6 Tips To Grow On Social Media

Without Advertising

Your digital presence, or lack thereof, matters now more than ever. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, the internet is seeing a surge like never before.

Instagram Live and Instagram Story usage increased so rapidly it challenged the platform’s ability to sustain the traffic.1

YouTube channel traffic saw an average of 15% increase,2 as did the average daily traffic on TikTok.

And LinkedIn, arguably the most overlooked of the core social media platforms, experienced a 55% increase in engagement between connections,3 as well as increases in messaging volume and the amount of content posted.

The bottom line is your customers are spending more time on social media than ever. Historically, many dealers have been reluctant to invest too much time and resources on social media marketing because of authoritarian advertising restrictions relating to the sale of firearms and other weapons.

The reality is you can still create a valuable and profitable social media following without ever spending a dime on advertising. Here are six tips to help you grow organically on social media.

1 - Mix Up Your Content

When marketers focus their energy on creating a few great posts instead of many mediocre ones, fans and followers naturally engage more. This natural engagement increase encourages social channels to re-serve that content to other users, leading to higher engagement.

Product photos are great, but no one on social media wants to be sold to all the time. It’s important to mix up the content you share. An easy way to do this is by creating content buckets and cycling through them.

In addition to promotional content like new products and sales, consider sharing educational content like how-to videos, interesting statistics or content that fosters connections like photos of employees or from a community event your store sponsored. It’s worth noting, Instagram photos with faces get 38% more likes than those without.4

Whatever content you’re sharing, use caution to make sure it’s inclusive.

“I think the biggest mistake gun ranges and dealers make on social media is alienating various types of gun owners, whether intentionally or not,” said Cody Albright.

Albright is a full-time digital marketer, as well as owner and instructor of Albright Defense in Illinois. “There’s the stereotype gun owners should look a certain way and act a certain type of way, but the Second Amendment is meant for everyone, regardless of race, political leaning or beliefs,” he added.

By not perpetuating stereotypes online, your store or range will come across less intimidating and welcoming to potential customers.

2 - Upload Native Videos Versus Shared Links

Attention spans have never been shorter. In fact, they dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 20185 — beating out the ever-distracted goldfish that clocks in at 9 seconds.

If video isn’t already part of your social media strategy, it needs to be. Uploaded video, live videos and stories have continued to surge in popularity. Videos are shared on social media 1,200% more than images or text,6 and 54% of consumers reported they want to see more video content from a brand or business they support.

When it comes to uploaded video, a frequent mistake businesses often make is uploading the video to YouTube and then sharing the link to other social media platforms. YouTube is owned by Google, and in many cases, is considered a competitor of other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

The bottom line is your customers are spending more time on social media than ever.

At one point in time, if you posted a link to a YouTube video it would play on Facebook. Today when you post a link to a YouTube video on a Facebook page, it sends viewers to YouTube to watch it. As a result, Facebook treats these video links the same as any website link that takes users away from their platform. They are served less and receive lower reach compared to those uploaded directly to Facebook.

To put it in perspective, a recent study found videos uploaded directly to Facebook average 40% higher reach and 185% higher interaction compared to shared links to YouTube videos.7

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use YouTube — you certainly should, as it’s the world’s second-largest search engine and second most visited site after Google. But also take the time to upload any videos directly to whatever other social media platforms you actively use.

3 - Add Classes And Events

It may seem like you’re duplicating work by adding training classes and events to your website and to social media, but the effort is worth it. Just as with video, Facebook is more likely to show an event to users when you create a Facebook event versus directing them off their platform with a regular post and link to your website.

The Facebook events feature is a great way to boost engagement, increase attendance and your brand awareness. An estimated 35 million people view a public event on Facebook each day.8 And often when a user clicks they are “interested” or “going” to your event, the friends in their network see their response, thereby expanding your reach.

It’s also a great tool to gauge interest and estimate attendance. You can even sell tickets directly on the event post without the user ever having to leave Facebook.

4 - Use Shoppable Tags

In recent years, Instagram has also rolled out new features to keep users on their platform and make it easier for businesses to sell their products. The shopping feature is a great way to increase accessory sales if you have the ability to ship products.

“You’ll have to go through a few steps to make your products taggable,” said Jacqueline Janes, marketing/social media strategist and competitive shooter. “But once it’s set up, tagging a product is easy and gives users a quick way to purchase products.”

The quality of your audience is more important than its size. There’s little benefit to having 5,000 followers on Instagram if half of them don’t live in your market and you don’t have an e-commerce website.

When using shoppable tags, remember, no firearms sales are allowed. However, there are many acceptable product categories according to Facebook and Instagram’s advertising guidelines. These include safety courses for firearm training or licenses; mounted flashlights, scopes and sights; hunting, self-defense and military clothing and gear such as shooting targets and clay throwers; holsters and belt accessories; gun safes, mounts (including bipods), gun cases and slings; equipment and protective clothing (including vests); and paint, coatings or wraps for weapons and magazines.

Social media advertising policies are subject to change at any time so be sure to check what items are prohibited. Many of these product categories require you to set a minimum age for your target audience.

“If there’s a firearm in the image or Instagram thinks the item might be a restricted product, the product tag may not be available,” Janes confirmed. “The tag may also initially get approved, then ‘not approved’ at a later date — there’s little to no rhyme or reason to it.”

5 - Encourage User-Generated Content

Another common misstep businesses make on social media is getting caught up in vanity metrics such as “likes” and “follows.” But, the quality of your audience is more important than its size. There’s little benefit to having 5,000 followers on Instagram if half of them don’t live in your market and you don’t have an e-commerce website.

More important metrics to track include engagements and interactions such as comments, shares and saves. Each of these carry a heavier weight in terms of the social media algorithms used to determine what content is shown to users. The greater the engagement, the greater the reach.

One of the most effective ways to increase engagement is by encouraging user-generated content (UGC) because people like to buy from brands and companies other people buy from. In fact, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.9

User-generated content is any content — text, videos, images, reviews, etc. — created by people rather than brands or companies. With consent, UGC can then be shared on the company’s own social media accounts, website and other marketing channels. Just remember to always credit the original source.

What’s the best way to encourage UGC? Tell your audience exactly what content you want. Run a contest asking users to tag your account in their photos or videos and use a particular custom-branded hashtag for entry. Or set up an Instagram-worthy backdrop where they can take a photo with their target after shooting on the range.

An additional benefit to user-generated content is it’s cost-effective. The more content created by your audience, the less time and resources you have to spend creating these assets.

6 - Practice Social Listening

Lastly, growing organically on social media isn’t only about the content you share, but also the content you consume. Social listening involves monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, products and keywords related to your business then analyzing the information to determine ways to put what you learn into action.

Bottom line: Only logging in to your company’s social media accounts when you want to post something is not using social media to its full

We’d love to know if these or other social media strategies have worked for you. (Or, what hasn’t!) Send the SI team an email: comments@shootingindustry.com.

1. “WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage due to COVID-19 pandemic.” https://tcrn.ch/34WBJCa
2. “The Virus Changed the Way We Internet.” https://nyti.ms/2VKTxM8
3. “LinkedIn’s making its recruitment tools free to those fighting the coronavirus pandemic.” https://tcrn.ch/2Ks0P2r
4. “Face It: Instagram Pictures With Faces Are More Popular.” https://b.gatech.edu/2KqykBV
5. “Are Declining Attention Spans Killing Your Content Marketing Strategy?” https://cisn.co/2Y12bJ9
6. “Infographic: 80% of Videos Drive Less Than a Third of Total Video Engagement.”
7. “Study Proves: Facebook Native Videos Have up to 86% Higher Reach!” https://bit.ly/3cHFaPH
8. “Get more attendees by making an event through your Page.”
9. “Stackla Survey Reveals Disconnect Between the Content Consumers Want & What Marketers Deliver.” https://bwnews.pr/2KpDkHf

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