In the fourth chapter of the growth hacks series, I will share a few tactics that will help you engage with your audience better. Higher engagement ensures higher visibility. It is an indication that the community finds you credible.
Engagement lies at the core of every social media platform. Today, it is not just enough that your brand exists on these platforms. Your brand must also be an active member of all communities your target audience is involved in.
I’ve seen a lot of brands ask this question – why don’t we have good engagement on our social media? Well, engagement on social media is a two-way street. Your target audience will engage with you only when you take the first step – encourage them to have a conversation.
In this chapter, we’ll discuss various growth hacks that can help you see great engagement on your social:
- Putting out engaging content
- Participating in trending conversations
- Collaborating with other brands
- Finding your target audience and reach out to them
- Improving their experience of your brand on social
Regularly Posting on Social Media
Only creating a page on the social media platform will not garner engagement. However, being active and regularly posting content optimized for that channel is what social media brings more attention to your social media profiles.
It is important to stay active on all platforms where your target audience is and help you stay in their minds. The number of people using social media is increasing every day, so take advantage and stay active. Follow, engage, share, and comment.
While all social media is based on engagement, Instagram has a closer person-to-person feel than other platforms. So when someone replies to you, makes a comment or otherwise interacts with your posts, you must respond to them. This is an opportunity to engage with your followers, to get to know them better, more importantly, to make a good impression on them. You should make it a point to engage with anyone who communicates with you, provided they are earnest in their interaction.
Social media marketing is one of the most important ways that a business can grow. Regardless of the platform you choose to work with, whether it’s just one or a mix of all three, good social media practice principles are the same.
While social media platforms are generally diluted with too many personal expressions, knowing exactly where to look can give you many insights into the markets’ underlying preferences. In short, it’s another good way to find a niche to focus on.
Of particular use are the comments sections, where people can express their opinions or suggestions for something in particular. This can prove to be quite a treasure chest of insights as to what could potentially be a profitable niche with lots of potential for growth.
Twitter is another place to check out; particularly the trending hashtags. By checking out these trending hashtags, you can get a good idea of what’s popular as of the moment and a potential trail back to what can be a very profitable market niche. Once you find out the right hashtags, use them by writing, creating your tweets, and schedule them using a Twitter management tool.
Online forums such as Reddit and Quora are excellent places to mine for information on what people are looking for. Forums like these offer so many discussion boards on a wide range of topics. The key to maximizing these online forums is being able to spot recurring themes or ideas. Just because many people expressed their preference or desire for something once or twice doesn’t mean it’s already a profitable niche to focus on.
But if you find that it keeps on repeating over a period of time, then you may have a goldmine of a niche in your hands. Or even if it’s not something that’s often repeated, but if you see that meeting such a need or preference can be a gateway to being the first to corner a potentially profitable niche, by all means, consider it.
As you can see, being active on social media doesn’t just involve sharing your own content. It also involves engaging within a community and listening in on all the conversations to market your business better.
Build an Audience Community by Engaging
Your brand or company must be regarded as marketable and something the world wants to see and invest in. If you have a brand, it must have a significant influence on the social media communities to succeed.
As with every other social media platform, your job doesn’t end by simply building an enviable following. In fact, the real job starts now when you have to retain the following by keeping them engaged and interested. Engagement is the key when it comes to converting your audience into loyal customers.
Questions are really the best way to get your audience ‘talking’. Ensure the questions you raise are meaningful and industry-relevant. Come up with prompt responses for users who reply. You can ask about their views or opinions about some aspect of your product, or conduct an opinion poll on something vital discussed in the story.
Invite user-generated content
Another expert user engagement strategy is to encourage users to submit their own creative content with you. Make them feel special by featuring their content in your stories. You can then pick favorites and include them in your stories.
Share engaging content
Do your best to keep the audience engaged with the content you provide. It should not be too boring as otherwise they might not come back for it. And videos are one content type that are very entertaining and can easily enthrall your audience.
Comment on others’ posts
A great way to create engagement is to be the first person to engage. Instead of waiting for other people to comment on your own posts, you should go out and find other interesting, relevant posts to comment on. As long as you keep these comments positive and kind, you will be able to start conversations with followers who might not be familiar with your brand. You may even end up getting more followers, as you’ve been engaging with content that belongs to others.
When a person engages with you and mentions you, you should be quick to visit and reply to them. Even if you are just saying hello or thanks for the mention, it’s valuable to move when others talk to you. If you reply quickly, it makes the user feel as if they have been heard, and this creates a stronger sense of connection.
Conversely, if someone sends you a message, mentions you, or comments on your posts and you never get back to them, they might feel ignored and disconnected. You’ll want to be able to reply as quickly as possible, to avoid this problem.
Mention relevant users
Mentions can be useful, especially when mentioning an established brand or influencer. While you don’t want to mention people for no reason, there is nothing wrong with mentioning as a method of referring your followers to them. In some cases, this can catch the attention of the person you mentioned, and they may repay the favor later. In either case, make sure that you are mentioning only people who have public personas or are already relevant to the conversation at hand.
Practice both Proactive and Reactive Engagement
So, you actively produce and share quality content on your social media. By doing so, you are encouraging your audience to consume this content and engage with it. In this case, your audience finds your content and decides to engage with it. What about the sections of your audience who didn’t see your posts in their feeds?
Most businesses practice proactive engagement by posting their own content. However, there’s also a place for more reactive engagement by being more strategic and targeting new social media users. Draw these new users’ attention by interacting with their posts by following them, liking and commenting on their posts, and they will follow you back. You should engage back with users who engage with your content so that they feel valued, and they will reward you back by following you or by being more engaging with your all future content.
Here are a few ways you can use reactive engagement:
Participate in trending conversations
Make it a point to track all trending and relevant conversations happening on social media. The people who are participating in them and following them might be interested in knowing about your brand. So, go ahead and participate in these conversations. This will also give your brand great visibility.
Keep track of hashtag followers
Follow all conversations around hashtags relevant to your brand and keep an eye on others who follow the same hashtags. Hashtags are like a small community of people united by a common interest. Being active in this community helps you attract followers’ attention.
Keep track of competitors’ conversations
They have the same target audience as you do. Hence, it is wise to track their conversations and even participate in them. These conversations will also give you great insights into their customers.
Your target audience is constantly bombarded with branded content on social. So, how about you make the effort to find them? Reactive engagement helps you put your brand out there, identify potential customers and engage with them.
Join Other Online Communities and Be an Active Member
The whole intention of using social media is to reach more people and engage with them to increase your brand’s popularity and sell more. The more you engage your audience, the more they will feel like part of your brand. Therefore, ask your audience for their suggestions, opinions, and ideas. You can use polls, quizzes, and conversational content. By engaging with your audience, you’ll be able to build a large social media community. Also, join in on other third-party conversations to reach more people.
Groups are great for marketing, especially from a business point of view because they allow you to interact with a highly targeted audience. People join Groups only if they have a specific need, and they expect people in that group to fulfill that need. With Groups, you can increase your awareness about what your customers want. Share useful content, answer questions, give advice and ask questions.
When people learn about your brand through a group, it increases the level of trust that they have with you. This can increase the chances of them converting organically. Additionally, being a part of a Group gives you access to the thoughts and opinions of people in your target demographic. You can use this information to aid you in your advertising efforts later on. In fact, you can even use these Groups to aid you in product development for the future. If you take note of what people want and then give it to them, you’ll be able to generate sales at a much faster rate than if you were to have no feedback at all.
Creating and joining multiple Facebook Groups is a good idea. If your company has a large enough customer base for it, you might want to consider creating a Facebook Group about your own products. This is another excellent way to allow your customers to talk to you directly about their concerns or questions. Plus, when they are in a Group specifically created for your own company, you are free to promote your products without it seeming inappropriate.
If you want to get more people in your Group, you can do a few things:
- Promote your Group on your website and your social Pages.
- Get access to email subscription lists for the field of business you’re in and mail the group invites to potential customers.
If you have a Facebook Group for your business exclusive to members who have purchased from you, you can have special live videos that only they can access. It can be about product demos or announcing new events etc. It can also be used to announce a meetup of existing customers and getting them to bring in new ones. As you can see, Facebook live can be used to grow your business and attract a larger audience base.
Be hands-on while interacting with customers and answer all queries that come your way. Remember to use hashtags liberally so that it is easier for the customers to find your posts.
Build an Authentic and Unique Brand
Begin with creating a unique message for your brand – how does your brand add to your customers’ lives? Follow this tone throughout your website, copy, design, personality, etc. This will set you apart from other brands in the market.
The public nature of social media platforms makes them organic channels available to brands for marketing. With fake accounts and fake followers on the rise, authenticity of a brand is an essential aspect of social media marketing.
Authenticity encourages trust and credibility which, in turn, leads to conversions.
This explains the trend of user-generated content. When the users are the ones contributing content, it leaves no scope for questioning the content’s authenticity. Besides UGC, here are some ways you brand can be authentic on social media:
Honesty and transparency
Users like brands that act in a ‘human’ manner, and humans are not perfect. So, when you share your brand’s story, be honest. Your target audience will be able to identify dishonesty quicker than you think. Also, be transparent about your policies, values and ideologies. The brands which are in business for more than 50 years are the ones that stand for certain values.
Own your mistakes
Your team works hard to maintain your brand’s image and but there has been a mistake, don’t ignore it. Identify the problem, apologize for it and tell your audience about how you are resolving the issue. How your brand handles this situation means a lot to your customers. If you try and undo the mistake, it can hurt your brand’s reputation.
Showing the faces who work tirelessly to make your brand a success helps you connect with your audience better. After all, they won’t form long-term associations with a product. Your employees make your brand look more human and approachable.
Gamify Your Brand’s Social Experience
Gamification is the latest marketing strategy used by a variety of non-game businesses to engage their customers, clients, and employees more deeply into their business.
The basic idea behind this is to offer customers incentives to motivate them and hence achieve your marketing goals. Gamification requires that >you have a deep understanding of customers’ objectives and core drives so that they can be utilized to increase customer engagement.
An example of this could be of a food product company, which offers its customers membership cards. Customers can use these cards to shop from their outlets. Every time they shop, they get points that can be later redeemed to buy free products. In addition to the points, it also gives customers ranks according to their total points. This gamification strategy will make customers buy food products from this store, specifically in order to get points and free products.
Research suggests that customers having more meaningful interactions with a company tend to become more loyal customers. Gamification hence paves a path for customer loyalty by increasing meaningful interactions with customers. The chances are that 70 percent of the businesses will be using gamification within the next two decades.
One of the biggest goals of marketing is increasing brand loyalty and maximizing customer base. Through gamification techniques, a company’s marketing tools can be further sharpened. With the application of gamified variables in marketing, a business can increase brand awareness and affinity. The audience’s intent to purchase can be driven by encouraging them to spend more time on the business website or a related social media page and regularly visit these sites for more rewards.
Rewards are a crucial part of gamification on social media. But they always have to be monetary. For instance, every time a user uses your product, they can collect a certain number of points. And after they acquire a good amount of points, their next purchase can be free. You can create a social media campaign and maintain a scoreboard for top users on various social platforms.
Setting a time limit for your gamification strategy is also a great idea. For instance, Sambo Kojin (a restaurant) asked customers to beat the clock if they wanted to pay less.
Consumers were given two different options: to pay less before lunch time or to pay less before dinner time. The time limit created a sense of urgency among their target audience and their local business earned quite a decent profit.
As users interact and participate more and more with the site, they tend to become loyal and hence valuable for the business. Due to gamification techniques like rewards, ratings and incentives, they are less likely to move to another site or company once they form that loyalty; which means increased brand loyalty and customer following for the business.
Ways in which Gamification Aids Customer Engagement
Gamification is a quickly growing trend in the business space and it owes much of its success to the customer engagement aspect. Gamification strategies that successfully create customer engagement foster a two-way relationship with customers that focus on communication aimed at earning trust and loyalty of customers. Let’s explore some of the aspects of games that aid in customer engagement.
- Interaction:Through gamification platforms, customers are provided a way to interact with the company and its products. Gamified incentives are offered to customers to encourage them to interact with products, which in turn leads to increased likelihood of purchase. As the user interacts and engages with the gaming content, its plot, structural goals and rules, a more meaningful connection is established with the brand or retailer. The key to good interactions is quick and timely feedback that can easily be offered through gamification strategies.
- Involvement:Increased involvement can be achieved through game mechanics that offer customers a stake in the goals, which leads to increased participation. By overcoming challenges in the games, customers become more involved in the business objectives if the strategies utilized in gamification align with customer achievements and business goals. Through gamification, brands can also increase participation among customers in the form of increased site visits, returns, and registrations.
- Influence:Another aspect of gaming strategies that can be used to enhance customer engagement is influence. When game mechanics that involve awarding tokens, badges and ratings to customers are used in gamification strategies, a certain level of influence can be achieved. This happens because it enables customers to share games with their family, friends and peers, creating even better engagement through competition. By encouraging social sharing and allowing users to show off their badges, awards and ratings at social media sites, the gaming experience can be further elevated.Applying gamification across a broad range of situations where people need to be motivated to pursue certain activities or engage in specific behaviors enhances its value for the business. It is one of the ways in which the concept works at achieving business goals.Improvement in the above factors through gamification can help build a purpose-driven company whose practices are more attuned to its goals.
Involve With Your Audience and Listen
When I say ‘listening’, I don’t mean social media listening. By listening I mean taking your audience’s opinions, suggestions, and ideas to improve your marketing strategies and product/service. When interacting with them, don’t just look for complaints, read everything that they’re saying so as to learn about the industry, trends, as well as what the readers think about your brand.
Social media is a great way to ask your followers and customers to:
Share their opinions about your product/service
These opinions will help you get great customer insights into how your customers use your product/service in their daily lives.
Provide content suggestions
Finding it challenging to come up with new content ideas? Ask your audience. Also, track their conversations to find if they are looking for specific information, tips, etc.
Suggest ways to improve the product
Feature suggestions are a great way to win the trust of your customers. You can create a specific landing page for showing them how much your team has worked on their suggestions.
You can do all of the above using various content formats like:
- Short videos
- Facebook/Instagram Stories
These content formats are engaging and will provide you with a lot of data about your customer base.
Attract Niche Audiences
I know you’re wondering why you want to attract a smaller audience while you aim to have a commanding social presence. Well, smaller niches are more connected and passionate about their interests. Therefore, they are always looking to get new content and engage. This means you’ll even be able to interact with them on a personal level.
You have to find these audiences in various Groups and communities on social. Here are a few ways you can attract smaller audiences:
Use specific hashtags
People use hashtags to search for specific content on social platforms. Hence, hashtags are perfect for attracting a niche – say #ecofriendlyfashion, #folkmusiclovers, #potterheads, #ethicaljournos, etc.
Target specific audience in ads
While creating ads, add narrow down your audience list to a few users. Say, instead of targeting fashion bloggers in general, target fashion bloggers in Seattle.
Use social media listening
Use tools to listen to all conversations about a particular hashtag or keyword. If I set the tool to listen to conversations about ‘bitcoin’, I’ll have a list of people who frequently talk about bitcoin. This form a small, niche audience for me to target.
After you’ve found your small audience, continue targeting them with producing and sharing quality content. Such audiences give a lot of importance to engaging, so be sure to actively engage with them by commenting on their posts and sharing them with your followers.
This audience has already shown a keen interest in your area. So, all you need to do is target them well.
Create a Fan-mentions Page on Facebook
Your Facebook fan page is the face of your brand. It serves as the first point of contact between your brand and all your potential customers on the platform, so whatever impression your Page creates is that which they will carry for a long time.
You see, the reason why I recommend you to opt for a Page instead of a profile is that there are endless opportunities that are peculiar to Pages.
For instance, when you have a profile, people will need to send friend requests to you and you will have to accept these requests. A Facebook Page on the other hand, only requires that the user likes or follows your Page. They do not need your approval to do this. Secondly, Facebook profiles only give room for 5,000 friends. A Page, on the other hand, allows for hundreds of thousands of followers.
Facebook’s algorithm, however, demands that Pages boost their posts to be seen by their followers. This will cost some money but there is a way to reduce the cost. To make sure that your followers see your posts, you will have to encourage them to follow you when they like your page. This will help your visibility in the long run.
Keep the following in mind:
Engage with and send messages to your fans
Now, that all your fans are in one place, you can engage with them actively and update them about any offers, discounts, upcoming events, new features/products, etc. The offers you provide here must be exclusive – given the fact these are your brand’s loyalists. For active engagement on your Facebook page, post consistently with the help of a facebook automation tool.
Target potential customers with product displays
At the top of your Page, advertise your products using the photo slider. So, if a potential customers happens to visit this Page, they’ll instantly learn about your products.
Mention people in your comments
This Page is for your brand to engage with its fans closely. Hence, promote engagement and reach a wider audience by using the @mention option when replying to comments.
Run contests for your fans
Rewarding your ‘top fans’ and giving away prizes ensure that your Facebook fan Page is active.
Host live videos for your fans
You can have Q&A sessions with your fans – whether they wish to know about your team or your brand’s story. Inform them about the video in advance, so they can participate actively when you go live.
A major benefit of a Facebook fan Page is that it gives you an opportunity to connect with your potential readers and customers. So, ensure that all the activities are aimed at targeting them and attracting their attention.
Include Shorter Videos for More Engagement
Five percent of your viewers stopped watching your video after a minute. Another 60% of them stopped watching after two minutes.
It isn’t surprising that a lot of videos appearing on your social media feeds are short – maybe six to ten minutes. The ever-decreasing attention spans probably explain this trend. Another reason is that short videos are quite shareable. These kind of videos are best to watch while commuting, to get a quick mental refresh while working or just before falling asleep. Within a short duration of time, these videos manage to inspire, amuse, and educate you.
Shorter video typically work well for following kinds of content:
Funny, slice-of-life content
Think Buzzfeed. Their videos are short, amusing and relatable. They pick one situation or character and create a video out of it. So, you have a five minute video of an introverted guy trying to make friends.
Many restaurants and food chains post short, time-lapse videos of the chef working on a particular dish. As the videos are short, they eliminate a lot of elements like voice-overs and chef’s face.
Working of a product
You’ll see a lot of tech brands use short videos to demonstrate their product’s usability. You see someone clicking a perfect picture with a phone and zooming in and out easily. That’s it – the video’s over. All they wanted you to know was that the phone has great picture quality and that you can zoom better with it.
The ‘life hacks’ videos fall under this category. Their titles mention a problem (are there any embarrassing mistakes in your presentation) and then the videos provide five-six tips as a solution to the problem.
The following kinds of content are not suitable for the short video format:
- Explanation videos
- Data-heavy content
- Expert discussions
With some investment in time, effort and visual content tools, you can create engaging short videos for your brand.
Ask for Feedback on LinkedIn Posts
Feedback posts help generate either through soft engagement, i.e., likes or shares, or hard engagement, i.e., long-form comments, actual critique, or suggestion.
If I approached you on LinkedIn and asked you to provide feedback on my post, wouldn’t you be a little interested? Even if you don’t comment with your feedback, you’ll probably check it out and ‘like’ it.
LinkedIn provides an automation tool known as LinkedHelper that sends personalized InMails to the people of your choice. This allows you to ask for feedback on your posts and get more likes. However, you have to think of how to incentivize these people to like and comment on your post.
Responding to all the feedback on your content is an enormous but necessary task. Ever think about a streamlined option for managing all the comments for multiple pages flooding your LinkedIn posts?
SocialPilot’s LinkedIn inbox offers you access to all the comments on posts from your multiple LinkedIn pages. You can add new comments to your posts and reply to the audience’s comments in real-time.
Here are a few ways to give them incentives
Offer a resource at a discount
Say, you have produced an ebook which readers can download at a certain price. Offer your connections a discount in return for sharing their feedback on your post. But first, ensure that the resource is valuable enough. Explain to them how the resource will add value to their business. If you have authored any popular ebooks before, be sure to mention them.
Free session over call
If you provide a service, you can offer them a free one-hour session with you where they can ask questions and get expert tips on a certain topic.
Offer to promote their content
If you’ve noticed that they are actively producing and sharing content, offer to share their content with your connections.
Invite them to write a post for your blog
Sharing feedback on your post gets them a chance to contribute to your site as a guest author. For this incentive, your site must be authoritative and relevant.
Make a list of all connections you are going to reach out to. It helps if they have an expertise in your business segment and a loyal following on LinkedIn.
Engage with Integrity and Ethics
Today, what and how you say and engage with on social media has a major effect on your fans and customers. I’ve a very few brands recover from a social media disaster – most of them end up losing their customers or clients. Hence, the way your brand markets and engages with others on social matters a lot.
Demonstrating ethics and integrity when marketing shows that you observe a high level of integrity when doing business. Therefore, whenever you encounter a challenge such as a complaint, take it as an opportunity to show how much you care and how good your customer service is. This will appeal to your audience and build your reputation.
Here are some things you shouldn’t do:
Remove negative comments on social: When you do this, you send out this message – “we only want positive feedback”. This approach results in customers and followers losing trust in your brand.
Not reply to negative feedback on social: This, too, leaves a bad impression on your customer. Also, if a potential customer notices that you haven’t replied to it, what are the chances he/she will buy your product?
Criticizing your competitors: This won’t win you any customers. In fact, your potential customers will gain a very opinion of your brand.
Spreading negativity in Groups: Groups (on all social media platforms) are supposed to be helpful and supportive with lots of meaningful discussions. So, don’t be overly scathing and unnecessarily critical of everything. Sure, there will always be disagreements, but they don’t need to be hostile. Make sure your criticism is valid, constructive, and called for.
Self-serving content in Groups: If you’re posting self-serving spam content in Groups, it helps nobody. Imagine everyone doing that in the groups you’re a part of. There will be no meaningful discussion in any group ever.
Ignoring those who’ve shared your content: If you don’t make the effort to thank them now, they won’t share your content anymore.
How you post and engage on social media creates your brand’s image. This image helps your audience decide whether they wish to create and maintain a long-term association with your brand.
These hacks should start the ball-rolling for your social media engagement. In the next chapter, I talk about WHEN social media transfers to getting more revenue for your business. These hacks are to use social media for lead generation.