It’s vital for business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers to take advantage of every tool at their disposal. One of the most powerful marketing tools available is social media. However, without an audience, you’re doing nothing more than talking to an empty room. What’s more, that audience needs to be comprised of the right individuals – those who are interested in what you have to offer, loyal to your brand and willing (and even excited) to engage with you and your company on whatever social network you’re using. How do you build an audience? It’s both very simple and rather difficult, but the following tips will help ensure you create the ideal audience, receptive to your message.
Be Yourself
First and perhaps most importantly, be yourself. Authenticity to your brand and your company’s personality is vital. If you are perceived as being disingenuous, you’ll find that your audience dwindles and eventually disappears. Consumers today are far savvier than they were even just a few years ago. They’re no longer content to sit back and passively follow faceless corporations. They demand personality, ethics and culture from the companies they interact with. Let your personality come through in everything you do on a social network. Don’t worry that you’ll alienate people – those who leave were never your core audience anyway. By being yourself at all times, you’ll begin attracting those with whom your brand’s personality resonates.
Connect with People You Already Know
Most social networks, including Facebook, G+, Twitter and LinkedIn, give you the ability to connect with people you already know and interact with. This is done by importing contacts from your various email accounts (for instance, LinkedIn can connect with pretty much any email platform out there). Why invite people you already know? These are people that know you, that trust you and that are more than likely interested in engaging with you in other places.

Won’t inviting your contacts alienate them? It’s certainly possible, so the best rule of thumb to follow here is to carefully consider each contact before sending out an invitation. This ensures that you invite those most likely to connect with you and that you don’t send out unwanted connection notices to those who would not be interested. Inviting those you’re already connected with helps you build an audience already familiar with you and your company, helping to bolster a new audience or boost a flagging one.

Connect the Dots
Your company is involved in many things, most of them offline. One way to build your online audience is to connect your offline activities with your social networking accounts. You might choose to display your Facebook URL at the checkout counter in your store, or perhaps hand out business cards with your social media accounts printed on them. You can send out postcards with QR codes linked directly to your social media accounts and more. The possibilities here are almost limitless. The point is that you need to make your social media activities visible and accessible to those you interact with only in the physical world.

Always Provide Value
Any update or blog post you make needs to offer your audience one thing – value. The more value you’re able to provide, the more your audience will grow (and the more willing to share your updates and posts your audience will be). You can provide value in virtually any way that fits your business and your audience, but make sure that your content is interesting, informative and intriguing. It should make your followers/friends/connections want to read on, to leave a comment or to share it with their own connections. This is perhaps the hardest thing for business owners using social media to wrap their heads around. Take the time necessary to find out what your audience finds interesting or informative, how that can be tied into your company, and then tailor your content to match that.

Offer Useful Content
This ties in with providing value, but needs to be addressed on its own. One of the best ways to grow an audience is to provide useful content. This may or may not have anything to do with your business at all, but it should be something that appeals to your customers/audience. For instance, if you ran a shoe store, you might offer a short guide to cleaning and caring for athletic shoes. You might provide information about the best types of shoe polish for men’s dress shoes. Again, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Make your content useful and valuable (and free). By giving to others, you get a significant return (the attention and loyalty of your audience).

Update, Update, Update
You’re busy – most business owners are. You have a business to run, customers to serve, orders to place and shelves to stock. With all that going on, it can be difficult to find the time to update your social media accounts. However, be aware that NOT updating is one of the most common causes of audience erosion. No matter how loyal or dedicated your audience members might be, if you cannot update on a regular basis, they will slowly drift away. How often should you update? This is where it gets tricky. You’ll need to base your decision on your audience, business model and social media use, but once every day or two is acceptable. One update each day is the better option. Block out a few minutes every day to update your networks and ensure that you’re reminding your audience that you’re still around.

Building an audience on social networks is vital to seeing any type of return. However, it does take time, patience and the right steps. The tips listed above will help get you off on the right foot, but you still have to make the effort. Be prepared to put in some time here – your audience will not build itself. Anything worthwhile is worth spending a little time and effort to attain, though.

During 2003, John Lessnau popularized Text Link Advertising when he founded the first open Text Link marketplace

John hopes to do the same thing 10 years later with social media links at his new website Social Link Mart is an open Social Link Marketplace for SEOs, website owners, and social media enthusiasts to buy and sell social links such as Facebook Shares, Google Plus Shares, and Twitter Tweets. All social link sellers are ranked by social media authority which keeps the bots and spammers out and real people in.