What’s the key to a successful social media campaign? Leads, of course, and customer engagement. If your audience is communicating with you via your social networks, you’re building brand awareness and customer loyalty. But engaging the audience is easier said than done, as social media users are swamped with hundreds of messages every day in their news feeds. How do you stand out from the crowd and get your audience talking?
Offering an incentive, such as a coupon, can lead to shares as customers are eager to tell their friends about a great deal. It doesn’t have to be a high-value offer, either. Offers as simple as a free soda with the purchase of a burger or a free hat with a purchase can get fans excited.
Drive traffic to your social networks with cross-channel marketing.
Make it easy for potential customers to find you on the social scene by always incorporating links to your networks on your website, listing your profiles on print collateral and in other media such as television commercials. If your customers aren’t connected with you, they can’t engage with your content. If you utilize guest blogging as a marketing tactic, be sure to include your social profile links in your bio if permitted by the publisher.
Include a call to action.
Just like a landing page is designed to get visitors to convert by downloading a resource, requesting a quote or even making a purchase, a Facebook post can also include a call to action to increase engagement. It’s an age-old sales tactic: If you want the sale, ask for it. In this case, if you want the click, ask for it. This is easily accomplished using language such as, “Click ‘Like’ if you…” or “'Like’ this post if you want a…”
Social media users love trivia, and it’s a great way to get your audience talking. Outer Banks Blue Vacation Rentals uses this tactic well, frequently garnering hundreds of Likes, and dozens of comments and shares for its Facebook posts. Questions like “How many steps does it take to get to the top of Currituck Lighthouse?” and “What’s your favorite town on the Outer Banks?” quickly capture fans’ attention because it gets them thinking about one of their favorite places. The takeaway: Asking questions is a natural way to earn comments, and questions that evoke emotion have an even bigger impact.
Use photos and video.
Mashable points out that images improve the visual appeal of posts, catching readers’ attention and causing them to pause. Once you’ve got their attention, they’re more likely to read your post. Incorporating a question with an image is a surefire way to evoke responses. Try using fun tactics like asking fans to come up with a caption for the image.
Post fan-contributed content.
This is another strategy used well by Outer Banks Blue Vacation Rentals. They post customer-submitted photos regularly and even run contests allowing fans to vote on their favorite photos on Facebook. One of the page’s photo albums that contains customer-submitted photos currently has more than 420 Likes, nearly 35 comments and a dozen shares. Posting customer-generated content makes fans feel special and encourages them to share their new celebrity status with their contacts.
Provide juicy tips as share bait.
Posts that offer something of value, such as a useful tip related to your industry, encourage users to share content. It’s easy to share a Facebook or Google+ post or a Tweet, and you’re providing your audience with something interesting they can easily spread to their own networks. One-sentence tips are best for Twitter, while it’s possible to include slightly longer mini-tutorials on Facebook or Google+.
Capitalize on relevant industry and world news.
You’ve worked hard to earn targeted followers, so keep their interest piqued by staying on top of the latest industry news and being the first to break it to them. Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, uses this strategy often on his Google+ page. But Sullivan also steps outside the box, sometimes posting world news that’s relevant to everyone. As long as you don’t overdo the generalization, curated news is a great tactic to encourage social sharing.
Plan your posts for optimal response times.
The type of content you’re sharing isn’t the only factor in the amount of engagement you generate; the time of day and days of the week play a big part also. Dan Zarrella, HubSpot’s social media guru, analyzed more than 1.3 million posts to determine the best and worst times to post content.
Facebook posts appearing later in the day, Eastern Time, tend to receive more engagement, earning the most "Likes" until about 8 p.m., and the most shares until about 6 p.m. Posting earlier in the week earns more engagement, with Thursday being the worst day for obtaining Likes. On Twitter, the same holds true: Early in the week is the best time for engagement. During the work week, engagement is also higher early in the morning, around 5 a.m. Eastern Time, and around noon.
Track your metrics.
Facebook offers a built-in insights tool that shows you data on how many people view your posts and how many are engaging with it. You can also use measurement tools such as Klout to gauge the success of the content you’re posting. Once you identify positive trends, focus your efforts on what works.
You’ve worked hard to build your audience on your social networks, so keep them interested by using these strategies to boost engagement. Thanks to the research efforts of experts like Zarrella and free tools like Facebook Insights and Klout, it’s possible for small-business owners to achieve major results without breaking the bank.
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.