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No followers? No problem: A small business guide to social media

“But I’m too small to use social media.”

“If only I had more followers, my business could use social media more effectively”

“I don’t have any followers – how do I get more followers? I need more followers.”

The truth? You don’t need followers for success on Social Media.

Social media is valuable because it is a place for action – to get people to talk about you, not to get people to listen to you.

Small or new businesses without many followers are actually at an advantage – they are less likely to fall into the trap of simply using social media as another channel for broadcasting their message to their followers, and instead are forced to use social media to its fullest power – as a platform for people to take action, and tell their friends about your company.

So instead of worrying about followers, use these three social media strategies for small (or new) businesses:

 

 1. Email Lists 

You might not have a large following, but you probably have a sizeable email list. These are your best target for people who are already interested in what you are doing, and may share about you on their social networks.

Email your list with a clear call-to-action – and don’t focus on turning them into followers! Instead, try to get them to share about you to their own networks. Once they do that, they will naturally become your followers as well.

Giving them a specific hashtag to use, a hyperlink to a pre-filled tweet or Facebook post, and a clear incentive (like the chance to win a coupon), are all good ways to get them from your email blast and onto social media.

 

2. In Person

If you don’t have an email list, you probably at least have an in-person audience. Whether your business is primarily brick-and-mortar or online, reaching people in person is a reliable way to get them to engage.

 

Social Media in Brick-and-Mortar Stores

If you have a physical store, reaching people in person is easy. There are many ways you can encourage them to post about you on social:

  • Offer $1 off at the register (or better yet – offer to donate 1% of their purchase to a worthy cause) if they post to a social network with your designated hashtag and show the cashier.
  • If you sell apparel, set up a selfie booth next to the dressing room so that your customers can post pictures of themselves in your clothes / hats / glasses. Give them a specific hashtag to use, so you can keep track of their posts, and so their friends will know where the picture was taken.

 

Making your own Party. Literally.

No brick and mortar store? Fear not – you can always reach your audience at an event. If you don’t have an event – make one. Set up a pop-up shop and offer passersby the chance to try your product for free. Or throw a party, dinner, speaker series, etc. and invite your clients and friends to join you. Once you have an audience at the event, it should be easy to get them to share about you on social:

  • Set up a “social media booth” with fun props and a branded background. Let supporters play with the booth and act as their own photographers. Encourage them (as always) to share it to social with a specific branded hashtag.
  • Show posts from your supporters throughout the night on screens around the event – they will be excited to see their posts show up, and you’ll generate more noise on social. Note: this works in stores too. You can run a screen showing social posts in your brick and mortar location to encourage people to post about you.

3. Incentivize Sharing w/ a contest

The best way to get people to post is by incentivizing them. This works at any scale. Esurance is a great example of this – they offered the ultimate incentive during last year’s super bowl – $1.5 million to a single Twitter user who tweets the hashtag #EsuranceSave30. They received 2 million tweets in less than 24 hours, which is not something small businesses can hope to achieve. But they also grew their followers from 8,900 to more than 110,000. Why? Because they offered an incentive.

For small businesses, those kinds of numbers are not to be expected. But the advantages of an incentivized hashtag is clear. Running a contest or offering a reward will get your audience (no matter how small) to share about you, and will likely induce their friends to share about you as well.

 

 

Different kinds of incentives exist- sweepstakes (one big prize, one randomly selected winner); competitive hashtag contest (one big prize, one winner based on the quality of their post); and small incentives per-post (tweet to donate a dollar, or tweet to feed a child for a day, for example). You can read this post for more tips about how to run a social media contest, and the advantages of each type of incentive.

Now What?

Now stop worrying about followers, and instead worry about getting your audience to talk about you. Good luck!

We’d love to hear whether this is useful for you. Please share your thoughts on social or comment below. :)