Content is the most critical factor when it comes to growing and engaging large audiences online. The key to scaling a massive audience in the shortest possible time is an agile approach of producing, testing, and measuring how people are responding to your content in real time. Hypothesize, test, learn, and pivot.
Shareable content is the number one way to grow quickly and keep fans engaged. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; look around and borrow ideas from what works for other people. Some suggestions:
- Serve others. Being service minded will get you further than thinking about yourself. Always try to give to others and think about them first.
- Using a good headline will up your shareability factor because it helps the messaging become clearer and your audience will be more likely to look at the content.
- Connect with your audiences through emotions. Make sure your content makes your audience feel something. Whether it gets them to laugh, cry, or feel in any way, try to reach the audience at the heart level.
- Don’t assume that people are watching your videos with sound. It’s always good to subtitle your content and ensure that your message is crystal clear when distributing on Facebook and Instagram.
- Keep video introductions to a minimum. Go straight into something fast paced and exciting. Remember that you only have a second (or three max) to hook someone and grab their interest.
- Play into the unexpected. Have twists, especially at the end of videos.
- Don’t force an obvious call to action. Get your audience to share by giving them a reason to involve their friends, not by saying something obvious like “Follow me!” or “Go check this out!” Think of something creative and fun to engage people into performing a specific action.
- Each piece of content should stand on its own. Don’t rely on the fact that everyone has seen all your content. Even if they have, you can’t expect them to remember what they saw before.
- Don’t be afraid to create content or leverage content that’s related to your subject and not necessarily about your subject. Content that shares moments from your brand’s lifestyle can be just as powerful. (And when in doubt, sunsets and videos of dolphins surfing work like a charm.)
- Follow your gut and be authentic. Social media is a two-way conversation. When you’re genuine and connected to yourself, it’s easier for others to connect with you.
There are two strategies for targeting:
- Targeting the exact demographic is a great strategy when the sole focus is to get them to perform a specific CTA (e.g., click, buy, register).
- If you’re able to generate highly shareable content, you can leverage a strategy of testing to identify advocates who will share your content and brand for you.
If you’re struggling to create highly shareable content and are focused on direct-response marketing campaigns (i.e., selling a specific product or service), taking a narrow approach with the targeting checklist is the best place to start. Paint a picture of your audience by exploring aspects of their personae, including gender, age, what action you want them to take, location, interests, and lifestyle.
If you’re running broad-base campaigns and trying to drive mass awareness, start broad with your targeting and see where Facebook’s algorithms push it. Keeping your target audience wide generally brings down your cost in the auction.
Don’t assume you know who your audience is; allow new target groups to be discovered. You can’t be 100 percent certain who your audience is until you’ve actually put your content out in the world and seen who responds. Google Trends and AdWords help you tailor your content to what your audience is most interested in and allows you to observe trends over time. In addition, practice social listening by looking at your community’s comments on your posts and content. Also, go to your competitors’ pages and observe how their content is performing.
Test a gazillion different target groups. The testing process is a marathon, not a race. The more intelligence you glean from your tests, the better you’ll be at producing content that resonates with people. This will help you dramatically drop costs around your key performance indicators.
Retarget your content to whoever engaged with the original content. Build look-alike audiences of the people who converted or took desired actions like sharing or clicking.
Strategic alliances can take you to where an audience already exists so you don’t have to start from scratch. Some suggestions:
- Find strategic partnerships that drive growth. You want quality, not quantity.
- Put yourself in your partners’ shoes to think about what could be valuable to them.
- Be creative when approaching partners. Think about your unique offering and how it matches with the needs of the person you’re approaching.
- Work on a share-for-share basis.
- At first, look for partners who are attainable—they don’t have to have a much larger following than you to help you.
- Licensing other people’s content is a good, cost-effective strategy to help you grow.
- Build a massive following and then approach content partners to license their content for free in exchange for exposing their brands to your newly built audience.
Followers in emerging markets can cost less than a penny, versus eight or nine cents in the States. This is because in emerging markets, there’s often less competition and users spend more time on mobile devices.
Acquiring a follower or a like in India, Indonesia, Brazil, or Mexico is far cheaper than in the States because there aren’t a lot of people fighting over those countries, which creates an excess of inventory in the auction.
- India is an important country; it’s where some of the smartest people on the planet are investing, so keep it on your radar.
- Brazil loves to share more than most countries. Test your content against this audience to make content go viral.
A smart strategy is to build engagement on a piece of content in emerging markets first because of the lower cost. So if you’re a start-up, build a massive audience in above countries and then become an attractive acquisition target for a company from the US or the UK that’s looking to extend its audience. The same applies if you are an individual or a start-up trying to partner with global brands.
Remember good content travels well. Create content that’s not language-specific. Create with global in mind.
Facebook is the easiest platform to gain one million fans on because it’s centered on the concept of sharing. There are two ways you can use the Facebook ad platform to generate a following:
- Make a piece of content go viral to gain mass awareness
- Use a page likes ad unit to target people to follow your page
Building an audience requires an investment in either time or money. This system does not allow you to buy followers. It allows you to pay Facebook for the opportunity to put a piece of content in front of people. To drive down costs, stick with Facebook’s suggested bid amount. Only spend more by duplicating the ad set with a different interest or piece of creative. Always think about your ROI and work backward. If an ad isn’t meeting your goals, turn it off.
Growth is slower on Instagram than on Facebook. Be patient and consistent over time. Gaining twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand followers a month is a lot. Some suggestions:
- Your network is everything. Find engagement groups and people selling power likes. There are also a ton of Facebook groups that offer shout-out for shout-outs (s4s) and engagement group opportunities.
- Use the Explore page to get discovered.
- Get high-profile accounts (those with a larger number of followers and those who have been on the platform for a long time) to like, comment, mention you, and repurpose your content.
- Encourage people to tag you in your posts. Even incentivize them with a follow back.
- The caption is everything when it comes to naturally encouraging engagement.
- If you are a brand, use visual and behind-the-scenes moments on this platform.
- Target smaller influencers first and work your way up.
On YouTube you need to have at least twenty thousand subscribers for algorithms to respond, fifty thousand subscribers to start making money, and a hundred thousand subscribers to get brands to pay attention. That said, YouTube is one of the most difficult platforms on which to achieve rapid growth. Some suggestions:
- Growth happens primarily through algorithms, search, and collaborations.
- Longer content does well on YouTube. Currently, YouTube’s algorithms favor content with a high percentage of watch time.
- Be consistent and put out content daily.
- Collaboration is key to rapid growth on YouTube.
- If you have ten thousand subscribers, you can film at the YouTube offices one day a month, free of charge.
- Determine the effectiveness of a piece of content by how much more content it gets people to consume. You can also analyze your metrics by way of subscribers, watch time, and follow-on views depending on your needs.
- Have a strong point of view in your content and on your channel. Be passionate and knowledgeable about your topic.
- If your goal is to be a personality or a host, then the two-way conversation with your fans is important.
- Makeup tutorials, gaming channels, and family-friendly programs reign supreme on YouTube.
LinkedIn is a great platform for B2B targeting, searching for jobs, and for reaching business-minded people. When connecting with others on LinkedIn, find a way to provide value. Start with a compliment or something that builds a relationship first. Don’t sell them your service or product; instead, offer unique value to them through your product or service. Some suggestions:
- Share content on your feed that provides value and starts a conversation. Even simple updates, thoughts, and experiences help you stay at the forefront of people’s minds.
- Because of the level of specificity, especially in the business-to-business space, the LinkedIn ad platform is one of the most expensive in social media. On average, clicks cost anywhere between about six and nine dollars.
- The type of people that really benefit from the LinkedIn ad platform include those with large revenue generating B2B deals, products, or services (i.e., $10K+); those who know the targeting specifics of their buyers within organizations; white-collar recruiting; and higher-education recruiting.
- Use your ads to build credibility and trust. Offer potential clients something of extreme value.