As we’ve helped our clients build and manage their social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and more, we’ve learned a very valuable lesson:

You can’t force people to care about you.

Plenty of services will sell you Facebook friends and Twitter followers, which is the modern equivalent of buying a list of email addresses: it’s spammy.  We’d never advise that our clients do that because it’s invasive (and, often, it’s a waste of money).

There’s also the tactic of “batch following” other users — or, in layman’s terms, manually choosing to “follow” (or “subscribe to the updates of”) dozens or hundreds of Twitter users at a time, in the blind hope that those people will choose to follow you back in return.

The problem is, very few people do.  It takes such little effort to follow someone on Twitter that doing so is no longer seen as an expression of interest in that person, but a self-interested request for attention on the part of the follower.  (In other words: “Hey, I see you.  Now look at me.”)

This is explains some of the lopsided “follower ratios” you’ll see on some brands’ Twitter accounts.  In many cases, a company has chosen to follow thousands of users, but only a few dozen users have found that brand worth following in return.

Keep that up and you’ll start thinking your brand really is boring, when your problem is actually in the execution.

Don’t Beg.  Be Interesting.

At Creative Concepts, we encourage our clients to build their online following organically, by reaching out to:

  • Existing customers
  • Potential customers
  • Industry peers
  • Industry journalists (bloggers, podcasters, newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  • Anyone with a problem that our client can solve

For example, in the dead of winter (or, worse, in the dog days of all this summer air conditioning), Twitter is alive with the sound of head colds.  Users can’t help but complain about stuffy noses, dripping sinuses and general misery.  They’re also frequently in search of a remedy — and that’s been a great opportunity for (our client) Bigelow Tea to suggest lemon or mint teas that might help ease someone’s sore throat.

We find proactive engagement to be a far more valuable way to grow our clients’ web communities.  Not everyone responds, but those who do are more likely to continue that active engagement, and to spread the word among their own audiences.

And since social media empowers your brand to find its own audience, wouldn’t you rather have an audience that actually pays attention to what you’re saying?

Do you want to pay even more attention to us? Follow us on Twitter!