Social media marketing is great — if you know what you’re doing. If you’re posting blindly, or without a strategy, you may find yourself frustrated, wondering how it’s possible for companies to reach and grow bigger and bigger audiences — without resorting to buying followers with paid ads.
The truth is, it’s possible for almost any company to build an audience and earn a positive ROI with purely organic social media efforts — especially if you’re consistent in following best practices. The better your organic social media reach, the more followers you’ll accrue, and the more engagement you’ll get on your content.
So how, specifically, can you maximize your organic visibility on social media?
I’m about to delve into 50 specific tricks you can use to improve your organic “reach,” or the number of people you can get your messaging in front of. But before I do that, I want to explain the three general premises that provide the foundation for those tricks:
· Produce better content. Posting “better” content will help you retain your existing followers, become more attractive to new followers, and generally build a better reputation. There are many ways to do this, as you’ll see.
· Earn more engagement. Engagement is one of your greatest assets in social media — earning likes, shares, and comments immediately increases the visibility of your content in others’ timelines, and may put it in front of new audiences at the same time.
· Attract more, better followers. You can also increase your reach by directly and deliberately recruiting new followers to your brand — and ones who are more likely to engage with you.
These are vague guidelines, so let’s move onto the focused strategies.
Tips, Tricks, and Tactics
1. Optimize your profile pages. Your first step is one of the easiest. Your social media profiles are the “hubs” of your social strategy; not only are they usually the first thing people see when they research your brand, they’re also a mechanism for social discovery. When people search for keywords like “café” or “dog groomer” on social media, most platforms use an algorithm that looks for these keywords in company profile descriptions — you might even turn up in standard Google searches. This instantly increases your visibility, and therefore your potential followers and audience. Fill out your profiles completely.
2. Selectively cultivate your followers. Next is a more painstaking, multifaceted tactic. Obviously, you want to attract more followers — after all, who wouldn’t want numbers like these?
However, quality matters more than quantity when it comes to your audience; one follower who reads everything you post and engages with you frequently is worth more than a dozen zombies. You can shift these figures to your advantage by selectively targeting people to follow you; find them by searching for followers of brands similar to yours, and follow them. Many of them will follow you back.
3. Narrow your target audience (when possible). Some social media platforms allow you to restrict your audience based on demographics and other factors when posting organic content. For example, Facebook gives you the ability to selectively eliminate certain segments of your audience from seeing certain things you post. Why would you do this when your goal is to maximize your audience? Again, quality matters more than quantity; this tool helps you make sure your content gets in front of the most relevant audiences, which will improve the overall engagement rates of your content. Higher engagement rates on your content will lead to higher favor in the organic algorithm, leading to greater visibility over time. As overall organic visibility continues to decline, this will become more and more important.
4. Post at the right time of day. There’s no “perfect” time of the day to post on social media in general. However, each platform does experience patterns of rising and falling user activity, as evidenced in this brilliant infographic from Hubspot. There are a couple approaches you can take with this information; for example, you could choose to post when your users are most likely to be active, taking advantage of the increased activity for your own material. Or, you could post during a downtime, when it’s less likely that your competitors will be posting.
5. Post during the right days of the week. Similarly, some days are more valuable than others for posting content. For example, Twitter tends to be busy during the week and dead on the weekends. Instagram, by contrast, is busiest during the weekends when people are out doing things. Pay attention to the ebb and flow here, and adjust your strategy accordingly. To keep your brand active, it’s a good idea to post at least once a day, but you can reserve your best content for days where you stand to gain most.
6. Include hashtags. Hashtags are a frequently misunderstood but valuable tool in the social media realm. They’re used as a way to mark your post as belonging to certain categories, or as containing a certain subject. This makes it easier for users to search for said categories and subjects. Including a popular hashtag will make it more likely for your post to come up in a public search; however, you need to make sure you’re using hashtags appropriately, understanding the meaning behind each hashtag and avoiding the temptation to stuff your posts with them.
7. Include an image. Including a visual with your social media post instantly increases the chances that people will interact with it; it also makes your post stand out more in users’ newsfeeds. If you’re posting a link to a blog on your site, you’ll generate an image from that blog automatically (in most cases), but if you’re opting for a text-only post, you’ll have to find an image to go with it on your own. This doesn’t have to be fancy; try to avoid stock photography when you can, but even doodles or simple pictures can do fine here.
8. Include a video. Obviously, you won’t be able to include a video with every single post, but the more you can include, the better. Video content is seeing a steady and powerful growth in popularity, and you’ll want to take advantage of that. Again, this doesn’t have to be fancy; a few-second clip of your product in action, or a simple monologue in front of the camera can be more than enough to engage your video-savvy viewers.
9. Vary the length of your posts. The general rule on social media is that the shorter your posts are, the better. This is the entire motivation for Twitter’s rise in popularity; people appreciated the forced brevity of posts. Short, concise updates with no extraneous information are a big hit with users. However, in some cases, this makes longer posts more likely to stand out (assuming they’re a high enough quality). Accordingly, it’s in your best interest to vary the length of your posts to see the highest possible reach.
10. Embed social posts on your website. If you want more users to see and interact with your social media posts, why not include your social media posts in more locations? It’s relatively easy to embed snippets of your social media feeds on your website directly; especially for rapid-fire platforms like Twitter and Instagram. When users visit your site, they’ll see a running feed of your latest or most popular posts, and they’ll be encouraged to follow you for more, similar updates. The best part about this tactic is that you only have to do it once; everything after that happens automatically.
11. Pin your best work. Most social media platforms these days have an option to “pin” one of your posts to the top of your timeline. Since most profile pages are, by default, organized chronologically from most recent to least recent, this is a good way to provide some extra visibility for your best work. Choose a post that best represents you, or one that received a disproportionate number of interactions. This will serve as a first impression to a generation of new followers, and could increase your reputation and follower retention as a result.
12. Find existing conversations and get involved. You aren’t the only brand on social media, and there are plenty of individuals and organizations out there with lots to say about your industry. Run a quick search for some terms or subjects related to your brand, or use social listening software to find conversations that are currently unfolding, then get involved. Provide answers to questions, state your opinions, or just comment to show your interest. Your brand will become more visible and you may even earn some followers out of the deal; this is especially powerful if you find a way to include your content in the conversation.
13. Start new conversations. Rather than relying on strong conversations already existing, you could start a few of your own. Some people scout for these types of conversations, so depending on how effective you are at getting the discussion moving, this could be an outlet to reach new users. Choose a conversation topic that your readers would be interested in, but try to think outside the box here. Asking a question people are tired of hearing won’t generate any new or excited responses. That being said, asking questions and sparking debates are great ways to get the ball rolling.
14. Tag an influencer. Influencers are social media users who already have massive followings, and they represent several important and effective ways to tap into new audiences. Your first option is to tag them in a post, which is simple and relatively unobtrusive. Don’t spam them; these are busy people, so only use this tactic once and move on. If you mention them because you’re building off their work or citing their content, they’ll likely give you a shout-out. If you’re giving them valuable information or debating them, they might engage with you directly. Either way, you’ll get your brand in front of thousands of new people, greatly expanding your reach.
15. Collaborate with an influencer. Another option is to collaborate with an influencer on a shared piece of content; this is often an easier way to approach an influencer because you’ll both have something to gain from the process. Be sure you have an idea already in mind, and something unique that your chosen influencer can’t get somewhere else — they’re propositioned daily, and don’t have time to follow through on every pitch. Once developed, you’ll both promote the piece and both enjoy the benefits of reaching new audiences.
16. Stand out. This is a simple tip and an ambiguous one, but it’s important if you want to continue building your influence. Users scroll through their newsfeeds like they’re trying to set land speed records. The only way to earn attention in this setup is to stand out from the usual fluff material they’re used to seeing. Study your competition and see what kinds of formats and wording they use — then work actively to fight against it. Your choice in visuals here can play a strong role in setting you apart.
17. Work with competitors and similar companies. It may seem strange or counterintuitive to work alongside your competitors, but think about it — you’re both in the same industry, trying to reach the same audience. By pooling your efforts, you could potentially double the amount of people you both reach. The same is true in finding other industry companies, even if they don’t compete with you. Track these users down and work with them to create content together, cross-promote each other’s work, and engage in conversation together. Your mutual visibility will skyrocket.
18. Promote your latest work when it’s published. This is another tip that can be executed once to see long-term benefits. Plugins like NextScripts can automatically publish any and all of your latest blogs to the social media channels of your choice once they go live. It’s ideal to post your content to social media immediately to show off your latest material, but also give users a sense of consistency — and something to look forward to when they keep following you. Turn this plugin on, and never worry about it again.
19. Cross-promote your social accounts. Chances are, you’re pursuing a social presence on multiple platforms at once, so make sure you’re cross-promoting yourself. An audience member who finds you on Twitter won’t necessarily find you on Facebook, so if you’re posting different types of content here (as you should), they’ll be missing out. Occasionally post to remind your audience that you’re on multiple platforms, and the best way to keep up with you is to follow you on all of them.
20. Use email to drive engagement. This is another way of cross-promoting, but this time, you’ll be calling upon your email list. Email is useful for distributing your content, but if you include social share icons for that content and links to your core social profiles, you’ll easily earn a fraction of your subscribers in shares and new follows with every blast you send out. Since many of your email subscribers will already be following you on social media, this is also a good way to call your users to more action, reminding them that your social presence exists.
21. Introduce contests that facilitate sharing. Contests are one of the most reliable ways to earn more visibility and attention on social media, and for obvious reasons — people want to win prizes. But no matter what type of contest you’re introducing (like photo captions, or “like” to win), or what prize you’re offering (like a free product or something less tangible), incorporate some means of social sharing. You could use a “share to win” mechanisms to encourage more participation directly, or merely allow participants to share the contest with their friends.
22. Surprise your audience. It’s hard to create content that “goes viral” by getting heavily shared across multiple circles of people, but there are some hallmark qualities of viral content. One of them is a surprising or shocking nature; for some reason, people are far more likely to share posts and pieces of content that defy their expectations in some way. Knowing this, do your best to produce material that will surprise your audience; you’ll naturally encourage more shares and escalate your average visibility.
23. Give your users practical insights. Another hallmark of virally shared content is some practical use, or utilitarian angle. When people read something that genuinely helps them in their lives, they want to share that tip with the people close to them, both as a way to spread the knowledge and as a way to look good (this is how life hacks became popular). Depending on your industry, this could be easy (such as an auto mechanic describing how to check and change your oil) or difficult (there aren’t many practical tips for drinking milk).
24. Make your content interactive. Whenever possible, put an interactive spin on your content; this will naturally encourage more people to engage with your material, which in turn will help your content show up in more newsfeeds. If you want to put extra effort in, you can create “poll” style posts, or even link people to an interactive game, but it doesn’t have to take this much work. Instead, you can merely ask a question, such as “what has your experience been?” or “do you agree or disagree?”
25. Answer audience questions. Answering questions is one of the best ways to show off your authority, and if you do it correctly, it can increase your visibility too. Look for users asking questions using social listening software, or even by searching for them directly on a platform like Quora. Answer the question in as much detail as possible, linking back to your blog when appropriate. You could even stage a “FAQ” event where you encourage audience questions on the spot and answer them live.
26. Provide frequently requested content. Your audience probably has some ideas of content topics they’d like to see; they might come out with these ideas on their own, but it’s more likely you’ll have to ask for them in user surveys or casual discussion. Either way, work on gathering as much feedback here as you can and make it a point to produce posts that cover frequently demanded topics. It will make you more desirable and show that you care about your audience.
27. Redistribute evergreen content. Most publishers end up syndicating their new posts only once, upon publication, but if your content is “evergreen” (meaning it won’t expire and isn’t dated to one specific timeframe), you can re-syndicate it again, possibly several times over, in the future. Maintain an active list of your evergreen posts, and work them into a cycle of regular syndication to earn more attention and increase your potential reach.
28. Revisit your most successful posts. Occasionally, you’ll have posts that blow your expectations out of the water — they’ll generate dozens of comments, get tons of likes, and get a substantial number of shares and links. These represent some of your best work, so don’t let them slip away. You know they’re effective already, so spend some effort revisiting them; you can run a follow-up piece to reevaluate your original claims, a sequel piece to expand upon your original ideas, or even just a retrospective look at why you made the piece in the first place.
29. Use personal brands as extensions. Personal branding is one of the most powerful tools you can wield in social media marketing. People trust other people far more than they trust corporate brands, so getting your leadership and key team members to develop themselves as personal brands will help you build more trust and build different segments of your audience at the same time. For the most part, you should use your personal brands as extensions of your main brand, sharing and distributing content and working on attracting niche segments of your core audience.
30. Share other peoples’ high-quality content. You aren’t the only one producing awesome content. Follow and monitor some of the top-producing content marketers in your industry, along with some personal favorites, and when you find an article or post that resounds with you, share it to your audience. It will show you’re actively engaging on social media — not just posting — and will help you earn some extra eyes on your profile.
31. Find popular groups and engage in them. Some social media platforms offer groups as a way to get interested parties together to engage on a topic; for example, Facebook has many community-based groups and LinkedIn has many industry-specific groups. The caveat here is they’re usually closed to organizations and businesses, but you can still use your personal brands as an in. Find relevant groups to your brand, or ones full of your target demographics, and engage with them — that could mean posting content, answering questions, or just getting involved in discussions. Occasionally point back to your main brand, and you’ll be good to go.
32. Start a group of your own. Depending on your industry and needs, you can consider creating your own group. This is especially valuable, because if your group takes off, your brand will retain credit for creating it. Fostering a brand community is a powerful way to build customer loyalty, so work to get your people actively engaging with one another and don’t let the group die out.
33. Rely on photography. I mentioned the importance of visual content earlier, but photography can be a powerful tool to produce images that really catch the eye. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take advantage of these best practices, either. For example, keeping your subject in focus, choosing one color to dominate the image, and filling your space as much as possible can easily produce an eye-popping image to help you stand out in user newsfeeds.
34. Get personal. I mentioned this before, but people trust people more than they trust brands. Anything you can do to make your posts more personal will probably appeal to your followers and customers. For example, you might rotate people in and out of posting duties, showing off their individual personalities, or you might post images and content about what’s happening in your office, giving people a personal look inside your business.
35. Keep promotional posts to a minimum. I still see many brands using social media as a megaphone for advertising; you can’t do this and hope to build an audience (at least not organically). It’s okay to post promotional material occasionally, like when you’re spreading the word about a sale, but try to keep at least an 80–20 ratio of pure content posts to promotional content. It will help build user trust and attract more people to your brand.
36. Call your users to action. Most users won’t take an action unless prompted; it’s easier to scroll past an image than it is to comment on it. But a simple verbal suggestion is often all it takes to get them to make an effort. You don’t want to tell your users to like and share every post you make, but occasionally encouraging them to like a post if they laughed at it, or comment if they found it useful, can really drive your engagement rates up.
37. Offer exclusives. Nothing gets people to follow you or keeps them following quite like the promise of exclusive offers. If you give special promotions, discounts, or even free giveaways to followers of one of your social media platforms consistently, you’ll never have to worry about follower retention. Those followers will likely share the opportunities with their friends, and you’ll grow a massive following in no time; it might cost a bit extra, but the extra engagement will be worth it.
38. Organize events and gatherings. Events are a good way to get extra visibility, especially on Facebook, where creating and sharing public events is easy. Whether you’re throwing a one-year anniversary party or just hosting a networking event for your community, your event will be found by people searching for things to do, and if you offer a good enough incentive, your attendees will naturally want to share your event with their friends.
39. Capitalize on trending topics. This tip goes along with the “hashtag” angle from earlier, but it’s still a good way to generate extra visibility. People tend to sensationalize certain events and topics temporarily and in cycles; when those topics reach peak popularity, almost any post having to do with those topics will generate a storm of likes and comments. Use your best judgment here, avoiding too much controversy and posting on the topics you think are most interesting and popular for your audience.
40. Be consistent, but not boring. You should also strive for consistency, giving your existing users something to look forward to, and demonstrating your commitment to followers discovering you for the first time. The only caveat here is that being “consistent” can sometimes lead to being boring if you aren’t careful. Strive to vary your posting topics, timing, and methodology from time to time while keeping your brand voice, angles, and value the same. It might take you a while to find that balance, but it’s an important one to strike.
41. Make everything on your site easily shareable. This should be one of the first things you do for your website; make all of your content as easy to share as possible by including social share icons. There are many easy plugin options that allow you to do this, and it only takes a few minutes to set one of them up. At that point, your users will have the ability to share your articles with a single click, greatly increasing your total number of shares and therefore, your articles’ visibility.
42. Strike up controversy. If you want to really generate some attention for a post, consider striking up a controversy. What the controversy is — well, that’s up to you. You could ask your users a contentious question, post a strong opinion on a subject that could be debated, or become a contrarian, speaking out against a topic that’s taken as the norm. In any case, you’ll likely inspire heated discussion among your audience members. The more comments you get, the more visible your article will become — and you’ll also become more memorable to everyone involved in the discussion.
43. Optimize your headlines. If you want to get more people to see, click through, and read your content, you need to optimize your headlines. Most users scrolling through their newsfeeds are only giving a fraction of their attention to the posts that are made; you only have a few seconds to convince someone to stop and read more before they simply move onto the next post. Making your headlines more concise, leading into them with more action-based language, and teasing readers with exciting information are all ways to get more attention here.
44. Guest post on off-site sources. When you make a new post on your site and distribute it, you’ll only be capturing the attention of people who already follow you. But if you guest post on an external source and they syndicate you on their channels, you’ll instantly be exposed to new audience segments. Aim to get yourself featured on a number of off-site publications, with higher-traffic and higher-authority sources getting priority here. It takes time to build a reputation this way, but every new source you add to your repertoire will be a massive step forward in terms of audience and reach.
45. Optimize your site for search engines (SEO). You should also spend some time optimizing your site for search engine rankings with SEO techniques; doing so won’t yield an immediate gain in terms of followers or social reach, but over time it will help you get more consistent, gradually escalating results. When you rise in rankings, you’ll earn more traffic, which means a higher potential for social shares and a new outlet for people to discover your brand. Collectively, this will help you accumulate a bigger, more invested social audience.
46. Make your customers feel loved. This is another method that exists outside of social media, but could have a major impact on your social strategy. Go out of your way to show individual customers that you care about them. For example, you might send a gift basket to one of your oldest or more loyal customers, or you might include a hand-written note along with an order. You could even deliver exceptional customer service when they’re facing a problem. In any case, your customer will be thrilled enough to consider posting about it on social media — which could hold major benefits for your brand.
47. Comment on other posts. It isn’t all about you; take the time to comment on others’ posts, including some of your brand’s most active followers, and the accounts of industry organizations and influencers. Sometimes, a simple comment is all it takes to catch the eye of a new prospective follower or earn a reciprocal action, such as a share from the account you commented on. You don’t have to comment like a madman — just select a handful of interesting posts on occasion to interact with.
48. Go live. Thanks to the eager adoption of brands like Facebook, live content is becoming more and more popular. Social media posts themselves perform best when relating an “in the moment” experience, giving users a set of eyes into a sequence of events that’s currently unfolding. Streaming live video of the experience adds another dimension to that provision. Whether you’re covering an event, delivering a speech, or just goofing off, a live post can connect you with an entirely new audience segment.
49. Use analytics to optimize your tactics. If you aren’t using an analytics platform to track and analyze your results, you should start. Most social media platforms have their own means of tracking post popularity, click-throughs, and so on, but you’ll also want a tool of your own to dig deeper into these interactions. For example, once someone clicks a link in your social media timeline and winds up at your website, only a tool like Google Analytics can tell you what actions they took next. Take note of what’s working and repeat those tactics, then identify which strategies are failing and cut them out entirely — there’s no room for time-wasters here.
50. Experiment. Finally, we get to my favorite (and what I think is the most important) tip: experiment. There’s no such thing as a perfect or surefire social media strategy. Instead, you have to test the waters and gradually learn what does and doesn’t work over time. The only way to do this reliably is through experimentation; try something. If it works, keep it, and if it doesn’t, ditch it. Repeating this process hundreds of times will leave you with a phenomenal strategy no one else can touch.
These tactics range from easy to difficult, and from laser-focused to open-ended, but all of them will, in some way, help you achieve a better reach in your organic social media marketing campaign. The more people you can reach, the more effective your content will become, the more traffic you’ll receive, and ideally, the more revenue you’ll generate. It takes time to build a thriving audience, but if you remain committed to your ongoing improvements, there’s nothing stopping you from increasing your ROI.