For numerous businesses, social media is a noisy and jam-packed place to try and build brand awareness. And the idea of social media management is overwhelming for some organizations because there’s simply too much that goes into targeting the right audience on each network.

By now you know there are tools to manage social media engagement, but it’s a whole other beast to make each channel work in your favor. The problem depends on how well you use these tools to create authentic interactions, monitor discussions and engage with others. But if you don’t have the right know-how to be actionable with social, your business is left in the dark.

A report from Thunderhead said only one in four businesses feel confident in their customer engagement methods. If you fall into that category, don’t worry–we won’t tell. Instead, let’s make sure you’re comfortable with how to engage and build your brand on social.

Want to ask Twitter your own questions about engagement? Sign up for this upcoming webinar with experts from Twitter and Sprout Social as they discuss Social Customer Care in 2018!

What is Social Media Engagement?

Social media engagement is essentially like a long-term relationship. You can imagine a committed and lengthy relationship takes dedication, readiness to adapt, the ability to think about the future and ensure the other party involved is happy for years to come.

thunderhead engagement graph

Try not to think of engagement as just a single interaction with one of your customers. As Thunderhead shows, you’re creating an open line of communication over a period of time. While the term “customer relationship” may come to mind, engagement is different and on its own level.

Providing More to Social Customer Care

When we think about social media engagement, it’s about how you use networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to build a great customer experience. You want to be there there for your patrons through thick and thin.

As soon as customers decide to engage with your business on social media, they’re essentially putting trust into your brand to solve their problem.

tarnish store instagram engagement

As the clothing store Tarnish successfully showcases, reaching out to your customers when they have specific questions increases brand loyalty and even sparks the chance of a future purchase. All it takes is a bit of timely communication.

In the past, customers had to go to great lengths to get ahold of the brand to be heard. While the days of “we’re sorry–all of our customer service representatives are currently busy” still exists, businesses are getting better at making those troublesome interactions a thing of the past by enhancing engagement through social media.

sprout index q2 2016 customer care graph

Our Sprout Social Q2 2016 Index discovered social media is the most preferred channel for customers to engage with brands. This means you must ensure every potential or current customer conversation ends with satisfaction or resolve.

Exceeding Customer Expectations on Social

It’s easy to think customers don’t expect as much engagement from you on social media, so why invest? The same Sprout Q2 Index found 89% of social messages go ignored. However, users expect an answer from brands on social within four hours.

sprout q2 response time graph

Jay Baer, president of Convince and Convert, discovered 42% of users complaining to brands via social expect a response in less than an hour. That should be a tall tale sign of what customers want and what you provide.

So the question we here at Sprout Social ask is what does your business gain by avoiding social media engagement?

Even though you can’t truly measure being nonexistent on social media, having tools to track and monitor your brand interactions pays off. Our powerful engagement reports provide real-time data on how customers interact. And at the same time, you gain critical insights into your team’s response efforts.

Sprout Social Smart Inbox collision detection

How to Improve Engagement

Improving engagement isn’t necessarily rocket science, but it does take effort. Try not to think of social business or social branding as something new. This type of marketing has been around for decades.

Now there’s a massive audience out there ready to be targeted, dissected and reached through social media engagement. The important thing is to know how to approach your audience, which is why we’re providing five tips to improve your social media engagement.

1. Start the Conversation

Like we mentioned before, try to think about social media engagement as a long-term relationship. Every great relationship needs someone to initiate the conversation to get things going. And in some cases, it has to be your brand.

A great way to open the conversation between both parties is by providing blog posts that your audience actually wants. Choose Chicago is perfect brand to watch for examples. They constantly post great Tweets with links to content about why you should visit Chicago. It helps to get people talking in their industry.

However, it’s not always that easy to get a group together to converse. If you have issues with getting engagement from content, try hosting Q&As or Twitter Chats. But try joining a few first. Use your brand’s social accounts to join conversations within your field. Be active with questions and provide industry knowledge to users.

You’ll be shocked at how quickly users will follow you. When people understand there’s a human behind the brand, their trust level increases. To build brand awareness, it’s all about trust and engagement.

Pro Tip: Be careful with your early conversations. Don’t promote right off the bat or else you’ll find little interactions and participation. Provide something of value like your industry insights or previous experience.

2. Promote Your Brand Enthusiasts

Another way to show you’re willing to get the conversation going is by promoting your brand enthusiasts’ content. For example, if you’re on Instagram, you could ask for customers to @mention you or use a branded hashtag to show off a new product or service.

Vans regularly uses its branded hashtag #myvans to get customers involved and to post their own content with the hashtag. When you post user-generated content, you’re essentially showcasing your customers and to further your social engagement. This also helps push others who are on the fence to interact with your brand by giving an avenue to communicate.

Why do you want people to use certain hashtag? It’s all about tracking.

Through Sprout Social, it’s simple to track the performance of a recent giveaway on social or to see how well your branded keywords performed.

Top Engaged Instagram Influencers Sprout Social

You can also see the top influencers engaged with your brand in our Instagram analytics report . This allows you to be more selective with your branding efforts on social–especially when handling marketing assets such as hashtags, keywords or brand phrases.

With this data, you can see which users are the most engaged with your brand. And if these folks have massive audiences, it can lead to partnerships or co-marketing efforts to help both sides. Having your hashtags, keywords and @mentions available in a single-stream platform makes managing engagement efforts simple.

Pro Tip: Make sure you are completely transparent with your intentions and how you plan to use customers’ content if you do so. Try using social media contests to give away t-shirts, swag gift packs or your actual product. Encourage your audience to share your material and to use specific hashtags.

A Better Way to Manage Social

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3. Jump on Current Events & Topical Subjects

When something is trending, going viral or simply in the news, you can use these topical events to bring new traffic to your social networks. You can cater it to things like hashtag holidays, events or live shows in your area.

Buffalo Wild Wings commonly uses sporting events to promote in real-time like they did for the Master’s. Addressing events in real time sparks engagement and provides a human aspect to your social efforts.

Brands like Gap also use current events like Earth Day to promote its sustainable denim. This is a great way to get users aware and to be seen in the action of the event.

At the same time, you need to be highly sensitive with this marketing tactic.

All too often, we see social media crises where a company used an inappropriate or untimely current event to promote their brand. Follow our social media policy guide so you’re not only prepared, but educated on what can cause a problem.

4. Be Receptive With Your Audience

An issue many businesses have with social media engagement is responding in time to answer questions. It’s always sad when you see a brand’s social network go years without any new content or customer interactions. You’re not only telling your audience you’re not present, but that you don’t want to provide additional avenues for communication.

poor engagement example

Going just a day without a response can be detrimental to your brand. You have to be alert and attentive to your current and potential customers. So if you invest the time in social media engagement, you have to be active. Otherwise, people will think you don’t care.

Your goal is to get as many eyes on your brand as possible. Additionally, positive interactions lead people to recommend your brand to friends and family, or post about the great experience on social.

home depot facebook example

Home Depot does a great job at answering questions in full on Facebook posts within minutes. Providing your customers with quick and timely answers shows you’re fully invested. But using a simple “yes” or “no” to answer them is not enough to truly engage anyone.

5. Work as a Team on Social Media

As you know, your brand can receive a plethora of different questions, comments and concerns on social. To ensure you’re fully engaging users, make sure your social media team is well-equipped and ready to handle incoming messages.

To provide the most engagement, break out your team into specific categories to get the most out of social:

  • Content Creators: These folks develop, ideate and schedule your social content. Using a social media calendar helps planning across all teams and keeps you active on social.
  • Community Managers: Who’s there to handle a hostile customer or major news about your brand? Hopefully you have community managers to control situations and keep experiences positive.
  • Public Relations: To get your brand the appropriate exposure through bigger channels, you need public relations managers. This person would handle customers, clients and businesses all alike.
Sprout Social Smart Inbox collaboration
  • Sales and Enablement: If someone is interested in your brand, but wants to know more, where do you send them? Sales and enablement can provide specific content to drive engagement among interested parties.
  • Support: Things break and having someone control and update the situation is critical. Your support members are always available in a pinch and ready to put out fires.

If you don’t have enough members or spend for this team, that’s OK. However, it’s important to know those handling social media engagement have to wear many hats.

How to Measure Engagement

A big question still unanswered is how to actually measure engagement and benchmark stats for the future. Don’t worry–we’ve still got you covered.

Measuring engagement depends on the network, and as you know, there are unique aspects to each one.

We’ll always tell you it’s not a good idea to take them all on at once. Instead, try to find your quintessential networks first. If you’re still not sure, bookmark our social media marketing guide to get your feet wet with each social channel.

Find Your Core Engagement Metrics

Marketers always look for the value of social media, and the No. 1 spot is usually with the data. To ensure your audience is fully engaged, there are some key metrics to track and analyze on a regular basis.

Within Sprout Social, we provide essential analytical reports to best measure your overall engagement across networks. Some of the responsive engagement metrics include:

  • Inbound vs. Replies: The total amount of replies sent versus the total estimated inbound messages within your selected date range.
  • Average Daily Response Rates and Times: This is displayed by day and your overall totals within your selected date range.
  • Time Distribution: This displays the percentages of messages responded to within specific time periods.
  • Response Rate and Time: Totals are also broken out by day of the week and by hour.
Sprout Group Report

Go In-Depth Within Each Network

To go even further, it’s important to dissect each social media channel where you’re present. Know that each network is different and could affect your business in its own unique way.

Common engagement metrics for your social channels, include:

  • Facebook: Organic Likes, Paid Likes, Unlikes, Mentions, Impressions, Post Engagements, Links Clicked, Reactions, Comments and Shares.
  • Twitter: Organic Impressions, Links Clicked, Mentions, Direct Messages, Retweets, Replies and Likes.
  • Instagram: Likes Received (Including Live and Stories), Comments, Engagement per Media and Most Engaged Hashtags.
  • LinkedIn: Impressions, Clicks, Likes, Comments and Shares.

OK, so How Do I Manage All of This?

We feel you–it’s not easy managing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts for a single business. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, you need a way to manage your customers’ inquiries without staring at your social networks and hitting refresh all day.

That’s where we come in. Sprout Social has an easy-to-use Smart Inbox to help manage in-bound messages, @mentions, new followers and brand keywords. To make your engagement strategies form a long-lasting relationship with your customers, ensure managing your social networks is a high priority.

One interaction will not always change the view of those seeing your company. Instead, you have to take action and be ready to give insightful information when customers reach out to your business on social media.

If you have any engagement tips, feel free to comment below!

Update: Instagram made changes to their Graph API in 2018, which may affect functionality mentioned above. Read here for more information