12 Ways for Brands to Engage on Social Media (And Actually Get Noticed)

by Team Caffeine · 5 comments

Social Media Engagement

Engagement is the name of the game when it comes to social media.

We all want fans who care and share.

But if you want them to share, you must give them a reason to care.

How can you do that?

Social media has few secrets. Anyone can see how the big boys, from Coke to Zappos to the Yankees do social media. And we can all learn a lot from how they do it.

But sometimes looking to those who have already got ahead doesn’t show you how to get ahead. This is especially true when it comes to social media engagement. And that’s because of the rules of engagement.

What are these rules?

The Rules of Engagement

The rules of engagement are simple. Actually, there’s only one rule.

The fewer followers you have, the harder you must work at engaging.

Brands with millions of followers often do little in the way of engagement. This is partly because they’d have to employ a small army to engage millions of fans. But it’s mainly because their followers do the work of engaging for them.

If you struggle with the first rule, then there’s a second rule. It’s actually the same as the first rule, just using different words.

The more followers you have, the more your followers will do your engagement work for you.

When you’ve got thousands of followers, they’ll spread the word on your behalf. They’ll retweet you on Twitter, and share your videos and images on Facebook.

That means when you’re starting out, it’s an uphill battle, but it’s a battle you can win.

What is Engagement?

Engagement is a two way street. Partly, it’s about you interacting with your followers. Partly, it’s about your followers interacting with you.

As a small or medium sized brand, you need both for a successful engagement strategy. That’s why my tips cover both of these options. Some of them are about encouraging your fans to share your stuff, or leave comments, or click the like button. Some of them are about you getting out there and talking to your fans.

Both matter.

You need to get your fans talking, and you need to talk to your fans.

Get Your Fans Talking

1. A Picture Says 1,000 Words

The Internet is going visual, and for good reason. We’re all short on time, and so we’re on the look out for anything that helps us consume information more quickly. Pictures fit the bill perfectly.

But don’t take my word for it. Research by Wishpond found Facebook posts with a photo attract 53% more likes than those without. And that’s not all. Photo posts pick up 104% more comments, and have 120% more engagement compared to standard posts.

2. Add Words To Your Pictures

A picture might say 1,000 words, but it can say 10,000 words simply by adding a short caption. (Want to see this for yourself? Check out the Official Grumpy Cat Facebook Page).

Stuck for what to say? Try out the following:

  • Create an Infographic sharing some fascinating or enlightening facts.
  • Inspire your readers with motivational quotes.
  • Be funny! If you can make people laugh, then you’re on a winner, baby.

Infographic courtesy of Louise Myers.

3. Tell Stories

As the delegates at SXSW 2013 were told:

“Social Media is evolving and storytelling is going to be the next great tool to engage customers.”

SXSW got it wrong. Storytelling isn’t the next great tool. It’s already a great tool, and it’s been around for thousands of years.

The words “Once upon a time…” make anyone immediately sit up and listen. Hollywood is a multi-billion dollar industry not by chance, but because stories matter to us.

Are you telling the right kind of story on social media?

4. Aim to Go Viral with Video

Going viral is a bit like creating a bestselling novel. There’s no ultimate story that will also be a bestseller, no matter in what guise it’s told. But there are formulas that make a bestseller.

Likewise, while there’s no secret code that can guarantee your video goes viral, there are formulas you can follow.

  • Be disruptive. Do something different in a way that grabs attention.
  • Think babies and animals. Babies and animals. Babies and animals. If you can include a baby or an animal in your video, you’re ahead before you’ve even started.
  • Tell a story. See item 3, above.
  • Spark outrage. Anger is contagious.
  • Shock people. Courting controversy is a risky tactic, but it can result in big dividends if it pays off.
  • Get an influencer on board. If you can get a couple of the big players in your niche to tweet about your video to their thousands of followers, you’re already off to the ideal head start.
  • Think strategically. Don’t let your viral video be a random success. Tie it in to your other marketing work.

5. Host a Contest

Giving away your products, services (or an iPad!) in a contest has the potential to instantly draw a crowd. Everyone loves the chance to win a prize.

But contests only work at boosting engagement if you get it right.

  • Make it easy to enter. If entering your contest is complicated, people won’t bother.
  • Choose a relevant prize. There’s no point in giving away a skateboard if you offer high end landscape design services. You’ll either draw the wrong crowd, or more likely, no crowd.
  • Share your contest far and wide. Your aim is to engage, so spread the word on your website, email newsletter, and across all your social media accounts.
  • Be prepared to follow up. Now you’ve pulled in a crowd, what will you do to keep them entertained? There’s no point in hosting a contest then shrugging your shoulders about what to do next.

Talk to Your Fans

6. Always Say Hi

Every time you get a new fan or follower, welcome them to the fold. Say hello. There’s no need to do this by direct message, as that can seem spammy or shady. Instead, say hi publicly. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but you’ll stand out from the crowd and show yourself to be someone who wants to talk.

7. Reply to Every Message

Aaron Lee grew a Twitter following of 400,000 simply by being someone who listens and replies to his followers. Every time someone sends him a message, he replies.

As with saying hi, it’s a lot of work, but it’s a strategy that will reap rewards in the long term.

You can find out more about Aaron Lee’s strategy here.

8. Be a Host

Think of the people you know who host parties. Then try to think of as many people as possible who attended the parties.

You remember more of the hosts than the guests, right? That’s because they made you welcome in their space.

You can do the same thing on social media by hosting a Twitter Chat or a Google Hangout. By creating a space for people to meet together, you’ll be the one who’s remembered. Plus, you’ll get to meet a ton of people. That’s what I call win-win.

9. Follow Back (It’s not a popularity contest)

When someone follows you on Twitter, follow them back.

As Lori Taylor once said: “Popularity never made you smarter in school, why would it now?”

Don’t aim for thousands of followers while only following a select few people. You’ll never get to thousands of followers.

Instead, be the brand that takes an interest in their followers. Follow back, and you’ll rapidly grow your following.

10. Ask Questions

Yes or no: You’ve read this far.

(Well, I know it’s yes, duh me!)

But seriously, ask yes or no questions. When people can give an easy answer, you’re far more likely to get a response.

11. Ask for Likes

“Like this if you agree!” is becoming an old chestnut because it works. If you’ve yet to try it, give it a whirl.

As with all marketing, when you ask for what you want you’re more likely to get it.

What’s more, likes aren’t just about your ego. They’re about making your brand more visible. Whenever a fan likes your post on Facebook, all their friends get to see it too. What’s not to like?

12. Let Your Fans Express Themselves

The best content is created by your fans. User-generated content lets people show off their creative ideas. It’s an opportunity for your customers to have fun, and gives them an emotional investment in your brand.

What can you do? Ask your customers to create adverts for you, like Doritos did. Alternatively, get your customers involved in developing products, just like the Electrolux design lab. Your customers know what they need better than anyone.

Related Reading

100 Ways to Engage In Social Media

21 Rules of Engagement in Social Media
Brian Solis

6 Smart Moves to Engage Employees in Social Media
Kathi Kruse

How Brands Can Build Engagement on Twitter, According to NASA’s Social Media Stars
Huffington Post

Social Media Strategy: Best Ways To Engage Your Fans [Infographic]
Bit Rebels

For More Tips + Tricks

How do you engage your fans?

What tips and tricks do you use to get your fans and followers engaged? Please share in the comments.


Like this? You can find more social media tips and tricks in the Social Caffeine Collection, a collection of 24 books on social media marketing.

Team Caffeine

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Steeves June 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

Great article guys!

We’ve seen great results with our clients using the “Like this if you agree” type post. But just make sure you know your audience before you make a post with an unpopular opinion!!

Also – thank you for mentioning Wishpond’s infographic! Here is the original post: http://corp.wishpond.com/blog/2013/01/10/infographic-the-impact-of-photos-on-facebook-engagement/


LoriRTaylor June 21, 2013 at 11:32 am

Great point, Nick. Though controversy done right can be a fantastic conversation starter. And, you’re welcome *DM


Richard H July 20, 2013 at 2:44 am

Very useful article which, no doubt, has the boss Helen as its author!


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