Now that you’ve got a general idea of how to start building up a larger follower base that’s actually targeted (and not just sheer numbers to impress others), let’s get into part 2. In this section, we’ll cover some tips for getting more shares with the right buttons and CMS plugins, as well other fun tactics that can rapidly expand your user base and score you some organic links and free content in the process.
There are so many “share this” and “follow me” buttons out there that the choices are practically endless. From what I’ve seen, a lot of folks don’t test or play around with different methods of attracting more shares. I’ve seen companies with very large social following numbers barely get any shares/likes/votes on their content. I’ve also seen the complete opposite of that, so what can you do to ensure you’re squeezing out the maximum marketing potential is up to you and some good old trial-and-error.
I think taking a good look across your vertical at what content is getting votes well is something every brand should be doing. This will give you a good idea of what’s being “liked” topic wise, how their button placement is, and even how engaging the competition’s fan base is. The goal here is to have a good grasp on what’s working and what’s not, so that you can grow your accounts properly up to the point where they’re profitable! A nice free tool to consider using is SharedCount.com, which lets you look up share numbers on any webpage. Right now it covers Facebook, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Delicious. Here’s an example below – it’s not pretty but it gets the job done.
Follow Me… Pretty Please!
So here I’ll cover where to get your badges, buttons and icons, as well as links to some of the best stuff we’ve used for a few of the most popular CMS’s out there. I would also encourage you to sit down with your design team and come up with some unique/custom buttons and banners to attract even more followers.
Pinterest Icons – http://pinterest.com/about/goodies/
TheFancy.com Icons – http://www.thefancy.com/help/button
Facebook Badges – https://www.facebook.com/badges/
Twitter Widgets – https://twitter.com/settings/widgets
StumbleUpon Badges – http://www.stumbleupon.com/dt/badges/create
Google+ – http://www.google.com/+1/button/
CMS Plugins & Widgets
I tried to include what I think the majority of you are using for a CMS, so I apologize if I left out the platform you’re rocking out with. For us, the majority of clients are using either WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Magento. Don’t fret though, just hit up your CMS’s community and I’m sure you’ll find all the plugins you’ll need to do what these ones do. The ones I’ve listed are ones that have not only been well tested, but which are known to out perform the others as well.
Sharebar – This is what we use here on Linkbuildr and most of my personal site. It floats with the user as they scroll, is easy to manage, and I like where it’s located… It definitely pops out to the user.
WP Pinterest – This requires PHP5 and adds the Pin-it button, Follow button and Pinboard to your WordPress site with ease.
WP -> Twitter – This will push all new posts and pages right to your Twitter account without hassle.
SEO Facebook Comments – This is a great plugin for getting those Facebook users commenting. Their comments will show up on their wall and drag others (hopefully) into your conversation and post.
Tweet Old Post – This plugin takes posts from your archives and reTweets them randomly so that your feed gets updated with your old content that people may have missed out on.
Social Crowd – This is a plugin we’re going to be trying on our own site soon, and we’ve also recommended it to clients. It looks great and it catches the eye – just what I like!
WordPress Social Login – We’re seeing a much larger sign up and share ratio when this is enabled. Having user accounts gives you more data to explore/profit form and it makes your followers feel like they’re connected at a deeper level with your brand. In my opinion, this is THE plugin for WordPress.
RokComments – Social media is all about interaction and discussion, so having comments is a must, but having socially interactive ones is even better! RokComments can handle Facebook, Intense Debate, and Discuss, which really is the best of the best.
ITP Facebook Like Box – Facebook followers are most likely going to be your most valuable follower base next to your newsletter, so don’t miss out on pushing this.
Social Login – I’m a big fan of creating user accounts, as it adds more value to your brand by having that data. This plugin will allow your users to login via Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Google+ and their activities can go on socially.
Sociable – This is just one of the better looking extensions for adding social share buttons to your website and into your content pages.
Social Sharing Buttons – This is, in my opinion, the best social share button tool for Magento as it really focuses on the sites that will drive sales. The best part? You can do social share rewards and offer deals to customers who are really active and sharing your goodies.
Facebook Connect Social Shopping – This ingenious product allows customers to socially chat up their Facebook friends before and after making a purchase, all without leaving your site!
Facebook Sharing Discount – This easily allows you to offer rewards and discounts that your customers will push via their Wall and attract other buyers from their friend base.
Open Social Media Monitoring – If you don’t already track who’s talking about you or your products socially, then this free Magento tool will do just that. The only problem I’ve had with this app is Magento is already CPU intensive, so having this running in the background may cause issues on a smaller server.
Facebook & Twitter Promo – This app makes it easy for social media users to share your products and deals and earn rewards. I can say from client experience that this app will drive amazing results with the right promotion.
Facebook Reviews – This is another must get extension in my books! The name explains itself and having real people review via this Facebook connect will dramatically increase your social exposure. It also allows you to keep better control over reviews and respond quicker than, say, getting something said on ResellerRatings.com.
Points.com For Magento – This is another “share me and earn rewards” system, and it’s both free and backed by the well known points.com. I’ve never used it or seen a client use it, but it comes very highly regarded within the Magento communcity.
Building LARGE (and Targeted) Follower Numbers Fast
So I’ve been talking a little about building the right follower base slowly but surely, and while that’s the best way to go about building the right audience, there are ways to drive gobs of followers. With these tactics you’re going to get a lot more people who won’t turn into buyers, but they more than likely can be used to push your content socially. These are all tactics we’re currently using for our clients, and if you have the right budget and the time, you can rapidly scale your social media efforts this way.
Another aspect to keep in mind is the time part. If you don’t have someone dedicated to your social media profiles and you want a large follower base, then be ready. Being active is crucial and being good at it requires effort, experience, and a knack for knowing what’s “cool”.
Answer Support Questions
I cannot stress this “tactic” enough! We’re going to be implementing this here at Linkbuildr, mainly through Facebook. It’s quite simple: Allow people to complain/praise/ask/freakout to the public on your Facebook or Twitter streams, and respond to them when necessary. Not everyone is perfect and mistakes sometimes happen, but this technique allows you to turn a bad customer experience into a positive one.
You’ll already notice the majority of big brands doing this, and I think it’s easy enough for a brand of any size to handle. As a consumer myself, I see it as a good sign if someone is responding and resolving issues with a product; it makes me feel much safer as a buyer. You can even go as far as installing the Live Chat for Facebook app and handling support issues on a whole new level… At least this way they have to be a Facebook follower to get things going!
Twitter is also a great tool, although I’m sure most of you are aware that Facebook users are more valuable in a sense. Feel free to prove me wrong on that one, but we’re mostly used to seeing the ROI coming strong from Facebook followers. There are, however, a lot of companies doing amazingly well with Twitter based support. JetBlue is one of those companies and they always let you know which support staff user is on, plus you can view their entire Twitter team:
Be Vewwy Vewwy Active
Social media’s main staple is communication, and that means taking part in the every day social cycle. Remember how I talked about finding your influencers from within your social following? This is where interacting with them can lead to links, more followers, and creative content ideas.
There are a whole bunch of tools to figure out this data, so I’ll go through the apps and websites we like to use. We can start with Twitter because it has three really productive benefits. The first is its ability to create a connection and use that to gain all sorts of goodies, such as guest blogging opportunities. Secondly, Twitter can really drive home the traffic if your content marketing team has skills. Last but not least, crowd sourcing interviews or content projects is a super way to go viral within your niche.
It doesn’t take long to figure out who’s who in your list, so lets take a look at Klout first. Despite the weird issues in the past, I check it from time to time to get familiar with my last week’s worth of activity.
Since it’s wide open, you can also snoop on your competition to get an idea of who they’re engaging with and how often. To get a better look and feel for your Twitter profile (and your competitors) in depth, we’ll turn to FollowerWonk.com. This is a fun little web app that can be quite useful to say the least. I thought I’d also mention that it’s part of SEOMoz’s toolset, so you get full access to it if you’re already a member!
FollowerWonk allows you to track all sorts of Twitter data, but the most useful aspect I find is their “Analyze Followers” tab.
Take note that the drop down menu lists “analyze their followers”. You can also “analyze users they follow” for any account and get that set of data as well. To know all that is going on, I recommend checking this out ever so often, especially if you’re heavily marketing and engaging with Twitter. The first bit of data is what you see to my right here, and it breaks down influence, following, followers, days on Twitter, and the number of tweets done over that time frame. The little detail of “days on” is a great way to sniff out a spammer or account that may not yet quite be an influencer (getting sick of hearing this word yet?). While that’s great and all, it’s just the tip of the data iceberg we’re going to look at here with FollowerWonk, and we even had to leave a lot out!
What We’re Using
The free version of Hootsuite allows me to do more than I really need to when it comes to our social management via Twitter and Facebook. I have been liking TweetDeck a lot more lately thanks to @Simon, although I’m kind of stuck in my ways and will most likely stick with this one for now. I mainly use it to check my messages as well monitor key hashtags that I interact with on a daily basis, so either app will do that just fine.
Coupons & Contests
This is where you can really put some numbers down to your social accounts, as well as gain some links and sales in the process. If you’re serious about growing your follower base and have a medium-to-large budget, then these two marketing tactics will take it to another level.
Social Based Contests
I’m not going to get into these much, as I will instead refer you to my good online friend @DavidKlein from Orange Line who wrote an amazing post on doing just this. You can read that here: http://kaiserthesage.com/social-contest-marketing/. For the most part, I like to run my clients’ contests via Facebook, as retaining those followers is oh so juicy! Contests are great because:
- You can attract like-minded followers based on targeted product giveaways
- You can score links from contest sites and blogs in your vertical
- Contests can include content creation for entry which is a win/win for your brand
- You have the potential to nab thousands and thousands of followers
- You can run it for long periods of time to keep the buzz going
I don’t really need to be providing too much information on coupon marketing this late in the game, so just take advantage of the social rewards apps that are already out there. There are also sites like Groupon and Living Social which annoy a lot of businesses, especially small ones, but if you think in terms of branding and more strong links, then definitely consider them as an option. You can play around with these to achieve all of the aforementioned benefits:
I already mentioned the plugins for most CMS’s which encourage users to share them socially to earn points for gifts and coupons. Like with anything, you’ll need to “test test test” to figure out what works best for your followers and within your vertical. A lot of you will find the ROI is absolute garbage at first, but you won’t know until you try and try again. These tools are pretty helpful in tackling such tasks with some form of measurement and control:
Odds, Ends & Resources
I have so many little tips and resources locked into my brain that I know I missed out on a bunch, so we’ll throw what we can in this section. There are also so many great articles on this subject that I’ve had bookmarked over the past year, so we’ll share those gems here as well. As always, I want to get tips from “you people,” so drop them in the comments so we can know more – and if it’s really good, I’ll add it into the post!
Pay With A Tweet
This is a really useful tool that makes people pay with a Tweet or a Facebook share to get access to a download or content of some sort. I’ve had clients try this out a few times with some decent success, but the real reason it’s stuck in my brain is thanks to @IPullRank who created iAcquire’s amazing Link Building Guides.
Pay With A Tweet In Action
This is an excellent unfollow tool that’s free and has the look and feel of, say, Hootsuite or Tweetdeck…. So you should feel right at home. It’s free and easily allows you to find who’s the junk in your Twitter feed and unfollow them right from the app. You can even add multiple Twitter accounts and copy followers to other accounts, which is great if you have multiple departements running on Twitter (think JetBlue’s giant support team).
Pruning is definitely in order at least once a month, especially in the early stages. I know a lot of companies start their follower base by following influencers, but this can quickly get out of control if you don’t manage it right. I’d recommend avoiding this tactic and see what you can do with the other tactics I’ve mentioned in this post. This is the kind of work I’d also recommend outsourcing once a month, as it’s easy enough to have done. There are also other tools just like it worth checking out so take a look at FriendorFollow.com, Tweepi, iUnfollow and UnTweeps.
On the web: JustUnFollow.com
This is a more up-to-date platform kind of like Ping.fm (OK, well a lot like it) and it lets you create content, organize and even get alerts. They have one month trials on for $1 right now, and if you like it you’re only going to have to fork out $5/month from there on out.
On the web: Postling.com
Social Media Press Releases?!
While the hype may be more than its worth, there are a few vendors offering a more social media powered press package that aims to deliver beyond traditional methods (but which often don’t). For the most part, you’re just going to get the Youtube video embed option and perhaps a bigger Twitter push, but here are a few big brands offering a social press release:
- RealWire.com’s SMPR & here’s an example release
- PitchEngine.com – Definitely give these folks a try once, or even ten times… It’s worth it!
- MarketWire.com also does a social media press release
- Pressitt is another (yet newer) SMPR company on the block
- PRLeap doesn’t call it a SMPR, but they do all the same stuff
Social Media Audience Building Must Reads
Finally, to end off this ridiculously long post, I bring you all the content I’ve read and kept bookmarked for reference over the past couple of years. I would love some recommendations to add to this list, so Tweet Me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop them in the comments below:
- How to Build a Targeted Twitter Tribe of 100,000 via Jeff Bullas
- How To Build Targeted Twitter Follower Lists & Get Added To Twice As Many Lists via Social Motus
- 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans via Pro Blogger
- How We Got To 40,310 Facebook Fans In 4 Days via All Facebook
- 25 Pinterest Marketing Tips And Tricks For Small Business via Tech Web Pro
- 13 Ways to Get More Pinterest Followers via Search Engine Journal
- 30 Brilliant Social Media Marketing Tips From 2011 via Hubspot
- 10 Small Business Social Media Marketing Tips via Mashable
- 6 Successful Foursquare Campaigns To Learn From via Mashable
- More Customers with Foursquare Marketing: The 3-Part Strategy That Really Works via Firepole Marketing
- 5 Tips for Marketers As Groupon Clones Proliferate via Marketing Vox