Social media can be a tricky tool for business owners. It’s generally free, fairly easy to use if you use it personally, and can help you establish your brand. However, many business owners are still frustrated with it because they don’t see the results they think they should see, like lots of likes and comments or a regular increase in followers. So what’s usually happening to cause this stagnation? My guess would be it’s the amount and type of engagement you’re building into your social media strategy that is lacking.
A basic social media strategy
Social media strategy can be broken down into two very basic parts: posting content and engaging with your audience.
For most people and business owners, there is a ton of advice out there on:
- How to create AMAZING content for social media
- The perfect sizes for your social media images
- The BEST times to post on social media
- How to make content that goes VIRAL
But not a lot of people talk about the second part of a good strategy: the engagement. Social media is social but we seem to forget that we’re interacting with real people and not just names on a screen. If somebody walked up to you in real life and paid you a compliment you’d probably thank them and say something nice back, right? Well on social media the common responses to a compliment is <radio silence> or more posts about your business or products. Seems kind of rude, doesn’t it?
Setting up your engagement strategy
Below I’m going to list the ways that you can engage with your audience to help you develop more meaningful interactions. These interactions can lead to networking, possible new clients or potential customers, but it takes time!
My suggestion is that as part of your social media strategy, you set aside a certain amount of time, like 10 to 15 minutes, per day or every other day to strictly engage with your community on social media. Set a timer and don’t allow yourself to go over the time limit. Decide which of the following interactions you’ll focus on and keep to those. Alternate interactions or social media networks and you’ll come out with a varied and natural way of interacting on social media.
The top 5 ways to make a difference with your audience
1. Liking their content
You like when people like the content you’ve posted, so make sure you like the content that your audience posts! Seems simple enough, but many business owners forget to take the time to browse the content of their customers or colleagues and like what is entertaining, useful and promotional (you like when people like your promo material, well so does everybody else!)
All of the major social media networks have a “like” button, so use it!
2. Commenting & replying to comments
These are roughly the same thing, but are two different types when it comes to others people content and your own.
Just like liking content, when you see a customer or colleague’s content that you really like, leave a comment that’s meaningful. More than just saying “This is awesome!” explain why you think so or ask a follow up question. This starts a dialogue and could grow from there into something unexpected.
In the same vein, when somebody leaves a comment on one of your posts, reply to their comment either showing appreciation, asking them a question or taking the conversation further (or all of the above!) Just like with my example earlier in the post about when somebody gives you a compliment, think about how you would respond in person when somebody leaves a comment, then do that.
3. Sharing or retweeting
All networks allow you to easily share somebody else’s content to your own profile or page (note: with Instagram you’ll need an external app to do this). This is a step above just “liking” a post; this shows that you agree with (or disagree with) the content and want to support the person who originally shared it.
Most of the times, you can add your own commentary, which I highly recommend, so that you can explain why you liked this piece of content and have decided to share it.
Think about how excited you are when someone shares something you’ve created, written or captured. Use that energy to go out and find good content and share it too.
4. Following / connecting / friending
These are grouped together because they are roughly the same thing, just the term is different on different networks.
- Following: someone can follow you on Instagram, Facebook (though on a page, someone has to “like” your page to follow your posts) and Twitter
- Connecting: you can connect on LinkedIn
- Friending: the way you connect on Facebook
Depending on the network these ways of connecting or following another user defines what type of content you’ll see from them. You can also have situations where someone follows you but you don’t follow them (Twitter and Instagram).
The best practice on most networks is that when somebody starts following you, if that person aligns with your brand and would be someone that you would connect with in person, you should follow them back. They’ve gotten your attention and show interest in your posts by following you, so if it’s a good fit, you can follow them back.
Plus these interactions are shown as notifications on the networks and so this new connection could expose you to new audiences: always a good thing!
Additionally, you should seek out people with similar interests or who are posting content that you’d love to share with your own audience and then follow them. The opposite thing should happen that when they check you out, they could start following you.
5. Tagging & mentioning
This is the most advanced method of interacting on social media because it requires that you think strategically about how you can connect yourself with others.
On social media platforms, the way you do this is by writing a post and including the handle (on Twitter) or username (on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+) of the person you’d like to tag or mention. They’ll be notified that you’ve mentioned them, which sends good vibes to them and makes them more likely to work with you again and/or share your post.
Why tagging and mentioning works is that there are so many pieces of information and content going out into the internet every nanosecond, that tagging someone let’s them know you’re talking about them. You’re giving them a virtual pat on the back if you’re sharing their content, or if you’ve collaborated on something together, a post with their name mentioned allows other people to know what you’ve been up to.
Additionally, the person tagged or mentioned is more likely to share or retweet the thing you’ve posted about them. Why not share it with my own network to make me look good?! That’s a little bit vain, but then you’re reaching new audiences who may not have heard from you before. Wins for everybody involved!
Engaging like a pro
The most important thing about engaging on social media is that you actually do it. And the more you do it, the more natural it will become and the better at it you’ll be.
If you want to get your name or business out there and build up your brand, try to make meaningful connections, comments and interactions everywhere. Not sure where you should focus your energy? Check out my Social Media Network Comparison to see what network or networks might be right for you. Don’t worry about being on all of them, pick 1 and post and engage there well, then perhaps start using a second network.
Remember to set your timer and think about which ways of engaging will be the most meaningful to your audience. Then just do it!
What’s your favorite way to engage on social media?
Let me know in the comments.