In our contemporary world of communications, whether it is for personal or professional use, social media is ubiquitous.  Last year, 81 percent of all Americans had a social media profile and this year over 2.5 billion people are expected to be social media users worldwide. By 2021, that number will grow to over 3 billion social media users (2018).  If YouTube were a country, with over 1 billion users, it would be the third most populated country in the world, while Facebook would be the most populated country.

With a plethora of social media sites, what makes someone follow another person and what type of content do they pay attention to? This has become a cottage industry, helping people navigate social media and elevating them in the digital world. Experts help you create content that is compelling, pithy and connectable. Selling followers and having them “like” your content has also become its own industry (2018). With the enormous growth of social media, ethical and legal issues have surfaced regarding selling followers and the questionable veracity of reviews that are posted on sites (2018). This industry of selling followers and likes has surfaced in response to market demand. Influencers, wannabe influencers or people just wanting to have social media celebrity status, are clamoring to have their numbers “upped’.  Why? So, they can enlarge their perceived sphere of influence, improve their public profile and ultimately their commercial success.

There are many self-help articles, blogs and books that provide tips and tricks for gaining followers and how to get your content shared.  However, some of the basics always apply…. fundamental to any communication is knowing your audience.  In the article “39 Ways to Get More Social Media Followers,” CEO and founder of AudienceBloom Jayson DeMers provides a useful insight when thinking about your audience in social media, “What you think they want and what they actually want may very well be two different things. Take a look at your analytics to see which types of posts and content have been most popular; this is what they want to see more of.”  This provides a fundamental concept: post the content your followers, or those you wish to engage, want to read.

If you are attempting to gain more followers, it is important to understand what they are looking for. This refers to the legitimate kind of follower and not one you are buying.  In support of that, I conducted a simple survey on this very topic. While it is not statically valid with thousands of users (there were about 300 respondents), it does provide some useful data that gets you started. These results provide data to consider when reflecting on content that engages and attracts followers, who do people actually follow, and where and how much time respondents spend on social media.

Survey results
In this survey, 43 percent of the respondents were male, and 57 percent of the respondents were female. The age breakdown of respondents was as follows:

The following charts provide data about the social media channels respondents are connected to, the people they follow and the content they pay attention to.

The respondents that indicated “other” was split between stating that their time on social media really depends on the day or that they were “always on social media” and thus, all of their waking hours was spent on social media.

Of the additional channels there were identified that were not listed; Wechat was most cited, followed by Quora and Whatsapp.

People are looking for relevant, interesting, authentic content. Content that is timely is vital…whether it is what is going on in someone’s life, news items, links to articles, and opinions …all scoring high, just behind the top scoring content category of photos and videos. And people first and foremost follow people they know…friends, family and co-workers…so these connections can be strengthened through social media. Finally, these findings give useful guidance about the content we share and how to connect better with the audiences we care about.

Jayson DeMers. “39 Ways to get more social media followers.” Inc. (2015)

Jacqueline Strayer is a faculty member in graduate programs at NYU and Columbia, a consultant with the Sound Advisory Group, Inc. and was the CCO of three global publicly traded companies.   You can reach her at

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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