Q & A with Lori Ballen | I was wondering how to get followers up in numbers?
Yes, Good Question. First of all, I’d advise less focus on the sheer numbers and put more focus on the quality. This is one of those cases where quality truly does trump quantity. You want followers who are most likely to engage and hopefully, at some point, buy your product or services.
This is true for social engagement and for blogs, although they really work together these days.
When I moved over to Keller Williams in 2010 and saw this massive network of agents, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted real estate agent referrals. My audience, which I always teach my Ballen Academy students to identify as a first step, was real estate agents. Next step was to create a plan on how I would add value to these real estate agents lives and businesses once we connected. Then of course, I needed to make the connections. I began on Facebook and started friending all of the real estate agents I could in our company and then beyond. From day one, I would post things I thought would be valuable. These were anything from motivational sayings, pictures and videos to full on ‘how to’ guides on topics I knew a lot about. If I didn’t have a particular skill to share, I would choose something and “curate” the content. I would gather how to information from other sources and share that.
At the same time, I started a Facebook GROUP which really has a lot of power. These groups are less threatening than someones “fan page” which most don’t want to “follow” anyway. We can talk business in Facebook groups and target a specific type of topic, or hobby, or company, or whatever we want the group to be about. It was in THIS group that I found a voice and a connection with fellow agents that eventually became more than 1/2 of my real estate business and 90% of my training company business.
I choose to be positive on Facebook and not “complain” or voice things that are too over the top political or religious. This was done in an effort to not alienate anyone. I still post things that may be controversial like when my young daughter told us she was gay. Yes, it was shocking for many, yet it was real and it was me. What I didn’t ask for was any kind of political support or opinions. It was a heartfelt “story” when I posted it. She asked me to post as she wanted to “stand for something” personally and support someone we knew. It was risky and I was OK with risky although it was in the “voice” and delivery that led to it’s acceptance with my friends and followers.
“The real secret to Social Media is in the Value you provide to the lives of others.”
(Click to Tweet This)
The key to creating followers is knowing WHO they are and in building a tribe. You must be willing to GIVE to them frequently. You must be willing to carefully sift through your “audience” on a regular basis and remove those that don’t “fit” the conversation. I usually reserve removal for “snarky” or for those that simply aren’t engaging and obviously aren’t interested in what I have to offer based on what I can see when I look into our “social relationship”. Many times someone “friends or follows” and then never follows, or even hides the posts from the news feed and so on.
How To Get Engagement
First of all, you must be willing to engage yourself. This is a commitment of time and energy. You can’t ask others to engage if you aren’t willing, so be ready for the “task” of it. I don’t respond to each and every comment. Yet, I purposely focus on getting to many and keeping a dialogue going as long as I can. I won’t ask “what are you cooking for Thanksgiving dinner” and then run away. I’ll engage with their responses.
Engagement comes with great questions, hot topics, and honestly conversations about THEM rather than YOU. People enjoy answering questions about themselves. I like to find conversations we all have in common. One example was when I asked people what their favorite thing they ever got for Christmas as a child was. Before you know it, we were all strolling down memory lane together, posting pictures of our Sit N Spins and Rock em’ Sock em’ Robots (Yes, I’m over 40).
The other day I shared a conversation my husband and I were having. And then I followed it up with a question. “My husband and I were so poor, we ate top ramen for a year. What was your ‘I was so poor food’? The engagement was incredible.
Facebook does have an algorithm that creates friendship “formulas”. The more a “friend” engages with you on Facebook, the more your posts are shown to them. If a friend comments on your posts, yet never on your pictures, Facebook will show them more of your posts, and less of your pictures. This algorithm, called Edgerank, is intended to keep the news feed less cluttered and give more valuable results to the user based on the actions they actually take. Google is doing the same thing actually.
Engagement in groups is quite easy as long as you are on topic. Engagement on “fan pages” or “business pages” is not so easy. When you post something on your business page, Facebook will take it out of the newsfeed if it doesn’t get likes, comments, and shares within seconds and then continue to get them. Otherwise, you have to pay for engagement boosting your post via a Facebook ad.
Facebook for Local
One of the best things I’ve done for my local real estate brand, is build a hyperlocal Facebook group. Hyperlocal is when you laser focus on a specific small area in a location such as a subdivision, or community providing information specific to them. My Facebook group for Las Vegas doesn’t do nearly as well as my Hyperlocal Facebook Group focused on my geographic farm, Summerlin (which is a master planned community in Las Vegas).
The first step was creating a blog and website that catered to Summerlin. We built in maps, and talks about Summerlin’s location, and weather, and population and then began blogging about things to do, places to go, special events and so on. Next, we started a Facebook Group called ‘We Live In Summerlin’. We used our Facebook Business Page for Summerlin to run an ad for the group using Facebook’s demographic audience targeting to promote to those we believed were most likely to live in Summerlin.
The group began to grow and feed itself. The key for me is adding value. When someone asks “Hey Summerlin, where’s the best place to get your nails done”, we collect the suggested data and create a blog post for it. Once the blog post is done, we share it on social and back into the group. This Value is building our tribe for Summerlin. In each blog post, we offer our newsletter subscription which is really a digest of all of these blog posts built on THEIR suggestions.
Engagement and Followers on a Blog
Engagement on a blog post is incredibly more challenging. I have to be honest that I focus less on “comments” on a blog and more on subscriptions, as well as time on site and actions taken. With so many people trying to Rank First in Google Searches Using SEO these days, many comment with spammy responses and links rather than true responses to the blog itself. “Nice blog, thanks” is not a true response to a blog post and adds no value. The comments also can reduce the SEO on the page if they don’t add in more valuable text to the page.
The real estate blog platform called Activerain is a good example of this. Because it really is a blog forum, comments are many. This platform is over all “cleaner” and less distracting and user learns that comments are a benefit. In fact, comments can lead to more reward in Activerain “points”. Yet many of these comments are exactly what I said above. Spam responses to gain personal benefit. Those to me, have little value and I don’t chase them. I also don’t engage with those types of responses. “Your blog is great. I’ll have to bookmark it to read more later”. Yuck. Sorry, that says “I just want the AR points” more than anything.
When I write a blog, I’m focused on value to the consumer. I’m hoping they like what I have to read and I’m intending for them to either click through on a particular similar article, or on an offer. I’m hoping they spend a lot of time reading my post, and that they then take action. I’m just not that focused on a comment personally.
Blog followers for me come from offers more than anything else. For my education company, they are Offers like:
- Download the 2015 SEO Report
- Read the 43 Lessons I wish I would have learned in Real Estate School
- Get your free WordPress Set up and Best Practices ebook
- and Subscribe to this blog for the latest and greatest discussions on Internet Marketing and Lead Generation
Very few come from the little subscribe box we add to the right column of our blog sites. The pop up subscribe boxes do work, yet then you could be sacrificing SEO and causing people to leave bothered by the sudden disruption. It’s a choice. We create little “offer” buttons using a platform called LeadPages.
Keeping Subscribers and Followers Coming While You Sleep
It’s important that you look at your blog posts as “assets”. If you are spending the time, energy, and sometimes money (copyright free pictures you may pay for, ghost writers etc.), you are investing in your brand and these posts and articles are now assets. One and done posting doesn’t work. There is so much noise on the web, that you must look at yourself as a media company and publish often. When I create a post, such as this one, I publish and blast across the web immediately. I also use Sprout Social, a social media posting tool to schedule my post to go out at least once a month through the social channels ongoing. These will feed to Twitter, Any Facebook pages I choose, Google +, and LinkedIn. I will schedule them to go out at all different times. This is why people will chew me out saying “Lori, don’t you ever sleep?” or “Lori, you are supposed to be on vacation, why are you working?”. It’s my social tools blasting. (Not that I haven’t ever chosen to blog on a vacation or post at 2AM).
Sprout Social even has a built in QUE where it will post at the next “top” time based on social studies. This means your post gets “fed” at the best time to get the most interest.
Reminder about Value, It’s always about Value.
In closing, remember this. It’s not about you, it’s about them. The more you make your blog posts and social posts about things your reader can RELATE to or LEARN from or GAIN MORE BUSINESS from or even FEEL something from, then you are more likely to build your follower base and keep them coming back.