Note: Listen to this post instead using the audio player below, and consider subscribing on your favorite podcast player!
Yesterday, you were exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 marketing messages – but how many of those do you actually remember?
Out of those that you remember, how many actually sparked a powerful enough reaction in you to affect your opinion of that company?
Chances are, not very many. In fact, you unconsciously filtered out the vast majority of advertisements without even realizing that they were there – despite the fact that your eyes likely did pass over them.
As entrepreneurs, we often make the mistake of believing that more eyeballs on our offer is a good thing, without taking into account an important fact – if no results are actually being delivered, we are wasting our time and money for no good reason.
As social media marketers, we make the mistake of prioritizing reach – acquiring new followers, going viral, chasing social shares and retweets, even if it means that our messages fall onto deaf ears.
That’s a problem.
Social media marketers do best when they prioritize engagement first, building a framework that actually connects with the audience. Once this framework is in place, only then can it be effectively scaled by amplifying reach.
In this article, I want to help you develop that framework. Let’s look over 7 methods we can utilize to improve engagement on social media, and build a more meaningful connection with our audience.
1. Provide Value First – And Consistently
Never forget what social media is intended to be used for.
Although all of the networks are not consumed in the same way, none of them are meant to be used as a billboard for you to blast your marketing messages.
People do not follow you to receive your advertisements. They followed you because they felt like they would receive value from you in some way.
That’s not to say there isn’t time to promote any offers you may have going on at the moment – but when your social page starts feeling like the ad section of a newspaper, you’ve got a problem.
Even if people don’t unfollow your page, they certainly won’t engage with the content, and this will result in the networks showing your posts less frequently to those people.
When possible, look for opportunities to provide value that ties in with your marketing objective. Something as small as a funny Tweet that links to your sales page is infinitely better than posting typical ad copy.
2. Keep Social Media Social
Nothing hurts engagement more than blocking off communication with your fans and followers.
After all, why should they bother to write to you, if you’re only going to ignore them?
Acts like this will make your following feel worse off, than if they had just not said anything at all.
A surprisingly large number of brands will work hard to receive more comments on their posts, then seemingly ignore every single comment that they actually receive.
It really does not take that much time to respond back to the comments that you receive. This is something you could pass off to a virtual assistant for as little as $2-3 an hour, and will make a world of difference in your engagement if you are not doing this already.
Even taking half a second to ‘like’ the comments you receive is far better than ignoring them completely.
When possible, engage in a natural level of discussion with the community you’ve managed to build. Ask follow-up questions, address people by name, talk with them as if they were there with you in person, commenting on something you had just said.
These meaningful interactions will stand out in your follower’s minds, because so few brands actually take the time to do it.
3. Start Things Off Right – Manually Engage New Followers
If it’s appropriate for the platform, you may consider welcoming new followers and thanking them for their follow.
This can be beneficial in a few ways:
- It instantly makes you more memorable in that person’s mind, meaning they’re less likely to filter your posts out in a cluttered news feed.
- It gives you an opportunity to direct new followers towards additional resources you offer, such as blog articles or products.
- The conversation and initial engagement will push you higher up the algorithm in that person’s newsfeed, improving reach on future posts.
However, you want to be careful when utilizing this strategy that you do not push it too far. Introductions should be done manually and in a natural manner – not automated by software. Inauthentic messages may actually have a negative effect, as people are becoming more and more receptive to accounts being ran by bots or other automated software.
Additionally, people do not typically like feeling forced into an interaction with you, which makes it important to avoid direct confrontation. For this reason, I do not recommend messaging through direct message systems on the various networks.
Rather, this strategy is best utilized in the following scenarios:
- Sending a public tweet to a new follower on Twitter.
- Talking with a new connection on LinkedIn, and letting them know that you’re happy to connect with them.
- Tagging a new Facebook group member in a post.
On Instagram, it may be appropriate to visit their profile and like / comment on a few of their most recent posts, rather than messaging or tagging them directly.
Try this strategy out for a few weeks and see how it works for you – you can always discontinue it if it does not work with your brand!
4. Get Personable
Even if you are publishing content as a brand, you do not want your social media messages to sound too ‘corporate’.
Social media is all about connection, and it’s very hard to connect with some faceless corporation. Instead, social media managers should always try to draw out the brand’s values and personality, giving the brand a unique voice to write from.
If you’re able to do so, share your real, human thoughts and feelings about things. Make jokes. Talk about things you (or your brand) like and dislike. Be willing to agree and disagree with people publicly. Maintain an authentic tone and framework for phrasing things.
You know you’ve really nailed your brand voice down when it can be recognized, even without seeing your name and logo.
A strong sense of personality and personability in your messaging will not only make it easier for other people to connect with your brand, it will also make you more memorable in their minds and in their hearts.
5. Ask Low-Risk Questions
Prompting those initial first interactions can be difficult.
Some people just may not have anything to say, while others may be shy to give any response that may come with a social cost – be it fear of confrontation, fear of embarrassment, or fear of saying something that others may criticize them for.
In instances like these, it can help to ask questions that are ‘low-risk’ – questions that have a clear defined answer, questions that the follower does not have to really think that much about in order to give a response.
Some examples may include…
- Making a statement that most people would say is reasonable, and asking followers whether or not they agree or disagree.
- Asking yes / no questions.
- Asking something about the follower’s personal life, that they already know the answer to (i.e, when’s the last time you X?)
Once you’ve managed to get followers to voice themselves a couple of times, asking them to do so in the future becomes much easier.
Low-risk questions can be a great way to draw out those initial interactions.
Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook Stories are incredibly powerful platforms that very few marketers are utilizing to their full potential.
As a matter of fact, they have the power to be more effective at driving engagement than even your main feed, which is saying a lot considering how new and under-utilized they are.
Stories should not just act as an alternate feed for your standard posts however – they should execute a unique strategy that differs from your other social feeds.
Many marketers shy away from stories because they (typically) disappear in 24 hours after posting, but it’s the brevity of their existence that actually makes them so powerful.
If your followers don’t open them, they will never get the chance to see what was there.
This means that if you actually provide value in your stories and give people a reason to want to open them, it’s possible to foster engagement that’s far beyond what you may find in your main feed.
Crafting a stories strategy will be different for every company, and there definitely is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Personally, I like to use stories to share behind-the-scenes type footage, share random thoughts or ideas I think about throughout the day, run polls, and have personalized public interactions with customers.
Follow some of the top brands in your industry, and pay attention to how they’re utilizing stories. Stories do not take a lot of effort to create, but can really go a long way towards building connection and improving engagement.
7. Utilize Live Video
Live video is scary.
I get it.
The idea of putting yourself on camera without the ability to shut it off and edit out your mistakes can be scary.
However, there are very few things that act as a better engagement-builder than actually interacting with followers in real-time. After all, this is about as close as you could get to meeting them in person.
Even for those that don’t engage in conversation, you can be sure that you’ll end up being far more authentic and memorable to any viewers that are willing to tune into your broadcast. According to this article from Mediakix, daily watch time of Facebook Live videos has increased by 4x over past years, and users watch a live video 3X longer than a regular one on average. Live videos also produce 6x as many interactions as traditional videos.
While it may be difficult to get a large number of people to tune into your broadcast, especially if you do not already have a large audience, the engagement benefits of doing so may ultimately make up for the lower reach.
After all, if 20 people bought from you because of your livestream, wouldn’t you say that the time spent was worth it – even if you didn’t necessarily reach a lot of people?
Although we’d all like to have a larger following, it’s important that we make the most of the following that we have.
If you’re able to build a strong enough connection with your audience, you should carry out your social strategy with the belief that every single follower could one day become a buyer (or refer someone that will.)
Prioritize your existing following, and continue strategizing how you can better serve them. Ultimately, they will reward you for your care.
From there, scaling profitably to larger and larger followings becomes easy – and your existing audience will help do it for you.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas. I’d love it if you’d drop your social handles below, so I can see how you’re implementing your own social strategy this year.
Additionally, if you’d like to watch me carry out my own social strategy, I’d love to have you follow me as well. You can find my pages below:
Thanks so much! To your success,
– James McAllister
Review the main points of this article in the SlideShare below. Feel free to embed this on your site, use it in your organization, and share it with others! All I ask is that you give credit! (Download links are available from SlideShare’s website, which you can access by clicking the LinkedIn icon)