How to Best Engage Customers on Social Media
In the last decade, social media has become a primary channel for driving customer engagement. It is fair to say that social media is now somewhat synonymous with digital marketing, as campaigns spread across several channels.
Social media is how people around the globe connect with each other. At the start of 2020, there were 3.80 billion social media users, a growth of 9% from the previous year. As well as that, over 5 billion people are using mobile phones to stay in touch, no matter where they are. Audiences reside in social channels, and brands need to be there to interact with their target markets.
In the first half of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic put social media into turbo mode. Video calls on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp doubled, there is a 10% year-on-year increase in Facebook monthly active users, 315 million users downloaded TikTok in Q1 alone, and on Instagram, campaign impressions went up by 22%.
The statistics speak for themselves. However, being present is only the first challenge for brands. To be successful in an increasingly competitive channel, businesses need to find novel ways to engage with target audiences. In this article, we will look at how to use your social media presence best to engage with people and not get lost amongst the competition.
What is social media engagement?
If we strip back what a brand is trying to achieve on social media, it is getting people to interact with their posts, pages, and comments. Social media engagement is the measurement of how audiences do that through shares, likes, follows, comments, views, or clicks. That said, social media engagement is not merely a popularity contest. Anyone can be scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and quickly hit the like button. As a business, you need to measure quality over quantity.
Let’s put it into a social context within the physical world. Imagine your brand decides to run a conference and invites hundreds of people. All of those people come and sit around tables silently, listen to the speakers, get up, and leave. While the attendees were present, they were not engaging with your brand. You need to apply the same logic to social media marketing, aiming for quality interactions rather than just giving an appearance of popularity.
Social media engagement revolves around forming meaningful audience relationships. Engagement calculations vary depending on the attribute and channel, but the most common is the engagement rate by reach (ERR).
ERR calculates audience engagement with your content. For a single post, it will take the total engagements, divided by reach per post, multiplied by 100 to get a percentage.
ERR = total engagements per post/reach per post * 100
There are other ways to calculate engagement, which you can read about here that take views or impressions into account.
Increasing social media engagement
There are plenty of strategies to help audiences engage with your social media content. Before starting on those, the first step is to analyze what your current audience engagement looks like. Platforms such as Sprout Social, Oktopost, Buffer, Hootsuite, and Kissmetrics all have excellent reporting functions, as well as tools to help with creating engaging messages.
Sprout Social, for example, can show your engagement rate for each Facebook post, allowing you to see what works best.
If specific posts have better engagement rates than others, you can look at what makes them stand out and optimize your activity based on those successes. Analytics platforms act as a guide to tailor your content and give a continuous trend of engagement.
The social media engagement strategy you choose largely depends on the audience you are trying to attract. For example, while many brands felt the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, fashion retailer Boohoo saw a 45% increase in sales up to the end of the second quarter. A significant factor to success is social media, with influencer endorsements engaging a young audience, at a time where they are flocking to the channel (see our statistics at the top of this post).
Boohoo engages the audience with a laid-back, friendly tone that fits a pop-culture market. The brand is excellent at staying relevant, which is why audiences are willing to engage. If we compare this to the time Dove released products in several shapes to signify different body forms, totally missing the point, you can see how brands can easily forget the audience.
Videos, Images, and Graphics
Videos on social media generate 1,200% more shares than written and image content combined. Video has the potential to capture an audience in ways that other media cannot, through interactivity and relatability. Moreover, for audiences that are always on the go, video is more comfortable to consume, with most preferring to watch a two-minute clip than read a ten-minute long post.
The content involves creating challenges that give something for audiences to engage with. The video above for the #ChipotleLidFlip generated over 240 million views on the TikTok platform, with the follow up achieving 430 million video starts in just six days.
The unique content helps Chipotle engage the younger social media demographic that want to consume video.
Real-time streams like Facebook Live are now generating even more engagement than typical video content. Facebook Live videos get ten times more comments than a regular video, with users watching them for three times longer than a pre-uploaded video.
Cosmetics manufacturer Benefit uses Facebook Live to host a weekly series, gaining view counts in the thousands, while active viewers continuously comment.
In terms of images and graphics, companies like Starbucks are using GIFs to help bring their social media to life and engage audiences. An animated image can carry emotional connections far better than static ones, in a comparable way to videos being more engaging.
Other brands master the use of infographics to present ideas and statistics that matter to their audience. Coca Cola always finds new and unique ways to promote their products and ideology, with infographics being a large part of that. The example below is an excellent way to present a timeline of the brand in an engaging way.
Contests, offers, and giveaways
Promotions on social media can capture audience engagements when done well. A report from Tailwind shows that 91% of Instagram posts with over 1,000 likes or comments relate to a contest. Accounts running contests grow at a rate of 70% faster than those who don’t.
When running a contest or giveaway, brands will ask for audiences to like or share the post for a chance to win. The technique is more than just a smart way of accepting entries. Every time somebody likes, comments, or shares social content, algorithms recognize that and start to understand it as something people want to see. The more people that interact with your content, the wider the reach gets.
The example below from Hallmark directly asks the audience to interact, while placing related hashtags on the post to increase the reach of the contest. The hashtags can also help you track who takes part and build up your prospects list.
An engaging social media offer will give away something relevant to the brand and its audience, a clear point of contact, and a creative way to enter. They are an excellent way to generate spikes in activity that surround a new product launch or event. Modcloth asked people to share pictures of their favorite holiday to have a chance of winning, achieving well over 12,000 views.
We all know that everything in digital marketing comes back to high-quality content. If you want to engage with audiences on social media, brands need to provide content that is useful and informative. Half of the content on social media receives eight shares or less, according to BuzzSumo. Every post you write, no matter how big or small, needs careful planning to ensure it serves a purpose. Take an extra five minutes to pull out some research, or quickly design a new banner using Canva, rather than repurposing the same old images.
Think of content as starting a conversation, and not sending out a broadcast. For example, a make-up company can post pictures of their products all day long but will get more engagement if they post guides about how to use them. For example, on Facebook, Sephora makes a point of asking their followers a question rather than promoting the products.
Questions are a great way to converse with audiences. The essential thing is to make sure you respond, to show that the brand is relatable and cares about the answers. In doing this, you can still raise awareness of products without a hard-sell, driving long-term customer commitment rather than small one-off buyers.
Content should also be topical. There is usually a way to tie current events into your brand. For example, BrewDog, the craft beer purveyor, took a proactive stance during the Covid-19 pandemic by using resources to create sanitizer.
Remember, it is called social media for a reason. It is more tempting to engage with brands when a real person is on the other end. Although it is more cost-effective to do everything using bots, try to have humans reply to comments and posts, showing your personality.
This article should help kickstart your social engagement strategy. The key takeaway is that every brand and channel is different. Although the idea we have presented can undoubtedly help, think about what audiences expect from you as a brand and make sure you build an identity. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to social media engagement. In fact, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube audiences all consume information and heave in different ways. Use the right tools to help you understand what you are working with and how to optimize it.
Social media will continue to grow, and brands must find the best ways to engage audiences before their competitors do.