You certainly can, so let your social media audience grow naturally.
"How many followers do you have on Twitter?" A man presenting on the topic of social media once asked me.
From my seat in the audience, I shrugged and replied "about two thousand."
"Ha!" He responded. "I have over ten thousand!"
Great. He won the Follower Competition. "And how many people are you following?" I asked back.
He didn't hesitate, replying enthusiastically: "Over ten thousand!"
At the time, I only followed a couple of hundred people.
What is the value of having ten thousand followers from around the world?
If you search for how to grow followers online, Google will point you to myriad services that promise to grow your follower base exponentially; an established method of which is, on Twitter at least, to follow as many people as possible in the hopes that these people will follow you back.
The value of this to your business is nil. After all, what would be the value of having ten thousand followers from around the world when your pub's capacity is 36 covers in a sleepy little Cambridgeshire village?
Every day, I notice that somebody new has followed me and then, a few days later, they have unfollowed me. They didn't follow me because they were interested in my witty Twitter repertoire but instead because they hoped that I would follow them back. If I haven't done so after a period of time, which I typically wouldn't if their usual content didn't interest me, they unfollow me.
Clearly, then, having them as a follower was of zero value to my social strategy, other than to inflate my ego temporarily.
Grow your followers by providing strong and engaging content
There is an argument for a level of mutual following. Pubs can follow other pubs for community, the sharing of ideas. Or following a local news agency keeps you up to date with local news, while they follow back to be able to share your news.
The core strategy to growing your followers on any social platform, though, is to provide strong and engaging content – develop stories about your business that people can relate to; share rich content (pictures, videos etc.) that raise people's interest; link to news articles or stories of interest and develop conversation around local news topics.
By creating such content your followers and likers on your platforms will grow organically and people will stay because they are interested in what you have to say, not out of a misguided notion that they should follow you because you follow them.
Once people are reading and commenting your posts, engage in conversation with them – conversation will not only solidify your online relationship and generate its own level of organic follower growth, but conversation leads to footfall that leads to revenue.
With the quality of your online audience much improved, this increases your return on investment as they are more likely to be engaged and interested in the information you also post about upcoming events and meal-deal offers.
And, by not following ten thousand people yourself, your various timelines will be a lot less bothered by the 'noise' of a busy social feed, meaning you will get value from following those that are genuinely of use and interest to you too.