Neil Patel is probably one of the best known names in entrepreneurship and digital marketing. He has 62,000 followers on Instagram, over 81,000 followers on Twitter, nearly half a million YouTube subscribers, approximately a million podcast listens per month, and millions of monthly readers on his personal marketing blog.
So when one of the best marketers of all time says that he’s going to reveal his secrets to becoming big on social media, you want to sit, review and listen.
Recently, Patel wrote a blog post called “The Real Secret to My Social Media Success,” in which he did just that. He explained the key to gathering a large number of followers on social media, and even reviewed his strategies for becoming almost a household name in the digital marketing world.
Having consumed plenty of Neil’s marketing advice and following him myself on social media for several years now, I thought I’d share my reactions to his article.
There Are No Alternatives to Investing Time
In brief, I found it useful and encouraging. Patel shares specific steps that he took that were successful in raising his profile on social media and on the web in general.
He spells out how to get big on social media, and reminds you that ultimately, it’s down to a combination of hard work and strategic connections. If you’re struggling to build your following and thinking of giving up, you’ll be heartened to hear that it took six months for him to get a reply to his repeated emails to TechCrunch.
On the other hand, if you’re expecting an earth-shattering, innovative secret to growing your brand awareness, social media following and lead capture pipeline, you may be disappointed. Patel doesn’t actually have a secret sauce that no one else has ever used before, and you won’t find any earth-shattering revelations here that you couldn’t find elsewhere on the internet.
Here’s my deeper dive into the main strategies that Patel shares in his post.
How Not to Grow Your Social Media Following
In the best tradition of a slow reveal, Patel begins with a review of three paths for growing your social media following, and then dismissing them as not the secrets to his success.
- The fundamentals of social media marketing
- Getting in early
- Being lucky
Patel gives only a quick mention of the fundamental social media strategies of posting frequently, sharing live content, responding to comments, and forming a relationship with your followers. He even minimizes their importance, which you’ll find odd If you’re one of Neil Patel’s followers or frequent blog readers, because you’ll know that he does practice all these strategies himself, as can be seen for example in the images below.
Neil’s Facebook page which shows an average frequency of 2.25 days per post:
Neil replying to every comment his followers make:
It seems like he’s a little too quick to dismiss these strategies as simply not enough to build your following. Patel is an expert marketer, so he knows that you can’t get anywhere without these fundamentals. He’s just a little too emphatic when he says that they won’t be enough to skyrocket your social media presence, so don’t abandon all your existing basic tactics.
Patel often mentions the benefit of being an early adopter of new platforms. He was one of the first marketers on Twitter, which helped him gain his first 30,000 Twitter followers in an extremely short space of time. Hidden in this section is a gold nugget of advice to get into TikTok now, while it’s still relatively small.
But as Patel acknowledges, you can’t always be an early adopter. This is also not the secret of his success, since he was late joining Instagram and still gathered tens of thousands of followers.
Finally, he has a nod to the role of luck. It’s a bit of humor, because we all know that if luck is the secret to his social success, there’s nothing here to learn.
Neil Patel’s Strategies Overview
Finally, Neil Patel explains the real strategy he used to become big on social media. Like I said above, it’s effective and it’s powerful, but it’s not revolutionary. He calls it “piggybacking off popular brands,” but you could also call it old-fashioned networking.
Patel describes how he got his name out there by repeatedly reaching out to leading, well-known figures in the tech, business, and marketing worlds, and offering to bring in more traffic for their brand/blog for free, in exchange for publicity. Specifically, he wrote to the owners of the biggest sites like Mashable, TechCrunch, Business Insider, and ReadWriteWeb, asking them to share his name, his ad, and/or a link to his marketing agency.
As Patel tells it, this didn’t happen overnight. And back when no one knew his personal brand, it was harder for his first agency to attract links and mentions than today, when Neil Patel Digital, which he founded in 2017, has plenty of brand equity just because it’s named after a recognized marketing thought leader.
In fact, when Patel was first starting out, he says that most of the people he wrote to just ignored his offer, and even those who agreed took a long time – often months – before they replied. But once he made one connection, all the rest came much more easily. For example, TechCrunch only responded once they saw what Patel was doing for Mashable.
Patel set up a virtuous circle for himself, where his free work for one influencer brought him to the notice of the next influencer. Industry leaders like Michael Arrington of TechCrunch were convinced by his free work and talked him up to their connections.
Patel brings an awkward reference to Will Smith, who didn’t have any trouble getting big on social media because he was already well-known before he joined it. But his point is valid, which is that if you’re “big” off social media – in Patel’s case, on blogs, and in Will Smith’s case, on TV – you’ll also be “big” on social media.
No ‘Secrets,’ but Plenty of Support
In summary, you’ll get some important and valuable takeaways from Neil Patel’s blog post sharing his “secrets” to social success, like:
- Give away free products or services in exchange for exposure.
- Never dismiss the power of customer reviews.
- Make connections with as many industry leaders and influencers as possible.
- Be persistent, because it won’t happen overnight.
- Ensure that you are good at what you do, because all this piggybacking will only boost you, it won’t make you.
- Get in on TikTok right now.
However, it’s not really a secret strategy to social success. The axiom “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has been true for centuries, and that’s the backbone of Patel’s “secret.”
That said, Patel’s blog post is still valuable reading for anyone who’s trying to increase their social media following. He breaks the age-old axiom down into actionable steps that bring results, while encouraging you that yes, even you can grow your following. His own example stands to inspire you to follow in his footsteps, so I recommend reading the full article for yourself to get the boost you need to get started.