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From zero to 75,000 Facebook followers in just over a year: One start-up’s top three tactics

Tuesday, 4 February 2014 | By Rose Powell

Social media is often heralded as a breakthrough for small business, connecting them directly with their customers and providing them the opportunity to turn them into fans and advocates.


But the bigger your following, the better the investment. So how do you grow it?


Photographer Richard Hirst launched his Facebook page 20 months ago. Since then, he says promoting his work on the platform has become a key part of his business.


“I started with no fans and now I have 75,000. That’s not big for a big company, but for a small business that’s incredible. Building a database that big would take a very long time,” Hirst says.


Hirst only realised the power of the platform after he started sharing his sunrise shots through his page so his friends could follow his work.


Pictures are particularly powerful for developing a following on social platforms. StartupSmart spoke to Facebook’s Australian head of small business last month about his tips on how to use images for boosting engagement.


Hirst says he hasn’t tracked the conversion rate, but estimates almost 80% of his website visits come either directly from Facebook or people who discovered his work on the platform.


He shared his top three tips with StartupSmart.


Connect your website to your Facebook presence closely to prove your credibility


Hirst says having a strong social media presence is critical in a competitive industry where the decision to hire one business over another comes down to aesthetic preference and reputation.


“The key benefit for my kind of business is people can see how well loved you are easily. It gives me serious credibility. I’ve got a website myself, but without Facebook, people wouldn’t know how big or credible I was,” he says.


Don’t sell to your Facebook followers, but do remind them you are a business


He adds the key to making the investment of time turn into revenue without bugging your followers is based around reminding people you sell rather than selling straight to them.


“Mostly I’m posting daily photos of sunrises and sunsets around Sydney. But sometimes I’ll do an offer to purchase, so people know they can,” Hirst says. “I don’t sell directly though the page, but direct them to my website. You don’t want to overdo the selling, so if you go in and try to sell too hard that’s not how it’s done.”


Think laterally about your content and form strategic partnerships


Hirst says he grew his presence so rapidly by working with Facebook pages that are seeking good content to share.


“Find other pages that might be interested in your content and work with them if they’ve similar followers to your target customers,” Hirst says.


He adds his work with the Tourism Australia page, which requires great pictures but doesn’t have the manpower to be out every day shooting new images, has been particularly powerful.