Let me explain, and let's use Facebook as an example:
You build a business page. Nice custom cover image. A few well chosen apps to help spread the news, like 'Tell a Friend', WooBox's 'Twitter', and Involvers 'RSS' (with your blog feed attached). You put an embedded widget on your website (above the fold please, so people can actually see it) to get people 'liking'. You start posting a few pics of new products or staff bowling nights, scraps of daily evergreen stuff you think customers might like, and links to your new blog posts, just to get the page rolling. Nothing. Jack. Bubkiss. All you get is a few members of staff signing up, and then it just sit's there. Why?
No. They won't.
Put simply, people have no REASON to sign up? Why SHOULD they follow you? What's in it for them? People sign up to business pages for the following reasons:
- To get discounts and hear about promotions.
- To demonstrate their support for the company (notably charities).
- To get something for free.
- To keep up-to-date on company activities.
- To get a 'look behind the curtain' at the 'real' company in action.
- For updates on your future products and/or sales.
- For fun (so BE FUN).
- For access to exclusive content.
- If someone recommended them.
- To learn more about the business or service.
- To get company relate knowledge and to learn more about specialist topics.
- To speak to the company directly.
But how do you get them there in the first place?
Get those icons and links to social channels everywhere. In email footers, on bill boards, on vinyl signs at locations, on letter heads, business cards, compliment slips, on OTHER social channels, put FourSquare stickers and QR codes on the back of toilet doors (we did this - track ably - for a leisure venue client and it worked a treat). Make sure they're in an easy to follow and obvious format (like @nikhewitt for Twitter etc.). Be sure to be seen, or you may as well not bother.
The easiest way is to spend some money and to target your audience directly, but this shouldn't be done in isolation. Social media channels are often a walled garden. Here's an example of how you can structure a simple tactical campaign to grow followers quick. This is a snippit from an email I wrote for a Facebook client last year (with the costs and names removed to protect the innocent):
With reference to our earlier call I wanted to put the following in writing. The Page needs to generate followers and interactions. To do this, and grow numbers, we suggest a targeted push towards your target demographic with a campaign/sweepstake to win some thing you can offer (product, vouchers, etc. - this MUST be something the audience would want, and MUST be on brand) that remains cost effective. Participants would gain extra entries to the sweepstake for inviting friends. We would insist on FB page membership in order to enter. Each sweepstake would run for 1 month. Naturally this would require coding, approved app hire, and art work, so initial implementation for this (inc. 1 months hosting) would be £XXX. Doing this monthly, if affordable, would be an excellent future incentive, and be around £XXX cheaper pcm. This would be ideally placed in the run-up to XXXXXX season. This would also require a custom blog post with all details, and a full Digital Press Release (as per our press release service) at a cost of £XXX. These also offers excellent SEO value and would offer the maximum exposure possible for the money. Additionally I would suggest posting a banner or 'flyer' to the front page of the website for the period of any sweepstake, plus sending out a newsletter to all members with the press release content (which you could no doubt do yourselves via MailChimp, as we discussed). We would suggest using this time to test up-take on traditional (not sponsored stories, which rely on a base of active followers already) Facebook social ads, and believe a daily spend of £XXX would active an extra XX targeted followers (totalling XXX), for the first 10 days of the sweepstake, with a total spend of £XXXX. Naturally this would also afford an excellent branding opportunity. This would be tailored by us on a daily basis, with custom messaging created, to get maximum results, at a charge of 15% (included above). The primary target for these would be likely be male or female, single/engaged/married, 20-40, UK based, of diverse education, with an interest in XXXXXX, XXXXXX, XXXXXX etc. and competing brands - as per the target demographic you suggested when we created your SMMP. Therefore, all expenditure suggested would total £XXXX and generate a lot of coverage and a minimum (we'd suggest) of XXXX active community members. The SEO, viral, and links value of this would, additionally, be exceptional, and likely generate far more fans in the future.See how it uses digital PR and email as well as targeted ads, plus a good reason to sign-up? See how it acknowledges the bigger picture?
Organic methods are obvious, but slower. It's important to have content that's fun and easy to share. I ran a large Online Poker client for a while, and knowing what the user liked was important. Posting free chips was great, and always 'liked' (though rarely shared) but the audience wanted that sense of fun and community. One picture of 4 taxidermy animals playing pokers got over 1,600 shares, 3,600 likes, and over 900 comments. It also raised that days new follower count by over 1000, and game sign up by nearly the same. Sharing aspirational content like fast cars, nice houses, etc. was commented on and shared a lot more - especially inviting commentary with messaging like "what would you buy if you won big". The same can be done with promotions, but watch those Facebook (and other) T's&C's when it comes to competitions - most have to be done via an approved app. Look at your analytics and previous posts, and figure out what your audience responds to.
Another organic method I use a lot is object tagging other Pages. This gives a nod to others Pages if they're mentioned. We have a football tipster client, Beat the Bookie, and their bets of the day contain object tags to teams and individuals so that those Pages fans see my clients Page - so noting the support and the service my clients are offering - and so promotes cross-traffic. This is really just 'crediting people', and it works particularly well when mentioning others when you are distributing their links to on-topic content via Twitter.
Anyway, I've gone on enough. In summing up you need to think about the bigger picture and tie your marketing in in other places. Try it. Shirt buttons to granny bonds it'll make a surprising difference to the growth of your channels - without thinking further afield, you've just got a static page.
If you need any help putting this kind of campaign into action, give us a ring at the agency I work for. We'll sort you out :)