I find it hard to take advice from people who are poorly positioned to give it. For example, so-called "social media experts" giving tips on how to grow your platform when they lack a large following themselves. Sometimes people forget that credibility demands results.
As for today's topic, I am experienced here. With over 750,000 followers on Pinterest, 130,000 on Twitter, 287,000 on Facebook, 50,000 on Instagram, and over 100,000 email subscribers (signup below), I feel qualified to teach on the topic. There is no pride, just confidence. And while I'm sure I have missed some opportunities, I have also been able to convert my following into engaged readers of this blog (about 500,000 per month). Another critical sign of someone who has valid influence.
To clarify, I've never scammed anyone into liking my pages. I don't run contests to gain followers. I have not bought ads for new fans. Every single follower has been completely organic. And of all the work I've put into carefully building my platform, protecting my reputation, and operating with integrity, I have found these five concepts to be the pillars of my success.
Disclaimer: I'm not here to share my "come and go" social media tactics with you. These are always changing and in my experience, easy to learn. Instead, I am going to share the foundation of my online leadership philosophy. It's this way of thinking that naturally attracts others and converts viewers, into followers.
1. Speak to people how they need to hear it, not how you want to say it
At our core, we are all selfish beings. And focusing energy on selflessness has always been a common win for leaders, but what is rare is those leaders who can communicate with selflessness. To intentionally craft their words, posts, or marketing statements for each individual audience. To be considerate enough to change their style to accommodate the needs, vernacular, culture, or beliefs of those who are listening. It's not being inauthentic; it's being attentive.
Thoughtfulness is the most effective version of communication.
Critical Question: Are you taking your audience into consideration for every single post? Are you trying to add value to those who are listening?
2. Be selective in your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right
Every battle has a consequence. A victor and a failure. It's common for leaders (especially A-Types) to turn common online confrontation or debated discussion into a battle. We lose sight of the person and focus our sights on the win. We fight with intense fervor and find our moment to slam the door shut. "Bam! I'm right!" But then it sinks in... the hurt and defeat we caused on an issue that never had the merit of such a pain.
Leave your pride, ego, and narcissism somewhere else. Reactions from those parts of you online will reinforce great reasons for people to not look to you as someone worth following.
Critical Question: Are you involving yourself in unworthy arguments? Are you creating content that causes hurtful controversy? Do you struggle to put people before the problem?
3. People follow people, not ideas, blogs, or businesses
I see too many incredible people hide behind their content. They even lack the self-confidence to follow themselves. We know when people engage with our blogs or our music or our designs, our content is adding value. But value is different than connection. Connection only occurs when the content creator incorporates their humanness and their story within their work. This is the beginning of a relationship and the only thing worth following.
Self-confidence is not taught or learned; it is earned by realizing that your unique story is worth following.
Critical Question: Have you opened up to your community? Have you shown your audience more than your highlight reel? What could you share that might bring people closer to the real you?
4. In humility, value others above yourself
Of all the leadership principles I have learned from the Bible, this is my favorite. Have you ever met someone who authentically compliments you, lifts you up, and affirms your character? Almost as if you're more important then anything else at the time? The capacity of offering this gift derives from a heart of humility and genuine belief in the value of people.
It's a hard quality to develop online, but the more you can grasp about the equality of the human condition, the less you will tower over those around you.
Critical Question: Are you affirming people every day online? Do you respond to people's comments and questions? Are you an encourager or a broadcaster?
5. People don't refer ugly
Good design is now the norm. The next level is exceptional design. As influencers, we must remember we're creating content that people want to share. Here's something I learned from a very wise friend: People don’t want to be associated with something ugly. What does this mean? Everything from your headshots and website to your social media grammar and your logo must represent beauty and intentionality in every aspect. Great online leaders pay attention to the details.
Exceptional design tells potential followers "If they care this much about the smallest details, then they must care about me."
Critical Question: Have you been intentional about your brand? Have you paid professionals to help you create an image of quality? Are you always trying to improve?
How do you do what I do?
A friend of mine has been talking about starting a blog for months. I reminded him that a year from now, he'll wish he started today. The same logic reigns true for building a business or social media following. If you have a passion, don't sit on it. Remember, you'll never regret investing in your dreams. And on that note, here's your answer. Let me help you jump-start your purpose.
What online leadership principles have worked for you? Did my list add value to you? Let me know in the comments below.