Brands can no longer live in a world where they hide behind a wall of private communication and push inquiries, concerns or problems aside. The way of the future is for companies to respond to, engage with and build trust among existing and potential customers in a way which is visible for the world to see.
I am of course talking about social media. These platforms have fast become one of the most important communication channels for businesses. Companies that are serious about reaching customers can’t afford not to invest in it or take it seriously.
Communication is now a two-way street and people have the ability to engage with their favourite brands in completely new ways. With engagement no doubt forming a solid part of your social media strategy, I’ll explore why it’s so important and share some ways you can start to build your engagement rates.
Often, when we have a question or query for a company, we bypass the phone and even email and head straight to their social media channels. Customers want to engage with a member of your team who will respond and resolve their issue quickly.
Direct engagement is something that companies should be taking very seriously. 63% of customers say they expect companies to offer customer service via their social media channels and 90% of social media users have used these platforms to communicate with a business.
Dealing with customer complaints in public may sound like your worst nightmare. When handled correctly however, it can actually be a public relations win for your business.
By responding publicly to a customer’s complaint or concern, you’re showing that you take these issues seriously. If you’re seen to respond quickly and respectfully while resolving the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, your customers will see you as a business that cares about them, not just about profits.
Social listening is a fantastic way to improve customer service, boost business and drive engagement. As the name suggests, it involves listening to consumer conversations via your social media channels.
By listening to what people are saying about you, your business and even your competitors, you can learn about problems or opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. You can then interact with those who were talking about your business to solve problems, develop opportunities and most importantly, build relationships.
In order to reach out to the hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of followers you could potentially acquire, engagement needs to be your top priority. Below I’ll explain why this is.
Why engagement rates are important on social media
They offer social proof of your business
Social media engagement extends beyond the number of Instagram followers you have or the number of likes you’ve accumulated on your business’s Facebook page. It does, of course, have a bearing on how your business is perceived by a prospective customer but how you’re engaging with your fans is what’s really going to force people to pay attention.
If followers are commenting on your posts saying how much they love your content, products or services, new visitors are naturally inclined to think that if other people enjoy working with you, they will too. Social media engagement is so powerful it can offer the same kind of social proof as a testimonial from a satisfied customer. In turn, this makes people more likely to purchase your product or service.
Increased engagement boosts brand awareness
Social media has the power to bring people closer together irrespective of borders and oceans in between. For businesses, this means that the world’s their oyster when it comes to extending their reach.
Every time an individual interacts with you on social media, overall awareness of your brand increases. Someone simply following or liking your page won’t always show up on anyone else’s newsfeed however. If they’re liking, commenting on or sharing your content, this is what’s going to get you seen by new audiences.
Blossom by First Media received a huge amount of publicity back in 2017 when one of its Facebook videos went viral. It was a short and simple video providing tips on getting clever with your clutter and people loved it so much it was viewed over 400 million times, received 12 million shares, over three million likes and nearly a quarter of a million comments.
Engagement plays a significant role in social media algorithms
Each social media platform has a unique set of technical elements and user analytics. This data is analysed and used to create an algorithm which delivers content to its users. Put into layman’s terms, engagement affects the visibility of your content.
The more people interact with your posts, the more likely your content is to show up in their newsfeed. The reason for this is because if someone never likes your content, sites like Facebook assume they’re not interested in it. If you’re regularly liking, commenting or sharing someone’s posts however, Facebook knows you’re interested in what they have to say.
Dealing with social media algorithms can be frustrating (especially because they like to change them every so often). They can also be beneficial to small businesses however. You may feel it’s impossible to compete with the larger brands but with everyone being forced to focus on creating high value content that provokes reaction, it means that businesses of all sizes can reach out to their followers.
Knowing what each platform prioritises can help you beat the algorithms and boost engagement.
When deciding what content to show its users, Facebook now puts posts “that spark conversations and meaningful interactions” at the top of people’s news feeds.
Some great ways to do this include:
- Create content that’s going to evoke stronger reactions than a simple like. Facebook introduced reactions in 2016 so users can now show love, anger, sadness, amazement or even laugh at the content they’re seeing. Few people realise the importance of the reaction feature but it does in fact have a higher weightage than likes when it comes to prioritising content.
- Shares have a huge influence on the number of people who see your posts on Facebook. The site prioritises content that comes from friends and family as opposed to fan pages.
- Comments are another great way to ensure you’re appearing in the news feeds of your followers and even the people they’re connected with. Popular or topical news articles are great at prompting discussion as are interactive posts. If you run a bakery for example, you could ask your followers what their favourite type of cake is.
- If you’re brave enough to go live on Facebook, it’s worth noting that it gets six times more interactions than normal videos and is therefore a great way to boost engagement.
- Remind your followers to choose to see your content first through the ‘see first’ option which can be found on your page’s ‘following’ drop-down menu.
What better way to find out how Instagram prioritises content than to hear it straight from the social media giant themselves? As with all these platforms, there’s always confusion about how their algorithms work so Instagram addressed the issue directly.
If you want to ensure that more people see your content on Instagram, this is the way to do it:
- Use good quality photos. This is a given considering it’s a photo-sharing platform so make sure your imagery is striking and uses bold colours. If it would make you stop in your tracks (or stop scrolling), chances are it will have the same impact on your followers. If you can’t afford a professional photographer, there are plenty of apps which can help you create better imagery on a budget.
- Post stories. Instagram says that stories don’t have any influence on their algorithm but considering it’s the most popular content on the site, it can still help you gain and retain followers. It also gives people a reason to keep checking back with your page.
- Go live. Like with the stories, going live doesn’t affect Instagram’s algorithm. Followers can choose to receive notifications when you go live however and you’ll also go to the top of your followers’ stories feeds which can dramatically help improve engagement.
- We know with certainty that Instagram prioritises engagement so it’s important to write compelling captions. Encourage interactions by asking questions or encouraging followers to tag other people in your posts.
- The more eyes on your posts, the better. Hashtags are very important on Instagram. Without them, your content is limited to the people following you. By using hashtags, however, you’re opening yourself up to a whole new audience.
Twitter users can switch between an algorithm feed and a real-time feed. There are a number of ways your small business could appear on someone’s timeline:
- Top tweets: an algorithm-powered feed organised by ranking signals. In addition to ranked content from followers, this feed will sometimes feature suggestions about who to follow as well as content from accounts you don’t follow.
- Latest tweets: a reverse chronological feed of tweets from followers (the most recent tweets appear first).
- In case you missed it: a short algorithm-powered module of top tweets. The more time a user spends in the app, the less likely they are to see this.
- Happening now: this section may occasionally appear at the top of user timelines, featuring events or topics of interest.
- Trends for you: an algorithm-driven section that highlights popular trends and hashtags for users.
While Twitter’s CEO has always been insistent about maintaining a real-time platform, there are a number of factors which affect the site’s ranking signals.
- How recently the tweet was published
- How many retweets, clicks, favourites or impressions a post has received
- The type of media included in the tweet (image, video, GIF and even polls)
- How many followers an account has
The main thing any small business owner wants to know is how can they use Twitter’s algorithms to boost their engagement:
- Maintain an active presence – the more positive engagements you have with your followers, the better. The best way to do this is to post regularly. Consistent engagement can also earn you credit with Twitter’s algorithm.
- Hashtags can drive brand awareness and engagement which can translate into algorithm recognition. It may also land your hashtags in the ‘trends for you’ section.
- Use rich media. Tweets with videos can bring as much as 10x more engagement and GIFs get 55% more engagement.
- It’s important that you reply to anyone who tweets you or replies to your post from a customer service perspective. Because Twitter’s ranking signals look at account engagement, however, it can also help you beat the algorithm.
Tips on boosting engagement rates
I’ve shared some great tips on boosting engagement rates for each individual platform above. There are also a number of techniques which should be standard practice across all your social media channels. This will ensure you’re appearing on people’s timelines and engaging with your audience in the right way.
- Respond to every single comment or post people leave on your page.
- Offer an incentive in return for social sharing. For example, a restaurant can offer customers 10% off their bill if they take a picture of their meal and post it on Instagram. Other companies can offer a discount if customers check-in to their Facebook business page or run a competition where followers can win a prize for liking or sharing their post.
- The best way to build engagement with your followers on any platform is to create content they want to engage with. This could be sharing articles that spark conversation, posting helpful tips, imparting your expertise or offering discounts.
For more great tips, have a read of ‘How to increase social media engagement with your brand or business.’
Improving your engagement rates on social media means so much more than just receiving likes or new followers. It’s a measurement of how many people are paying attention to and interacting with your brand on a daily basis. By focusing on building your social media engagement, your business will benefit from a better marketing reach, greater brand awareness and an improved ROI.
After completing her degree in Journalism, Monique began her career at a digital marketing agency. It was here she discovered a passion for online marketing with a particular focus on content creation for the web. Six years ago Monique set up her own copywriting business, Copyworks Group, which specialises in creating content for websites, blogs, newsletters and social media pages.Read full profile