Are You a Leader or a Follower?

Follow. Like. Friend. Subscribe. Social media cleverly breaks its users down into two categories: leaders and followers. But which category do you fall into, and which one is best? The answer may not be as clear as you’d at first think.

Obviously you want to be a leader in your field, and you want to gain a large audience. But do you know what it takes to stay at the front of the pack when it comes to the crowded social media space? Do you know how to keep your readers interested so that they don’t un-follow you as easily as they followed? You have to continue to earn their engagement consistently, which can be a hard task. Many people think that all of the hard work ends as soon as you have a mass of followers, when in reality that’s when your hard work really begins. We all know how to solicit ‘likes’ — but keeping them requires creativity, thoughtfulness and attention to detail.

It’s also important to differentiate yourself from the competition. For example, if you’re an ice cream store and your audience loves ice cream, they might be following five or more ice cream stores through their personal feed. How can yours stand out from the crowd? (And check back next week for even more specific tips on this topic.)

Leadership is important in social media. But you’re also defined by who you follow. Your Facebook page and Tumblr, for example, show what pages you like, comment on and visit. Replying to and communicating with popular and vocal venues can bring attention back to your own website. Blogs offer a list of links that relate to their own interests and themes. You can add a roster of the websites or blogs you support in your sidebar. Who you follow can put you in good esteem with some readers, who are looking for references to sites with similar themes. In fact, they may already be fans of the same websites you promote. It’s also a good idea to see if those sites will link back to your blog, as well. These may be industry leaders, your colleagues or even inspirational sources. It’s just important that they stay on topic — for example, the cat blog you read every day may be the funniest thing on the Web, but it doesn’t belong on your follow list.

You also want to follow the example of other leaders, both in your field and outside of it. What are they doing online that catches your eye? It helps to immerse yourself in social media and follow the latest developments and trends. Of course, you also want to keep an eye on what the competition’s doing. Becoming a good follower means borrowing strategies you see that touch a chord in you and figuring out how that, in turn, will also make you a good leader.

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