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: Use our free engagement rate calculator to find out your engagement rate 4 ways fast. Calculate it on a post-by-post basis or for an entire campaign — for any social network.

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
  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Followers and audience growth
  • Click-throughs
  • 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.

Domino’s Pizza and Tiffany and Co Twitter social media strategy

(Source: Dominos Twitter, Tiffany and Co Twitter) 

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.

Time for a little game! #WouldYouRather use a clay or gel mask during the hot, summer months? Comment 👇Clay masks:…

Posted by SEPHORA on Thursday, June 25, 2020

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:

  • Contests
  • Asking questions
  • Polls
  • 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.

Stay topical

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.

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.

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.

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 suggested replies

Hootsuite Inbox can help you manage all your comments and DMs in one place. Check out how it works in the video below:


Schedule smarter

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.

Hootsuite social media scheduling tool

(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.
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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.

Photo editing

  • Adobe Sparkmakes 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 editing

  • 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.)

GIFs

  • 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.

Analytics

  • 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. Use the calculator below to find out your engagement rate by post.

Note: If you’re calculating your account’s total engagement, include information about all your posts (e.g total number of posts published, total number of likes, and so on). If you’re calculating the engagement rate of a specific campaign, only include the details of the posts that were part of the campaign.

Engagement rate calculator
Your engagement rate:

If you’re looking for more detailed data or you want to calculate different kinds of engagement (like engagement rate by reach or engagement rate by impressions), download our free spreadsheet calculator that will do the math for you.

Or, better yet, start a free 30-day Hootsuite trial to easily track the performance of all your social channels in one place (so you can replicate what works and get more engagement). Hootsuite Analytics collects your stats from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok.

With Hootsuite Analytics, you can also:

  • Find out when your audience is online
  • Get personalized recommendations for your best times to post for each of your accounts
  • Easily view industry benchmarks and see how you compare to competitors

Hootsuite analytics dashboard — Engagement summary across networks

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Frequently asked questions

Why is social media engagement important?

Engagement is a ranking signal on all social media platforms. If people engage with your content, the algorithm will see that content as interesting and valuable, and surface it to more users. This means that social media engagement can help you grow your social accounts and reach more people. 

What is a good social engagement rate?

Most social media marketing experts agree that anything between 1% and 5% can be considered a good engagement rate.

Why does social media engagement matter?

Social media engagement tells you how people respond to your content. These insights can help you refine your strategy to better match your target audience’s tastes, interests, and expectations. Taking social media engagement metrics into account when planning content is a great way to grow your account.

What are the three forms of social engagement?

The three primary forms of social media engagement are likes, comments, and shares.

What are some social engagement examples?

Social media engagement includes likes, comments, reactions, shares, and link clicks. Some platforms’ algorithms also measure how long users spend looking at a piece of content, whether they follow an account after seeing a piece of content, and how they interact with shopping features (e.g. if they click through to a product page).

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.

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