Building a powerful online brand takes marketing know-how and a good dose of social media finesse. But what if you don't have a huge budget for these things and need to generate a following all on your own? Take some cues from Natalie Jill, licensed sports nutritionist, functional trainer and the creator of Natalie Jill Fitness, who has more than 1 million followers between Facebook and Instagram and whose at-home fitness videos often receive as many as 2 million views on Facebook. Here's what she says most people get wrong about using social media to build a brand.

1. They outsource social media before they understand it.

Many people know they need to use social media to promote their brand, but don't have any idea how to do it, so they hire someone--often a younger person--to do it for them. While there's nothing wrong with outsourcing, if you don't understand the medium and establish it yourself, you won't know if your efforts are working or if your investments are paying off.

2. They post spam.

Electronic spam is any kind of unsolicited message that people don't want. So, how do you get people to want to engage with your brand? Build a relationship with followers who trust that your motives go beyond just wanting their dollars. "The incorrect was to do it is like telemarketing. It tunes people out and is just a waste of time," she says.

3. They jump on other people's threads.

Every morning Jill posts a video to her Facebook page, which has about 650,000 followers. Because they can receive millions of views, people will hijack the thread with links to their own spammy content. "They think they're doing something right, but it will never work," she says. "It will never get people to follow you, and I see this happen all the time."

4. They fail to connect with an audience.

Jill likens social media to a party. If you were at a party you wouldn't stand in the middle of the room and announce to everyone why they should be friends with you. "The correct way to make friends would be to get out and be more social and ask questions, and participate in things that you like, and just connect with people," she says. It's the same with social media. "As you get to know those people, you start inviting them to a few things, and they might become a good friend."

5. They prematurely try to sell.

Just because someone is having success selling something online doesn't mean you can do it, too. "You have to develop your online product by getting to know your audience first and seeing what they want and why they want to follow you," she says. For example, after Jill invested heavily in connecting with fans and sharing recipes, people began asking her to collect them in a book, which she did. From there, they wanted the recipes assembled into a meal plan, which gave her the idea to create her popular "The 7-Day Jumpstart" nutrition program. "It was a natural evolution because I understood my audience."

6. They don't ask questions.

People want to be understood, which involves listening. "A lot of people jump online and [say] 'Look at me. Look what I have. This is why I'm so great. This is why I'm so knowledgeable," she says. "No one cares, people shut that out." In other words, online bragging makes people feel bad about themselves. Instead, help followers understand how they can succeed.

What annoys you most about how people use social media to promote a brand?

Published on: Mar 27, 2015