Survey a long line of marketers, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single one who doesn’t believe in the value of social media for businesses. Establishing a strong presence on the major social networks is imperative for building a brand and, more importantly, connecting with customers.

But how best to utilize these tools to actually engage with people? Companies do not achieve maximum benefit by simply creating profiles and sending out messages into the abyss. In order to truly leverage social media, you need to initiate genuine interactions, and compel unfamiliar users to take an interest in your company. Not only does increased engagement open new lines of communication with potential customers, it also strengthens your overall social media presence by increasing your reach and follower total.

Today, we’ll look at some proven strategies for generating engagement on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and more.

Offer value

This is the No. 1 top priority for any social media strategy, and one that is overlooked far too often. Many companies simply go through the motions with their social presence, creating a professional-looking yet uninspired profile and then sending out constant self-promotional posts. Viewing social media as simply another advertising platform is a mistake, because it’s so much more than that. Put yourself in the shoes of the type of follower you would like to attract, and ask yourself what they might be seeking on Facebook or Twitter. Tailor your content to their interests and give them something worth consuming. This is far more likely to draw responses and feedback.

Follow trends and use hashtags

Most social networks now make it very easy to get an idea of which topics are hot, nationwide and worldwide, at any given time. Both Facebook and Twitter have “Trending” sidebars that list out the most popular hashtags and phrases among users in real-time. Get on board with these trendy subjects and tie your content into them to take advantage of the buzz!

Run contests

This is an easy way to get people involved. Serve up an exciting prize, such as a free product, or a gift card, or tickets to a sporting event, and encourage participation. Ask a question and reward the best answer, invite people to submit something of their own creation (a graphic or a poem are good examples), or simply run a good old fashioned random drawing.

social media engagementJoin conversations and add insights

One of the strengths of social media is the ability to monitor conversations and jump in when you have something to add. Keep an eye on your timeline, and if you see people going back-and-forth on a subject that relates to your industry, don’t be shy about stepping in and giving your two cents. Many third-party social media management services provide the ability to track certain keywords and hashtags, so you can get alerts when people are discussing particular topics.

Don’t automate everything

Some companies like to schedule out all of their social media posts and then leave it on autopilot. While this technically keeps you active in the social space, it leaves no real opportunity for the engagements and interactions that foster meaningful results. It also lessens your ability to comment on current events, which — as mentioned in the previous “trends and hashtags” item — is a crucial method for capturing attention.

Reach out to new followers

When using Twitter, I frequently receive an auomated direct message immediately after following an account with a message along the lines of, “Thanks for following! Check out our website and follow us on Facebook!” I love the idea behind this approach, but I find the cookie-cutter message rather impersonal. You’ll get better results if you take the time to write a personalized message thanking someone for following you on Twitter, or liking your page on Facebook.

Use images

The stats make it very clear: using images in your posts will drive more activity. According to Hubspot, Facebook posts with a photo included attract 53% more “Likes” and 104% more comments than a standard text-based post.

Get Social!

If you feel that your social media strategy is lacking, let the experts handle it for you! Top Source Media has managed effective and engaging social media campaigns for many satisfied clients. Ask us about our social media marketing services!