How to Get More Followers

Emily Woodhouse Business and Marketing

Straight up, this is not a post about tactics or beating algorithms. Today we’re going to take a holistic look at social media (and indeed, society) and talk about strategies to get more followers across anything. Yes really. Whether that’s Instagram, blog followers, newsletter subscribers or friends. Let’s jump into it!

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Being Social Offline

First of all, what does being sociable mean offline? Let’s think about some social situations and see how people react in them.

1. The House Party

Okay, you can call it a networking drinks and nibbles or a meetup if you’d rather. Either way, it’s a large group of people in a noisy room. Imagine you’re standing at the doorway of this room, looking inside. What do you see? Typically, people will have grouped into clusters. There will be lots of little clusters, standing in circles and talking or feeling awkward in various measures.

There will be a few people standing at the very edges, watching everyone else. Some of them will be on their phones. Others will be propped up with a drink looking wistfully at the “sociable” people in the middle.

Now, imagine several ways of you entering the room. You:

  • Sneak in quietly and stand at the edge on your own.
  • Walk in, join a cluster and start chatting. You might move on to another group later.
  • Head over to a friend and stay with them all evening.
  • Run in and start shaking hands or say hi to as many people as possible. Quantity over quality.
  • Jump on the stage/sofa and start shouting about how great you are, over the rest of the noise.

Which ones might you do? Which ones would be a huge social faux-pas?

2. The Small Group

Next up, let’s think about dynamics in small groups of strangers. Imagine that you’ve been put in a group of 5 or 6 people at an event. Or maybe you’ve joined an adventure tour as a solo traveller and are meeting your teammates for the first time. You have to chat to these people.

What do you do? Well, you probably introduce yourself in basic terms. Maybe you tell them where you work or where you’re from. You and they are probably also judging the rest of the group based on some very shallow things. For example, what they look like, what they’re wearing (even to the extent of a Rab waterproof over a Sprayway waterproof). Humans are designed to make very quick opinions of people. Have you ever heard of that soul-destroying statistic that most interviewees have got the job within the first 3 seconds?

3. One on one conversation

Suppose we’re still on that small group adventure. You’ve in a hut or hostel in the evening and start talking to another teammate one on one. All you know about them is what they’ve offered up in the team icebreaker that morning. So, shallow information like where they’re from or work.

How do you start a conversation? You remember something about them and ask them about it. For example:

“You said you worked selling surfboards, right? What’s that like?”

And then go from there, asking questions of them to get more detailed information. You might find something that you have in common or that you can bond over. A few of these conversations and by the end of the adventure trip you’re best friends.

Alternatively, you have that conversation and discover that something about the jars with you. Maybe it’s an opinion that you simply can’t agree with. Or there’s something about the way they behave that you don’t really like. At the end of the trip, you amicably go your separate ways and never speak again.

How to Be Sociable Online

When you put a screen and the internet between people’s faces, everyone seems to forget these simple situations. The rules and nuances of a social situation come so much more naturally to us in real life. But these rules still apply online. In fact, they form the basis for how and why we interact with and follow some people, whilst reject others.

So, let’s take a look at the exact counterparts of the real life situations above:

1. House Party/The Feed

Everyone says that social media is noisy. By that they mean that there are loads of voices competing for your attention at any one second. I think of the newsfeed or any of the “scroll-able” bits of social media platforms as a room at the house party.

Unless you’re at a very specific house party (think Twitter chat or Facebook Group), there are going to be very few people there that you really get along with. Your task is to find these people.

How did you enter the room at the house party, by the way? Remember that, now think about how you post on social media, did you:

  • Sneak in quietly and stand at the edge on your own.
    That’s the person who barely interacts with social media. They barely follow anyone, they don’t reply to comments or like other people’s posts. Wonder why you’re not making friends?
  • Walk in, join a cluster and start chatting. You might move on to another group later.
    That’s the person who follows a few people and joins in with conversations. They might not be directly linked with their overall goal, but they chat and engage anyway.
  • Head over to a friend and stay with them all evening.
    This is the person who adds their friends and only interacts with them. That’s cool, but it’s not the way to build a following. If you don’t engage with anyone new, you won’t make new friends.
  • Run in and start shaking hands or say hi to as many people as possible. Quantity over quality.
    This is the person who gets their account blocked for spam. You’re not behaving like a human, you’re behaving like a follow-bot.
  • Jump on the stage/sofa and start shouting about how great you are, over the rest of the noise.
    And finally, the person who posts loads, but doesn’t add a human element. You are just sharing links to blog posts or telling people to buy your products. You come across as a computer or a scheduling programme. People find you less interesting because you don’t seem interested in them.

Think very carefully about how you behave on social media. Are you one of those people?

2. Small Group/Engaged Stranger

I’m not really sure what to call this. But basically, we’re going one step closer and more personal. This might be a person who has commented on one of your posts and you’ve replied. Or maybe someone who’s seen you comment on something they’ve liked… and goes to check out who you are.

This person is trying to get to know you a bit better. If this was an “in real life” interaction, they might ask you a question about yourself. On social media, they might ask you a question, but they’re more likely to do at least one of the following:

  • Click on your profile
  • Scroll through the top few posts
  • Click on any obvious links you’ve got posted, or maybe something you’ve recently shared.

If you haven’t answered their basic question: “Who is this person and do I like them?” in those places, then you’ve already lost them. Get it right and you could have just got a new follower.

Action: Look at your social media profiles. Have you summed up what you stand for in these places? Have you got the same information as people might like to know in a live group situation? If not, change it!

3. One on One/ Follower!

The trick to getting people to follow is to get them to feel like they know you. Even if they don’t know you personally, they know what to expect from you on the internet. They like the vibe they get from you. It’s hard to get this one on one relationship feeling with the internet as a medium. People struggle with this the bigger their following gets. But when you’re relatively small, this is the biggest asset you’ve got.

How to make people feel like you care:

  • Reply to their comments. Yes, all of them. Don’t just like them, say something.
  • Maybe follow them back, maybe share some of their content. Depends on the platform and your strategy.
  • Comment on their posts unbidden (e.g. asking THEM questions)
  • Replying to emails and DMs personally

It might not be possible, but give it your best shot. I think it’s particularly worth replying to long, personal emails with long, personal answers. Someone has stuck their neck out and shared their story with you, by giving them equal attention you’ve just formed a small friendship.

Did you find this helpful? Please let me know in the comments and help me direct these more marketing/business style posts. Thanks!