How to gain a following and drive traffic, before you even launch

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Quite a few people think that if they have a great product, the followers and buzz will come. The reality is, getting those followers takes a lot of work, and it’s not always steady going. Most small businesses we talk to can’t afford to take losses for too long, and hope that when they launch, they start making sales. In order to do that though, you have to have some customers already waiting in (virtual) lines for your products.

Here are a few tactics you can use to start building a following on social media before you launch.

Choose your goals

Going down the social media marketing tunnel without any vision can mean you’re wasting time with ineffective work. Start out by identifying the platform that’s most important to you. You’ll want to do a bit of digging to see which social media sites are best for your field, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or anything else. You’ll then want to choose whether the goal is to gain a social media following, or direct your social media following elsewhere. For example, is your goal to get anyone who interacts with you to sign up for your newsletter, or to follow you on Instagram? Both are effective marketing platforms, but focusing your attention on one for now can make your efforts more concentrated and effective.

Fill in every field

When you make a page on any social site, it’s going to ask you for information to put on your company’s profile. The more information you have, the better. No, that doesn’t mean you need to write you step-by-step business plan and what you had for breakfast in your “About Us” section. But it does mean you should have some keywords you think people would Google to get to you included. It also means you should put at least your location, industry, launch date, product or service description and contact information up.

Come up with some sneak-peek content

You’ll have to have some content for people to see when you direct them to your website or social accounts. Even if you don’t have a whole launch yet, come up with some nice photos that tell a bit about your brand. Try especially to use these photos to build anticipation, with expected launch dates or information about how to access your store. At least 3-5 photos is good to aim for for a pre-launch.

Join all the groups

Facebook and LinkedIn have “groups” features, which could be excellent starting points. You’ll need to do a bit of digging, but try to find out what groups your target audience generally joins and get on in there. Even if you aren’t allowed to advertise (this is group by group), you can still comment and learn about your potential future customers. The Facebook Audience Insights tool can be super useful if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

Use your other channels to direct traffic

When you tell people on an email to like you on Facebook, or when you promote your Facebook followers to retweet you, this is called “cross-platform traffic”. If you already have some sort of profile online, you can tap into that network to direct traffic to the one you’re focusing on.

One step to take is including links to your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in any email newsletter you send. If you’re sending email through a client like MailChimp or Klaviyo, you can include an email signature or heading that embeds these links.

Another way to expand your netowork is to use “find by email” features that are available on all social media sites. You can tap into your own email network and automatically follow or add everyone on your list. When they get a notification that you’ve added them, they might be inclined to do the same.

Use your target audience to test your products

You can ask Instagram influencers or other prominent social media users to be part of your beta testing. Find people with public social media profiles with lots of engaged followers, and send them messages telling them about your concept and inviting them to participate. There are a couple of benefits to this. First, you’ll be getting valuable feedback and ideas from people who think like your target audience. And second, they’ll be the first people to get excited about your company and hopefully turn into brand ambassadors. Find out how to find influencers here.

#A Note on #Hashtags

Hashtags are essentially how sites like Twitter and Instagram are categorised, and how people find posts from strangers that interest them. Getting good at hashtags is an important step in reaching the right people and keeping your future customers engaged with your brand. Hashtags are pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind before you launch.

Create a hashtag that people will actually use

Sure, it’s easy to think “oh yes everyone’s going to love using #coolshirtswithpatternscompany because I think it’s a great company name”. But remember, your hashtag has to be something that people might enjoy using even if they’re not diehard fans but simply kind of like your brand. For example, Herschel tried creating the hashtag #HerschelSupply, which has been used over 150,000 times. Not terrible. But they switched gears and made their brand hashtag #WellTravelled. That was used over 700,000 times, because it seems a lot more accessible and open, while still being targeted. Similar is Nike’s #JustDoIt slogan, which feels much more intuitive to use than their company name. Before you launch, you can consider if your hashtag and company name match up, or if one needs adjusting.

Get involved in other people’s hashtags

Kind of similar to joining groups, hashtags are how you get yourself involved in a particular online community. You can follow common hashtags in your industry, and when you start posting with others’ hashtags, you’re going to be followed by those searching within the industry. Feel free to use five or ten hashtags on every post, bringing in people from multiple corners of the social media sphere. Twitter and Instagram work quite similarly in this way.

Start a Kickstarter campaign

Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites let you solicit investment from everyday people. In the process, you’re building a following that now has a financial interest in seeing you succeed. Your Kickstarter campaign can be a great way to advertise to people who have already proven their interest.

Nothing substitutes for steady nudging

Unfortunately, there’s no way to go from zero to Forbes overnight. But there are tons of steps you can take every week to start building your following, even before you launch. Emailing people inside and outside your networks, hosting events with partners where you give out swag and fliers, reaching out to influencers on social media and scheduling posts that complement each other across channels are all small steps you can do to start building a following.

Want some more examples of steps you can take to build a following? Check out these ideas from startup founders who made it happen.

Have you built a following before launching? We’d love to hear about it! Contact Elkfox if you have any stories about what worked for you, or want more marketing strategy tools.