Ever heard this old adage from real estate: “location, location, location”? Well, social media marketers have their own version of that saying. It’s “engagement, engagement, engagement”. Engagement is the most important metric for evaluating social media success. When marketers sit down to access the success of their social media, it’s no longer audience size that matters. It’s not revenue or leads or website traffic. It’s engagement. At least that’s what TrustRadius found when they surveyed marketers earlier this year for their 2015 Social Media Marketing Trends report.
When we talk about engagement, what exactly do we mean?
In the chart above, engagement is “likes, shares, etc”. For some context, in email marketing engagement means opens, clicks, forwards and saving to a folder. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to define engagement as when someone does something with your content.
The marketers at Tuvel have actually broken out different levels of engagement. I could quibble with a thing or two in this chart, but it provides an excellent framework to show how not all engagement actions are equal:
Many of us don’t count “engagement” until our audience members have reached the 3rd level in, unfortunately named “engagement” by Tuvel. Level 3 engagement is just reading the content or watching a video. The user is interacting with our content, but they haven’t shared it with anyone. That’s level 4 – when they take a tweet of ours and retweet it to their audience, or they share a blog post or a Facebook update. Level 5 is when they start talking to us: They send a tweet, comment on a post, or post on your Facebook wall.
Nurturing your prospects through different levels of engagement
This brings up an interesting idea about how to nurture people through your sales funnel on social media. As I wrote in another post, one of the best ways to fix a broken sales funnel is to break it down into pieces, then get each piece to work.
These five levels of engagement are granular enough that they might help you get more out of your social media nurturing. For example, instead of hoping for people to go from following you to buying your service, you could try to get them to go from following to reading, from reading to sharing, from sharing to commenting, and then from commenting to buying. That’s a more natural progression.
It’s also more steps – and thus more work. But if the leapfrogging from follows to buying isn’t working, breaking things down like into the five levels of engagement might help.
But how exactly should we do this? Glad you asked. There are probably dozens of techniques to coax your followers into becoming more engaged, but these ten approaches cover most of them.
1. Tune into WIIFM.
WIIFM is “what’s in it for me?” You want to tune into it because that’s where your audience and your prospective audience’s heads are at. Remember – these people are not your mother. They are not automatically delighted with your content, no matter how hard you worked on it or how awesome you think it is. They are tuned into their own problems. They are focused on finding solutions to those problems. If your social media updates don’t solve problems – aren’t useful or entertaining – it’s almost as if they can’t hear you.
2. Ask for comments, feedback, shares, and more.
This is dicey advice. A lot of people are uncomfortable with asking for shares. Even I’m kinda jittery about it. But I believe this works. In fact, I know it works. Dan Zarrella proved it:
Truth be told, asking for shares and other engagement signals can be done incorrectly. It can come off as weird, pushy or rude. So when in doubt, don’t ask. But do try it out here and there. Asking for feedback at the end of blog posts is a good place to start. Even a simple “what do you think?” at the end of a Facebook post is a good opening for a conversation. For more ideas on how to get people talking, see Kerry Butters’s widely shared post, How to Build Genuine Social Media Conversations.
3. Use your analytics data.
Unless you just started out on social media, you’ve got a bank of data to raid for information about what to post. Go check that. Find your top five posts, then your worst five posts. See any trends? Make more posts like the five best ones. Stop making posts like the five worst ones.
4. Post your content at the right time.
Here’s a nice table of best times and days to post on different social media platforms. It’s based on data from Quick Sprout from earlier this year.
While I love charts and studies about when is the best time to post, take them with a grain of salt. You need to test what the right time to post for you is. That said, the times the studies suggest are a good place to start.
5. Honor the foibles of each social media platform.
Don’t blast the same update out to all your social media accounts. I know it’s tempting, but take the time to format each update for each platform. Remember, Facebook is a completely different animal than LinkedIn. Twitter behaves very differently than Google+. It makes no sense to post the same thing, in the same format, to each platform.
If it’s just impossible for you to invest that much time for each update, ask yourself: Do you absolutely, positively, have to be on every one of those platforms? If you cut the worst-performing platform, would that give you enough time to do a better job on the platforms that are already working?
6. Use images – the right images.
It’s social media 101 to tell you that images get more engagement on social media. Let’s take things a step further. Should you share stock photos? Maybe, if you add an interesting text overlay. What about animated gifs? Well, those seem to do well, according to Social Fresh and Quick Sprout:
Images of actual people have also been shown to attract more attention than stock photos. If you’re in a how-to niche, consider creating a series of steps made into one image – kind of a visual tutorial. Those often get unusually high share counts.
7. Write good headlines.
A headline makes or breaks a post. That’s a blog post or Facebook post, or any other content format that’s got a headline. Follow these rules if they help you write an irresistible headline. Ignore them if they don’t.
- Use “You”.
- Use numbers, especially odd numbers.
- Ask a question (especially if it’s a question your audience has asked).
- Don’t write clickbait headlines (deceptive headlines that misrepresent what the content is about).
- Write several headlines (like up to 20). Then pick the best one.
8. Offer a quiz.
Quizzes are some of the most viral content out there. And not only do you get the rush of exposure from the quiz itself, but then you get to announce the final results of the quiz in a blog post or another piece of content. Each question of the quiz could be spun into social media updates on every platform. That makes for lots of content.
Bonus idea: Contests work well, too.
9. Partner with a non-profit.
Use the same trick multinational companies have been leveraging for decades: Partner with a feel-good organization to improve your reputation. Even if your company already has a good rep, partnering up with the right nonprofit can’t do anything but make things better.
But does this work on social media? You bet. Especially if you can support an event or two with the nonprofit. Each event is a bonanza of social media photo ops and feel-good moments.
10. Leverage a trend on social media.
If you’re super-fast, you can be like the Oreo cookies social marketers and “dunk in the dark” when the SuperBowl lost power. If you’re a little slower on the uptake, find a trend like the ice bucket challenge, or play off of something like Movember. There are plenty of opportunities. Every holiday is a chance to reach a larger audience.
That’s just the start of all the ways you could get more engagement with your social media posts. I didn’t even get to gamification or other major trends.
But what about you? What have you done lately that boosted engagement with social media content? Come on… tell us about it in the comments. Dive into some of that Level five engagement.