Social media engagement is simply the act of responding and communicating in social media in order to grow the conversation. While there are many ways to engage on social media, and there is no perfect method or silver bullet, here are 10 approaches that have proven successful for me as a community manager in the past.
1. Establish your goals
How do you know if you’re successfully engaging? It’s not about the number of fans or followers, but who is actively responding. While there are a range of actions you may be seeking, including Facebook likes, blog comments, retweets, and direct dialogue, social media programs have many different goals. Once you have the goal establish, you can set metrics to it. Goals could include:
• Humanizing your brand
• Managing your brand’s reputation
• Creating brand advocates
• Generating leads and sales
• Resolving customer service issues
• Handling crises
2. Determine your approach
Whether the conversations are on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or popular forums in your industry, there are many ways to jump in and say hello. Good conversations solidify the relationship, and your fans will feel a more direct connection with your brand.
Engagement can come from a big group of community managers at a social media command center…
…or from a few small desks in a room.
No matter the community management method you choose, having a plan for how and where you’ll respond is the most important aspect of engagement.
3. Be Transparent
As a community manager, it may be tough to convince your execs to show what’s under the hood, share your secret sauce or test a beta product with customers. But openness can go a long way in social media. Your audience will feel involved in your company and appreciate the trust you put in them. They may become interested in your story; want to get involved in your product trials and stay in touch when it comes to updates. Transparency may be the hook you need to generate new customers and keep them for the long term.
Here are some ways to be transparent:
• Do a video walkthrough of your facilities
• Live stream your all-hands meeting
• Turn your CEO loose on Twitter
• Read, act on, and respond to reviews
• Actively solicit feedback, like My Starbucks Idea
• Introduce your team
• Let your customers meet and chat with your employees online
4. Tell a Story
Are you an underdog? A hometown hero? A comeback kid? Perhaps the story is something as simple as how a mom solved a household problem with your new product. Perhaps it’s more involved. Whatever the case, the power of a good story can’t be denied.
Engagement is focused on the micro level. It’s the follow-up to the story that was shared, including absorbing and responding to the reactions. It’s the action of connecting with someone that was affected by your story in one way or another and the potential beginnings of a relationship with that person. Engagement can often unearth new stories, which then starts the cycle all over again.
Even something as simple as Throwback Thursday tells a story.
5. Respond to positive feedback
Responding to positive feedback offers your brand a chance to turn casual fans and admirers into full-blown fanatics, or brand evangelists. These super fans aren’t simply sharing your latest blog post or video, they’re actively touting your organization both online and off. They advocate for you and send new business your way.
Engage around positive feedback by:
• Thanking them. Thank your audience for the kind words they leave on your blog post, Twitter or Facebook wall.
• Returning the favor. Is someone sharing your original content on Twitter? Take note of their latest post and share it with your network.
• Ask them to take action. Perhaps they could review your beta product, become a guest contributor or help you solve a business problem. Take note of those individuals who have the voice and passion to contribute something of value to your community.
Don’t forget to do all of this while showing some personality. A generic “thank you” will not go very far.
6. Respond to negative feedback
In the social media realm, negative commentary around your brand will happen, whether you are participating in social media or not. By listening carefully to your online community, you’ll easily spot customer complaints as they arise and quickly defuse those situations.
Here’s how to handle it:
• Respond quickly. Social media users expect a rapid response
• Don’t delete. Your audience may take that as a sign that your brand is uncaring. In social media, disappearing feedback can still be posted elsewhere, and that won’t reflect well on your brand.
• Don’t feed the trolls. Stay focused on the constructive criticism.
7. Show your personality
Have a conversation and avoid that stiff and corporate tone. Humans like to engage with other humans, so responding like a person (versus a robot) will lead to more engagement.
At the same time, have some personality. Showcasing your brand’s tone and personality will set you apart from the competition. Respond with positivity, enthusiasm, empathy, creativity and warmth. What do you want people to remember about your brand?
8. Share content
Find, collect, and share content that is relevant to your industry and solves your customer’s business problems. Maintaining a curated list of content will help you constantly share relevant content and eventually establish you as a resource. Sharing and learning with your audience sparks conversations and generates leads in the process.
Producing and sharing your own content is a great way to add your voice to the conversations about your industry. Here are some thought starters for sharing content.
• Be the brand people trust for great finds
• Avoid controversial topics
• Be thought provoking
• Get your audience’s mind racing
• Have fun. Make them smile with a meme or funny video
• If you don’t know what content to share, ask them.
• Share your knowledge, even if it’s the best way to make Chicken Cordon Bleu
• Use different media types — ebooks, Vines, infographics, Pinterest, etc.
As you write and share, see what works. Ask your audience what they like. After all, just like with any trend, what they enjoy one moment could be a turn off the next, so keep your eyes peeled.
9. Follow your following
Following those that follow you on Twitter is a kind gesture. It also grows your overall following. When you follow back, you might get some public responses, which adds exposure. For instance, if a large brand starts following you, you’d probably get excited. Get that ball rolling and work your way up to thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of followers.
10. Act quickly
Gone are the days of getting back to your clients in 24 hours. Today you’ve got to make every effort to get back to them within the hour — even if that reply is simply, “We’re working on a solution for you right now.”
The right type of engagement for you is defined by the goals you set for your social media program. No matter which tactics you choose, always be yourself while still properly representing your brand. Only then can you make your audience fans for life.