“When you say it, it’s marketing. When they say it, it’s social proof.”

Andy Crestodina

I don’t use social media much. They leech your data, allow others to profile you and cloak the entire parasitic charade in comfy language. Yuck.

However, most people use social media. Including your audience.

Soccer moms are on Facebook, journalists on Twitter. Heck, even grouches like me use LinkedIn! So build a following for your brand on these platforms.

Social media is a versatile and cost-effective way to reach your audience.

Besides the obvious benefits to you, people expect serious brands to have a serious social media presence.

But you can’t just drop a post and walk away. That’s just online autism.

Doing it wrong will hurt you, for even social media junkies somehow consider their time valuable, and won’t allow you to waste it.

Yet doing it well may cost serious resources. The return on investment can be uncertain. And you probably don’t feel like it.

I’ll explain how to do it well in a time and cost-effective manner.

I’ll cover:

  • Rules for social media
  • How to choose the right social media networks
  • How to set up your brand on social media
  • How to build a following
  • How to engage with your following

It will be fun.

But if you’re still unwilling to do social media afterwards, delegate it.

For this chapter you can download the Social Media Content Worksheet .

Rules for social media

Let’s start with the dynamics of social media. It’s a strange but magical place where a semi-anonymous herd gets to act on their most primitive impulses.

But perhaps we can bend them to our advantage.

It’s a hard crowd to please.

In the online public forum, individuals have little to lose.

They’re safe and (relative) anonymous. If they don’t veer into death threats, they’re safe from legal and bodily harm.
Your brand, however, has everything to lose. All interaction is there for eternity, to be scrutinized, shared and ridiculed by others.

This dynamic has the following implications:

  1. People know you have to be polite, despite their own rough This makes them skeptical of your kindness.
  2. People know complaints must be resolved, regardless of their This makes them eager to voice complaints publicly.

In short: the online crowd is hard to please.

Social media involves delicate diplomacy.

Your social media audience wants authentic politeness.

Whether they come to complain, compliment or just hang out, they expect a warm welcome from a real human being. Everyone hates the scripted automatons that only pretend to give a sh*t.

Behave like an ambassador from a lesser power at a UN cocktail party.

Always be the last person to leave. Rub every shoulder that’s willing.
Politely deflect verbal assaults. Never lose your composure.

And if you go after someone, do it with family-friendly humor.

If it suits your brand, you can play a bit rougher. Destroying your followers verbally can be a great crowd pleaser, albeit risky.

Always be principled. Draw a firm line with the undesirables. 

Unfunny verbal abuse should be reprimanded like a grandfather would a naughty dog – friendly – perhaps humorously – but firm. There’s no reason to let them tee off on you.

Unreasonable complaints should be kindly referred to your terms of service. If these are generous enough, you can stand your ground without looking like a prick.

Social media is a direct feedback mechanism.

Using social media means listening to your audience. 

This is sometimes fun, often uncomfortable, but always instructive. As we saw, people don’t mince words in relative anonymity.

Users will be brutally honest in their assessment of you.

You’ll find out:

  • What language works, and what doesn’t.
  • Who loves your brand, and who detests it.
  • What people find confusing about your brand.
  • Why the brand promise doesn’t sway certain audience members.
  • What the weakest points are in your product or service.

Don’t worry, you’ll be entertained as well. Plenty of obscenities will be articulated without proper spelling, grammar or interpunction. Enjoy them.

Social media should be done by the social

Truly social people give unscripted answers. They’re willing to engage in meaningful conversations with strangers. They see being social as a good in itself.

It only works with a truly social attitude. 

That’s why the young are so good at it. They don’t resent their paycheck (yet) and joyfully engage with your audience in the name of your brand.

Social media shouldn’t be touched by cynics. 

The wage-slave getting tasks to justify his presence shouldn’t represent your brand. That’s like sending your grumpy uncle to the door to greet your wedding guests because you’re too busy.

Only give the passwords to those you’d hang out with yourself.

Social media is a perpetual commitment

You have to keep posting fresh content. It damages your brand if the last post is 6 months old – and was only liked by the founder’s mother.

For every language on every platform, you will have to:

  • Frequently post content that deserves
  • Engage with followers that comment and share your

If you can’t manage this – don’t start. Or shut down your page.

Step 1: Choose the right social media platforms

It’s impossible to have a presence on all the social media platforms. You should select the platforms that your audience uses – and keep your focus on them.

A. Find out where your audience hangs out.

There are several methods to locate them:

  • Check which platform demogrpahics match those of your audience.
  • Ask your audience directly what platforms they use.
  • Use tools that show who hangs out where by analysing social data.
  • Look at the social media strategy of similar brands.

B. Make sure you have the skills to produce content for your platform.

To create quality content, you’ll need to be adept with images, video, or copywriting. YouTube requires high-quality video content. Instagram and Pinterest use great-looking images.

You probably have a shortlist of candidates by now. Rank them according to their potential.

C. Claim every handle on the shortlist.

Usernames are called handles. Your audience finds your handle by searching for your brand name, so always include your full brand name in your handle.

If possible, try to use the same handle across all your platforms. Use  tools to check if your handles are available. If it’s unavailable, add ‘official’, ‘real’ or something more creative. (OriginalJuicyCow)

You should register a handle for each social media platform on your shortlist. Even if you aren’t using them now. It prevents competitors, clowns, and cat-ladies from claiming your space.

D. Choose one or two platforms to start with. 

If you’re building a brand, it’s likely your resources are limited. Some founder will be doing the social media as a side-project, or interns take turns running it.

That’s why you’ll want to start with one or two platforms. It allows you to invest in quality content and frequent responses.

Check your shortlist and decide which platforms (1) align with your goals,
(2) have the biggest user base and (2) are most likely to yield a good return on investment.

E. Set up multilingual pages for your (Optional)

Be wary of using English if (a chunk of) your audience is German. They might speak both, but there are barriers to being social in a non-native language.

That’s why brands serving multiple countries can set up a (1) global page) and (2) a page for each local language. Imagine ‘JuicyCow’ is your global handle. It’s in English, as it serves everybody around the globe.

Now for each local market, you can register a handle with the country code behind it: ‘JuicyCowDE’ for Germany or ‘JuicyCowJP’ for Japan.

Be careful. It is not merely a matter of translating content. You’ll have to engage your following in their language as well.

Only bigger brands bother with a page for every market they serve. They have minions to produce content and replies in each language.

Step 2: Set up your pages

Congratulations. You’ve chosen your social media platforms and claimed the handles. You’re now ready to set up your pages.

A. Insert your information. 

Your page should include a short pitch so newcomers know what your brand is about. Keep it short and sweet, or just use your war cry.

Always include a clickable call to action to convert your following. Social media should yield results, and followers must be able to commit somehow.

B. Insert your graphics. 

The logo and cover graphics have specific lengths and widths on each platform. Find these dimensions and tailor your graphics accordingly.

Better still are templates . They show the dimensions, but also which areas are visible on each screen size.

Your cover grabs the most attention, so be sure to use an image that conveys your brand promise. Decorate it with text if it pleases you.

C. Ask your network to follow you. 

The first 25 followers serve as proof that your page is worth following.
No-one will like a page that no-one else likes.

The easiest way to kickstart this following is to ask your network to like you. This causes queasy feelings, as you’re (hopefully) not used to begging for approval.

I know it feels queesy, but just bite through it.

For the best results, avoid the automated requests your people are flooded with. Send an authentic personal message instead. It makes it harder to ignore your request:

“Hey [name]! After gallons of sweat, blood, and tears, I finally got around to realizing my dream of building [brand]. I’d love to keep you posted, so you’d do me a favor by hitting the ‘follow’ button here [page link]. It won’t be spammy – promise. Thanks already!” 

D. Integrate tracking mechanisms on your website. (Optional) 

Most platforms provide a piece of code tracking the platform’s users as they interact with your website and ads.

These cookies allow you to track conversions from ads, define audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have interacted with your website.

If you’re using this technology, you can use the platform’s documentation or other manuals to build it into your website.

Update your privacy policy accordingly. These cookies are pretty invasive and exposure user behaviour.

Step 3: Build a following

Each page needs followers who like, share, click or comment on the content. If a post gathers a lot of these ‘engagements’, the platform will label it as valuable. It will show up in more user feeds.

So the larger your following, the more potential engagement, the bigger the reach of your brand.

But how to get people to click ‘follow’? How to make them care? What if you can’t feature panda videos? The answer is surprisingly simple, yet demanding to execute.

A. List the subjects your audience cares about.

The secret to building a following is posting content that is useful to your audience.

They scroll through mountains of nonsense on a daily basis. Your posts should deliver that rare piece of entertainment or knowledge.

If your post evokes an emotional response, even better. Laughs, cries, empathy and especially outrage have users press the ‘like’ button like a famished Pavlovian dog.

Conversely, your post about Friday’s drinks might not do much. You can use these things as filler, but each sh*tty post is a reason to unfollow.

So make a list of subjects your audience actually cares about:

  • See what similar brands serve up for content.
  • Check the content of other pages they follow.
  • Use tools to  analyze the interests of a defined audience.

Now you’ve got a list that will serve as inspiration for your own content. You can make sure it’s accurate by asking your audience .

B. Build a process to source, process and publish content.

You should standardize the way you source, process and publish content. This makes Social Media easy to do and delegate.

i. Download the Social Media Content Worksheet .

ii. Structure how you source content.

With a structure you can create a steady stream of content. Examples:
• Gather company news like product updates, vacancies and behind the scenes stories.
• Gather content from your users. Interview them, ask for reviews, ask for pictures. They love to be highlighted, but you can further incentivize them with contests.
• Use tools to collect the content of relevant sites, accounts, and influencers writing about the subjects on your list.
• Use tools to generate content ideas based on your subject list.

iii. List the steps and tools for processing and posting content.

With a list of steps, you reduce errors and increase speed. For example:
• Check each post for spelling and plagiarism .
• Repost 3d party content with tools that add your branded links.
• Optimize for search engines by inserting keywords .

iv. Create a specific posting schedule.

Post too little and your audience will forget about you. Post too much and your engagements drop off, plus you annoy people for congesting their feed.

As for when to post: make sure your audience is on their feed when you do. You’ll have more eyeballs, hence more engagement and reach.

Studies suggest the following frequencies and times:

MinimumSuggestedMaximumTime
3 x per week1 x per day2 x per dayBefore 6:30 AM
After 8:30 PM
2 x per week1 x per day1 x per day7:30 AM to 8:30 AM
12:00 PM
5:00 to 6:00 PM
Tuesdays to Thursdays
1 x per day3 x per day5 x per day12:00 to 3:00 PM
Mondays to Fridays
1 x per day1 x per day3 x per dayAnytime except between
3:00 and 4:00 PM
3 x per day5 x per day30 x per day6:30 to 11:30 AM
on weekdays
8:00 – 11:00 PM
on weekends

C. Spend money to get your content in front of your audience. (Optional)

If users see your content for free, the platform itself isn’t making any money. This is why commercial content can be deprioritized in the user feed. It gives you an incentive to ‘promote’ your post, in other words: to pay for eyeballs.

This makes organic growth harder. To build a following and keep your posts in front of them, you’ll probably need to spend some money. It prevents a post from dying after your mother hit the like button.

Every platform has different ways to do this. Run an experiment and see if the added engagement is worth your cash.

Step 4: Engage with your following

Perhaps you know the dopamine kick that a bunch of likes delivers. It’s an awesome feeling – signaling that people think you and your content are valuable.

Any like, comment or share is called an ‘engagement’.

Only a small percentage of your following engage with each post. If you do not respond to their efforts, they will feel ignored.

Don’t ignore followers. They’ll disengage from your content and brand.

Even though you need to respond to all sane and less sane engagements, you don’t want to spend all day doing it.

But don’t automate your responses. Or regurgitate the standard ‘thank you’ whenever someone shares or comments. Followers can smell fake and will disengage as if you’d ignored them. No:

You’ll need to respond efficiently and authentically to each engagement.

That’s of course, a tender balance.

Here are some ways to increase the efficiency of your replies:

  • Use tools. Some tools gather all your social media engagements and messages in a single inbox, using (push)notifications when you need to reply.
  • Block your social media time. Make sure you’re not constantly responding. Schedule one or two blocks of half an hour each.
  • Script responses. By saving answers to frequently asked questions you can speed up your responses. Craft several so you don’t look like a robot.
  • Make a folder of GIF’s. You can download some GIF’s that say ‘thank you’, ‘awesome’, or ‘well done’. Just paste them from your folder into the reply.

Here are some ways to increase the authenticity of your replies:

  • Add a name. Sign each response with your (fictional) first name. Adding ‘– Jennifer’ to each reply reminds the follower that he’s interacting with real human beings – not just a faceless logo.
  • Use emojis. They’re the easiest way to add some humanity to your replies. Use them to convey the emotions that plain text lacks.
  • Use gifs. Just like emojis, they have the power to spice up your text. And since there’s a GIF for every social situation, it’s easy to dig one up that fits your reply. They are also great for thanking followers without being smarmy.
  • Use images. They’re the fast way to answer questions. It saves you the typing, and the follower the reading. Go the extra mile by drawing personal messages on the screenshot.
  • Use video. This might sound like an outrageous investment but a reply can be recorded in 10 seconds. It’s experienced as extremely personal and is hence a sure-fire way to prove you actually care.
  • Ask questions. How did they experience [insert topic blog post]? Do they agree with how you handled [insert anecdote]? If they respond, you can continue the conversation and build a relationship between that person and your brand.

Be sure to combine the efficiency tips with the above authenticity tips.

And if you can find it in your heart, try to have some fun. Social media is a miraculous playground. You can engage with the world from a piece of glass in your hand.

Summary and steps for building a social media following

Most people are on social media. It’s a versatile and cost-effective way to reach your audience.

Yet the online crowd is hard to please. Their relative anonymity makes them brutally honest, skeptical of kindness and eager to voice complaints publicly. Be authentically polite, yet draw a firm line with the undesirables.

Social media only works if you’re sociable. It has to be kept alive with regular fresh content. If you can’t manage this – don’t start.

Step 1: Choose the right social media networks:

  1. Find out where your audience hangs out.
  2. Make sure the platform functionality matches your goals.
  3. Make sure you have the skills to produce content for your platform.
  4. Choose one to three platforms to start with.

Step 2: Set up your brand on social media:

  1. Create a branded company page on each chosen platforms:
    1. Is your brand name unavailable? Add prefixes.
    2. Design your cover photos and banners using templates.
    3. Create company pages for each local market you serve. [Optional]
  2. Claim the company handle on each platform you plan on using.

Step 3: Build a following:

  1. Find out what your audience considers valuable content.
  2. Create a process for sourcing, editing, and publishing content:
    1. Make sure it is easy to understand and easy to delegate.
    2. Use tools to manage publishing. [Optional]
    3. Recruit colleagues and friends to engage . [Optional]
    4. Pay to boost your content. [Optional]
  3. Execute as you track your engagement and follows.

Step 4: Engage with your following