How to build a social media following

March 1 2016 / By Lauren McNeill

Building up followers in social media can seem like a daunting task. Growing readership for your online postings takes time, but there are little things that can be done to not only grow your audience but also increase the extent to which they interact with you.

1. Follow people in your field of interest

Following people notifies them of your existence on that specific "channel" (as different social media tools are often termed). It is likely that if you are following people that have similar interests to you, they will follow you back. This then leads to them potentially reading, liking and sharing your content, which will help to increase the visibility of your posts with a wider network, some of whom will likely also then start to follow you. It is  important to keep track of your own new followers, and to follow back those whose profiles or posts seem interesting. Likewise, try to show support to your followers by liking and sharing when they post something relevant.

Beware of those who follow then unfollow. This is really frowned upon on social media channels such as Twitter; where a person follows an account, waits for them to follow back, then unfollows them. This is not a good way to build a loyal following online.

2. Be interesting

Some people fall in to the trap of only posting links to their own website or work, and this is likely to decrease your following. Try to blend posts about your work with other information that interests you and is likely to be interesting to others - for example, funder announcements, new journal launches, government policy, projects and initiatives, news in your field, other publications that have caught your eye. Always add a comment of your own about why you find these pieces worth sharing - what is the story behind them? Ask your readers questions - what do they think about a recent policy or publication? Look out for interesting hashtags (discussion labels) and get involved in those conversations. All of this will help to keep your postings fresh and interactive, which will encourage more people to follow you, and encourage more people to re-share your postings which in turn will help more potential followers find you. You will also then find when you do send a tweet about your own work, more people are likely to click through and take a look.

3. Use visuals

When sending a tweet or posting content online, including a picture will instantly make it stand out to your followers in a news feed or timeline.

Facebook posts with images see 2.3 x more engagement than those without images

These don’t have to be professional photos. In fact, there are many ways to summarize your work in an image including infographics, videos, screenshots, memes and data visualisation (graphs and charts).

Kudos | How to grow your social media following


  • Overused stock images
  • Poor quality images
  • Irrelevant images – don’t add an image for the sake of having an image

4. Keep it up

One of the easiest ways to fall flat in social media is to start enthusiastically but tail off thereafter. Often you find that the time of day when people might be reading your postings is not a good time of day for you to be writing them.

Online platforms such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to create a tweet or Facebook post, and then schedule a date and time for it to be posted to your followers.

Just make sure you don't schedule too many posts at one time, as this will look odd to your followers - the trick is to plan and time these posts sporadically.

Kudos |How to grow your social media following

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