I grew an audience of 17,500 followers across LinkedIn and Twitter in six months…
It wasn’t an easy decision.
Up to that point, I’d probably spent around 384 hours building that following.
All on the back of this playbook and promise: Personal brands with large social followings are full to the brim with enquiries from big spending clients.
But six months into the process, I discovered the dirty B Side.
The part that B2B influencers leave out of their marketing when flogging their playbooks.
Before we dig into that, let’s rewind to the beginning.
Often to people I’ve never worked with. I needed more leads, which meant more good-fit buyers entering my marketing ecosystem.
I’d previously worked on social media, but it was a channel I considered a weakness.
I put that down to the fact I don’t personally enjoy using any of the platforms.
But it seemed like an undeniable goldmine for marketers who know how to use it.
YouTuber types and food bloggers had blown up in the past, but now it was happening with B2B folk. And I’m not talking about famous authors like Seth Godin or Annie Duke.
These unknowns had tens of thousands of followers within a few months of posting.
They had several posts that had gone viral.
And their content was mostly fluff and regurgitated cliches. It didn’t seem to warrant mass attention.
There must be some trick they’re using.
One of those influencers in question was running an audience-building cohort course.
It was in its third iteration, and the testimonials were incredible.
Several former students had grown to 50k+ followers, and according to them, it transformed their business.
So I gave it a shot, took the 3-day course, and joined the Discord channel of 30 fellow students, all with a similar goal of building a B2B social media following.
I started on Twitter with zero followers, but that quickly jumped to 500, then 1,000, then 3,500. Within six months, I hit 12,500. My head was swimming with dopamine every time a post went viral.
Amongst my followers, I had founders, CMOs, and Directors from Silicon Valley startups, Premier League clubs, and a host of private equity and consulting firms.
Then I started on LinkedIn, this time growing 4k in 1 month.
Everything was going as planned, apart from one thing.
Or at least not the work I wanted.
I was getting leads, but most weren’t a good fit.
What was up?
My offer? My message? My content?
I couldn’t pinpoint the exact problem, so I asked everyone in the Discord how they were doing.
These were people with experience at firms like Google, McKinsey, Deloitte, and PwC.
I asked, “Is this social media game actually bringing in work?”
Some would brush over the fact it wasn’t working.
“Well, I’m not looking to monetise yet!”
Others would be more honest.
Their original goal of attracting consulting leads seemed to fade.
Now, they were looking for newsletter advertisers and selling retweets.
Then, they start selling audience-building courses.
“Twitter changed my life! Since building an audience, I’ve got hundreds of opportunities at my door, too many to handle. Join my cohort and learn how to do the same.”
It was bullshit.
And I felt like such an idiot.
I realised that this whole playbook was nonsense. It was a cycle of people taking audience-building playbooks and then selling audience-building playbooks.
I’d invested six months of work into it with nowhere near enough to show for it.
But what about those credible followers and subscribers I mentioned earlier?
Because I wasn't writing for them.
I was writing for the algorithm.
When you analyse any fast-growing B2B account on LinkedIn or Twitter, you discover they act like modern media outlets.
That’s the audience-building template.
You replicate the Buzzfeed model of high volume, low value, click-bait content.
You get a high volume of attention and sell it to advertisers. Maybe you even sell a low-cost publication to some of those eyeballs (£10 p/mth).
But the type of content you need to attract high-value consulting clients is typically industry-specific and deep. It’s exactly the opposite of what works to build a large social following, fast.
So, these followers I was attracting viewed me just like they would a media publication.
They had no interest in working with me. I was just sharing snackable content for them to consume in their downtime.
And the truth is, if you want to attract inbound, ideal-fit leads who, at some point, will enquire to do business with you...
Content doesn't work.
With clients, I call what I do content marketing because the market recognises it as such.
But really, I'm not helping them create content.
I'm helping them articulate insight.
Their thoughts and processes to solve a very painful problem, packaged in a way that's attractive to the people suffering from that problem.
Because when you build a following on the back of that 'content', aligned with a concise and compelling value proposition, with the right systems, you'll steadily attract inbound leads.
Or at least, the algorithm doesn't. It pumps memes, pithy one-liners, selfies, and listicles of the 'things I'd tell my 20-year-old self.'
That's why you'll often notice that, on LinkedIn, the people you follow and admire rarely have a post that gets more than a few dozen likes.
Even big-name authors in your field, the best they'll get is a couple hundred.
Because likes and social follows don't reflect an expert's value or success.
Behind the curtains, they're getting enquiries from people who have never liked or commented on a single post in public but subscribe to their newsletter, read every edition, and reply in private.
That's my experience anyway.
None of this is to say you shouldn't post on socials. When I say 'I've quit', I mean I've quit the growth hack game.
I think a LinkedIn posting strategy is smart for anyone selling their expertise.
But, if you're doing it right, it's a slow mover.
If growth happens fast, you're probably heading in the wrong direction.
I'd love to know: what are your thoughts on these fast-growth social accounts? Positive or negative?
Email me at email@example.com
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