After you’ve created accounts on all of the hottest social media platforms and posted a few updates, your attention will inevitably turn to the audience issue. It’s not a new problem – the written word is powerless unless there is someone else to read it. Advertisers realize it – and media outlets capitalize on it. The difference is that most social media marketers don’t have the same resources at their disposal. Small businesses must rely on Web searches, white papers and word-of-mouth to build their social media strategies – and often the audience building comes down to one of two tactics: carpet bomb anyone who will listen or carefully curate your followers.

Brute Force: The Carpet Bomb
Sending a brief message about your company’s social presence to all of your personal LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers may seem innocent enough, but it never ends there. When the personal approach proves less successful than expected, it becomes easier to reach out to (aka “spam”) strangers. Enter the questionable Web tools that promise to find you fans and build your following, the advice to follow anyone who has a large number of followers, the tips to jump on the trending topics and to post promotional messages anywhere that will allow you to do so. The theory here is that hitting a mass audience – no matter how seemingly uninterested – is bound to pull in some legitimate followers. It’s a valid point: if your reach is big enough, getting as little as a one percent return could mean a substantial audience increase. The downside is that you are building a following at the expense of your reputation.

Slow and Steady: Careful Curation
Finding time to craft a thoughtful message about your new social media strategy to a targeted group of personal and professional contacts might sound like too much of an effort, but it demonstrates a tactic that advertisers use all the time: segmenting the market. When the message is in front of the right people, it is more likely to be noticed – which means it’s more likely to get the right response. That’s why you see fast cars advertised during basketball games and cleaning products during sappy romance dramas. The downside to segmentation and targeting is that it requires work – and time. To be successful, you have to build a strategy about who you want to reach and then practice tactics to interact and engage with that audience.

At the end of the day, these tactics boil down to prioritizing quantity or quality. There is a time and a place for both methods – it’s up to you to decide what works best for your situation.

Nancy Goodwin is a head writer for, providing useful advice and resources on social media, content marketing and other web marketing strategies.  @MrktingWeekly