You should be treating social media engagement like a dinner party, welcoming people and encouraging conversation between the host and the guests.
For modern brands with an online presence, strong social media engagement is a sign that you’re making an impact in the market.
It’s not just about looking popular: it’s about making meaningful connections with current and future customers, which will serve to boost your brand (and ROI) both on and offline.
Read on for the ultimate guide to building, managing, and measuring social media engagement and all its business benefits.
Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.
What is social media engagement?
Social media engagement is the measurement of comments, likes, and shares.
Of course you want to rack up your followers, but ultimately, the greatest measure of social media success is an engaged audience, not just a big one.
As a business, it’s quality, not just quantity, that you should be striving for.
Imagine you threw a party, and tons of people showed up, but they all just sat there silently. No small talk, no dancing, no conversations, no questionable drinking games. Was the party really a success? The RSVP list looks good, sure, but did your guests have fun? Do they like your dip?
Activity and engagement is crucial for every social platform to build a positive brand experience, and develop meaningful relationships with new and potential future customers.
Social media engagement is measured by a range of metrics that could include the following:
- Shares or retweets
- Followers and audience growth
- Mentions (either tagged or untagged)
- Using branded hashtags
Basically, social media engagement is growing anytime someone interacts with your account and can be calculated in a variety of ways. Check out our complete list of social media metrics, and how to track them, here.
How to increase social media engagement
While you could just cross your fingers and hope that your followers just start spontaneously getting chatty, chances are, they may need a little encouragement.
Luckily, there are plenty of tricks of the trade to boost that engagement and get this virtual party bumpin’.
First, analyze your engagement
It’s hard to measure your growth if you don’t know where you’re starting from.
Put on your data scientist hat (looks great on you) and jot down your current number of followers, how many comments and shares you’re getting on average per post, or whatever numbers are meaningful to you.
Then make sure to keep tracking regularly so that you catch jumps or dips in engagement that can give you valuable clues about what’s working (or, just as importantly, what’s not).
These tools for social media analytics can help you save time getting started.
Select your strategy
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Since every company’s business goals are different, every company’s social media strategy will be too.
Domino’s Pizza and Tiffany and Co. are going to have very different motivations for their engagement, and that will drive the content they put out there.
Domino’s is trying to create a young, fun, and weird brand voice, while Tiffany aims to educate about its rich design history: their tweets are both engaging in their own ways.
Depending on what suits your brand and what your business has to offer, your social media engagement goals might include:
- Changing public perception of your brand
- Developing new customer leads
- Collecting feedback about new products
- Educating your audience with resources and advice
Know your audience
It’s hard to get people engaged if you don’t actually know who you’re talking to.
The sort of language, tone, and resources that resonate are likely going to be different for a skateboarding company versus a gardening supply shop. (Save for any gnarly grinding grannies out there.)
Check out our guide to conducting audience research to learn everything you need to know about your target market.
Knowing your audience will also help you determine:
- What social media sites to be on
- When to publish
- Type of content
- Brand voice
Create and share valuable content
Now that you know who is following you and why you want to reach them you’re ready for the important third ‘W’: what the heck do I tell them.
Content that is helpful to the audience, that addresses their needs and pain points, is critical. Think “conversation” not “broadcast.”
If you’re just talking about how great your brand is, or what you have for sale, it’s going to be harder to connect.
For a t-shirt company, posting pics of your latest design will only get you so far; posting fashion tips for how to dress up a t-shirt to wear to a wedding, on the other hand, is offering unique service and wisdom to help your fans out. (And daring your followers to share their own “wedding tee stories”? Even better.)
In this Sephora post, the cosmetics company didn’t just brag about their mask selection, they made a game of asking their followers to choose their faves with a #wouldyourather tag.
In terms of format, it’s helpful to understand which kind of content is best for each platform: artful images for Instagram, longer text posts or videos for Facebook, and so on.
That being said, don’t be afraid to get creative with these post ideas:
- Asking questions
- Encouraging your audience to ask you questions (try an “Ask Me Anything” session)
- Test their knowledge
- Media upload contests
- Animated gifs
- Spotlighting customers
- Custom stickers or filters for Instagram Stories
Overall, the best way to figure out what content is working is to watch and learn. Be a content scientist (another hat, cute!). Experiment, observe the reaction, tweak and repeat.
Not sure what to chat about on any given day? Just join a conversation that’s already happening. Commenting on current events and trends in a way that ties in your brand is an opportunity to instantly connect with an audience in a timely way.
Trending pop culture (remember the spring of Tiger King?), big sporting events, holidays, or viral memes can all be great excuses for a post.
Good luck to the nominees tonight. Don't forget to look down before your speech. pic.twitter.com/8yJuEZiao0
— Charmin (@Charmin) February 24, 2013
Keep the conversation flowing
Some may think of conversation as an art, but in some ways, it’s really more of a sport: volleying attention and questions back and forth.
Online, you need that give and take, too. It’s important for brands to practice both reactive engagement and proactive engagement.
When you’re reactive, you’re answering direct messages, incoming mentions or comments.
When you’re proactive, you’re the one sparking conversation with people who may be talking about you, but haven’t necessarily sent messages to you directly. Maybe they’ve mentioned you with a misspelled brand name (“I love La Croy!”), or a common, unofficial nickname (“can i pls marry a McD’s breakfast sandwich”). Either way, this is an opportunity to reach out and say hey.
If HBO has a search on for both #GameofThrones and #GameofThornes, they’ll be able to catch chatter even from fans (or, ahem, global media conglomerates) who are too excited to spell check.
Who would you choose as a roommate?
• Tyrion, but he never pays rent
• Jamie, but Cersei has a spare key
• Hodor, but he never closes the bathroom door
• Jon Snow, but he knows everything #GameOfThornes
— Disney+HotstarPremium (@DisneyplusHSP) March 17, 2020
To track those indirect mentions, just set up search streams on your Hootsuite dashboard so you don’t miss a chance to keep the conversation going.
Bonus: Read the step-by-step social media strategy guide with pro tips on how to grow your social media presence.Get the free guide right now!
Show your human sign
It’s way more tempting to engage with a brand when you think there’s a real person on the other end. And there is! (…Right?) So don’t hide it.
A lot of brands encourage their social team to personally sign-off on their posts. If you’re particularly charming, you may even find yourself with a cult following, like the security guard at The Cowboy Museum who signs each of his posts “Thanks, Tim.” (PS: Watch the episode of Fridge-Worthy dedicated to Tim here.)
But beyond names, there are lots of ways to get personal:
- Go beyond retweeting and liking and comment to start a conversation
- Acknowledge and answer questions
- Respond to comments with humor or warmth
- Show the people behind the brand in photos or videos
Keep response times speedy
With Hootsuite’s Saved Replies function, you can pre-compose responses to common queries. When an FAQ comes your way, you’ll be at the ready with a thoughtful, informative response.
Okay, this might sound counter to the “show your human side” point above, but stay with me. A speedy response can lead to increased customer satisfaction, and save your team time so they can provide even more support (and human touch) elsewhere.
Plus, by writing your answers in advance, you’ve got all the time in the world to make sure the tone is as warm, friendly, and helpful as you want.
But you don’t even have to write them yourself if you don’t want to. Answer enough questions of a similar type, and Hootsuite will suggest replies based on your previous responses (kind of like the Google suggested reply feature in G-Chat). Since they are based on your previous answers, you can rest assured that they’ll still sound human and on brand.
Hootsuite Inbox can help you manage all your comments and DMs in one place. Check out how it works in the video below:
Posting frequently—one to three times a day, ideally—is important to keep your content fresh and active in the social streams. Posting at the right time each day is important too, so your sweet hedgehog meme doesn’t miss its chance for maximum audience exposure.
You can’t be at your computer 24/7 (believe us, we’ve tried), but you can take advantage of scheduling tools like Hootsuite to plan and prep your posts in advance.
(Source: Screenshot of @RealWeddingsBC Hootsuite dashboard)
Try setting aside a block of time (either daily or weekly) to deal with creating and scheduling posts, and another regular time slot to deal with reactive and proactive responses. Then it’s done for the day and you can focus on the rest of your work (or laughing at other hedgehog memes).
A few other Hootsuite dashboard features can also help boost your productivity and ensure you stay on top of engagement:
- Streams: Use streams in your dashboard to see all incoming messages from each social network in one place, instead of checking each social network separately.
- Lists: Create Twitter lists based on specific industries, events, or hashtags and set each one up in a stream for easy monitoring and proactive engagement.
- Tags: Use this feature to tag and track positive engagements so you can easily include them in your weekly or monthly reports.
Think beyond the feed
Comments or shares are great, but these public shows of engagement aren’t the only way to see that your audience cares.
Private conversations, like direct messages or story interactions, are also powerful examples of an engaged audience, so make sure to treat them right (and track those numbers) too!
6 social media engagement tools
Have you ever seen that reality show Alone? They’re sent out to survive in the wild, but they get 10 tools of their choice to bring along.
Similarly, you don’t have to face the social media wilds without some help. In addition to your social dashboard (an essential, IMHO), here’s what you might want to pack in your survival kit.
- Canva makes it easy to crop pictures to the exact specifications of different networks. You can also edit photos directly in the Hootsuite Compose and add text and filters to them.
- Video is extremely engaging—research suggests it generates 1,200% more shares than images or text. There are a million video editors out there, but Clips app for iPhone makes it super simple to slap together a few scenes and add music or text frames, all on your phone. (Funimate is really similar, but for Android users.)
- At this point, GIFs are essentially the international language of the internet. With Giphy, you can type in a keyword like ’excitement’ or ‘dog’ to access a huge library of animations to add some playfulness to any engagement.
- Hootsuite Insights is the best way to get a general overview of your engagement efforts. It even reports on specific keywords or topics. Brandwatch, meanwhile, offers in-depth reports that capture the entire social conversation around your brand and industry.
How to measure social engagement
Now that the comments and shares are flyin’, it’s time to crunch some numbers to prove what a great job you’ve been doing.
Good social media analytics are so important to measuring the success of your brand.
Thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there to provide a general overview or see your various social stats in one place. Calculators for social ROI or engagement rate are helpful to consider, too.
Beyond that, you can always measure effectiveness from your social platforms directly. The specific metrics will vary with each social site, but there’s always some juicy tidbit to take away.
Mix all of these tools together, and you’ve got access to some serious social intel.
Here’s what you might expect to find from some of the most popular social media platforms directly:
Facebook Analytics contains a very robust and comprehensive dashboard with plenty of ways to track your audience engagement.
You can track the following metrics on the popular social media platform:
- Reach and engagement: How many people saw your posts? Who interacted with them? Which posts did people hide? Did people report any posts as spam?
- Actions: What actions do people take on your Page? How many people click your call-to-action button? How many people click through to your website?
- People: What are the demographics of the people who visit your Page? (You can dive deeper into this topic with Audience Insights.) When do people visit your Page? How do people find your Page?
- Views: How many people are viewing your Page? Which sections are they looking at?
- Posts: How are your posts performing over time?
Learn more about Facebook Analytics here.
Likewise, Twitter offers a robust set of tools to measure your metrics.
You can track the following metrics on Twitter:
- Engagement rate: How many engagements and impressions did it get?
- Reach percentage: How many followers saw a given tweet?
- Link clicks: How many click-throughs did a posted link get?
- Optimal posting time: When is your audience most likely to be online? What time zone do they live in?
Learn more about Twitter analytics here.
If you have a business profile, you’ll be able to access Instagram Insights to track your Instagram engagement. This dashboard provides you with all the vital social media engagement metrics you’ll need for your campaign. It’s not super robust, but worth reviewing regardless.
You can track the following metrics on Instagram Insights:
- Audience demographics: Where do they live? Are they men or women? How old?
- Optimal times: When are your followers online? What days and times are they active?
- Popular content: What gets hearts? What posts get comments?
Learn more about Instagram analytics here.
Everyone and their mom (literally) is on TikTok at this point—maybe your brand should be, too?
It can be overwhelming to join a new social media platform at first (wait, do I need to know how to dance now?!), but analytics help take the guesswork out of content strategy. You can stop stressing and start learning whatever Doja Cat moves are trending today.
Insights are available to pro accounts, and include the following metrics:
- Audience demographics: What is my follower growth? What are they watching and listening to? Where do they live and how do they identify?
- Profile views: When has my traffic spiked?
- Content stats: Which videos have been viewed most this week? How long is the average play time? How many comments, likes and shares did my video get?
Learn more about TikTok analytics here.
However you define it, social media engagement is about putting the “social” back in social media. Whether it’s a big party or intimate conversation with a friend, when you put in the time and care with people, you get it right back—so show your followers you like them, really like them.
Put your engagement strategy into action and save time while you’re at it by using Hootsuite to manage all your social channels from one dashboard. Try it free today.