Alright friends, today we are going to break down one of the most misunderstood parts of running an online business – Social media!
Truth be told, social media can be a very powerful weapon and using social media correctly can help you drive tons of traffic to your site and help you to earn money online.
But there’s a lot of bullshit out there and a LOT of flukey one-off epic social media wins that have become pretty famous – these are not representative of the average entrepreneur’s experience with social media and are tough to replicate.
Honestly, I don’t really like Social Media and depending on what kind of business model you are following, you may decide you don’t need to be active on social media at all (you should still lock down the relevant account handles though).
Social media CAN be very powerful – I advertised and sold out my first five Pakistan Adventure Tours almost exclusively on Instagram…
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Indeed, selling products on social media IS interesting and is something which I’m going to be experimenting with a lot in 2018 as I try to sell some of my own products through Instagram.
Before you can sell products though, you need to build up an audience. This post will teach you the tips, tricks and hacks used by most influencers to build their social media followings quickly.
Build a Social Media following on Twitter
Twitter is one of the easiest social media networks to grow rapidly and has been used by many bloggers and entrepreneurs to increase their social authority.
Social authority refers to the amount of trust that followers, brands and colleagues will place in you based purely on the amount of social media followers that you have.
Someone with 2,000 Twitter followers will have substantially less social authority than someone with 20,000 Twitter followers.
Having a ton of social media followers automatically validates your opinions and actions in the eyes of many social media users… Nuts as that may be.
Marketing through Twitter can be challenging and most of the difficulties are due to the nature of Twitter itself. A tweet only really sticks around for about two minutes before it’s banished into the dark abyss of the ever-updating Twitter newsfeed.
This means that from a time-invested point of view, it can be hard to get good value from Twitter. Or if you want to get good value, you need to be very, very active.
I have 103,000 social media followers on Twitter. I don’t think I’ve even logged into Twitter in 2018 yet…
However, I do have posts scheduled to go out every day in an effort to try and drive some traffic to The Broke Backpacker and to get some social shares, which may help with SEO, on those posts.
How to hack Twitter
I want to point out right now that I do not think it’s worth doing this in 2018. But, if you want to, this is how you can do it…
Allow me to introduce you to the dark world of follow-for-follows. In general, if you follow somebody on Twitter, there is a 20 – 30% chance that you will be followed in return. Bloggers were quick to work this out and to start capitalising on it and today there is a whole bunch of software available online to allow you to rapidly follow hundreds of people in a day thus inflating your own number of Twitter followers.
The good news is that it’s fast and cheap to build a Twitter following, the bad news is that even when you have a million followers you may struggle to leverage them and actually direct traffic to your site. In 2016, I used Social Growth Pro to rapidly grow my own Twitter numbers.
How To Make Money With Twitter
I’m not really interested in Twitter so this is something that I only have a bit of experience with. In 2017, I made $3850 on Twitter through Twitter Talks and the occasional sponsored tweet. I am able to charge up to $1000 for a single Twitter talk but clients are few and far in between.
I suspect that this is because the return on investment for clients paying for exposure on Twitter is not great since, as mentioned before, content drops off Twitter faster than any other network. I do not recommend counting on Twitter as an income stream although hell, maybe it’ll help you run for President.
Tips and Tricks for Using Twitter
Twitter is a time-sink and the best tip I can give you if you do decide to build a Twitter following is to create evergreen content which can be recycled indefinitely on Twitter. I use Buffer to mass schedule all of my social media posts – this means that I sit down for an afternoon once every three months and schedule three months of content.
So, should you build a following on Twitter?
Only if you’re determined to hit all bases and plan on going down the blogging route… It is pretty cheap and time effective to build a Twitter following but that seems to be the main advantage of Twitter!
Twitter is best used for building your social authority and driving traffic to your website but should not be relied upon as a source of income.
Build a social media following Facebook
Arguably the most important of social media platforms, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Facebook is a constantly evolving, data-stealing, time-sucking monster used by 1.86 billion people monthly around the globe.
Setting up a Facebook page and building an audience used to be a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website and interact with your audience but the value of Facebook to influencers has nose-dived as you now have to pay to reach your own audience.
How to hack Facebook
Many bloggers and online marketers have used Facebook adverts to artificially inflate their Facebook followings. The typical practice is to choose a picture of a beach, slap a travel quote across it in Picmonkey and market it to the cheapest countries to advertise to; namely India, The Philippines and Indonesia.
I know many travel bloggers who have done this and have built up their Facebook pages to thirty, forty, fifty thousands likes in just a couple of months. Here’s the problem; these guys have screwed up big time.
Whilst it is incredibly cheap to market to the aforementioned countries (a like is going to set you back about 1 cent), you will absolutely kill your engagement level as you are marketing to an audience that is simply not relevant (unless you are from India, Indonesia or The Philippines) and most of your newfound audience will never interact with your page again.
You can get around this by advertising to, for example, Europe, Australia or The USA but a single like may set you back as much as one dollar… That’s pretty damn expensive and even when you have those oh so precious likes upon your page, Facebook will still make you pay to reach your new audience.
There are numerous examples of bloggers who have 50,000 followers on their Facebook page but who struggle to get even ten likes on any content they put up on that page. Since brands are looking for engagement, and since your audience needs to engage if you are to drive them to your website and sales pages, I strongly recommend avoiding paying for likes on Facebook.
The one advantage is that you can put your social authority through the roof but at the end of the day, it’s not real and if you know what to look for it’s easy to spot the fakers on Facebook.
For this reason, I don’t spend any money on likes for my Facebook pages.
How to make money with Facebook
The most common way to make money on Facebook as a blogger is by charging brands and advertisers for a sponsored post in which you attempt to drive traffic or raise awareness of a product or service. The problem is, many brands will want you to ‘boost’ the post and pay Facebook to get the status in front of a larger audience… As previously mentioned, once you do this you will be locked into a contract where you will have to do it every week or see your page reach fall drastically.
Once Facebook knows you’re willing to pay, they will change the algorithm for your page and encourage you to pay at every opportunity. In 2016, I used to pay for Facebook boosts and was able to undo the damage after a couple of months of not-paying. My organic reach slowly improved after taking a massive dip following my decision to stop paying to reach my audience. It took time though and was very frustrating. Today, my organic reach on FB is still pretty poor.
I’ve netted a few thousand dollars on The Broke Backpacker Facebook page promoting products or services over the last year but I have discontinued this service in 2018 – I want to have zero reliance on social media as an income stream as I strongly dislike spending any time at all on social media.
Tips and Tricks for using Facebook
Facebook is currently trying to push Facebook Live as much as possible and this means if you jump on the bandwagon and utilise Facebook live you will receive a much larger organic reach.
So, should you build a following on Facebook?
As the largest social media platform in the world, ignoring Facebook would be foolish if you want to start a personal brand or blog. However, just be sure you don’t get sucked into spending money and wasting too much time on something that is unlikely to provide a reliable income stream.
Facebook is a powerful opportunity to build a real relationship with your audience and this is a crucial part of any blogger’s business plan. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, your audience can get a real feel for who you are and what you are about. For bloggers, Facebook is essential. For niche site owners, it’s not necessary to put time into social media (although you should always lock down the handles).
Crucially, Facebook is the second best social media platform for driving traffic to your website. I’ll talk more about the best social media platform for driving traffic soon!
Build a social media following on Instagram
Instagram is one of my favourite social media networks because it’s a beautiful platform for showcasing gorgeous photography. Instagram is not essential for all online entrepreneurs and it does take a lot of work to grow so think carefully about whether or not it’s worth your time. It is possible to drive large amounts of Traffic through Instagram, so in my opinion it’s more valuable than Facebook or Twitter.
How to hack Instagram
Similar to Twitter, Instagram can be hacked using the follow-for-follow technique. Most professional bloggers were involved in this to some extent and it was one of the industry’s best kept secrets for a couple of years.
Full disclosure, I DID mess around with follow for follow on Instagram in 2016. It is not quite as fast to build an Instagram following as it is to build a Twitter following but you can still expect to build 500 followers a month if you are doing it right.
It’s worth noting that a lot of people don’t like the concept of follow-for-follow and it’s not something I do on any of my accounts these days. Saying that, if you’re starting out, it can be hard to gain traction when so many others are involved in follow for follow schemes.
How to make money out of Instagram
I sometimes take sponsored content on my IG feed and did once score a $5000 package for sharing a total of 16 photos over a 4 month period… but this is RARE.
I know that some influencers claim to charge thousands to post a single pic. Personally, I call bullshit. People certainly are able to charge a LOT for Instagram exposure but some of the numbers floating around just seem wrong.
Think about it; influencers get interviewed and are asked to disclose their rates. They quote insanely high because they know that this will drive the perceived market price up. In reality though, these influencers will probably take as little as 25% of their opening price.
Quoting such high prices does nobody any favours as influencers are often not able to provide a decent return on investment for advertisers if the advertiser is paying thousands for a single photo.
I did use Instagram to promote my Backpacking Pakistan adventure tour, I didn’t spend a cent and the tour sold out in five days – netting me over twenty grand. If you are selling the right product, Instagram can be extremely powerful and it is worth investing in your Instagram following.
I will also be running experiments over the next couple of months to drive traffic to my Shopify store to sell my Active Roots Adventure Gear so stay tuned as I’ll be blogging about how to sell products on social media later this year.
Advertising on Instagram to fill my first Pakistan Adventure Tour in 2017 – I sold 50% of spots in under 24 hours. The whole tour was sold out in 5 days.
Tips and tricks for using Instagram
The best tip I can give you for Instagram is to make use of scheduling software (I like Buffer) and to interlink Instagram with your other social media platforms so that when you post a picture it automatically is posted everywhere. I’ll cover this in detail in the resources section of this post.
So, should you build a following on Instagram?
If you are a photographer or a blogger, go for it… However, if you’re not a blogger or photographer, unless you have some extremely visual content or products to show off, you can probably save yourself some time and skip building a following on Instagram.
One thing that is important to note is that Instagram is owned by Facebook which means that at some point Facebook will probably jump in and try to make more money out of Instagram as well by limiting influencers reach.
Build a social media following on Pinterest
Pinterest is the single best social media platform for driving traffic to your website. There are some bloggers and marketers out there who rely on Pinterest for up to 90% of their traffic and hell, I have to tell you – I see why.
Pinterest should NOT be overlooked.
How to hack Pinterest
Allow me to introduce you to Tailwind! Tailwind has completely changed the Pinterest game, by allowing you to schedule thousands of pins at a time. This will keep your Pinterest feed up to date and relevant so it can be a traffic driving machine. Tailwind also provides you with intel on the best possible time of day to post your pins based on your Pinterest analytics.
This is the very tip of the iceberg of what Tailwind can do and honestly unless you are going to use Tailwind there is no point in using Pinterest.
It’s early days for The Broke Backpacker on Pinterest but I have recently partnered with a guru on a revshare model – they get 50% of all income from traffic they are able to drive to my site via Pinterest, let’s see what happens!
How to make money out of Pinterest
Pinterest has opened new revenues of income for people interested in making money online… but it’s fairly similar to blogging.
Monetization through Pinterest is mainly done through affiliates sales. After you get a few thousand followers, it’s very likely you’ll be approached by companies in your niche looking to promote products to your audience. As with any affiliate, please ensure that you like and use the products. The best way to rapidly lose an audience is to sell them to the highest bidder!
You can also always make money from consulting/coaching. If you have a large Pinterest following, others will pay you to find out your exact blueprint for success.
Tips and Tricks for using Pinterest
I’m still learning how to get the best results with Pinterest and besides using Tailwind I have no other intel at the moment – I’ll update this section at a later date!
So, should you build a following on Pinterest?
Pinterest works as a search engine which means that no matter what online business you are starting, you should consider getting your ass on Pinterest. The amount of followers you have makes very little difference as your pins will come up in search results regardless of whether or not the searcher is following you.
I do not recommend wasting time on building an actual following on Pinterest but you should definitely be creating boards and pinning like crazy using Tailwind, this will help you drive traffic to your site.
Which social media channels actually drive traffic?
As you guys know, I’m all about traffic – if you haven’t got traffic, you haven’t got anything – so I’m most interested in which social media channels can drive traffic.
I have found Facebook and Pinterest to be the two most effective social media networks for driving traffic to The Broke Backpacker. Pinterest certainly has the potential to drive a LOT of traffic and I do know some entrepreneurs who actually drive MOST of their traffic through Pinterest.
The problem with Pinterest, in my opinion, is that at some point in the future they will introduce a pay to play system, just like Facebook and Instagram.
I have not had much luck with driving any meaningful traffic through Pinterest – yet. But, it is totally possible.
As you can see, Facebook is the social platform I have had the most success with, followed by Pinterest. I still dislike Facebook though and as a means to drive traffic have found it largely ineffective – to be fair though I spend very little time on social media in general.
Twitter is disappointing, especially considering I have 103,000 followers but I largely consider Twitter to be a dead social media network now and not worth the time. Once every three months I schedule a bunch of content for Twitter to keep it turning over and to try and generate some social shares, which can help SEO, for that content.
Instagram shows promise and I should probably make more effort to be active. Unfortunately, it’s tough to drive traffic through Instagram as there are limited possibilities to insert links on the platform at the moment. If this changes, Instagram will become far more valuable and I would invest some serious time into trying to drive traffic through Instagram.
It’s worth noting that I am not particularly active on social media and if I made more of a concerted effort to engage and to post regularly, these numbers could be very different. I have found that it’s a much more effective use of my time to focus my energies on SEO (Read: What is SEO).
At the beginning of the year, 10% of TBB traffic was from social media. Now, it’s less than 2%. I am fine with this – I have been focussing all of my efforts on SEO.
You may decide that social media is going to be your bread and butter, this is how you’re going to drive your traffic – I wish you the best of luck amigo but I can’t really offer a huge amount of insight or advice!
If you’re going down the blogger or influencer path on your quest to become a location independent entrepreneur then you are probably wondering…
Can I Make Money as an Influencer?
All across the interwebs, you’ll find stories of bloggers getting paid thousands and thousands of dollars for a single shoutout on Facebook or photo on Instagram. I’m here to blow the lid off this, to reveal some real data on real numbers, and to give you guys the information you need to decide on your own social media strategy.
There’s no denying that social media is an incredibly powerful way to get the word out about products, services and brands. Unfortunately, the golden age of monetising social media through advertising partnerships is well and truly over.
How social media used to be
Back in the day, Facebook and Instagram allowed early content creators to build massive audiences, for free. Best of all, if you posted something on your social media channel the majority of your audience would see it in their Newsfeeds. This has now changed, Facebook and Instagram have introduced a pay to play system and if you post something to your Facebook page, you’re lucky if even 5% of your audience see it without you paying out for a Facebook advert.
The truth is that back in the day bloggers and influencers WERE able to provide companies, brands and advertisers with some kind of return on investment. It became very fashionable to work with influencers and many brands threw thousands and thousands of dollars at bloggers. If you were an early blogger, it was a glorious time – although nobody wanted to work with me on account of the word ‘broke’ in my blog name 😉
Bloggers got greedier and greedier, charging more and more for a single social media mention and then, suddenly, that world came crashing down.
Facebook changed the rules and bloggers could no longer hit up their audience for free. This meant that many brands saw a sharp drop off in return on investment – bloggers were still charging a fortune but hardly anybody was even seeing the posts as most bloggers didn’t know how to create a proper Facebook advert or weren’t bothering to create an ad at all. This meant increasingly more brands and marketers got burnt and the market took a massive hit…
Worst of all, sensationalist stories like this mean that anybody with an Instagram account is trying to make money out of Instagram. This floods the market and brings prices down rather than up. Frankly, I question the legitimacy of Instagram stars charging the kind of prices which are thrown around the web in articles such as the above.
At the end of the day, marketers and brands pay for ROI and I doubt that Instagram can provide the kind of ROI on the rates that some of these IG stars are charging.
Don’t get me wrong – every now and again somebody will pitch me at The Broke Backpacker asking for social media exposure. My standard procedure with this is to quote a ridiculous rate, because I don’t want to do it.
Sometimes though these rates will be accepted by bigger brands. I imagine that a lot of the crazy stories regarding IG influencers being paid absurd amounts follow a similar story – with the IG influencer in question not really wanting to do the project so charging an amount which is more than the exposure is worth.
Brands and companies have now wised up and a decreasing number want to pay for social media exposure, partly because the market is incredibly saturated with various people charging far too much.
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How social media is now
The biggest change of all came from Facebook.
Once upon a time, building a loyal audience on your Facebook page was a fantastic investment of time and money. These days, Facebook (#FuckYouFacebook) has well and truly sold out and if you want to reach your own audience – you now have to pay to boost your posts. Worst of all, once you have paid to boost your posts, Facebook knows that you will continue to pay and so lowers your organic reach even further – thus trapping you.
Whilst you can generate good results through Facebook ads you are effectively signing a long-term contract where you will have to pay to reach your audience forever.
I do however see a TON of opportunity on Instagram and I know several people who make very little from their site but crush it on Amazon with brand partnerships and promoting their own products such as blogging retreats.
Why you should build a social media following
Building a social media following is an important part of many online business models – but not all of them.
Crucially, having a large social media following alone is not enough to make money online and you should be careful about how much time you pour into building your social media following.
There are, of course, multiple advantages once you do have a social media following…
As I am fond of saying, if you ain’t got traffic, you ain’t got nothing.
Social media is a valuable way of driving traffic to your money-site and although I am guilty of not making the most of my own social media audience (which is about 200,000 strong), I still get 2% of my overall traffic through social media. Not all social media platforms are created equal and which to choose hugely depends on your goals and what you want to sell. I think Instagram has the best money making potential and that Pinterest has the greatest ability to drive traffic.
Another income stream
The most sustainable way of making money with social media is to drive traffic to monetised posts on your site. You can, of course, also offer sponsored shout-outs across your social media networks but you risk annoying your audience and devaluing your influence.
If for example, you have a crazy amount of followers on Youtube, then you can tap into this and make money from ads on your posts through the Youtube Partner program (more on Youtube another time).
You can also sell your own products, or somebody else’s products for an affiliate kickback, through your social media channels – check back in a couple of months for a case study on how I got on selling Active Roots products through my Instagram.
Improve your SEO
SEO is the single most important part of any online business and gaining social shares on posts through Facebook and Twitter may have a small effect on how Google ranks your post.
If you can make a post go viral on Facebook or Twitter, Google has access to this information and will bump you up in search results. You may even score a spot on the Google Discover feed!
Connect with your audience
Social Media gives you a unique opportunity to build and strengthen your relationship with your audience; many followers don’t have the time or inclination to read whole blog posts (shame on them) and prefer to just stalk you on social media.
What other social media platforms are out there?
There are a ton of other social media platforms you may want to consider building a following on…
Crucially, we haven’t talked at all about video platforms such as Snapchat, Youtube and Instagram stories.
Video is one of the hardest spaces in social media to break into but hell, if you can do it you can make a fortune and can even rely purely on your social media channels as your source of revenue.
The early adopters of Youtube have done extremely well for themselves and there is definitely something to be said for being an early adopter in general – if you sense that you have stumbled across the next big thing, jump on it.
At one point, I was convinced that Snapchat was going to be the next big thing and I worked my ass off building a large, loyal and engaged snapchat following – unfortunately I made under $2000 on Snapchat and I have now stopped using the platform as it does not provide a good ROTE (return on time invested).
Honestly, I’m pretty happy to be able to step away from Snapchat as being glued to my phone all the time was a constant sap on my energy and caused me to miss out on the joys of travelling the world – there’s a big difference between appreciating and capturing a special moment.
For some video inspiration, check out my travels in Pakistan, back in the day when I was trying to make it on Snapchat…
Youtube is poised to become the second biggest search engine after Google and I intend on re-visiting Youtube this year to see how producing and embedding videos can lead to improved page rankings and more traffic driven to my affiliate partners…
Tips and tricks for smashing social media
The best tip I can give you for building and using a social media following properly is to be time efficient. I am a big fan of Buffer for scheduling my social media updates and linking all the various platforms together; this means I simply upload a photo and it is then shared across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Hashtags might be an effective way of gaining a little extra exposure for your posts and I recommend checking out which relevant hashtags are trending so you can jump on the bandwagon when posting social media updates.
Be sure to make your posts look attractive as ultimately social media is a very visual space, I recommend Picmonkey (fast, cheap, online) for editing photos and creating attractive graphics.
Social Media Resources
To really dominate social media and to grow your following quickly, these are the tools I recommend…
PicMonkey: Create attractive graphics and edit your photos into awesome masterpieces.
TailWind: Absolutely essential if you are to drive large amounts of traffic through Pinterest.
Buffer: My go-to scheduling software
Final Thoughts on Social Media
In my opinion, social media is not necessary to be successful online but it can, of course, be a valuable tool to drive traffic, build your brand and connect with your audience!
Don’t fall into the trap of investing a disproportionate amount of time and energy into social media as you will not get the same kind of results you would with putting that time and energy into SEO.
Crucially, being on social media is a distraction in itself and you are likely to get sucked into just browsing social media rather than actually working on your site and income streams.
If you are going to proceed with social media, be smart about it – choose one or two platforms and hit them with a targeted plan for growth and monetisation.
Got any questions? Hit me up in the comments!