Once someone follows you on social media, there are several retention strategies you can use to maintain their interest (and possibly persuade them to take action, like buying products from your online store). Much of this depends on the content you distribute from your account, and how you engage with your follows on an ongoing basis.
But what if your goal is to reach more people, and expand your total followership? People who have never heard of your brand won’t be seeing your content unless you go out of your way to show it to them. Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help.
How to Expand Your Audience on Social Media
Step 1 – Identify a New Target Demographic or Niche
First, it’s a good idea to define exactly who you want to target. It’s fine if your general goal is to have more followers, so you can give your content a bigger impact, but if you don’t understand how your new audience thinks or what their values are, you won’t be able to retain them—if you can even attract them in the first place.
Start by looking at your current demographics. Are there subsections of this group that you haven’t been able to attract (like those in a different age range, or those at a certain education level)? Is there a separate group of people you’d like to have following your brand? Do your market research and flesh out some of your ideas. Who are these people and what are their preferences? What kind of content are they currently consuming?
You can improve your knowledge of your target demographics by consulting sources like Census.gov, but it may be more efficient to collect data via user surveys. Once you’ve collected more information on what people want to read and how they engage in their communities, you can create customer personas and tailor your content strategy to them.
Step 2 – Create Shareable Content
If you have a solid social media audience already, one of your strongest tools for recruitment is going to be distributing shareable content. Every time one of your followers shares a post of yours, it’s introduced to dozens or even thousands of new people. As you start attracting followers from your new target demographics, this effect is even more noticeable, since you’ll be exposing people within your target demographics to your new content more efficiently.
Shareable content comes in many forms. You could create a contest or host a giveaway, encouraging people to share your material in exchange for a prize of some value. But it’s more reliable to create compelling content; original, high-quality content that offers some kind of surprise tends to be shared often.
It’s also advantageous to share content that strikes up a controversy. It may be nerve-wracking to risk polarizing your audience, but polarization can be extremely rewarding; you’ll earn more loyalty from at least half your current followers, and you’ll usually end up motivating a lengthy conversation that only ends up attracting more attention. Just make sure to engage in that conversation as respectfully as possible.
Step 3 – Get Featured in New Publications
Your ideal new followers are already following other publications and other brands. One of the best ways to introduce them to your brand is to find a way to get your brand mentioned by those other organizations.
For example, you could start a link building campaign. The idea here is to develop strong offsite content for various external publishers, citing some of your best work in the body of those articles. If you target publications that your target demographics are currently reading, they’ll get to see what kind of content you produce, and they’ll have a high likelihood of eventually following you. You’ll also earn referral traffic headed directly to your social media profiles.
You could also use the power of influencer marketing as a leg-up; reach out to known influencers in your industry and see if you can work together on a mutual piece of content, or simply ask for a shout-out. Merely getting mentioned by a high-profile influencer in your industry could be enough to win you new followers.
Step 4 – Diversify Your Core Content
When someone considers whether to follow a new social media channel, they usually review the types of content they’ve posted in the recent past. Accordingly, you’ll want to optimize your content output to be attractive both to your existing followers and to the new demographics you’re trying to attract. Do some research to learn what types of content those demographics are most interested in, and try to publish new articles and posts in line with those expectations on a regular basis. If you’re trying to expand in general, it’s usually a good idea to step up the frequency of your posting as well.
If you’re having trouble meeting the frequency demands of your new, larger follower base, consider reaching back to your content archives. You could, for example, re-syndicate some older posts that got lots of attention but haven’t made it to your social media posts lately. You could also write follow-up posts to older content, or “sequels” to your most popular posts.
Step 5 – Complement Your Work With Paid Ads
If you’re struggling to build momentum with your new demographics, or if you want a quick way to grow your audience, you can consider complementing your organic outreach campaign with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. This model allows you to advertise your social media channel by paying for each person who clicks on your links—so you won’t have to pay by impression, like in traditional models. Make a compelling pitch, and target the ideal new audience for your brand.
It’s hard to reach a new audience when you’re limited by the current range of your content distribution platform. However, if you target the right group and use a combination of great, shareable content and brand mentions in new publications, you can easily attract more followers. It takes some strategizing and some dedication on the follow-through, but it’s an achievable approach for virtually any brand.