In the world of social media marketing, the word “engagement” gets thrown around a lot – but does your brand actually know how to make it happen Social media regularly ranks high on the list when it comes to the most important marketing tools,but too often we see business profiles fall into the habit of “set and forget.”

Engagement with your audience doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not a one-way street. You have to be, well, engaging. Think of social media like any other social gathering – if there’s one person who only ever talks about themselves, or is constantly interrupting other people, they quickly become ignored. But a real conversation can have a lasting impact, and keep people coming back for more.

What is social media engagement?

At its core, social media engagement is any instance of someone interacting with your social media account. It can be measured in the form of metrics like:

  • Likes
  • Follows
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Retweets
  • Click-through rates

Any way that people can interact with you on platforms like Twitter and Facebook is considered engagement. A metrics are vital for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, and accomplishing your SMART goals. It’s also what will help you develop the most meaningful relationships with potential and current customers.

How to increase social media engagement

According to the social media experts at Hootsuite, developing a plan for social media engagement is a must. Developing your strategy beforehand ensures that every interaction you have on social media is not only useful to the person you’re talking to, but also beneficial to your business. Here are two key points they recommend you cover before hitting the “reply” button:

1. Define Your Goal

Having a solid goal is crucial for any business strategy. What you want to accomplish depends entirely on what your business has to offer and what best suits your brand. However, you should also be able to clearly articulate what your followers gain from interacting with your brand on social.

For example, if educating people is what your brand’s passion, then your engagement strategy should focus on sharing resources, answering questions or giving advice. You should also clearly outline how you use engagement on social media to positively impact your business. Some example goals could be:

  • Getting feedback about products or campaigns
  • Finding and nurturing leads
  • Providing information that helps move customers along the sales funnel
  • Changing brand perception

2. Know Your Audience

Good social media engagement begins before your fingers ever touch the keyboard. That’s because you need to get inside your audience’s head before you even decide on things like the copy, posting frequency and what you’re going to share.

Too many businesses make the mistake of guessing at what their customers want on social media. Then, when they miss the mark, they are left wondering where they went wrong.

To avoid making this mistake, make sure you do some thorough audience research to learn everything you can about your target audience. For tips on how research is conducted, check out this article on the Three Girls Media blog about building a custom audience.

Actually Engage With Your Social Media Audience

Remember, social media engagement is a dialogue – not a one-sided conversation. You can split your interactions into two categories:

  • Reactive engagement
  • Proactive engagement

Reactive engagement

This describes the act of answering direct messages, comments or incoming @mentions your business receives on social. The guidelines you set up above should cover when and how your business interacts with the messages it receives directly on social. When it comes to reactive engagement tactics, consider the following:

  • Whether or not you reply to every single @message or comment directed toward your business (and if not, what the conditions are)
  • If, when and how you pass along messages for another department to handle (for example, customer support or sales)
  • An overview of the tools and workflow used to handle incoming messages

Proactive engagement

This is when you make the first move. People talking about your brand on social media may not be directing their message at your official account, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join in on the conversation. There are potential engagement opportunities you can find by searching for indirect mentions of your brand name (or misspellings) and relevant conversations based on keywords or phrases.

According to Hootsuite, proactive engagement is especially helpful for increasing the buzz around specific campaigns or product launches. When it comes to your brand’s proactive engagement plan, consider the following:

  • The tools and techniques you use to find engagement opportunities
  • Guidelines for how to engage once an opportunity is found
  • Best practices and examples to highlight what a successful proactive engagement looks like

What Kind Of Content Encourages Engagement On Social Media?

Looking for a quick way to boost your engagement? Try one of these ideas from Social Media Today!

1. Host A Contest

Contests are fun, and everyone loves to win prices. Contests do best on Instagram and Facebook, but remember to check with the platform’s Terms of Service to make sure you’re following all of the rules. Some examples of contests include:

  • Asking people to shoot and share photos or videos of themselves or friends using your brand in their everyday life
  • Asking people to get creative and write a poem using certain words or imagery associated with your brand
  • Requesting recipes that include your product and have others vote on their favorites to win if your product is a food or beverage.
  • Caption contest: post a funny or thought-provoking photo and ask people to caption the shot

2. Feature Community Members

Share something that a member of your community recently posted or accomplished. It could even be as simple as recognizing someone for a great question they posted to other community members. Find something specific about them and create a post around it. Shining a positive spotlight on one member will excite others about sharing the spotlight and will encourage them to post things you can share.

3. Go Live

More and more, social platforms are adding a feature where you can invite viewers of your live stream to jump in themselves. Live videos get more engagement than word posts, photos and even previously recorded videos. Give it a try and see how many comments and questions you get while you’re live.

4. Ask Questions

Think about the last time you met someone new – after shaking their hand and exchanging names, I bet the next thing you did was ask them about themselves. It makes sense that asking questions is the easiest and most natural way to begin engaging with your community. People like to share opinions, especially online. Just make sure you keep a close eye on the dialogue to avoid creating a space where anyone might feel uncomfortable.

5. Ask For Feedback

Ask your community what they want to see more of! Giving your audience what they want is a great way to boost engagement.

6. Get To Know Your Community

Just like each new person you meet offline, your social media community is made up of a wide variety of people. Each of them have reasons for being drawn to your business – so find out what these are and how you can cater your content to them.

7. User Generated Content

User generated content (UGC) is solid gold. Share photos, recommendations or praise that comes in with the people who follow you. It not only makes that user feel noticed and appreciated, but encourages others to start (or continue) engaging in order to be acknowledged.

8. Be Honest And Transparent

People do business with people that they like, especially those who are open and honest with them. Admit your mistakes to your audience as you make them. Take their criticism and offer transparency in what didn’t work, and how you will either fix it or improve in the future. No one is perfect, and admitting you or your business are flawed just makes you more relatable.

9. Create Emotional Connections

Part of getting to know your audience is learning what they care about – their passions – and what connects with them on an emotional level. The more you can create content that speaks to your audience’s emotions, the more dedicated they will be to your brand, and the more likely they’ll be to share your content with their friends and followers.

What Content Kills Engagement On Social Media?

After that list of nine positives, let’s round it out to an even ten with one of the most annoying things you can do when engaging on social media: slang!

According to a survey by Sprout Social, 38 percent of social media users said using slang or jargon was the most annoying action from a brand (number one was too many promotions at 57 percent) and 30 percent said they would unfollow a brand for using slang or jargon on social media.

Just like a teen might roll their eyes and cringe when a parent tries to be “hip” or “cool,” 71 percent of people say they have unfollowed a brand due to embarrassment. And with the speed that trends rise and fall on the internet, dating yourself with an expired reference is easier than you might think. Here are a few other things it says to your audience when you use slang:

  • You’re out of touch with your demographics. This comes off as abrasive to several users. Most know they’re being marketed to, so respect your audience by avoiding gimmicks to reach them.
  • You’re willing to risk cultural insensitivity for the sake of a joke. You might not realize certain slang, jargon or social memes are meant for certain cultures. Abusing them for marketing purposes can turn off an audience immediately.
  • You’re pretending to be something you’re not. It’s always a great social media best practice to be yourself. That means follow your brand values, know your core audience and steer clear of quick marketing ploys that could turn off your current customers.

Read more: 7 Easy Posts Ideas That Drive Social Media Engagement