Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Whether you are a business or a nonprofit, operating in the public sector or the private one, serving businesses and organizations or serving individuals, established in your sector or just starting out, running an empire or “lone wolfing” it, your audience wants to get to know you better.

In fact, they expect it.

So, what does that look like and how does that benefit you?

It depends on your ideal demographic, but most of the things we’ll cover in this article, will work for everyone. Good content creates loyal, engaged followers. In turn, a loyal audience (eventually) will create content for you. Best of all, that type of content, known as referral marketing or word of mouth marketing, is not only one of the strongest in converting new followers and creating an army of people willing to give you money, it is also free, minus the time it takes to nurture that type of follower.

Start with Social Media

Which social channel(s) you use depends on your target market or ideal audience. Assuming you know where your “people” are, the real difference in helping them connect to you is the content you share.

Before your audience begins generating content for you, you must first create, curate, and share valuable content. And…you need to put some personality behind it. Let them see who you are and what you stand for. Each share should be a glimpse into you and your organization.

All content should also educate, inspire, or entertain. Ask questions. Converse. Be interested in your audience. If this doesn’t come naturally for you, find someone to do it for you but make sure they have a firm understanding of your tone and personality before asking them to post.

Give Them Something to Do

Action is an important part of keeping your audience involved and talking about you. If they do something for you or with you once, they’re more likely to keep doing it. Find commonalities and use them to call your audience to action.

Before they buy or donate to you, you’ll want to engage them in several smaller actions. This will keep them in your social media feed, and you’ll become part of their internet habit. For instance, a nonprofit shelter may celebrate National Dog Day by asking the audience to share pictures of their rescue pups.

Build on User Content

Continuing on from the previous idea of asking people to do something for you (and the example of sharing the dog pics), you could go back to those image posters and target a few specific sharers to tell their story. Message them directly and ask to tell their story beyond their post. Feature that story on your website, in your newsletter, and/or on social media.

Most will be flattered and excited and they’ll likely share your post with their followers.

Invite Them to Become Part of the Team

This can take a lot of shapes from inviting them to work/volunteer for you, intern with you, refer friends, share your cause/product/service with their followers, participate in a physical challenge and post results, or wear your swag. There are hundreds of ways to invite them to be part of what you are doing. Many people will share their involvement online. This is yet another way their interaction with you will bring in more content.

Ask for What You Need and Personalize the Request

Your audience won’t know what you need if you don’t ask. And when you do, you should tell them why it’s important. For instance, if you need a review, tell them where it will benefit you most and explain why. “We need more Facebook love. Won’t you please review us so that your friends will know the best place to adopt dogs like <insert their dog’s name>?”

The personalized touch will get them thinking about how much that experience impacted them and how they can help their friends get the same. If they understand the value to you, to them, and to their group, they’ll likely do as requested.

Finally, when inviting them to become part of your team, be specific about what you’re looking for and what they’ll receive in return. This may be easier for a sexier brand, but you don’t have to have a large following for them to be loyal. Offer different ways to get closer to you and your mission and you’ll never have to worry about what you’ll post again. Your content hopper will be full of valuable, real, engaging content.