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The True Power of Social Engagement

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The True Power of Social Engagement

By Ryan Gibson

In a world where there’s 2.5 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook alone every day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out.

Social media is no longer the empty playground of big brands that dared to explore it first – it’s a crowded marketplace where brands of all shapes and sizes are jostling to get a piece of the action. But the problem is, there just isn’t enough to go around.

As more and more brands have taken to social media as a way of communicating with audiences, the social networks have been forced to react. For example, Facebook’s never-ending algorithm changes have throttled organic reach, limiting the number of branded posts in people’s feeds.

The question is, how can brands reach audiences in such a competitive space, especially when there’s no real guarantee that anyone will even see your content? And if you do miraculously manage to reach them, how do you build an engaged community and leverage the power of your fans?

Build a tribe, not a customer base

Let’s start with a simple analogy: If your content is the vehicle to drive social visibility, then genuine engagement is the fuel.

The brands that engage their fans the best have one surprisingly obvious thing in common; they’re relevant. They aren’t trying to sell a service or push new products, they’re giving their followers what they want by sparking conversations about the things that matter most to them, it’s as simple as that.

By creating content that champions causes, messages and motivations supported by their followers, they’re humanising the brand and creating a ‘tribe’, rather than a customer base; where the power of loyalty and the ease of social shareability combine to create the ‘magic’ factor, and that is where the brand can really sell itself.

When brands realise that the true intention of social media is to build communities of engaged fans, rather than use it as another broadcast platform to advertise their latest products or services, then they can truly start to benefit from it.

For example, no one cares about soap outside the bathroom, so Dove talks about inner beauty. No one cares about vodka unless they’re at the bar, so Absolute capitalises on the message of inclusion. The perception of fast food is changing, so McDonalds has become the largest distributor of children’s books on the planet.

But how does a brand even begin to engage fans in this way, and how do they know what matters to their audience so they can start to create content? The biggest mistake you can make is assuming you already know your followers. You probably don’t – but that’s OK, the information is out there ready for you to discover.

Monitor conversations closely

The first step to increasing engagement is to scope out your niche and start asking questions:

  • What conversations are people having?
  • What words are associated with your brand?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • What is your online share of voice?

Subscribe to social listening software and start monitoring. From tweets and Instagram comments to posts on Reddit and closed Facebook groups, the answers to your problems are already out there and are being discussed by your followers. By knowing your ‘tribe’ you can tailor content to what you know they’ll enjoy.

Have a strategy for each platform

Think of the platforms as TV channels; posts from fellow followers are the TV programmes that you want to watch and engage with, organic content from brands you follow is the product placement, while your boosted posts are those annoying ads in between that most people will skip to get to the stuff they really want to watch.

The BBC isn’t going to broadcast Love Island, and MTV isn’t going to host a political debate; so keep the content suitable for older demographics on Facebook and allow Instagram to do its thing by leveraging the power of the millennial. As for Twitter; keep it brief, relevant, and show an opinion (no one likes a brand that sits on the fence).

Don’t be afraid to diversify

The brands driving conversations on social are those that aren’t afraid to try something different. Whether it’s utilising Facebook to host weekly live challenges (My Protein), or giving their followers a behind-the-scenes look at their latest influencer party on IGTV (Benefit), they’re already one step ahead of the pack.

Of course, a lot of the above comes with the right connections. Take LADbible for example. They’ve been using edited Facebook ‘Lives’ for years, the same goes with the ability to edit IGTV broadcasts, these privileges are granted to a select group of gold standard social media accounts to test drive with their highly engaged followers.

But there are some steps you can put in place to help nonetheless:

  • Be reactive - if something happens that’s relevant to your brand then make sure you’re discussing it immediately
  • Spark conversations - use polls and surveys to chat to your followers and make them feel appreciated
  • Fish in a bigger pool - use social as a tool to expand and attract new consumers, as well as appeal to the base you already have

If you can get all of the above right then you’ll drive engagement, boost your online presence and turn your new followers into fans; that’s where the true value of social lies.