The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Engagement

by Mack Collier

community building, online communityIf you ask any company or even most individuals what their top questions are about using social media, one of the first answers you will hear is ‘How do I build more engagement on my blog/Facebook page/Twitter/etc?’  In my experience there are three main reasons why most of us struggle to get the level of engagement we want from social media:

1 – We aren’t creating engaging content.

2 – We aren’t making it easy for people to engage with our content.

3 – We don’t have an engagement strategy.

All of these three problems are inter-related.  For example, if you have an engagement strategy, then you have a plan for creating the type of engagement that’s meaningful to you.  Most people/companies don’t have an engagement strategy, they often go for whatever type of engagement is the easiest to measure, such as comments on a blog or Likes on Facebook.

We also struggle to creating engaging content, this one is trickier, but I think the problems start when we focus too much on trying to get people to engage with the type of content we create, versus trying to adapt the type of content we create in order to make it more engaging.  More on this in a minute.

Finally, we aren’t making it easy for people to engage with our content.  The interesting thing about social media is that engagement breeds engagement.  So what we want to do is lower the barrier to engagement with our content.  If we make it easier for people to engage with our content, then more people will engage with our content.

How #Blogchat Became One of the Most Engaging Chats on Twitter 

#Blogchat started in March of 2009, so it’s been around for over 4 years now.  Even during a ‘slow’ week, the hashtag still generates a few thousand tweets from a few hundred participants.  So it’s a pretty ‘engaging’ chat.  Here’s how I addressed each of the above three problem areas when it comes to building engagement in #Blogchat:

What’s the engagement strategy?  For #Blogchat I wanted as much participation as possible.  You might think that every chat wants this, but when you say you want as much participation as possible, it means you have to pay careful consideration to the topics of the chat.  So for #Blogchat, I purposely gravitate toward 101-level topics, because that lowers the participation barrier for others, and makes them more comfortable engaging.  If I picked say 201-level topics, the participation level would fall off a cliff.  You could argue that the conversations might be ‘deeper’, but there would definitely be fewer people having them.

Also, since I want more people to be engaging, I try to reward engagement.  One way I do this is I personally reply to anyone that I see tweet that they are joining #blogchat for the first time.  Why?  Because what better way to encourage someone to stay engaged than to reply to their first tweet and to have that reply come from the chat moderator?  Plus, more people participating in the chat means more overall engagement.

How do you create engaging content?  One of the things I do with #blogchat is I pay close attention to what people are discussing in the chat.  Often, certain themes. ideas and questions will come up repeatedly.  These are good indicators of future topics for the chat.  Also, I will simply ask #Blogchat what topics they want to discuss.  This also helps give the community ownership of the chat, which also makes it more likely they will engage with topics they want to discuss.  And also, 101-level topics lower the engagement barrier so more people will engage.  Because what I want to have happen is I want more people engaging and building off each other’s points.   That’s where the really great discussions happen, but you have to get a LOT of people engaging to reach that point.

Making it easy for people to engage with #Blogchat.  See the first two points.  Everything done is designed to make it easier for people to engage and contribute.  Whether it’s 101-level topics, using the community’s topic suggestions, or welcoming newbies when they arrive, a ‘culture’ is created that facilitiates and rewards engagement.

 

So how do you create more engagement around YOUR social media efforts?

First, you need a plan.  Yes I know, no one wants to create an engagement strategy.  And most of you don’t and this is the biggest reason why you aren’t getting the type of engagement you want.  You need to think about what type of engagement you want from the content you are creating, then you need to think about how you can create content that’s valuable for your audience, and that encourages the type of engagement you want.

For example, I have a specific engagement and content marketing strategy for this post.  As I said at the start, creating more engagement around social media IS a big problem for many companies.  So this post was written to not only give companies a way to solve this problem, but it was also written so that it will do well in search results for the term ‘social media engagement’.  That’s why that specific term is in the title, and why it’s used repeatedly in the post itself.  Because it helps Google understand what this post is about.  I want this post to do well in search results for these terms, because a big part of the work I do is helping companies create more engagement around the content they create.

Another form of engagement I am targeting is signups of my Think Like a Rock Star newsletter (note the Call to Action at the end).  I want people to signup for the newsletter, because its content will help them solve their social media engagement, and it also gives me a way to connect with them, and hopefully we can do business later.

Note I haven’t mentioned ‘getting a lot of comments’ yet as a desired form of engagement.  While I love getting comments and hearing from y’all, for this particular post, getting more comments isn’t my top priority.  The type of engagement I want for this particular post is I want people to share the post via Twitter, Facebook, and email it to their friends, boss and co-workers.  And I want them to signup for my TLAR newsletter.  If I wanted the ‘easiest’ form of engagement, I would structure this post a bit differently in order to get more comments.  But for what I wanted to accomplish, more shares and signups are the types of engagement that help me more than more comments.  Again, always consider what you want to accomplish, and that will help you decide what type of engagement you want to encourage.

What About Creating Engaging Content?  If you have an engagement strategy in place, then you know what type of engagement you want to see happen from your content.  This feeds into creating engaging content because it makes creating engaging content easier because since you created a plan, you now know what type of engagement you want to see happen!  (See?  Creating a plan is paying off already!)  In general, before your content can be engaging, it has to be valuable to your audience.  If it’s valuable, then it will earn their attention, and then you have a chance to facilitate engagement.  So first, the content needs to create value for your audience.

For example, this post is designed to help solve a common problem that companies have using social media:  Creating more engagement around their efforts.  I mentioned above the type of engagement I want to see happen (social shares that help boost search engine rankings and signups of my TLAR newsletter).  Also note that the title professes this post to be the ULTIMATE guide to social media engagement!  So I knew if I was going to write such a post, it would have to be extremely detailed and thorough.  As a result, this post is probably the longest and most detailed post I’ve written in at least two years.  And hopefully that will lead to a lot of you reading this post and thinking that there’s too much good content NOT to share, and you will.  Which is the type of engagement I want.

Something else to keep in mind is that different tools are better at encouraging different types of engagement.  You have to not only consider the type of engagement you want from your content, but you have to also consider which tools will help you get that level of engagement.  There’s a reason why I am posting this here on my blog that’s easily accessed by Google, and not as a Note on Facebook.  It also wouldn’t do very well broken down into 140-char tweets!  But if I wanted to have a discussion with someone about the concepts in this post, Twitter would probably work better for that type of one-to-one engagement versus comments here.

Making it as easy as possible for people to engage with your content.  Now that you have a specific engagement plan for your content and know the exact type of engagement you want, you need to think about ways to make it easier to encourage that type of engagement.  Think carefully about the action you want others to take (leave a comment, signup for a newsletter, request a product demo), then make sure you are not only giving them the motivation to engage in this activity, but that you are also making it easy for them to do so.

For example, a dead simple way to get more comments is to simply end your post with these four magic words: What do you think?  That signals to your readers that you are opening the floor for a discussion, and that you are interested in their thoughts.  If you have followed your engagement plan and have created content that’s easy for them to engage with and then close your post by asking for their thoughts, the odds are that your readers will indeed share their thoughts.  Then when readers do comment, if you engage them back and interact with them, that encourages the chance that they will respond again.  Then as more readers see that others are leaving comments, that makes them more likely to leave a comment as well (comments breed comments).  So if you are working to create content that helps facilitate the type of engagement you want, then you work to make that type of engagement as easy as possible for your audience to….engage in, then you’ll win!

 

So there it is, 2,000 words later, your complete attack plan for getting more engagement around your social media efforts.  In closing, here’s your cheat-sheet for creating more engagement with social media:

1 – Create a plan.  Figure out the exact type of engagement you want from the content you are creating (Hint:  The answer is NOT ‘whatever’s easiest to measure’).

2 – Create engaging content.  After you have figured out the type of engagement you want, focus on creating content that’s valuable to your audience, and that moves them toward the type of engagement you want with them.

3 – Make it easier to get the type of engagement you want.  If you’ve done the first two, this step will be easy.  Think about how you can not only motivate your audience to engage in the way you want them to, but make it as easy as possible for them to do so.  Also, remember that every social media tool does better or worse at facilitating certain types of engagement, so consider the tools as well.

Hopefully this post has been and will be helpful to you.  If so, please consider sharing it with your friends and co-workers on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc via the sharing buttons below.  (Remember how I mentioned that ASKING for the type of engagement you want helps ensure that you get it?).

Also, if you want to learn more about how to not only build engagement around your social media and marketing efforts but to actually cultivate fans of your brand, then please consider subscribing to my Think Like a Rock Star newsletter.  It goes out every week with actionable ideas that will help you create fans and become a rock star brand!

RIghteous Mind May 15, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Yes Mack, you are right planing is the first step to any successful business stratergy to get maximum leads and traffic from social media.

Mack Collier May 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Yes planning is key, it can be hard and even tedious work, but very necessary to get the results you want!

Ben Martin @Social_Ben May 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Mack – Amazeballs! love it, sharing it

Mack Collier May 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Thank you Ben!

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