I remember the first time I set up a new social account for a brand (that was 100 years ago right?). It was exciting to customize the profile, share our first update, and get to planning content.
At the time I didn’t have any real idea how to grow an audience but I wasn’t too worried about it because our brand was doing well and had an audience that was as new to social media as I was. We were all just excited to be there together.
At the time I wouldn’t have considered launching social media accounts for an emerging brand without an audience. It would have seemed pointless. There were so many higher priorities, like getting ads in the newspaper so that we could attract business.
It’s funny to think about that now. Newspaper ads would likely be the last thing I would recommend to a new business today. Setting up Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles would be a top priority though.
Which is why when we launch social media for a brand these days, growing a social audience for the brand is also a top priority. You don’t really exist on social networks until you have built an engaged audience -and that takes time, effort, and money.
Marketers are busy people. I’m busy. You’re busy, I’m sure…
We don’t have time to build relationships the good old fashioned way and social platforms don’t make that easy anyway. There are automated solutions for nearly every other marketing task…so why not this one?
A brief history of social media automation
Automation was much more prevalent a few years back but marketers abused the privilege. As a result, social platforms started implementing anti-automation measures. In some cases, they outright prohibit automation in their terms of service.
Violating these rules will get your account suspended or banned pretty quickly so it’s definitely not worth the risk.
But, back in the day, there were a wealth of tools for automating different social media activities like auto-follow / auto-unfollow bots for Twitter, automated direct messages, and hacks for messaging Facebook users that RSVP’d to events, and so on.
All of these tactics are either prohibited or at least considered inappropriate by current standards.
Flash forward to 2019, follower counts aren’t really important anymore (if they ever were) and the best social interactions are real 1:1 or one-to-a-few conversation and comment threads. Engagement beats “reach” any day.
All of which is good and well but still, those first few thousand followers are necessary if you want to have conversations to engage with. Staring at an empty profile with no followers/fans/etc. is intimidating because there are few reliable ways to go from 0 to your first 500.
How can AI help grow a social media audience?
AI is going to be the greatest boon to marketing since the invention of the printing press. Every marketer is going to be working with AI in the next 2-3 years, even if they might not realize it.
The majority of martech products are either reliant on machine learning technologies already or they’re racing to restructure their businesses around AI right now.
This is exciting for marketers because we almost never have enough time or resources to manage all the many activities required to reach and influence modern buyers. AI-driven content marketing tools will eliminate repetitive tasks and give marketers back time to accomplish more tasks in less time.
To understand how AI can help grow your social media audience, let’s review how successful marketers build their followings manually, and then review some tools that automate bits and pieces of that process.
- The first step is understanding your personas and figuring out what type of content grabs their attention.
Start with buyer personas. Interview your existing customers (or your first few customers if you’re still in a startup phase) to model your ideal customer profile and their various pain points, goals, and motivations.
Once you have a good idea what needs to address, you can show how your product features address their pain points, add value to their bottom line, and increase their quality of life.
You can sit and brainstorm for hours trying to guess what your audience is thinking about or you can use a few simple hacks to discover that information through their online behaviors.
The easiest way to do this is to use RiteTag to search for a couple relevant hashtags and then follow them for a few days watching (and documenting) the different types of content that are posted to the hashtag that receive above average engagement.
Find a few tweets that have really taken off. Browse the profiles that liked or retweeted and make sure they more or less match your target persona.
Look at the person who posted. What Twitter lists are they a member of? What other hashtags do they frequently use? Which types of their posts get a lot of engagement.
Another approach is to first search Quora for relevant keywords and to discover related questions. Look for people who’re providing a volume of answers in your niche and find them on Twitter (if possible).
Do this with a few different accounts with a lot of followers and you’ll very quickly see trends in the topics being discussed and what approaches work with this audience.
Create a long list of topics that are frequently covered by the top content producers and make some notes for yourself on the voice, tone, and approach of the best tweets out of the bunch.
- Next research competition in your space and see what’s working and what’s not.
Once you have some direction for which topics are likely to generate interest from your target audience, the next step can be partially automated using content discovery tools like BuzzSumo. Google News and MarketChorus Resonance are also good sources for discovering trending and emergent content.
In this step, the process is the same regardless which tool you choose. Start with a clearly defined topic that you want to cover and then mine competitors’ content for insights on how to create content that is optimized for success.
A quick search of BuzzSumo on any topic will return a wealth of relevant articles which are already generating engagement on social networks.
Look at the headlines, the visual presentation, presence of multimedia, length of content, tone, style, and approach of the top performing content.
Is it designed for quick consumption? Is it more opinion or fact? Is the headline factual and to the point or is does it tease the reader playfully?
For extra credit, perform a quick search with AnswerThePublic to discover questions people are actually asking in search related to your topic.
Using this list for inspiration and comparing similar results in BuzzSumo will save you a ton of time brainstorming and vetting content ideas.
- Use MarketChorus to build audiences that share and engage with relevant content
What if instead of searching for broad terms to identify your audience on social media you could find everyone who had shared or engaged with a particular article, or group of articles?
In many ways, you are what you read. What content you choose to consume says a lot about you and your interests. And while one article could be random, anyone who reads multiple articles on a topic is, by definition, interested.
This is how our technology works at MarketChorus. Our content intelligence platform, Resonance, matches keywords and article searches to audiences on social media, based on the content people are actively consuming and sharing.
Let’s consider a hypothetical example:
Your work for Acme Co, a SaaS-based customer support solution and your customers are primarily other SaaS companies. Your target audience is very likely to read content about A) SaaS growth hacking, B) customer experience trends, and C) AI technologies.
Using Resonance, you search for good examples of this content and save searches and build an audience from the overlap (the “venn diagram”) of social media profiles which have read at least one article in all 3 categories in the last 7 days.
Then you export a list of these accounts to a Promoted Tweets campaign on Twitter and generate a new saved audience in Facebook by mapping the topics discovered by Resonance to longtail Facebook Interests.
Advertising to these highly targeted audiences will drive better, more qualified results for a lower cost-per-click than you can typically achieve on these platforms manually.
It all comes down to context. Building audiences around what people read, share, like, etc. means you’re speaking directly to their established interests and they’re much more likely to click, read, and engage.
- Reach out to influencers to expand your social impact
Everyone is talking about influencers. For better or for worse, influencer marketing is extremely popular and here to stay. And honestly, influencers are great for audiences…they help the end user filter through the noise and discover original content.
Leveraging influencers as a brand however can be an expensive waste of time if not executed correctly. And correctly often means manually. Lots and lots of 1:1 outreach and communications, following up on scheduled promotions, and keeping an eye on brand safety.
AI isn’t going to be any help “herding cats”, getting the influencers to follow directions and hold up their end of the deal. But it can definitely help you discover influencers based on the topics they cover and ranking them by follower count, level of engagement, and other factors.
BuzzStream Discovery is a platform that helps you identify influencers by topic. The BuzzStream paid platform includes tools to automate outreach to influencers that you’ve added to a project after identifying with Discovery.
You can also import custom lists of influencers that you’ve discovered in other ways, creating an opportunity to combine MarketChorus Resonance and BuzzStream for even more advanced discovery capabilities.
As mentioned above, MarketChorus’ platform discovers related content based on keywords or articles you supply and can export audiences of engaged Twitter users.
Additionally, our platform ranks each audience member by their follower count and level of engagement. The top ranking social profiles in these audiences are analyzed and any influencers or micro-influencers are pulled into a separate list for your closer inspection.
Load this list into BuzzStream and you have an end-to-end automated solution for influencer discovery and outreach. Scaling your outreach means that instead of reaching a handful of expensive major influencers, you could potentially reach hundreds of inexpensive micro-influencers.
A 1:1 / manual micro-influencer strategy might work for your personal blog, but that isn’t going to cut it in a professional setting. Automating the process allows to you scale to a volume of activity that produces meaningful results.
- Optimize timing and reposting of social content
Social media is a crowded space, no doubt about it. You are most definitely competing for attention. Attention-grabbing copy, great visuals, etc. are very important if you want your content to get noticed…but so is frequency.
I kinda hate it, but the reality is that you need to reshare your content multiple times.
At least have the dignity to produce original post copy and alternate between images when you repeat yourself, so that your die-hard fans don’t dread your social posts. It’s a fine line to walk…
I know, all of this is asking a lot if you’re trying to scale your activities and get more done with the little time you have.
Meet Edgar, the AI-powered social media scheduling tool that “automagically” schedules a calendar full of social media content for your brand from a library of both evergreen and timely content and business rules that you set in the platform.
Edgar uses natural language processing to automatically generate 5 variations of post copy for each piece of content in your library and provides A/B testing options so that you can improve your approach over time.
AI is rocket fuel for social media growth…
You’ll often need to integrate several software platforms to create your perfect social marketing stack.
I personally use Feedly and Buffer (with an IFTTT integration) to automate content curation, HootSuite for manual scheduling and replying, and save to Read It Later while doing content discovery on MarketChorus’ Resonance platform.
All these integrations are work to set up once, but pay off again and again in time saved. Adding AI to this mix is like strapping a rocket engine on a race car.
Imagine the potential of combining the power of tools like RiteTag for hashtag research, MarketChorus for discovery and intelligence, BuzzStream for outreach, and BuzzSumo for competitive analysis.
It’s an exciting time to be a digital marketer.