How to Build a Social Following that Creates Traffic
Are you struggling to make things happen with your social media marketing efforts? Or do you not know really? Many people jump into the social media world trying to drive traffic to their new business or blog without knowing exactly. As social media has changed over the last few years, it’s become much harder to just start a profile and reap benefits.
We recently started working with a website and Instagram account that launched on June 1st. Without spending a single dollar on advertising, we’ve reached 674 followers and are receiving 185 users a week to the website from Instagram alone who are responsible for a collective 322 pageviews. You can do this too, and we’re here to explain how we do it!
January 2018 Update: As of January 1st, this account has 5,400 followers and drives over 2,000 pageviews a week just from Instagram.
Before we jump into this guide, we’re going to offer a few starting points to keep in mind. Although this guide may seem overwhelming, I encourage you to give it a shot. You don’t need a ton of technological skills or marketing expertise to utilize these methods. We have an account that is about 3 weeks old with a website that is the same age, and are receiving 185 visitors a week from Instagram alone. More on this later, but the point is that you can do it!
I also want to give credit where credit is due. Sarah Peterson (@petersonsar) recently published a wonderful piece in Digital Marketing Tools Magazine that has inspired us greatly. Her guide is much more in-depth with many resources, and I encourage you to check it out. We’ve also always received a ton of help and ideas from the folks at Moz, especially Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday.
These aren’t strictly our ideas! We’ve chosen a few pieces which have worked well for us in actual practice, which we believe to be relatively simple, and which we find to be useful and non-spammy.
First, we are offering this guide as a general guide for driving traffic from social media to your website. We include pieces on building a following, tracking metrics, and driving your new following to your website. Although you can adapt this guide for any social media account, we will be discussing Instagram specifically here. We chose to do so because we have found it to be the most useful at driving traffic for many of our clients.
The first section of this guide is perhaps the hardest. We’ll set up analytics and tracking to see how beneficial our efforts are. I encourage you to not give up and really give it a shot. After setting it all up, the next moves are much easier!
Also, we just want to note that we are here to help. We offer free consultations and have a contact form at the bottom of this page to email us. We are happy to walk you through any of these methods, give you a head start with some shout outs from our pages with 10,000+ followers, or simply answer any questions about your specific situation, industry, or page!
The Set-Up: Analytics and Goals
First, we need to get set up for this campaign. This is perhaps the most important piece of any marketing campaign. Whether you’re a marketer or a small business owner trying to get off the ground, you need to know where you’re headed and what’s working.
The first piece is setting up a document to track your progress. All you need is a spreadsheet from something like Excel or Google Sheets. Here is a screenshot of a tracking document we are using for a new account. This website and social account was created on June 1st, 2017, and you can see the data we entered below.
You can see we are tracking the traffic, followers, and posts. We’ve set goals for traffic, followers, and traffic per post. I highly encourage you to set something up like this, perhaps laying out 5-10 weeks in advance of goals. The goal traffic is the amount of traffic you hope to receive from your social account that week. The actual traffic is of course the actual traffic from social (NOT total traffic). Followers is the total amount of followers on the account. CTA posts are posts with a call-to-action, or a post that encourages people to visit your site (more on this in the posting section below). Traffic per post is the amount of traffic received for each CTA post (an average).
Your goals are up to you, but we recommend finding a place between shooting for the stars and just settling. Push yourself, but set goals you can actually achieve! You can see our first three weeks had traffic goals of 50, 85, and 115. We then guessed we would post somewhere between 8-12 CTA posts in a week (yes, we post a lot), giving us the goal traffic/post. For example, if you want to hit 25 visitors a week from social and anticipate posting 5 CTA posts a week, your goal traffic/post will be 5 (5 x 5 = 25).
You’ll need some sort of analytics for this process, and we recommend Google Analytics of course. Google has a guide to setting up Analytics on their website. If you’re in Wordpress, you can install a plugin to copy and paste your tracking code. Many other CMS’s such as Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, and Wix have dedicated places to add in your Analytics code. We also set up Google Analytics for websites for a flat rate of $50. You can contact us to get started.
Next, we’re going to set up UTM codes. UTM codes (Urchin Tracking Module) are codes you add to the end of a URL to track information. For example, you can go to www.MindfulMktg.com to get to our home page. You can also go to www.MindfulMktg.com/?src=WheresWaldo, which takes you to the same page.
The benefit of adding a UTM code is that you can track website visits and landing pages in Google Analytics. To add a UTM code to your URL, all you have to do is add it in when you post it to social. We use the UTM code ?src=instagram to track visits from Instagram. So if we are posting about our home page, we would post the link as www.MindfulMktg.com/?src=Instagram.
To utilize this form of tracking, you can go into your Google Analytics and click the “Behavior” button on the left, navigating to “Site Content.” Then, click “Landing Pages.” From there, just search the UTM code you used. See the screenshot below for an example of what you’ll see. The number of sessions will be the number of people that came from your social account!
Adding UTM codes may make your URLs look ugly! You can use a URL shortener like Bitly, including your UTM code with the URL you’re shortening. For example, the Bitly link http://bit.ly/2ttdSK4 takes you to a recent blog post of ours with the UTM code WheresWaldo.
If you want help setting up UTM codes or would like a walkthrough, just contact us below and we’re happy to offer our help free of charge!
Creating Your Profile
Now that we’re set up and ready to rock, let’s jump into your profile. Whether you already have an account set up or you’ve yet to do so, here are a few things to keep in mind in regards to your profile.
Choosing an Account Name
There’s certainly no perfect solution here, but choose the name of your account wisely. If you can, we recommend picking something as branded as possible. We go with the general rules of short and branded, rather than keyword-rich or descriptive. Your username is what people will tag, and you can use your bio to tell more about yourself. If you’re a company called Waldo Inc. in Toronto and you do carpeting, you may want to go with WaldoInc, WaldoCarpeting, or WaldoToronto.
What you don’t want to do is create a username that is just descriptive and not branded. There are exceptions to this, but we’ll mention those in a moment. With Waldo Inc., you don’t want a username like CarpetingToronto, CarpetServices, or something else generic. Use your profile name to brand yourself!
The exception to this rule is if you’re creating a page specifically to generate followers and not actually drive traffic (in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this post). For example, you may want to create an account like Inspiring.Quotes to share generic inspiring quotes. However, for most brands, you’re going to want to go with a brand name.
Although this is not always 100% accurate, our general priorities for choosing a username (in order of most important) are:
-Keeping it short
-As unique as possible (avoiding things like Waldo2)
-Memorable (avoiding things like WaldoCptTrnto)
Again, these are just our opinions based on our marketing experience, and you may hear different things from different marketers. In our experience, your profile image should be branded. Hopefully you have a logo to use. You don’t necessarily need your name to show in your image; a simple logo is enough. It will display right next to your name every time someone sees it anyway.
You want to get your brand out there with the logo as much as possible. Ideally, you want people to recognize your logo without even realizing they’re recognizing it. Use your space wisely to put a logo up, and not just a picture of a field or something inspirational. In some cases, what you’re branding may be yourself (such as with life coaches or therapists). If this is the case, use a headshot or fun photo!
Facebook has different setup for the profile information, so please keep that in mind as we go through this section. On Twitter and Instagram, you have a short section to offer your bio, with 160 and 150 characters respectively. This is valuable real estate. Use it wisely.
We recommend focusing on one thing if possible. Often, people try to include way too much information and it ends up being rather ugly. Here is an example of a poor profile on Instagram. As we always say when we give an example of something “bad,” we are not commenting on the quality of this business or their actual services.
You can see that it has a lot of information, and their intentions were probably good. However, it’s just too much. This is an example of a much better profile. It has a call to action (“reach your people”), what we offer, and a link directly to a page where people can schedule a free consultation and audit.
Building a Following
Now that you have a profile built, it’s time to dive into building a following. We know that all of these methods may not be for you. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to marketing online. What we do not offer here are additional social marketing techniques that are either black hat or overtly spammy/annoying. For us, the bread and butter for growing the account are liking photos and following others.
Liking Other Photos
This one is pretty easy to understand and not too time consuming. When you like the photos of other users, it helps get your name out there. If you’re liking a photo of a relatively small account, the person is likely to see your name pop up in their notifications. Furthermore, that user’s followers may see that you liked their photo. This helps get you exposure and recognition, especially from the user whose photo you are liking.
You can search relevant hashtags for your industry or niche and like some photos that show up. You can also go to specific users and like their photos. We offer a service in which we will go through and like photos from your account (anywhere from 100-500 a day) that are targeted and relevant for $10/month. You can learn about our social media marketing and learn about this service here.
Leaving Intelligent Comments
We are not fans of automating commenting, and strongly recommend against doing it. It’s annoying, makes you look bad, and will 100% earn you a block from our account. Instead, take a few minutes to go through and leave intelligent comments. By commenting, the user is super likely to see your name, as are their followers. This can earn you followers and will help brand your company.
Don’t leave generic comments like, “Nice!” on posts. Instead, comment on posts you actually enjoy and about which you have something to say! A great way to go is to ask a question in the comments. Make sure it’s a relevant question! By doing so, you’re asking the person or their followers to interact with you, building trust and branding. You also are more likely to get some follows by showing you’re interested and engaging.
This is definitely a method which some people may choose to skip, but we have to mention it. It really is one of the best ways to grow an account, especially if it’s a relatively small/new one. The follow/unfollow method is essentially the process of following targeted users with the hope that they’ll follow you back. If you’re following relatively small accounts (less than a few hundred followers), they’re certainly going to notice that they have a new follower!
We’ve found that we receive somewhere between 15-30% follow-backs. That is, for every 100 accounts we follow we receive 15-30 follows back on our account. This depends on the industry and how well-targeted the following is. You can follow people who use specific hashtags or follow the users who follow a similar account to yours.
For example, if you’re a mindfulness teacher, you might find another mindfulness-based business on Instagram. Perhaps you find John Doe Mindfulness Teaching and see he has 4,000 followers. You then can go through his followers and begin following them. These are people who already are showing an interest in what you’re offering, and likely candidates to follow you back.
The unfollow part comes because there are caps on how many people you can follow. If somebody doesn’t follow you back within 10 days, you can go unfollow them. To do this, you just go to your following and begin unfollowing people. Again, we offer this service for you. We will stay 100% within Instagram limits, will never follow the same person more than once (we won’t follow, unfollow, then follow them again), and can guarantee growth. Head over to our social media marketing page to learn more and inquire.
Reposting others is a great way to go. You may hesitate to do so because you don’t want to share posts from your competitors, but it really is a valuable tactic. Find posts you like from other accounts and use a free reposting app (which you can find in your phone’s app store) to repost it. Make sure to leave in the credit to the original account!
As you repost others, you are providing useful content to your users without much work and you get the opportunity to grab the attention of the user. Although the rates are relatively low, you will get some reposts back. We have found that about 10% of the time we repost a user, they will repost something of ours in return within the week. When somebody reposts you, you’ve suddenly reached a whole new follower base for free.
Shoutouts are another way to get followers that we personally don’t use at all. Frankly, it can be time-consuming and often ends up costing money. However, we know it can be extremely successful. The idea is that you get other accounts to shout out your account, sometimes for a fee.
You can do this by targeting accounts that seem like they’re in line with your business. Contact them through direct messaging and ask if they’re willing to do a shoutout. Some will say yes and some will say no. You’re likely to find that people will ask for a small fee via PayPal or Venmo, or they want a shoutout in return. This is simply a more direct way of getting others to mention you than some of the other tactics on here. If you have some money to spend to get your account going, this can be super worthwhile.
Ego baiting is one of my personal favorites. It works, as most people have egos (myself certainly included). When you mention someone or something on your social profile, the business or person is likely to repost it. You can do this by posting a quote from an author, a picture of yourself with someone’s product, or just mentioning how they’ve influenced you in your post.
One of the best ways to do this is to include a bit about another person in a blog post on your website. We’ve done that in this post as you can see with quite a few different people/organizations. And we’re about to do it again…
Here’s an example we’ve seen recently. Sharon Salzberg is a well-known meditation teacher with 17,600 followers on Instagram. She released a book recently called Real Love (which I am reading right now and highly recommend). People are posting pictures of their books, and Sharon is reposting them. Here’s an example from our friends at LoveMoreMovement. They posted a picture of their signed book, and you can see below that Sharon reposted it! That’s great exposure for them! Good job, LoveMoreMovement!
We much prefer to offer you ways to grow your following for free, but paid promotions work well. Especially when your account is new, a few dollars (2-10) on a post can really help get it out there. As your profile is shown to more people and engagement increases, it will help you get yourself off the ground.
By paying for a few promotions at the beginning, you can get a following going that is well-targeted. Once you have a small base of followers, they will interact with your posts and help you get found. Getting started is often the hardest part. Growth is exponential, so once you have more followers you will grow at a faster rate.
Posting and Driving Traffic
So of course you need the followers to drive the traffic, but what about actually posting? A few of the methods above include ways of posting. Here are some thoughts on posting to social media that will help you drive traffic, keep users engaged, and encourage growth of followers.
What you post really depends on your industry. We do have a few general recommendations, but keep in mind that you have to see for yourself what works! First, we’ve found that simple images tend to do better, especially in regards to call-to-action (CTA) posts. For example, here are two great posts (one is a CTA), followed by two bad ones. Note that we actually went through these accounts and saw that these posts performed significantly better or worse than their average posts (better for the “good” examples and worse for the “bad” examples).
A few more thoughts about postings… Make sure you brand your images by putting your name and logo on them! If people share them without giving you credit, you want your name to still be getting out there. Also, try to mix up your photo content. Maybe you post some quotes, some drawings, some photos of people, etc.
Now that you have an idea of what you’ll be posting, you need to figure out what you’re going to write! Keep your captions relatively brief. Instagram is a visual place where people want to see, not read. If you have a good photo, they may read. However, people aren’t likely to read a long post in general.
Include things like personal thoughts, why the post is valuable, and something engaging like a question or some emojis. Here are a few examples of good captions to go along with their posts. Note the use of emojis, the action terms (check out), and the clear statement of what is being offered.
It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge that social media sites have algorithms to decide what people see on their feed. Think about it. If I’m online and I follow you, am I going to see your post for sure? What if I follow 2,000 other people who are posting at a similar time? Instagram of course does not publish its algorithm, but we do know a few things about how it decides these things.
Follower count is actually not heavily weighted. The big factor is engagement. On Instagram, engagement includes liking and commenting. If an individual post has more engagement, it’s more likely to show in your followers’ feeds. If your posts have high engagement in general, your posts are more likely to show in feeds right off the bat. And if a specific user engages with a lot of your posts, they’re likely to continue seeing your posts in their feeds.
Post in a way that encourages engagement. These can be questions, encouragements to like something, or fill-in-the-blank posts. Here are a few simple examples of posts that encourage engagement.
Finally, let’s consider the ratio of what we’re posting. CTA posts are posts that encourage people to take an action, such as visiting your website. If you slam people with too many CTA posts, they aren’t going to engage and you’re not going to continue showing up in news feeds. To increase how effective your efforts are, you have to mix in engaging posts, CTA posts, and general posts.
We try to post a CTA post no more than 1/3 of the time. We’ll post AT LEAST 2 posts between CTA posts, and try to do so more often. Here you can see two feeds where there’s a mix of CTA posts, quotes, general posts, and some engaging posts.
I realize this may seem like a lot to handle. Remember that you just need to take it one step at a time! You can do this. We spend very little time with this new Instagram account every week, and it’s quite manageable. You probably don’t have as many accounts to handle as we do, so dedicate your time to making this work.