Why a million followers won’t help your business be successful.

I know this firsthand. A couple of months ago, my business Instagram page had about 160 followers. One hundred and sixty. And through Instagram, I got two new leads that quickly converted into projects. While I’ll be the first one to tell you that what works for one social account won’t necessarily work for every account, I’ve compiled some best practices that I’ve learned through years of trial and error.

1. Define Your Brand

This feels like one of the most frequently used buzz-phrases in marketing right now, but it’s true. We’re spending more time online and less time reading each paragraph that comes across our screens. Your social captions, as well as your bio, need to quickly communicate who you are by explaining what problem you solve for people and how they can reach you.

Keep in mind that as visual as social media can be, content is always king. I will never get tired of emphasizing the importance of good, strong content, because at the end of the day your message is what defines who you are and how the world views you.

2. Be Strategic

When I first developed my social platforms I wanted to do it all. Hashtags, contests, sponsored ads. The problem? Mindless content and following trends is not genuinely who you are, and it won’t help you achieve your organizational goals unless they’re strategic.

To get started, develop a content strategy and a social calendar with relevant topics. In my business, for instance, my focus is helping businesses develop the right message for their audience, so I created an internal calendar around thought leadership, awareness and showcasing my work. Exactly what resonates with your audience will be as unique as your business is.

Pro Tip: Use hashtags that are relevant to your post and your business. That will help you attract new people to your posts – they know what to expect.

3. Be Consistent to Stay Top of Mind

I’ll be the first one to admit this can be a challenge for entrepreneurs and business owners. We have so many tasks on our to-do list that posting Instagram stories is the last thing on our mind. But if you want to be successful, this needs to change.

A good way to stay consistent on social media is taking advantage of free tools like Buffer or Hootsuite. What’s worked for me is allocating 2-3 hours at the beginning of every month to schedule a few relevant items I want to be seen later. But remember, pre-scheduling posts doesn’t mean you can forget about your platforms. Make it a habit to check back regularly to make sure everything is on track.

Pro Tip: In an ever-changing world, what you posted yesterday could be completely tone-deaf tomorrow. When scheduling posts, remember to make sure what’s about to be published still matters today.

4. Consider Quality Versus Quantity

Having a million unengaged followers is not as meaningful as having 200 people who believe in you and trust brand. Contrary to what top influencers have made us believe, social media is not a numbers game, and you should view your followers — whether it’s 10 or 10000, as important relationships you need to nurture regularly.

I wish I could go back and explain this to my past self.

5. Not all Platforms are the Same

As much as I hate to overcomplicate things for you, social media is a complex topic because all platforms operate differently, and what’s helping you thrive on Instagram could be completely ignored on LinkedIn.

To avoid hurting your social reputation, I always recommend doing research before posting and determining what platforms work for your business, your goals and your audience. If you’re a cloud-based software company selling to CFOs, LinkedIn is probably the right place for you. If you’re opening a delivery service for pet supplies, Facebook and Instagram are where you might most effectively communicate with pet-lovers. It’s completely up to your audience where you should focus your efforts.

Struggling to develop your voice on social media can be tricky. But it’s worth taking time to methodically think through how your social media can help you reach your business goals. And if your business goal is to get more businesses, you can likely do that with fewer than 1 million followers.

Katie Lantukh helps businesses know what to say online at Murphy Marketing.

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