16 Ways to Increase Social Media Engagement (and Sales)
People spend more than two hours a day on social media, which makes it the perfect place to engage your target audience. Plus it’s free!
When you increase social media engagement, you’ll create a strong community of followers and customers for your brand. And if you do things right, you’ll even increase sales.
So how do you do it?
I'm going to give you 16 ways - starting now - to increase your social media engagement across platforms. I’ll cover why this engagement is so valuable, and how you can use it to ultimately increase sales without spending any more money.
What is social media engagement?
Social media engagement is a measure of shares, likes, comments, views, subscribers, reviews, and other interactions a brand gets through their social media efforts. It goes two ways - you can reach out to engage with your audience, and they can start conversations with you.
Engagement is often used for measuring return on investment (which I’ll cover in detail later in this post), but it’s also great for customer communications, because a lot of people would rather reach out through social media.
PC: Sprout Social
Why does social media engagement matter?
When you actively engage with more people online, and more people engage with your brand, everyone’s going to be better off. Consumers will get content they love, and you’ll build a great reputation.
Engagement is also important because organic reach - the number of people who see your posts through unpaid distribution - has been steadily declining. Even if you have a lot of followers or subscribers, as few as 2% of them will see anything you post.
Social media algorithms show users content based on what each user has already interacted with. The more someone engages with you, the more you’ll show up in their feeds (and vice versa).
Unfortunately, if your engagement is low, you’ll have to pay to reach your target audience. No one wants that.
So how do you increase social media engagement without paying for it? Let me show you.
16 Tips to Increase Social Media Engagement
1. How often should you post on social media?
Each platform is a little different, but there’s one thing you need to remember: Consistency is key!
Consistency gives your followers a habit to follow. They know when to expect new content from you, and - if you’re creating the right content - they know they’re going to enjoy what you post. But there’s a balance.
If you post too often, your audience will get annoyed and stop engaging with you. If you post too little, your audience will forget about you, and your organic reach will drop. So where’s the happy medium?
CoSchedule pulled data from 14 studies, and found that this is how often you should post on each platform:
- Facebook: 1 post per day
- Twitter: 15 tweets per day
- Pinterest: 11 pins per day
- LinkedIn: 1 post per day
- Google+: 2 posts per day
- Instagram: 1-2 posts per day
This might seem like a lot of posting you need to do (depending on where you’re active), but there are plenty of free or cheap online tools that make it easy. Buffer, CoSchedule, Hootsuite, and Social Jukebox are all good options.
2. When is the best day to post on social media?
Now that you know how often to post, the next question is when should you post? Research shows that there are optimal days for posting on each platform to increase your social media engagement.
Best days to post on social media:
- Facebook: Thursday - Friday
- Twitter: For B2B, Monday - Friday; For B2C, Wednesday and Saturday - Sunday
- LinkedIn: Tuesday - Thursday
- Pinterest: Saturday
- Instagram: Monday
- Google+: Monday - Friday
3. When is the best time to post on social media?
You’re going to get the most engagement whenever your audience is already online. So when do most people spend time on each social media platform?
Best times to post on social media:
- Facebook: 1pm - 4pm
- Twitter: Anytime
- LinkedIn: 10am - 11am
- Pinterest: 2am - 4am, 1pm - 4pm, 8pm - 11pm
- Instagram: 8am - 9am, 2am
- Google+: 9am - 11am, 12pm - 1pm
Keep in mind, these are averages pulled from thousands of brands posting, so they might not be the exact best times for your brand. It’s important to keep an eye on your posting and engagement activity to find your optimal times.
Tools like Followerwonk and those mentioned under point #1 can help make this easier (and more effective).
4. Post where your audience already spends their time.
By doing a little research on where your target audience spends the majority of their time online, you can increase engagement while saving tons of effort and resources.
For instance, if you’re a brand targeting Millennial women, Instagram might be your sweet spot. Millennials (18-34 year-olds) make up 64% of Instagram’s users, just over half of which are female.
Here are a few quick steps to find your target audience:
- Create custom buyer personas to define who your targets are
- Create content those specific people care about (blog posts, videos, images, etc.)
- Post that content where it’s most relevant (using forums, hashtags, specific platforms, and content types, etc.)
These three simple steps should lead you directly to the audience and engagement you want.
5. Include engaging visuals (like these examples).
You’ve probably heard that posts with pictures get more engagement than those without. That’s true! And here are a few stats:
- Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without
- Tweets with images get 150% more retweets than those without
- Directions with text and illustrations help people perform 323% better than directions without illustrations
But just adding pictures - or even videos or diagrams - isn’t enough. Your visual content still needs to share information. That info could be about a great deal you’re offering on a product, or a recap of research you’ve done or found.
PC: Buffer App
Your visuals need to be specifically relevant to your target audience, and (ideally) will pique their interest so that they want to take the next step (click a link, ask a question, share, etc.).
One of the most time-consuming aspects of posting is adding visuals. You have to take pictures, make videos or hand make art in order to show off something in your posts.
6. Post something others (especially your competitors) haven’t.
The amount of content produced and shared every day is almost obscene (see the infographic below). As a result, social media users are desensitized to most content. If it’s something we’ve seen before, we keep scrolling.
To stand out, you’ve got to be unique. Either post original content that can’t be found elsewhere, or share information in a new and different way. Otherwise your engagement (and your sales) with falter.
A few ideas for coming up with original content:
- Turn existing content into a new format (like a slideshow, infographic, or video)
- Ask your audience for ideas (e.g. “What do you want more of?”), or build off customer reviews
- Tell a story from your personal experience, or share your customer’s personal experience
For instance, we went through our blog posts, pulled out a bunch of quotable lines, and turned them into pictures. This was an easy way for us to create 150 new pieces of content that we share all over social media and in our blog.
7. Reply to every comment on every platform.
Creating and posting great content is only half the story. To really increase social media engagement and build loyal relationships, you have to talk to them directly.
Eventually, you’ll be too active and have too many loyal followers to directly reply to every single comment you get. But as long as you can keep up with new ones coming in, you need to follow this step.
This direct and personal engagement shows people you aren’t just some stuffy company trying to increase sales. You care about them and what they have to say. That has a powerful, viral effect. Take Hamilton - the Broadway music and international sensation - as an example:
“One of the spectacular oddities of Hamilton is the fact that a piece of art mostly inaccessible to the masses is so widely embraced, and has developed such a strong fandom. Fandom is key. Those fans are the ones carrying the conversation. Miranda seems to know that, and regularly responds and retweets.” - Erin Carson, Tech Republic
The entire team had to create something great and unique. But Lin-Manuel Miranda’s continual personal engagement helped turn Hamilton into a sensation even for those who have not - and probably never will - see the play live.
This same concept works with customer reviews and complaints, too. By responding to people who’ve had both good and bad experiences, you show everyone online that you care about what’s happening. That carries a lot of weight.
8. Comment on posts that aren’t yours.
If all of your engagement is about you, people are going to notice. You’ll be like that one self-absorbed guy at the party. No one will want to talk to you.
Good relationships are always two-sided, so interact with others and become an active, objective voice in their communities. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a sportswear company looking to interact with people interested in fitness. After some quick online research using tools like Hashtagify, you find that these hashtags are really popular right now:
- #fitnessmotivation, etc.
People using these hashtags are probably in your target audience. So you use these hashtags to find posts and conversations you can contribute to. Those might be personal accounts or other brands’ accounts. Either way, you’re keeping the conversation going instead of just pitching your product.
PC: Gary Vee
You keep the conversation going, and when you add value to the conversation, both the person you’re responding to and other viewers will do things like:
- Like your comments
- View your profile
- Follow you
- Check out other posts you’ve made
- Visit your website
9. Give people a behind the scenes look at your business, or how you do something special.
Video content is the best way to engage your targets on social media, and the type of content viewers are currently in love with is anything behind the scenes. People love seeing how the sausage is made.
Why? Because it makes viewers feel like they’re one of your good friends. All of a sudden they’re privy to information most people don’t know about.
Here’s an incredible example from Zappos. One of their employees was diagnosed with breast cancer. She struggled (as you can imagine), but - as of this writing - came out on top. So Zappos created this great video sharing her story.
Notice that this video is not self-promotional. There’s not even a mention of how supportive her Zappos family was during this time. Yet you’re still touched and feel more connected to the brand.
You can create similar behind the scenes content without anyone needing a traumatic experience. You could:
- Introduce your employees and talk about how or why they came to work with you
- Show people the technology or processes you use for a certain task
- Tell a story about when your company made a mistake and how you overcame it
- Or even share a quick video of your Christmas party
10. Share your customers’ content.
Sharing customers’ content helps in several ways:
- It shows followers that real people are using your products or services
- It encourages other customers to share their own experiences using your products or services (maybe you’ll highlight them, too)
- Your customers get more exposure, which is another incentive for them and others to buy from you
- It shapes lasting relationships between your brand and the original posters
One of my co-workers had a good experience with Pilot Pens on Twitter. He bought a pack of pens that had been beaten up during shipping. He tweeted that to them, and they sent him a new pack (with samples of lots of other pens). So what did he do?
He wrote a case study on them and shared a photo of the gift on Instagram. Pilot then used the case study and photo on their own social media channels, and everyone won.
Here’s another example from the clothing brand Chubbies.
One guy shared a photo of his family wearing Chubbies apparel and tagged the company in it. Then the company shared the photo and tagged him in it. Engagement went through the roof.
11. Create social media AMA events (Ask Me Anything).
There are many ways for you to create a Q&A-style event, but the reason you should hold them is that they give power to your audience.
Your customers and followers control what questions are asked. They control the content you create. This makes it really helpful for them, too, because they can ask you all their questions - questions you may not think to answer on your own.
These Q&As can benefit your company more practically than just gaining engagement, too. You might turn some questioners into customers, or learn a few things that help you create a better business. Plus they’re fun.
So how do you start a Q&A? You’ve got a few options, and the more followers you already have, the more engagement you’ll likely get from it.
You could start a Facebook live video, where all of your Facebook followers will get a notification that you’re live. If they’re interested in the topic, they can watch and chime in. Instagram offers a similar live video feature.
Other options include:
- Instagram’s “Ask” feature in Stories
- Using a hashtag like #asktextrequest, where people could tweet or post with that hashtag and you respond
- Or you could hold your own AMA (ask me anything) event on Reddit, your website, or any other platform
With a bit of promotion ahead of time, these can be very effective for increasing both social media engagement and sales.
12. Poll your audience.
A poll is pretty simple. You ask a question, you give a few options, and whoever is in your audience picks their favorite. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others even have a Poll feature built-in.
PC: Social Media Examiner
There are two common polls brands use well.
One is What new products or features would you like? The brand gives a few new products or features they’re mulling over, then prioritize whatever gets the most votes. We use this at Text Request.
The second is a more general What’s your favorite? Or What do you prefer? E.g. we might run a poll asking What’s your favorite way to communicate with friends? The options might be email, text, phone call, and social media direct message.
13. Give discounts to followers and customers who help you out.
This kind of engagement helps everyone win. Customers interact with you publicly - giving you more exposure - and then they get some perk. It’s fun, and sometimes a small incentive provides that extra push someone needs before they’ll purchase. Here are a couple of examples.
There’s a Mexican restaurant I love going to. They offer free cheese dip to anyone who “checks in” to their restaurant on social media. So every time we go, I share on social media that I’m there.
All of my friends and followers see that I’m at their restaurant - which is free marketing for them - and I get free cheese dip.
Here’s another example. It works really well for retail businesses, but also works for home service and other industries.
Give customers a one-time discount for following your page. This could be as simple as saying Like us on Facebook and get 20% of your purchase.
In this example, you might just pin a discount code to the top of your Facebook page, so people can like your page, then grab the code.
14. How do you get people to click?
Your click-through rate (CTR) is a crucial metric for determining your ROI. It tells you how relevant your content is, and gives you a glimpse of what it takes to earn the sales you want.
If you’re using social media ads (or sponsored posts), each platform should tell you exactly how many times your ad was shown, and how many times it was clicked - i.e. what your CTR is. But, we want to increase social media engagement without paying for ads.
(As a benchmark, the average Facebook ad earns a 0.90% click-through rate, and that’s the best performing platform.)
So how do you get people to click on your links and other content? You have to give them something they want! (See point #4.) A call-to-action will also go a long way.
A call-to-action is simply a command to do something. For instance, you might say Read this guide to learn how to increase your social media engagement (and why your business depends on it).
Another good option is to provide something amazing. E.g:
- A big piece of content or resource you put together (“We spent months following this story. Take a look and let us know what you think.”)
- New products or significant discounts (“Click to get 40% all winter boots!”)
- Something unique that’s also surprising (“This guy walked 20 miles to work. See what his boss did for him!”)
15. How do you get people to share your content (go viral)?
Having your content shared is a great way of expanding your reach to those who are not following you and may not even be interested in what you sell. Everyone wants to go viral, but how do you do it?
The world of content and engagement changes constantly, but OkDork analyzed 100,000,000 articles and found these common characteristics in posts that get the most shares:
- Long-form content (3,000 words +)
- The content invokes awe (“that’s amazing!”) or laughter
- At least one image is included in the post
- Infographics get the most shares, second to lists (10 is the magic number for lists)
- Content is shared by at least one influencer
- The content is fresh, first published in the last few days
- It was published on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Monday
There are many tools for tracking shares (several are listed in point #16), but perhaps the easiest way is to create a custom URL that shows up in your Google Analytics. From there it's easy to see which content is getting shares and clicks.
16. How do you measure social media engagement?
You can’t improve unless you know what you’re doing. So how do you measure results - and your ROI - for social media engagement?
Most social media platforms have their own built-in analytic tools. Instagram, for example, gives a great, condensed information panel that shows everything from impressions to click-throughs and hashtag performance.
There are also plenty of third-party tools to help you manage your analytics and ROI, including:
- Buzzsumo - Shows you shares of any piece of content across platforms
- AddThis - Shows shares and clickbacks on all your content
- Hootsuite ROI calculator
- Google Analytics will show you traffic and sales you get from social media
- Followerwonk for Twitter analytics
- Sprout Social
You and your boss probably want to know what it cost to get engagement, and how valuable that engagement is. Those questions are easy to answer using the tools above, but there’s one important thing to remember!
It will likely take time to grow your social media engagement and to see sales coming directly from it. That’s because it takes time to get involved in online communities and to build a reputation as a brand people trust for great content and good products or services.
How to Increase Social Media Engagement (and Sales) on Specific Platforms
1. Connect your store to Instagram to drive sales.
Instagram has a shopping feature that’s perfect for retail companies. Whenever you share pictures of your products on Instagram, viewers can click on that image to go to a landing page for that product. All viewers have to do is finish checkout!
Here’s what Savannah Boysen, Marketing Manager at Tyme has to say about it:
“Our traffic from Instagram has increased 44% since implementing shopping on Instagram. It's a clean and simple way to show your product in a lifestyle setting, without impacting the user experience.”
2. Jump into hashtag campaigns on Twitter.
People use hashtags on Twitter every day to join conversations, both within their local communities and all over the world. Your business should do the same thing. Find a few relevant hashtags (see point #8 above), and get involved.
Just don’t be too salesy! Wendy’s is perhaps the brand most popular for doing this at the moment.
PC: Bored Panda
When you’re joining these conversations, remember to stick to your brand’s identity and voice. If joining a conversation doesn’t align strictly with what your brand is all about, move on to the next.
3. Add Buyable Pins to your Pinterest images.
Pinterest is a visual search engine. If you sell a product of any sort, there’s a strong chance Pinterest can help you sell more of them.
Like Instagram, they also make it easy for you to connect your store to Pins. What’s different is that viewers can buy your products directly on Pinterest - they don’t have to click away. If viewers don’t want to buy right then, they can Pin it for later.
Pinterest also has Rich Pins that let you add sorts of other content to your Pinterest boards.
4. Comment on YouTube videos related to your product and service.
YouTube is a community. The best way to take advantage of this community is to post videos and comment on related videos.
Follow accounts that post videos related to your product and service, and comment on every video. When you do comment, try to add value to the community and support the video creator (or channel). This helps build a community around you so that others will want to see your videos.
One last tip before signing off...
Social media is a huge part of today’s world, and it doesn’t seem to be shrinking any time soon. It’s a great tool for your business to reach your target audience.
Show your community that you care about their needs and interests (not just your own), and keep track of your engagement metrics along the way. By implementing these social media engagement tips, you will see your following, your brand loyalty, and your sales all grow.