Whatever your 2020 business resolutions are, an expanded social media audience can certainly help. Not only can more followers increase the likelihood of sales conversions (which means less money needed for ad spend), but a highly engaged audience connotes credibility to your brand and company for potential customers who may search for your business on social media.

Doubling down on your digital footprint with a larger audience is sure to spur sales and success in the new year. As you rethink your 2020 business strategies, consider implementing these four easy yet powerful social media strategies to expand your online influence .

1. Engage in influencer marketing

One of the best ways to expand your reach on social media is to collaborate with another creator who has an even bigger audience. It's similar to spending money on ads because it's a cost that allows your content to reach those within your target audience, but can be even more efficient by investing in influencers. They've created a level of rapport and trust with their followers that makes their recommendations carry more weight than an ad that would show up on your target customer's news feed that they can simply scroll past and ignore.

For this reason, Jackie Lisk shared that more than 80 percent of marketers find influencer marketing effective. "Collaborating with influencers helps companies create content that rises above the noise and resonates with their target groups," she writes. Start by finding influencers who are big in your industry or related to your brand. For example: if your product is a fitness program, find fitness influencers who share the same values they do. Work backwards: what type of content does your ideal customer follow? What inspires them?

Then, begin to reach out to influencers via the email addresses in their social profile bios. The presence of their email addresses is a surefire sign that they're open to collaborations.

2. Set aside time to genuinely interact with similar accounts

As for a strategy that won't require any capital investment, put in the legwork to connect with similar accounts and create sustainable relationships that will promote engagement over the long term. These relevant accounts are best discovered through hashtags - either ones that your account religiously uses, or ones that are simply related to what your business does.

"Hashtags are a great way to find other profiles directly related to your brand or mission," advises Allee Williams, founder of social media strategy company Leia Rising. "So, setting aside time to genuinely interact via likes and comments with posts that have used these hashtags is a great way to expand your reach, gain followers, and network."

The amount of time that can be spent on this can range from 20 minutes a day to two hours, depending on your team. If you have a social media lead who works specifically on growing the social side, add this to their daily agenda. Just make sure not to try to streamline this process of engagement by pasting the same comment on dozens of photos, as that can cause Instagram to block your account's actions for an interim.

3. Utilize Instagram story ads

Instagram story ads are a great way to both advertise your business and convert leads into followers, since they're already on the app. In an article by Nikki Canning, she recommends utilizing videos specifically within these advertisements because "videos hold attention spans 5x longer than images." However, there's no need to hire a videographer crew and create brand new content for these ads if you don't have the time or budget.

Once you start investing in Instagram story ads, make sure to tweak your strategy by taking certain metrics into account such as reach, conversion rates, and lead generation. It's been reported that the average conversion rate for Facebook ads is around 9.21%, so if your conversion rate is significantly lower, your ad strategy could benefit from an update. Keep trying different strategies until something works.

4. Host a contest or giveaway on your page

Try setting aside some of the marketing budget to give away a product, service, or bonus related to your company. For example, if your company coaches entrepreneurs on sales, perhaps a giveaway could be two tickets to a major sales entrepreneurship conference.

"Like any type of marketing, contests need to have a strategy to be successful," says Roy Dekel, CEO of SetSchedule. "Contests should have the integrity and the strength to grab the attention, interest and ultimately, drive the decision and action of the prospective buyer. Same as with any offer and with any marketing campaign, contests have to have the sizzle to drive for conversions."

Done correctly, a contest should drive more eyeballs to your social pages. This is done by making the requirements for entry include the tagging of two to three accounts in the post comments and making sure each entered account is following yours'. If the prize offered in the contest is good enough, this will take on a domino effect with enhanced momentum: most accounts tagged will then want to enter the contest too, and then follow your account and tag two to three other accounts.

It's ultimately up to you, but it's recommended to keep the timeline of the contest to 48 hours max to create a sense of urgency and excitement.

5. Take Part in Online Forums and Communities

As you develop/revamp your social media strategy, don't forget to include a section dedicated to online forums and communities. Most industries have their own designated niche forums where prospects and potential consumers like to hang out, and it's up to you to find them.

Online communities go beyond the widely-popular Reddit and Quora, and there is no limit on the types of conversations taking place in which brands can easily segue into. According to Sam Forline, the founder and CEO of landscaping company Blue Collar Scholars, "Niche forums allow brands to get the absolute true sense of what the needs, wants, desires, questions, and concerns of their customers are. The active members of these communities are, for better or worse, unfiltered in this environment. And since competition isn't as intense on these forums as they can be on some social networks, the members of these communities are practically up for grabs for anyone that is willing to genuinely engage with them and address their concerns."

This process is more so long-term, but the reward is grand, as relationships are being built without a product or service being forced on anyone. It entices members to learn more about who it is that is helping them, and strengthens a sense of camaraderie.

6. Explore Ways to Serve the Underserved

Take a step back, and try to view your product/service with wider lenses. You may be well-versed on multiple (technical) components of what makes it special, but what are some ways that your product/service may be particularly beneficial for the underserved?

Take podcasts, for instance. We all know that they're great to consume while on-the-go, or doing chores, exercising, etc. But are those the only marketing angles worth sticking to? Podcasts mean so much more to the blind, or anyone who is visually impaired, as it's a form of entertainment without barriers for them. The same applies to video messaging services. Those offer more than a way for people to mimic face-to-face interactions, they also offer a way for the deaf, or hard-of-hearing community to sign with each other.

"Moral aspect aside, it's one of the greatest strategic moves to explore ways to tap into underserved communities as part of your marketing strategy, because they listen and respond in kind" says Stephanie Burns, the Founder of Chic CEO- an online resource for female entrepreneurs. For Burns, this technique turned out to be the secret sauce to the success of her business, which provides systematic guides for novice female entrepreneurs to start their own business. "I figured if 15 of my super smart girlfriends were confused by the startup process, more women probably were too." Then over time, "...with over 100K women subscribed to our communications, events, and podcast- we were spreading the female entrepreneurship message far and wide."

The bottom line is that when the underserved is given a voice, they respond with enthusiasm, and word travels very quickly about the new product/service that is here to help them at long last.

Published on: Feb 14, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.