Follow me, but don't follow along

In this industry, we spend a lot of time talking about social media and how to influence its users. In PR and advertising, word of mouth is the reigning king of influence. And that's why Twitter and Facebook are such powerful tools. One tweet can spark a discussion and spread interest among new people. It all starts with getting eyes on your brand and recently social media consultant Amber MacArthur wrote "Top 10 Social Media 'Power-Friending' Tips," reminding us that we all need friends, especially social media friends. 

Businesses need followers who can give feedback about their company and contribute new ideas. Although the concept of recruiting followers does not sound too challenging, the real obstacle is keeping people drawn in. Most users only follow what they know. I can attest to acting in safe mode - my lists are filled with endless organizations, celebrities, and other users I’m familiar with. Yes, it is true, I do not normally go outside my comfort zone unless something about the page intrigues me or someone makes a suggestion.

How can our clients recruit more followers? It’s pretty simple. Entice the audience. The first key rule is to be authentic and honest. Don’t post outrageous thoughts just to get a reaction out of people. Rather, post meaningful messages that will make people think. Keep up with Twitter, which most agree means posting something every 1-2 days. Tell stories to keep followers engaged. How is this possible with 140 characters or less? Pictures. Share what your company is up to with photos and don’t be afraid to show some personality. It’s impossible to get to know each follower, but try to listen to the points people are bringing up. Seeing how your brand is viewed through consumer’s eyes can offer incredible value. See my colleague Kate Finigan’s recent post on the Old Spice campaign for a perfect example.

There is a multitude of topics for organizations to talk about, but it’s critical that they set policies for employees and carefully manage corporate Twitter accounts that are updated by more than one person. Policy can control anything from employee disclosure of internal activities to sharing opinions on news related to their business. Some companies are more traditional, others are more flexible, but surprisingly this doesn't always map with the size of company. There are examples of big and small businesses finding social media success. This brings us back to the idea of letting the followers speak. Their response is what matters and in order to stand out, you must bring something new to the picture. Even if that picture is not so clear at first. 

-Contributed by Michelle Hacunda. Follow her @Michelle_Belle6.