No matter what stage your startup is in, you will want to start or continue to grow your social media audience. The more people you can reach on social media organically and through advertising, the better your launch and your ongoing sales will be.
Here are 15 tips for growing your startup's audience on the three top social networks, starting with strategies common to all of them:
1. Create strong social profiles and pages.
The starting point for growing your audience on any social network is strong profiles and pages for your social accounts. This requires including branded cover photos and profile photos. It also requires filling out all of your details. On Twitter, that is as simple as a 160-character bio, website link, and location. Facebook wants a short description, website link, address, and phone number. In short, fill out as many fields for your social profiles and pages as you can.
Next, share a few updates (five to 10) before you start your quest to build an audience. This will give people who visit your social accounts a reason to follow you. If you do not know what to post, do the following:
2. Share quality content.
Even before your startup gets going fully, start building your audience on most networks by sharing content your target audience will enjoy. For example, if you have a startup for a Facebook marketing tool, start sharing content about Facebook. That could mean blog content, podcasts, videos, presentations, infographics, etc., created by you or by others.
3. Use friend-finding features.
Most networks have a way to connect you with people you know. Twitter allows you to search email contacts, Facebook allows you to search email contacts, and utilize an advanced people search. Instagram guides you to your Facebook friends on Instagram in its app. LinkedIn allows you to search your email contacts and suggests current and former classmates and work colleagues based on your profile information.
4. Add links to your top social accounts on your website.
You can do this by adding small square social network icons to your website's header, footer, and sidebar. You can also add the official buttons for each network on your website. You can find the official brand assets, buttons, badges, and widgets on Facebook (brand assets and button generator), Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can also look into social network icons on stock image sites like DepositPhotos.
5. Add links to your top social accounts to your email signatures.
Make sure that everyone you communicate with via email knows about your startup, by adding links to your top social accounts in your email signature. You can do this using small square social network icons or standard text links. You can also use services like WiseStamp to create professional signatures with your social links.
6. Cross-promote your social accounts.
Already have a large audience on one account? Ask its members to connect with you on another. That will be as simple as sending a tweet to your Twitter followers asking if they are on Pinterest, and if they are, they should follow you there, too.
Also look for opportunities to link from one social account to another. Pinterest, for example, will allow you to link to Twitter and Facebook. Woobox, a Facebook app maker, has apps that allow you to add tabs to your Facebook page for Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for free.
Now, here are tips specific to Twitter:
7. Follow your target Twitter audience and engage with them.
Twitter allows you to follow up to 5,000 people. You can follow more after people start to follow you. When you follow people on Twitter, they get a notification that they are being followed. In addition to following people, start chatting with them.
Use Twitter Search to find people that match your target audience. Twitter will search keywords in people's bios as well as their tweets. When you see a tweet from someone that you can reply to, do it. If people like your reply, they just might follow you back.
8. Use Twitter advertising.
If you have an advertising budget, try Twitter advertising. Twitter will promote your account to your target audience members to encourage them to follow you.
Here are tips specific to Facebook:
9. Use your Facebook page to 'like' other pages.
If you click on the drop-down arrow next to your photo at the top right of your Facebook dashboard, you have the option to use Facebook as your page by selecting it from the list. This will allow you to "like" other Facebook pages as your page and comment on them. Find pages where your target audience are engaged and start communicating with them with your page.
10. Open your profile up to Facebook followers.
Facebook has a setting that you can enable to allow others to follow your personal profile. Any public updates you share will be shared with your followers in the news feed without your having to accept them as a friend. This will help you grow an audience that you can promote your business to while keeping your private things private.
11. Participate in Facebook groups.
Another way to utilize your personal profile on Facebook is to engage in groups related to your niche. Find groups your target audience would be interested in, join them, and start engaging in the discussions.
Here are tips specific to Instagram, a completely different animal in the social media ecosystem. If you know how to utilize the intricacies of this network, you will be able to grow a huge Instagram following.
12. Follow others on Twitter.
As happens with Twitter, when you follow other people on Instagram, they will be notified. You can find your target audience by searching for hashtags they would likely use when they post on Instagram. Then follow people and engage with them by commenting on their photos and videos in the news feed.
13. Use hashtags on Twitter.
When you share photos and videos, be sure to use hashtags in your captions. Hashtags are utilized by Instagram users to find visual content on specific topics. As people come across your photos and videos in a hashtag stream, they will be able to click a button next to your name to follow you.
Here are tips specific to LinkedIn. It can be tough to build an audience upon due to LinkedIn's goal of having people connect only with those they know well, but LinkedIn is great for business-to-business connections:
14. Participate in LinkedIn groups.
LinkedIn groups are great for engaging with other active LinkedIn members. Participate in the discussions and provide valuable answers to get people to want to connect with you.
15. Comment on LinkedIn's blog posts.
LinkedIn allows members to post blogs, and some of those members have thousands of followers. Find people in your niche with lots of followers, follow their latest posts, and engage with your target audience in the comments of those posts.
Copyright © 2016 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.
Photo from Flickr/S&S Online Marketing