As of 2016, there’s estimated to be 2.3 billion active social media users — nearly 1/3 of the global population.
While this eye-popping statistic presents obvious marketing potential, determining how your business can capitalize on it is decidedly less clear.
What every small business owner and marketing professional should know is that engagement is the engine that runs every successful social media campaign.
Do you want to improve your engagement and glean more benefits from social? This guide will point you in the right direction.
The Principles Behind Engaging Social Audiences
Before we consider what quality social engagement looks like, there are a few essential rules to keep in mind …
- Be punctual — Respond to users in a timely fashion; schedule posts in a timely fashion and jump on trending topics that pertain to your core business/services.
- Be personal — Ditch the formalities; your social audience wants to know they’re communicating with a person rather than an entity. Remember that social media is a free form conversation, leave room for spontaneity.
- Be transparent — Be authentic and embrace your critics; responding to negative comments with a solution speaks volumes about your commitment to customer service, deleting it mutes the conversation.
Making these principles standard practice ensures you have a strong foundation in place for your social media marketing efforts going forward.
Attracting Social Engagement
Why is it so difficult to captivate social audiences? The likely answer is you can’t fake it — static, uninspired, or one-dimensional postings are just adding noise.
Savvy social media marketers understand they need to provide their target audience with value — and consistently deliver it — in order to separate themselves from the crowd.
The rule of thumb: if people find it useful they will share it.
For example, a web developer might create a comprehensive list of sites that offer free tools if they believe it will resonate strongly with their audience.
Browse forums like Reddit and social channels and see what real people are asking — provide an instructional guide that provides a detailed response and demonstrates your company’s expertise.
RELATED: High-value social media content
The people and companies that matter most in your industry are known as influencers and making them advocates of your brand can attract social users in droves.
The most powerful social proof in social media, influencers function like high-level testimonials. People are much more likely to engage with your brand when a third-party they implicitly trust is pointing them your direction.
Fine-Tuning Your Social Engagement: Channel by Channel
Although engagement requires different levels of finesse across each social channel, one thing remains fundamentally the same: emphasizing quality over quantity. It’s not the volume of your posts that counts, it’s whether you’re connecting with your target audience.
Here’s a clear-cut profile on each of the major social channels and how to drive more engagement across the board …
Classification: Top social sharing site specializing in all forms of content
Audience: Broad, all ages
Peak Engagement: 12-3 PM Weekday
Key Considerations: Facebook remains the top social media site in the world, a melting pot of opportunity with over 2 billion pieces of content shared daily. Given its active user base, it remains the focal point for social media engagement for many businesses.
Facebook users primarily visit the site to consume content, not to receive blatant advertisements. The businesses that succeed in this channel find ways to integrate dynamic, easily shareable content into their target audience’s newsfeeds that resonate with their interests and core values.
Tasty, a division of BuzzFeed, has recently mastered this technique — utilizing quick-cut recipe videos that dynamically play in a user’s newsfeed when shared. This type of content resonates because it disrupts a typical newsfeed, provides clear value, and encourages engagement.
Classification: Microblogging site limited to 140 characters; real-time engagements
Audience: Broad, younger generations & older working professionals
Peak Engagement: 12-2 PM Weekday
Key Considerations: Twitter enjoys the second largest base, with over 500 million active users. The size of its user base presents some awesome engagement opportunities, making a channel impossible to ignore.
While Twitter has plans to eventually extend their character count, business owners are currently restricted to shorter blurbs of text. Here, the balance in terms of quality over quantity is essential to success.
Businesses that receive engagement here involve themselves in the real-time conversation — they observe trending topics or start a dialogue. You don’t need to be an influencer with thousands of followers to turn heads — involve yourself in their conversations as you build your own base.
Classification: Business-oriented social network
Audience: Niche, working professionals ranging from Millennials to older generations
Peak Engagement: 7-9 AM Weekday
Key Considerations: LinkedIn gives an opportunity for your audience to make a direct connection to your business. Highlighting your services is fair game as the majority of users who connect with you are considering your business in a professional capacity. Don’t forget to provide value — businesses that succeed on this platform provide great resources.
Classification: Dormant but growing network consisting of users and brands
Audience: Google users, predominantly older in age
Peak Engagement: 8-10 AM Weekday
Key Considerations: Due to its lower user base — hovering near 400 million — Google+ isn’t the first place you’d look for social engagement, but it does pack some benefits for businesses willing to go the extra mile. Brands that succeed in this channel understand the nuanced differences of Google+ audiences and supply a constant stream of value tailored to their needs.
Tying It All Together
Instead of looking it at engagement as a numbers game, prioritize the quality of the connections you’re making with your target audience — the shares, retweets and everything else will soon follow.
Tyler Thursby is a Senior SEO Analyst at Zion & Zion, a leading advertising agency based in Phoenix, AZ. He frequently writes on search engine optimization, social media, and content marketing. Follow him on Twitter at @tthursb.