This is a guest post by Varda Meyers Epstein.
The Duchess of Windsor famously said that one can never be too rich or too thin. If she were alive today, she might add that one can never have too many Facebook friends. But she’d be wrong.
We all know someone who’s a star on Facebook—someone who has thousands of friends—so many that Facebook said he or she can’t have any more, so there.
I’m not one of them.
I’m not shooting for numbers, never was. I only ever cared about engagement. I think this may be the reason I’ve developed a readership for my blogs, regularly receive requests from PR companies to attend press events, and am showered by authors with review copies of their latest books.
The thing is, I never intended for any of this to happen. It was all a happy accident. I opened a Facebook account in 2008, wanting to see what all the fuss was about. Back then I was a nobody. Five years later, I’m somebody (at least as far as Google is concerned).
Mom Was Right
I’ve thought a lot about it—why without any drive to build a social media presence, one was built in spite of me. My conclusion is that Mom was right: it’s better to have one good friend than a whole slew of fair weather friends. In other words, quality over quantity, engagement over numbers, is the right focus for building a following.
In addition to choosing engagement over numbers, I’ve also accidentally developed a formula, one I’ve never put into words. That is the purpose of this piece (you knew there had to be one, right?): to outline the apparently winning formula that paved my way to accidental Facebook fame.
1. Passionately Curate Inspiring Content
I think of Facebook as my sideline. I work from home for a nonprofit located on a different continent. There’s a time difference. I start work at 11:00 AM so my office hours in the Middle East will overlap with those of the main Kars4Kids office in Lakewood, N.J. That means I have the luxury to go through two leisurely hours of Facebook newsfeed each morning while sipping on two cups of strong black coffee. As I scroll through my newsfeed, I open, in a new tab, whatever looks to be interesting. If it interests me, it’s likely to interest my friends. Those are the items I share.
2. Develop A Workable Posting Format
I’ve always been a natural speed reader, which serves me well for choosing the content I want to share. I can quickly see the most relevant section of a news article and use it as a pull quote for my share. Above the pull quote, I usually add a short pithy comment of my own, and I thank the original poster.
[Editor's Tip: Tagging people when you thank them works great too. Read more here].
3. Be Interesting And Relatable
Give your friends a glimpse of your life in your Facebook status updates. If you share something true, they’ll know. They’ll relate. And they’ll engage by responding with lots of comments.
4. Blog To Offer A More Intimate Glimpse Of Who You Are
Pithy comments and relatable, interesting status updates are nice but kind of a tease. It’s your blog that’s going to give your friends a true view of the real you by expanding on the topic. A good blog should leave your audience more knowledgeable about you but gasping for breath and wanting more. When my girlfriends tell me a particular blog piece makes them cry, I know I’ve hit the sweet spot.
5. Share But Don’t Overshare
Don’t post items just to post and don’t share items that are too intimate. Apply your good taste as needed. About to share your fiftieth item for the day? Refrain. Got a rash? No one wants to know. Trust me on this.
6. Know Your Followers
Have you ever had a “Who’s that?” moment on Facebook? I haven’t. That’s because I’ve kept the numbers manageable which translates into keeping it real. I can tag friends on items of interest to them. I can remember their hobbies, what they do for a living, and the names of their spouses and children. I can remember who does and doesn’t like Brussels sprouts.
They like that. They respond to that. It’s the knowing stuff about people that makes it possible to actually engage my Facebook friends, because I actually know them. It’s like this: I’ve never had to fake an interest in my Facebook friends. These virtual friends have opened my eyes to other cultures and viewpoints and have shared important moments with me. There’s been a real exchange. The give and take I have with my Facebook friends is due only to the fact that there aren’t so many of them I can’t keep up. That makes it possible to build real relationships and in building relationships, I’ve managed to build a following, albeit by accident.
A happy one.
Varda Meyers Epstein is a mother of 12 who’s paid the rent for the past decade by blogging and writing web content. Her latest gig is as the communications writer at Kars4Kids, a nonprofit car donation program that funds educational initiatives for children.