Over the years I’ve often been asked about monetising social media followers. Well, I tell you now that the irony is not lost on me when I think about my meagre follower numbers when compared with some of the mega-influencers out there—why are they asking someone with such a modest number of followers about monetising?
Turning social media fans into customers seems to be the perennial pursuit of all businesses.
Many times my clients have a lot more followers than I do. But I know what really happens behind those numbers. Big follower numbers don’t automatically equate to big money, because not all followers are engaged enough to become customers. In my experience as a brand-building mentor, I know how challenging it can be to monetise social media profile, regardless of having 10,000 or 20,000 or more followers. At the same time, we can have a profitable and sustainable business without a massive number of followers (and without stressing about those pesky follower numbers).
So what’s the golden mean, that sweet-spot of follower numbers, you ask?
There isn’t one.
If you see someone with tens of thousands of followers, and you cannot work out how that is possible (the business/idea/individual seems kind of mediocre with no discernible substance), chances are good that they ‘bought’ those followers some years back. It was possible to hire (legitimate!) agencies and get them to perform ‘engagement strategies’ thereby increasing your follower numbers dramatically over the course of a few months. Those practices are now gone as major social media channels started banning them. You’ll see some spam messages landing in your inbox occasionally still promising something too good to be true. Block and report those. The bottom line is that ‘buying’ followers is more about status than sales.
And there are brands that genuinely have large numbers of followers. Some of them do well promoting and selling what they’re truly passionate about. They are outliers. Even with large numbers of followers, it’s still incredibly difficult to rack up sales and there’s a fair bit of luck and timing.
What now then? Luck and timing are elements we cannot really control so we go for something that we can. My client Caro is a great example. I coached and photographed her exactly a year ago. She launched her business about, say, 7 months ago. She is running a highly profitable and sustainable business right now and loving her life. And as you’d see when you check out her profiles, her numbers are not all that big but we could also guess that the numbers will continue to grow.
Caro puts her success down to all the work we did together before the launch of her business, the focused approach we had – what’s important and what’s not. The rest is all her hard and consistent work. She often tries to give me too much credit!
Let me end today’s dispatch with a very useful set of questions from my ‘teacher’*, Bernadette Jiwa. She asks powerful questions about our customers.
After all, what we want right now is more of our ideal customers, not just more followers. As I have said so many times, the road to a successful business is all about understanding yourself and the people you seek to serve. Once you know that critical information all the way down to your toes, you’ll stop worrying about follower numbers.
* I’m not affiliated with Ms. Jiwa. I read her books and studied her method for my own brand building and for my clients. To my mind, she is the ‘original’ expert in storytelling for business.