Ever since Facebook started gaining traction more than a decade ago, more and more small business owners have been turning towards social media to reach potential customers or clients.
For some of them, the results were astounding, while many others simply found their voices were lost in the crowd. If you fall into the latter category, you may want to read on.
First, what is your sphere of influence?
It is the total number of people who are likely to see your posts or content you put out on social media. It includes the total number of people you are able to reach, whether they are part of your following or not.
Some of these will depend on your following, some will depend on the content you put out, and some of it will depend on how many people share it with others.
Note: Typically, only 5% to 10% of your followers will see your social media content. However, depending on their reactions and interactions with your posts or videos, it could be shown to other people outside of your network.
While some would describe your sphere of influence as the number of people that follow you, the reality is somewhat different: A sphere of influence literally refers to the number of people you can possibly influence at any given time – including social media followers, email subscribers and push notification subscribers.
Your normal limitations:
Normally, there are a few things that can become “a glass ceiling”…
The obvious one is the number of followers you have, and how the social network’s algorithm decides how few of th em will see what you put out.
The second one is the average number of people outside your following who will be shown your content. This depends on the post content/description and hashtags, as well as the reactions and interactions of the initial small number of people who see it.
Finally, there is the average exposure you get from people sharing your content. In most cases, small business owners find that they have a few real “fans” out there, who will interact with – and share where possible – much of what they put out. The more valuable your content is, the more likely it is to be shared, regardless of whether the perceived value is educational, informational or entertainment value.
What you need to do is to break out of the proverbial box, and find new ways of gaining exposure beyond your current sphere of influence.
How to grow your sphere of influence:
1. The free way:
Exchange posts and shout-outs with related but non-competing businesses in your area, or who serve the same area. For instance, if you own a catering business, you could partner up with a florist, someone who does wedding dresses, party hire, limo hire, specific venues, and event planners.
You could either refer to one another in your content as a recommendation, or literally post content from each other, or both.
You can do this across multiple social channels – but just be sure that the person or company you are doing your exchanges with are serving audiences with similar demographics.
Also, the channel/profile/page that you offer exposure on doesn’t have to be on the same social network as the one you want exposure on – as long as you can find a way to give each other similar exposure value.
2. The paid way:
Instead of exchanging posts and recommendations or shout-outs, you can simply pay to either have your content posted on someone else’s channel or profile, or to simply have your link added to a description (of a video they posted which is very popular) on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.
However, when going the paid route you will need to do your due diligence. There are many social profiles and channels out there which have loads of followers, but they are inactive. In some cases these followings were accumulated long ago, and the owner of that particular profile or channel lost their interest along the way, and in other cases they have been purchased – which means that even if those are real accounts from real people, they are unlikely to be interested in what is posted.
Look at not only the follower count, but look at the number of views – and especially the number of engagements (likes, comments, shares) that their posts or videos typically receive. That will give you an indication of how many people will actually see your content.
In addition to that, be ware of profiles/pages that only exist for advertising. Even if they have built a decent audience, they could still be posting too many ads per day, which will lead to many people simply ignoring their content. Once again, look at the engagement rates.
Build mutually beneficial relationships:
In may cases, especially if your sphere of social influence is still small, the people you want to connect with can have larger followings than yours. In that case, you could offer to (a) run multiple ads over a period of time in return for one on their channels, or even offer to run ads across multiple channels/profiles of your own in return for them advertising on just one.
At the end of the day, as long as the amount of exposure represents a fair exchange of value, most (related but non-competing) small businesses will be open to discussing it.
Work with the right people:
If you want to use this method to grow your social media influence – free or paid – you will need to pick people who are actually working on their social media presence themselves. Steer clear of people who only post once in a blue moon, or do so inconsistently. All social media platforms reward users for consistent activity (by giving their content more exposure).
Fair enough, in some cases you can get some decent exposure, even from profiles/pages which are somewhat inactive. Keep in mind, however, that as yours continue to grow, theirs won’t. At some point in time you may have to move on to deal with people who are serious about their social media presence.
Of course, as time goes by and your sphere of influence expands, you will find yourself able to approach larger accounts (unless you are in a small town), and scale your exposure as you go.
Getting additional exposure is one thing, but actually growing your sphere of influence is another. Be sure to convert as many of the people who see your content into followers, and if you do have a mailing list, into subscribers.
Because it serves little purpose to go through all of that effort to gain exposure, only to never be able to reach those people again (unless you do the whole thing over and over again, which could mean that YOU will be the one left behind as other people’s spheres grow).