumes many forms. Maybe you can start a hashtag on Twitter, ask to see original artwork, or host a contest where whoever creates the best post wins a prize. Don’t forget to share what they send you: re-posting their content (with permission if necessary) makes your followers feel seen, listened to, and validated.
Figuring out the right way to interact with your social media followers can be tricky, but if they appreciate your products or services, you can continue to win their loyalty. How do you like to engage with your online community?