Social media is meant to be social. I know that statement may sound shockingly obvious but it bears repeating, especially if your business still spends more time talking at people rather than with them.
This often happens because the business is investing more time and energy into publishing than engagement. Publishing refers to all the outgoing messages on social media sent directly from your company’s account, while engagement refers to the direct one-on-one conversations that take place between your company and other people.
Engagement is what will help you develop the most meaningful relationships on social with potential and current customers alike.
“Your followers don’t want to talk to a faceless organization. They want to talk to real people on social media,” says Nick Martin, social engagement coordinator at Hootsuite. “Engaging one-on-one lets them know there’s a real person behind the account, and that can really make a difference in the trust they have for your brand.”
This post contains tips for creating an engagement strategy, managing your time, and measuring your efforts. We’ve also included some tips and tricks from our own engagement team to help you make it all happen.
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to increase social media engagement with better audience research, sharper customer targeting, and Hootsuite’s easy-to-use social media software.
What your social engagement strategy should include
You might be thinking “do I really need a strategy for something as simple as chatting with people on the internet?” The answer is yes. A strategy helps ensure every engagement you have on social media is not only useful for the people you’re speaking to—it’s beneficial for your business as well.
Goals and objectives
Defining how your business provides value to its followers is a key component of your strategy. Are you aiming to entertain, support, or educate? The answer will depend on what your business has to offer and what best suits your brand, however you should be able to clearly articulate what your followers gain from interacting with your brand on social. If educating people is where your brand can really shine, for example, then your engagement strategy would focus on providing resources, answering questions, or offering advice.
You should also clearly outline how you use engagement on social media to positively impact your business. Getting feedback about products or campaigns, finding and nurturing leads, providing information that helps move customers from one point in the buying journey to the next, and changing brand perception are all examples of how your business can benefit from engagement on social.
Here are some more key components of a solid engagement strategy:
The one-on-one messages you exchange on social media need to be just as on-brand as the ones you publish to all your followers, from emoji use to punctuation and hashtags. Make sure your business has a social media style guide in place already, and that it also extends to your engagement efforts.
Reactive engagement guidelines
Reactive engagement is the act of answering direct messages, comments, or incoming @mentions your business receives on social. These guidelines should cover when and how your business interacts with the messages it receives directly on social.
Your reactive engagement guidelines should cover:
- Whether or not you reply to every single @message or comment directed at your business on social (and if not, what the conditions are)
- If, when, and how you pass along messages for another department to handle (for example, customer support or sales)
- An overview of the tools and workflow used to handle incoming messages
Proactive engagement guidelines
People talking about your brand on social may not be directing their messages to your official accounts. These are potential engagement opportunities you can find by searching for indirect mentions of your brand name (or misspellings) and relevant conversations based on keywords or phrases. Proactive outreach is especially helpful for increasing the buzz around specific campaigns or product launches.
Your guidelines for proactive engagement should cover:
- The tools and techniques you use to find engagement opportunities
- Guidelines for how to engage once an opportunity is found
- Best practices and examples to highlight what a successful proactive engagement looks like
Time management tips
We’ve all gotten lost in the vortex of social media at least once. You decide to have a quick peek at Twitter before bed and the next thing you know it’s 2 a.m. and you haven’t blinked in 45 minutes. Getting sucked into social media is hard for anyone to avoid but when it’s quite literally your job, losing focus can have a serious impact on your productivity.
Set aside a block of time in your day to handle reactive engagement, and another for proactive. You may also want to plan your day around specific social networks, depending on the size of your communities.
Here are a few ways the Hootsuite dashboard can also help boost your productivity:
- 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.
Social engagement tools
Social media accounts? Check. A dashboard to manage them all in one place? Check. Here are some more tools that our social engagement coordinator, Nick Martin, recommends:
- Hootsuite Enhance: “This app makes it super easy to crop pictures specifically for social networks and add filters, images or text to them while on the go. Canva is another great option for editing photos to use when engaging with people on social.”
- Giphy: “Type in a keyword like ’excitement’ or ‘dog’ and you’ll quickly find a batch of (amazing) animated GIFs that can add some entertainment to any engagement.”
- Hootsuite Insights: “This is the best tool for getting a general overview of your engagement efforts and reporting on specific keywords or topics.”
- Brandwatch: “Create in-depth reports that capture the entire social conversation around your brand and industry.”
- Google Hangouts: “Hangouts helps keep me in contact with the rest of the company, so I can get a heads up about real-time events that could potentially be great engagement opportunities like conferences that our executives are attending, for example.”
Measuring social engagement
Ultimately, your engagement efforts should be designed to build new and better relationships with your customers—but how do you measure those? Like all aspects of social media, you need to find a quantifiable way of demonstrating the importance of engagement to set achievable goals and justify the amount of time and energy you spend on doing it.
At Hootsuite, we’ve created a metric called “Meaningful Relationship Moments” or MRMs to quantifiably measure the positive impact that our engagement efforts are having on the business. We define a MRM as a social media interaction with a customer, prospect, or community member that results in an observable positive change in sentiment or behavior.
“I measure MRMs by logging them in a detailed spreadsheet, linking to the conversation and noting the date, social network, and the user’s social handle or name,” says Martin. “I also identify whether they are an existing customer or not and what the observable positive change was.”
If you’re ready to put your engagement strategy into action, save time while you’re at it by using Hootsuite to manage it all from one place. Try it free today.