How audience retention works on social media

by Ana, posted 3 years ago
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Eight out of ten social media professionals I talk to tell me that they really focus on growing their audience on social media which translates getting more followers across all platforms. And I do agree. Follower growth is an important metric. But what about audience retention? How do you make sure the followers you gain today will keep following you tomorrow?

I took a look at my new followers/unfollowers ratio on Twitter and I noticed that I really suck at retaining new followers. My net follower growth on Twitter is often times on the negative side which means that one day I would gain say 3 new followers on Twitter and on the same day, I would lose ten.

New followers:Unfollowers ratio

Numbers don’t lie; so it got me thinking: What could I do better to retain my audience on social media? Here’s what it came down to.

Being present

The most popular social media platforms are built in a way that encourages interaction. After all, social media are called social for a reason.

One of the the best retention strategies is to make interact with your audience, by retweeting, sharing their content, basically showing appreciation. Actively engaging with your audience on social media is the way to build relationships so interactions should be the priority in a social media strategy plan.

Note to self: don’t shy away! Get the conversation started.

Following back

Now, there are two ways to go about this. Either you follow back everyone that follows you and then based on the unwritten law of social conventions means, this way, they will be less inclined to unfollow you.

But sometimes, the truth is that people that follow you on social media that could not be so relevant to you. For example, if you are aiming at building an audience of marketing professionals a follow or a like from a Justin Bieber fan might not be as valuable to you.

So if you are not going necessarily for quantity but would like to focus more on the quality of the loyal audience you are building, a good retention strategy would be to follow back people that you really want to engage and keep in your community.

Knowing what people expect of you

People certainly have certain expectations of you on social media, especially if you are a brand, so it is important to be aware of these expectations and do your best to live up to them. What you should keep in mind is that:

  • People are usually looking for a good deal, which means that they expect you to de promotional on social media but not too much.
  • Your audience expects you to be present on more than one social media platforms.
  • People expect a fast response when they reach out to you on social media.

Posting often

Posting on a regular basis is key to keeping the interest of your audience high. Basically this is what keeps the social media machine going. An active social media profile is hard to abandon; unlike a hyperactive one!

The challenge is to find the ultimate posting frequency recipe for your audience and for the platform you are active on. This needs experimenting and close monitoring of your metrics so that you can evaluate see the results of your ‘experiments’ and how different frequencies resonate with your audience.

Posting shareable content

Now, that’s the real challenge. Posting often is a good start but no matter how often you post, it is the relevance and the usefulness of the content that matter.

Knowing why people follow you 

Once you know the basic triggers for a follow, adjusting your content strategy accordingly becomes much easier. Research has shown that across all social media platforms, there are four basic triggers that drive people to follow you:

  1. Your personality and brand identity.
  2. Exclusive content, promotions and giveaways.
  3. Customer support and feedback.
  4. Staying up-to-date with news about your brand and industry.

Being entertaining

Even if you are using social media for business purposes it doesn’t mean that you cannot be entertaining while remaining relevant and useful. Keeping your audience entertained, guarantees that they’ll keep coming up for more.

I mean, posting a GIF of a cat or a vine just for the sake of it doesn’t really work unless it ties in with your general your tone and relates to the content you’re posting. If you’re looking for some inspiration, take a look at Oreo on Twitter. They are truly one of the brands that is always an inspiration in keeping the perfect balance between being entertaining and relevant all at the same time.

Now over to you! What do you think is the secret to audience retention on social media? Share your thoughts with us in the comments right below. 


  • Kwei Quartey

    This is the problem! I don’t have a good grasp of who are following me and why! Some of my posts I think should be interesting go ignored, and some of the posts I think no one will pay attention to get more hits. But I’m never retweeted more than once or twice. I don’t understand Twitter!

    • This is definitely the biggest challenge! It takes close monitoring and a lot of experimenting with content, frequency and timing.

  • I have noticed that since I started back getting onto Twitter more often, and sharing a lot of what I am about by being able to share images etc from IG right to Twitter. And then taking time to retweet, comment and favored tweets. It doesn’t take up much of my time and it does show that I am there.. I been getting more followers the past few months because I stepped up and backing up what I send from IG. Every little bit helps when you are a small business. Love your post and it makes some really great points!

    • Hi Kim, thanks so much! I absolutely agree that every little bit helps. You are describing some very useful best practices for SMBs that can be quite effective but not necessarily time consuming.

  • What’s interesting about this is along with people in my niche, I tend to attract entrepreneurs that are in no way related to my niche. Not quite sure what to do here, so I don’t typically follow them. If I was blogging or podcasting about entrepreneurship I would be stoked, but these people don’t retweet, have discussions, or get involved in any other aspect of what I’m doing. They’re the empty carbs of the twitterverse.