Audience Building: The Right Way to Ask for Favors Online

Sure, it’s tempting to try to build your online audience by asking for it—hitting up social media users with requests to follow, friend, fan, share, retweet, and so on—but is it smart?

When you ask for favors, what kind of message do you send? While you may up your numbers, do you also ruin your brand? To help answer these questions, let’s take a look at the best ways to ask for favors on social media.

ASK INDIRECTLY

Perhaps the most powerful way to ask for new followers or new shares is not to ask at all—at least not directly. Instead of shouting, “Hey, follow me,” focus on finding ways to be worthy of following. People like to engage with publishers who produce high-quality content, so by holding yourself to high standards, you indirectly build your audience. Here are some tips:

Offer Something of Value: If you want users to follow you, give them reasons to do so. Ask yourself what’s in it for them. If you don’t have a clear answer, you aren’t making the most of your social presence. A popular lifestyle brand may offer peeks at behind-the-scenes happenings, the way Anthropologie often does. A mega grocery store can post tested recipes, the way Whole Foods does on its website. Look at who you are and what your selling point is for clients, and find a way to translate that into online content. Other ideas include coupons, promotions, interviews, photography, and surveys/research.

Don’t Settle: Anybody can post online. That means the Internet is filled with amateur content. It also means it’s easy to settle for ho-hum updates and photographs in a misguided effort to post often. Don’t make this mistake! With so much subpar content on the Web, rising above the average and standing out are more important than ever. Find ways to raise the bar for content in your industry, and deliver superior content over and over again—like Sprouted Kitchen does among food blogs, Zemanta does among content marketing blogs, The Wall Street Journal does among business newspapers, and so on.

Be Consistent: On social media, consistency builds trust. So rather than changing your voice and offerings on a regular basis, determine a solid sense of your brand and stick with it.

GIVE BEFORE YOU GET

The last thing you want to do on social media is establish yourself as an ingrate. If all you do is “ask, ask, ask,” you communicate you’re all about “me, me, me.” This turns followers off and makes them less likely to help you. Instead, give before you ask—be the brand with killer customer service that goes above and beyond. Reward existing followers by being polite, thanking them for shares, etc.

When individuals identify you as a brand that’s generous, they’re much more likely to hear what you have to say. Make it your mission to give to your followers more than you take—and get ready to see your brand expand.

ASK POLITELY AND WITHOUT PRESSURE

Some brands and bloggers may be self-promotional and pushy online, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Sure, you can post links and share news on social networks, but do so politely—and this applies to getting followers as much as it applies to keeping them. Instead of blasting your newsletter subscribers with an advertisement to “Follow Us on Instagram!” try posting something like, “We’re thrilled to be posting on Instagram now! If you’re on the network, we’d love to connect! Follow us [@instagramname]!” Likewise, when people ask you questions on social networks, respond to them. When people promote your brand, thank them. Manners matter.

THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE

If you ask everybody for favors the same way, you’re doing it wrong. Every person is different, so your requests should be, too. When you want to ask a favor, first consider the person you’re addressing. Think about interests, desires, motivators, etc. Use that knowledge to craft your request to the individual. The way you approach a fellow business blogger is likely different from the way you approach your broad blog readership. Take the time to think about your audience and craft your request accordingly.

Have you been following the above strategies to attract new followers? When you think about building your audience, do you think about creating compelling content, being generous and polite, and considering your audience? What other strategies are also important?

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  • Libia de Freitas Silva

    Eu gostei do Twitter e gostaria de fazer parte deste grupo.

  • Jake Parent

    I’ve always really liked how Whole Foods does Twitter.

    As you said, it’s all based on providing value for followers, and on building community.

    Great post Shanna!

    -Jake