If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a brand.

These days, social media is the best bang-for-your-buck method to reach your audience, otherwise known as the group of people who care about what you have to say. Both corporate and personal brands can benefit from a targeted, strategic plan to build an engaged audience on social media.

The smart way to grow followers on social comes down to understanding how your audience behaves.

Let me be clear, if you already have a bunch of followers that doesn’t mean you have an audience. To reach the right people, you must figure out what networks they use, when they are active, what they talk about, what types of content they like. Your audience will grow, along with your brand, once you commit to consistently posting useful content for your audience, following these simple steps.

1. Find out where your audience hangs out.

This will depend on the nature of your business and the nature of your customers. If your product or service caters to young women, you’ll want to be on Instagram and Pinterest, as a starting point. Similarly, if you sell business to business you’ll probably want to use Facebook and LinkedIn at the least. Choose your networks wisely, rather than simply using all of them.

How do you find out which networks your audience uses?

Simple, ask them! If you have access to your customers in person or if you have their email, you can send them a short survey asking which social networks they use most. If this isn’t feasible, use the data from your company blog (hopefully you have one of those already!) to see which networks are getting the most shares.

A tool like BuzzSumo also enables you to see where your competitor’s content is getting shared, or just content around a certain keyword. Below, I typed in “content marketing” to see where the most popular content was being shared. As you can see, Facebook is most popular, with at least 3x more shares than any other channel. So, if your site is about content marketing, you’d want to be on Facebook for sure! 

buzzsumo

2. Find out when they are online.

Once you know where your audience hangs out, you’ll want to discover when they are most active. Schedule your social media posts so that they are in front of your audience when they are most likely to be online. For example, people tend to use Facebook on weekdays in the early morning, lunchtime and evenings. If your target market is on Facebook, you’ll want to be posting at or around these times.

For Twitter, a tool like Followerwonk allows you to analyze the activity of your followers and gives you pretty graphs like the below, which shows the most active hours of my own Twitter followers. This tool goes a step further and can access your Buffer and set your postings to go out at these ideal times.    

courtneyapps

In the absence of a sophisticated tool like this, experiment with your posting days and times on each network to determine the best posting times for your audience, using clicks, shares and likes as measures for engagement levels.

3. Speak to your audience when they’re active. 

Once you know the active hours of your audience, schedule your posts for these ideal times. But don’t go overboard. Too many messages each day can fatigue your audience, and this varies with each network in use. Buffer found that it’s best to post 2x/day on Facebook, 3x/day on Twitter, and 1x/day on LinkedIn and Google+. Anything more than this and your network becomes disengaged.

engagement

Of course, these numbers are not gospel and you should experiment to find what works best for you. When you are testing your posting days and times, also test your posting frequency to find out how much your particular audience engages. 

4. Join the conversation.

At this point, you’ve figured out where your audience is, when they are active, and how many posts they like to see per day. Now, this is the fun part: talk to them!

On Twitter, hashtags and on Facebook, groups are ways to speak to people who are interested in a certain topic. Using these tactics strategically can put your message in front of people that do not already follow or like your page.

Tools like hashtagify.me allow you to search popular hashtags and find those that are most related, to expand your conversation. Below, I searched for hashtags related to social media and received the top related hashtags, with correlation level and trends over time.

hashtags

On Twitter, chats are another great way to engage with your audience and others in your niche. Buffer is one channel that regularly hosts chats on a variety of social media topics.

bufferchat

5. Commit to consistency

By now, you’ve learned a ton about your audience and how to reach them. Going forward, every post should be specifically tailored to this market you are trying to reach. Consistently posting useful content tailored to your audience will draw in new followers, giving you credibility and authority in your niche along the way.

Your brand needs an audience to keep it alive. Diligently following these 5 steps will deliver the brand growth and engagement you’ve been looking for from social media. Now, sit back and watch your business grow!

Overwhelmed?

I offer marketing strategy and social media management services tailored to your business needs. Contact me to get started!

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