Do you know how many customers are socially engaged with your brand online? Or are you scratching your head right now because you have no idea whether or not you even have a social audience, much less how many they number. You don’t even know who they are…
You’re not alone.
Many business owners focus on advertising and overlook the importance of increasing social engagement with their customers.
Though effective, advertising is impersonal whereas engaging with your social audience is highly personal. Interestingly, advertising campaigns that lack correlating social engagement campaigns don’t end up doing very well.
So, what is social engagement? The simplest definition is that social engagement is the process of actively interacting and communicating in an online community, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, or any blog, forum, third-party review site, or social media platform.
Strategies to increase social engagement emphasize initiating personal conversations in order to stay in constant contact with a given audience online. This means that your campaigns to increase social engagement cannot—and should not—include too many blatant advertisements of your products or services.
But why is that?
While overtly promoting your products and services on social media platforms is a valid form of advertising, it will not foster social engagement nor help you build a social community of online followers.
When social engagement efforts are maintained correctly, the benefits include gaining shoppers, building customer loyalty, and ensuring overall business growth.
Providing your customers with opportunities to engage with your brand in meaningful ways will lead to a better customer experience. Customers who have positive experiences while socially engaging with your brand online are more likely to tell their friends and family about your company.
There are many strategies to increase social engagement, but for the sake of expediency, this article will focus on the following three ways:
● Research & Utilize Trending Hashtags
● Provide Novel Content
● Use the A.I.D.A. Formula
Hashtags are the SEO of social media. Keywords are used to amplify SEO and drive web traffic, and in a very similar way, hashtags are used in social media posts and blog posts to attract site users.
Every hashtag is prefaced by the hash symbol—#. When hashtags are used correctly, posts get seen by large audiences. When hashtags are used expertly, posts can go viral. But when hashtags are used incorrectly, or worse, not used at all, those posts will never see the light of day.
In fact, almost 70% of Instagram posts go unseen! What does that tell us? That 70% of social media posts are not using hashtags correctly, which means that 70% of social media users are not utilizing those platforms to increase social engagement.
By adding just 1 hashtag to a post, the post’s engagement can increase by roughly 12.6%. That’s valuable!
However, you can’t just thoughtlessly slap a few hashtags onto your posts and expect to see results.
Finding popular, trending hashtags that are relevant to your business’ social media post requires research and testing.
If you have been using hashtags but haven’t noticed an increase in social engagement, then your hashtag strategy is flawed. Don’t worry, we have tips to correct your strategy. First, stop doing the following:
● Don’t copy / paste the same hashtags in each post
● Don’t invent your own hashtags unless doing so is part of a specific marketing campaign; a newly invented hashtag is “empty” of followers, which defeats your goal
● Avoid gimmicky hashtags such as #like4like, #follow4follow, and other bland, nondescript hashtags
● Never go over 30 hashtags in a single post, and make sure every hashtag you use is highly relevant to your business and the post’s content
Interestingly, whether a hashtag is added to the caption section or in the comments section it will work the same way, perform the same way, and be equally effective. That being said, users and followers become turned off when they see an ugly block of hashtags within a caption, so be mindful about how you present your hashtags. Remember, Facebook and Instagram will reward posts that look neat, pretty, and synchronized. The bottom line is that if you have a block of 30 hashtags and they’re all relevant, that’s fine, but use them in the comments section, and never the caption itself. Capeesh?
Instead of falling prey to the list of “don’ts” that we mentioned above, here’s what you should do:
Invest in a good hashtag tool. Instead of inventing your own hashtag or using a social media platform’s limited search function to manually collect seemingly relevant hashtags, try using a hashtag tool. Hashtag tools are designed to help you discover relevant hashtags, and you can even check the engagement stats of each hashtag to make sure it’ll be worth your while.
Watch out for high-density hashtags, though. Any hashtag that has 500,000 followers or more is considered high-density. If you only use high-density hashtags, the likelihood of your post being seen by a wide audience is nil. Remember, high-density equals “high competition.” That being said, including one or two high-density hashtags won’t hurt you, in fact it will help, but only if you’re primarily using a bunch of low-density, relevant hashtags.
Thoroughly research each specific hashtag so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to use it. And be sure to include a mix of the following types of hashtags in your posts.
● Community Hashtags—These hashtags revolve around small niche communities, which means they’re highly targeted, yet they’re considered low competition because the overall audience is a comparatively lower number of users. For example, #oceanlife is a hashtag centered on a community of people, i.e. those who live near the ocean and have a beachy lifestyle.
● Audience Descriptive Hashtags—These hashtags use words and phrases that describe your target audience. Audience descriptive hashtags work best when you use between 5 and 8, being careful that you aren’t using variations on the same description. For example, #bookloversofInstagram is a hashtag that defines an audience, and other descriptive hashtags can be used to complement it such as #readerslife, #kindleaddict, and #bookwormsunite.
● Location Hashtags—These hashtags are exactly what you might think, i.e. a geographical region that’s relevant to the post. This is not to be confused with adding a location sticker to a post, which will pinpoint the address where the post was uploaded. Location hashtags serve to cast a wider net than a particular address. For example, #NewYorkCityCatering is a hashtag that will attract the attention of everyone in the NYC area, whereas #catering is much too broad and #124FrontSteetBrooklynCatering is way too specific.
● Product Descriptive Hashtags—These hashtags are not as cut-and-dry as you might assume. Rather than hashtags that describe your products, product descriptive hashtags reference your customers’ “pain points” and the solutions your company offers to solve those problems. For example, #flattiressuck, #tirerepair, and #automotiveaccessories work very well together as three product descriptive hashtags.
There’s so much more we could say about using hashtags to increase audience engagement, but we’ll leave you with this final thought before moving on to the next section: be prepared to engage with your audience when users begin to comment on your posts. If you don’t respond promptly and keep the conversation going, your post will go dead no matter how effective the hashtags were at attracting an audience.
No, we aren’t referring to a 300-page paperback novel. The term “novel content” refers to digital content that is unique, exclusive, and time-sensitive in the sense that it will eventually expire. The social media platform Snapchat is based on the concept of novel content. Each “snap” is only available to be seen for a limited period of time, after which it disappears forever.
In order to understand why novel content works to increase social engagement, you must first understand what “conventional content” is, and why it’s too broad to foster social engagement all on its own.
Conventional content includes blogs, articles, ebooks, videos, webinars, and podcasts.
A blog post, for example, could spark a discussion in the comments section based on questions that were posed within the article itself. But will a blog post automatically spark social engagement? No.
The same can be said of videos, webinars, and podcasts. These mediums deliver information, provide entertainment, and boost brand visibility, but that doesn’t automatically lead to social engagement.
However, when novel content is added to conventional content, it serves to effectively increase social engagement.
So, what is novel content? The following is a short list of the most popular and engaging forms of novel content:
● Polls—The great news is that most social media platforms have integrated a “polls” feature, making it easy for account holders like you to craft an engaging poll for your audience. Polls empower you to gain insights about your audience by simply asking them questions. You can quickly gather feedback from your audience about the kind of content they’d like to see, what they think of your latest article, and even the challenges they’re currently facing. Polls are structured with multiple choice answers, so bear that in mind when you’re designing your next poll to increase social engagement.
● Quizzes—You can build Buzzfeed-style quizzes to trigger your audience into engaging. Use your most popular content to build your quiz around, whether it’s a recent podcast you aired or article you published. Establish the goal of the quiz, i.e. will there be a winner and a prize? Then create your quiz questions based on the information you shared in the podcast or article that the quiz is based on. Lastly, don’t forget to promote your quiz on social media.
● Contests—People love contests. The prospect of winning, even if the prize isn’t terribly valuable, is enticing enough to provoke healthy social engagement online. The best part about hosting a contest on social media is that it can serve to drive traffic to your website or eCommerce store, effortlessly converting visitors into customers. In your contest campaign, clearly define the prize, the rules, and the deadline. You can think of the rules as your CTAs. To define the rules, ask yourself, do you want participants to like the post, share the post, follow your account, and comment under the post with the answer to the contest question? Once you’ve established the parameters, be sure to market your contest across all social media platforms and also on your website.
● Call-in Q&As—A surefire way to amplify engagement for your podcast, webinar, or any live broadcast you’re hosting online is to allocate a segment to call-in questions so that your audience can make direct contact with you, ask you a question, and get an answer from you, an expert in your field. Offering Q&A segments can help to build a deeper relationship with your audience wherein they will trust you more and you will learn more about them. Be sure to advertise the call-in phone number with the date / time of the Q&A segment, then use all social media platforms to get the word out.
● Type-in Q&As—Hosting a call-in segment might be a bit advanced for some businesses. Alternatively, you can devise a type-in method for your audience to send their written questions to you. Type-in Q&As first appeared on YouTube Live, where audience members could type comments, questions, and observations into the live chat reply (not to be confused with the comments section below the video) as the live video broadcast unfolded. Nowadays, live chat reply boxes have been added to social media platforms like Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
● Disappearing Content—As of the writing of this article, there are a number of social media platforms that offer disappearing content features. Those are Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, Twitter Fleets, LinkedIn Stories, and YouTube Stories. Content you publish within these features will disappear after a preset time frame, usually 24 hours. You can include hashtags and location stickers to geotag your disappearing posts, which will help other users discover your content and engage with your brand.
When you invite your audience to engage with your brand in the ways we’ve mentioned so far, the organic result is that they will begin to socially interact with you by sharing their opinions, voting in polls, asking questions, and entering for their chance to win prizes from your company.