How to build an online brand

Building your brand

How I got 62,000 Facebook followers – for free

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In the world of social media, one question remains asked more than others – how do I get more Facebook followers?

I’ll tell you the story of WalesOnCraic, my most popular creation, which currently has over 62,000 Facebook followers. This isn’t a how-to guide. If you’re looking at how to get more Facebook followers, I’ve written a feature here for you.

Two things I want to say before I start.

One – I haven’t paid a penny in advertising on Facebook. These followers are organic.

Two – it’s taken me six years to get this amount of Facebook followers.

Disclosure: Please be aware that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission should you end up purchasing one of their services or products. I only recommend services and products that I have used and/or continue to use myself. If you do use one of my affiliate links, the company reimburses me for recommending them. This helps keep the content of my blog free to read.

From 0 to 65,000 Facebook followers

This book revolves around my blog called WalesOnCraic which I set up at the end of August 2014. It has never been the best blog in the world but its roots do go back a long way. I need to explain its background because, as I will explain later, it forms the basis for a good blog.

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An example post from WalesOnCraic, and how I used it to get more Facebook followers

As a kid growing up in Barry, South Wales, I loved nothing more than heading down to my local corner shop and buying myself a new exercise book. I’d rip out a good wedge of the pages and then staple them together again to create a ‘magazine’ that I’d write in felt-tip pen.

I called it Zut because that was the only word I learned in French lessons. I only ever made two copies of each magazine – one for my immediate family and one for my cousins who lived in Cardiff. I’d send their copy by post and my favourite issues were the autumn and winter ones because I loved being cosy.

My younger brother, who also loved being cosy, set up one of his own magazines and called it The Cosy Mag. Every issue, he’d feature a ‘Cosy Item Of The Month’ – it could have been a pair of slippers or a cup of tea. Ultimately, he only ever did issues for October, November and December because there was no call for ‘cosy’ things during the other warmer months of the year.

When I think back, the ultimate aim of my magazines was to entertain people. I’ve still got them somewhere and they are a very childish attempt at humour. Around that time, I had a ZX Spectrum 48k computer – the one with the hard plastic keys, not the traditional rubber keys. As a result, I also used to pick up a magazine called Your Sinclair. It had a huge impact on me. Your Sinclair was like nothing I’d ever read before (or since). Thinking about heading down to the local WH Smiths store to pick up my latest issue was something that kept me going through my boring school lessons.

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Your Sinclair inspired my informal style of writing in a formal setting

What set Your Sinclair apart was its comedic, informal narrative style. Its beauty was that it provided readers with the information they were seeking but in a totally different way. The magazine had many ‘characters’ writing for them (I’ve only recently discovered that the magazine was only written by a handful of people who wrote under various pen names). Each character had a certain style of writing and had their own (fictional) back-story. The magazine also contained non-computer stuff – things like the Peculiar Pets Corner that was originally intended to be a showcase for YS readers’ exotic pets such as snakes, pigs, monkeys or spiders. It ended up including such things as a purple fruit gum and a tuba.

Looking back now, it’s easy to define who their target audience was – teenagers like me, who had a ZX Spectrum, enjoyed playing games, but didn’t take it all too seriously. There were other magazines for the real geeks and my God, they were dull. Your Sinclair was for me, a breath of fresh air, and a huge inspiration. Head to www.ysrnry.co.uk to see what I mean.

The most important thing for me was that the magazine made me feel as if I was one of them – part of an exclusive club. They talked about things that I was familiar with and reached out to me in a way that made me feel that I was part of a shared experience. I’ll talk about that more in-depth later. It’s the key to creating viral blog posts.

WalesOnCraic came about at the end of a three hour breakfast at a Wetherspoons pub in Merthyr. I’d met up with my friends Bunko and Lyn to discuss the possibility of setting up a website. Its aim would be to showcase Welsh comedy. Bunko had got in touch as I was running a comedy blog for Wales called Derek the Weathersheep which was proving popular on Facebook. If you don’t live in Wales or even know where it is, I’ll need to explain a few things:

  • Firstly, Wales is not in England. It’s not part of England. It’s separate. But we are part of the UK. We’re in it with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • In Wales, we have a very lovely weatherman on our TV called Derek who is a well-loved celebrity. We also have a lot of sheep. It sounds a bit bizarre but the idea of Derek the Weathersheep came to me as I was sat waiting in my car at a zebra crossing. This kid with fluffy white hair was on his way to school with his mum and he looked up at a big black cloud that was lurking overhead as he crossed the crossing.
  • I set up the blog and called it Derek the Weathersheep, the idea being that ‘Derek’ would post daily weather forecasts for Wales. Unexpectedly, the blog took off and became very popular, picking up a big following on Facebook over the course of a year or so. The blog would ultimately be a forerunner of WalesOnCraic – the blog that got me over a million visits in seven months. Derek the Weathersheep was important as it formed my training ground for posting viral content. It’s where I learned the techniques that I’m about to share with you (yes, I’ll get on to it asap – I just need to give you some background and context).
  • The first posts on WalesOnCraic were rehashes of things that both Bunko and I had written before. I shared them on Facebook accounts that I’d already had, one of them being Derek the Weathersheep because of its similar target audience. The original plan was to spoof news items that appeared in the real news but as the weeks went on, we found our material was more original than we had intended.
  • Bunko also posted less and less as he’d been asked to write two books for a local publisher.
  • But within a few weeks, WalesOnCraic was pulling in visitor figures that I could have only dreamt of. It became a bit of a monster.
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My first WalesOnCraic post in 2014

WalesOnCraic was born on August 18th, 2014 and within weeks, I was having to fork out for new servers as the servers I was using couldn’t cope. The people at One.com, who were hosting my site, were very good – and patient. I was learning very quickly about dedicated virtual servers, virtual servers – and that I’d soon have to start earning money from the site to pay for them.

I first started with Google Adsense but I then twigged that I could be earning money from merchandise and books.

I’ll be writing a post about how to set up your own online merchandise store in the next few weeks. Sign up to my mailing list at the bottom of the page to make sure you get it.

So in order to sell more, I had to get more Facebook followers. And the more Facebook followers I got, the more I could get them off Facebook and onto my mailing list.

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I’m now selling books online and I often find that as I promote my books, I get more Facebook followers

Conclusion

A few things to take away from this story:

  1. Be consistent in your branding
  2. Post consistently and with purpose, both on Facebook, and in your blog if you have one
  3. It’s entirely possible to build a large Facebook following without a blog. A friend of mine runs this Facebook page and doesn’t have a blog. He’s a taxi driver and updates his page from his phone in his taxi in between fares.
  4. Use memes and viral images to get more Facebook followers
  5. It will take time but it can be done.

Good luck!

monday

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