In the past, I’ve often addressed the many ways to start a blog, build a following, earn money and grow as both blogger and travel writer in my BLOG TIPS section. I’ve shared candid advice about writing successful posts, increasing reader engagement and even taking pride in your own work; but I have yet to address the holy grail of blogging: how to build a social following.
Why bother with social media?
Before I launch into the ins and outs of building a social media following, let me scale way back and answer the overarching question of why bother with it? In short, social media is crucial for having your content discovered. When it comes to people visiting your blog, you’re looking at four main ways that they’ll find you:
1. Direct traffic (this reader knows your site and visits your blog directly)
2. Search Results (your blog pops up on Google or another search engine)
3. Advertising & Promotion (a reader will be driven to your site via paid banners, promotion, etc.)
4. Social Media (a reader comes across your blog via a tweet, Facebook post, Instagram post, etc. that catches their attention)
Social media is a great tool to not only promote your content and have your site discovered, but to also connect with your readers and let them get to know you. To put this into perspective, when I worked in advertising I was often tasked with running multi-million dollar campaigns on behalf of global brands who would pour thousands and thousands of dollars into their social media accounts. Even at the peak of success and worldwide recognition, these brands know the importance of maintaining a strong presence on social media and building a social following.
First, let’s get one thing straight…
True, some traditional brands and advertisers are very focused on the number of followers; but most are realizing that what’s more important than following is engagement. What this means is that if you have under 1,000 followers but those followers are commenting, liking and sharing your content, than that can hold more weight than someone with 1,000+ followers who rarely receives comments or likes. So while it is important as a blogger to develop your online presence, don’t get too hung up on the number of followers you have but instead focus on putting out engaging content and getting people excited enough to comment on and share your posts.
Pick & choose your platform
My platform of choice is Instagram; I nurture my Instagram account and meticulously focus on its aesthetic appeal, update it frequently and pick and choose the content I share on it. While Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube are all platforms I use, Instagram is by far my most successful social media account with the highest amount of following and engagement.
In my experience, focusing on one social media account really allows that account to grow substantially and build a dedicated and loyal fanbase. This isn’t to say neglect your other social media accounts, but do pick one you want to build up and pour your energy into. As a word of advice: Facebook is notoriously difficult to build up and some of the most successful bloggers I’ve seen will sometimes have modest followings on their pages vs. Twitter or Instagram that allow accounts to be more “discoverable.”
Tip #1: Use those hashtags
Ask anyone with a knack for social media and they’ll tell you the importance of using hashtags. Unless your following is over a million like the Taylor Swifts of the world and you’ve moved past the point of needing hashtags, hashtags will be your best friend.
What is the point of a hashtag? Simply put, a hashtag helps people discover your posts; so if someone is searching #Venice in Instagram or Twitter and you have wisely tagged your latest post on Italy with that hashtag, then that person will see your post and possibly become a new follower.
So, what hashtags should be used? If you think of a hashtag like a search term in Google, then you’ll realize that people using hashtags like #SnowyDayCan’tGetOutofBed or #YayOntheRoadAgain are missing the point. Your hashtags should be short, descriptive and relevant to what you’re posting. For example, if I post an image of the blizzard unfolding outside my window right now in NYC, the hashtags I use would be #snowstorm #blizzard #NYC #snowday. Also important is to use hashtags of larger, more prominent accounts (especially on Instagram) such as #gothere from CNN; a hashtag I often use in my posts, which allows my content to show up whenever someone searches CNN’s hashtag.
Tip #2: Use images
Instagram and Pinterest focus on images so if those are your platforms of choice, then you can skip to the next tip; but if you’re using Twitter and/or Facebook then always try to use images with your posts. Especially on Twitter, images just catch people’s eye. What I like to do on Twitter is when promoting a new post, I will upload an accompanying image for that tweet with the title of the post layered on so even if someone doesn’t read the tweet and only sees the image, they know what the post is about.
Tip #3: Post frequently
A fairly obvious tip here, but much like frequent blogging can attract new readers so too can frequent posting attract new followers. If you’re not traveling and stumped for what to post, then share old travel photos or pictures of your hometown!
Tip #4: Create a dialogue, not a monologue
A good trick to remember when it comes to social media is to speak with your followers instead of at them. This is to say that when you ask questions at the end of posts, make a point to respond to comments and try to create a conversation this will have more effect then simply speaking at your audience and having a one-way street of communication.
The Taboo Question: Should you just buy followers?
You’re a new blogger and impatient to begin building a social following so you turn to the idea of buying followers. You’re not alone! The question of buying social media followers is a taboo because of course, everyone would like to organically grow their audience based on their stellar content. As a new blogger, it can be very tempting to pay $5 and jump start your following by thousands, but what are the pros and cons?
The pros of course are you will visibly have an increase in following and/or likes based on what you purchase. Having more following can attract real followers and help get your blog noticed in some cases. The cons of buying followers and likes are services add sometimes obvious fake accounts to your following (as in the case of many Twitter “egg” accounts). The thing to remember here is that if you’re going to go the route of buying followers, it’s important to remember that engagement should match your following. For example, if you buy 20,000 Instagram followers but have an average of 100 likes per photo with no comments, it might seem suspicious.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Building your social media takes time and patience, dedication and creativity. It is a labor of love to update your social media every day, to engage your followers and to promote your blog posts and blog. Whether you have 100 followers or 15,000–keep on climbing! No matter how you choose to build your following, be proud of your blog and share your work with the world!
Join the conversation below! What are your best tips for building a social following? Share your social accounts below and I will check them out!