The word “engagement” gets thrown around so often, it's become nearly meaningless in the social media world. And, while most buzzwords come and go, real engagement is a long-term play.
If you're not seeing a lot of engagement from your Facebook posts, tweets or product pictures on Instagram, you may want to take another look at your long-term strategy. True audience engagement isn’t easy, and it takes a long time to see results.
Here are some ways you can engage with your audience, while encouraging them to respond:
Ask questions. People like to share opinions. This could not be truer than online. Perhaps it’s being in the comfort of familiar surroundings. Perhaps it’s that when you're on your phone, you feel bolder and more confident about tweeting statements you might keep to yourself at a dinner party. What matters is that by asking a question, you invite others in.
One of the most effective prompts is, “What do you think about _____?” Ask questions that require more than a yes or no (unless you're running polls, which also drive high engagement). Engagement thrives on an exchange of ideas. The better your questions, the more people will jump in and want to also be a part of the conversation, making your brand the centerpiece of community interaction.
Host a contest. Contests are fun, and work well on Instagram and Facebook. A word of caution: Make certain that before you start a contest, you check the platform's terms of service to avoid getting your post banned, or worse, your account paused.
A few ideas:
- Ask followers to share photos or videos of themselves or friends using your product or service.
- Prompt your audience to get creative and write a poem using words or imagery associated with your brand.
- Run social for a food or beverage brand? Have followers post recipes using your product and ask your audience to vote for their favorite.
- Caption this: Post a funny or thought-provoking photo and ask followers to caption the image.
Schedule weekly activities—with guidelines. On Facebook especially, it can be effective to ask questions each week on the same day at the same time. Take a Facebook Page for bloggers. Every hump day is “Blog Share Wednesday.” Followers are encouraged to share their latest posts. However, self-promotion doesn't come free: They can only post their blogs after they’ve confirmed that they’ve either left a comment on three other posts or hit the "subscribe" button on at least two blogs.
Feature community members. Once a month or so, share something that a member of your community recently posted. It could be as simple as recognizing someone for a great question they asked other community members. People like to be acknowledged–plus, they like to see their friends getting acknowledged. Shining a spotlight on one member will make others want to be called out as well. Promote others before promoting yourself.
Make your audience the co-star of your videos. Social platforms like TikTok encourage viewers to jump in on the action, offering a split screen option. Live videos are highly engaging, receiving more love than text posts, images and pre-recorded videos. See my tips for your first Facebook Live here.
Ask for feedback. Ask your community what they’d like to learn about or see more of. You'll see more engagement as you start putting audience suggestions into practice. This works well for Instagram Stories in particular.
Get to know your community better. On each of your social media channels, every member of your community has a distinct reason they were drawn to your business. Make sure you aren’t treating your Facebook followers the same way you do your LinkedIn community. Take time to get to know your followers and then engage with them following the format of the platform they spend the most time on.
Be honest and transparent. Like your friends and colleagues, online audiences will trust you more if you are honest with them. Admit to your mistakes and be transparent on the steps you plan to take to course correct. No one is perfect. Sometimes admitting your flaws allows your followers to relate better to your brand and mission.
Create emotional connections. The more you ask questions or post content that speaks to members’ values, the more dedicated they will be to your brand. In customer service messages, be human: let consumers know who they are chatting with. Don’t just be a brand and a logo. Your community should know your social media or community manager’s name; a profile photo helps as well.
Some of these tips are quick and easy and will produce a short burst of engagement. Others take more time, just like any other relationship in your life. Some of these will work for you; others may not. Spend time as a member of your own community, rather than a brand looking in from the outside. Care for your community, and slowly, but surely, they will come to care about you.
Follow Lucy: @LUCYrk78