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How to build an engaged online following for your business

If you build it, will they come? 

You’ve got your business name, your logo and your brand statement, but how as a small business owner do you nurture a loyal customer base? Social media can be one of the most effective (and affordable)  tools to help you get past this huge initial hurdle, if you stick to a few simple rules.

For social media rookies, these are your first steps to build an engaged online following that will convert to more sales.

Step one: Define your audience

It can’t be “everybody”. Think about specific types of customers who are likely to use your product or service because of their needs and location. Get an idea of what they like, what they do and their family environment to construct one or more customer personas.

Once you have this person in mind, research which social media platform they are most likely to be on.

According to Business Insider, while Facebook is still the most popular social network by far, the audience is slowly getting older. As such, Facebook would suit your business if you’re targeting people with children or even grandchildren.

Instagram and Tumblr are popular with teens and young adults, which is handy if you have lots of fantastic, fun images to present.

Pinterest is also great for visuals and has a strong female skew. LinkedIn could be your place if you are a B2B business and want to foster strong professional links with your clients.

Knowing your audience and understanding what they want will help you shape the way you post on social media and will go a long way to build an engaged online following. 

Step two: Come up with a plan

The first ingredient of a good social following is consistency. You won’t have any luck at capturing an audience if you upload random posts at odd intervals.

Your social media strategy should include a set number of posts per day or per week and an idea of what you will be sharing. One tip is to create a schedule and include a mix of regular:

●  Sales announcements
●  Product promotions
●  Customer testimonials
●  Exclusive offers for followers
●  Memes and fun photos

The beauty of building a social media following is that you can view your statistics and try new things, making regular small adjustments based on what’s working. 

Step three: Make it interesting! 

Think about the brands, products and portals that you keep up with online and why you like them. Is it because they give you a heads up when there’s a sale?

Perhaps they help you with ideas to run your business. Or they could be just plain amusing.

Your followers need a reason to stay in touch with you, starting with quality content that they will look out for. You can create this through gorgeous images, helpful tips and informative blogs, videos or infographics that are relevant to your brand.

As well as posting on social media, start working on a monthly newsletter that includes your content. For some businesses, hosting free webinars or information sessions can also stand them in good stead to build loyal followers.

Whatever your content, make it as share-worthy as possible. Remember to be human and speak to your customers like they are individuals. 

Step four: Promote your content

Getting those likes can be very difficult to begin with but there are many ways to build an audience.

Social media platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter allow for targeted, affordable advertising that can cost as little as a few dollars a day. This makes it possible to direct your advert or page promotion at ultra-specific demographics, like mothers in the Brisbane area who have a cat, or teenage Melbournites who are into skate culture.

Set your budget and see how you go - if your ads don’t generate sales you can always try something else.

Step five: Stay involved

All kinds of systems exist that let you automate your social media posts, but you do have to pay attention to your audience to get them to engage with you.

Ask your audience questions to create a dialogue and make sure you respond promptly and politely to comments and feedback.

Share the posts of other businesses that are related to yours and use their hashtags and handles to expose your posts to their audience as well as your own. 

Step six: Keep track

Building your online following can’t rely on a set-and-forget strategy.

Most platforms offer insights into your audience, showing you information about your top posts, when your users are online and even what industries they work in.

You might start with one demographic in mind and find out that you’re popular with another group - so update your strategy accordingly.

Building your online followers is all about trial, error and constant improvement but the beauty of social media is that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money while you learn. 

Special feature: Everything Australia's small businesses need to know about the nbn™ network.

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