At its core engagement boils down to one key idea. You have to remember that there is a human being on the other end of every tweet, status update, blog post, email or video. If we can view all these things as connection tools first and communication tools second that will make a huge difference. The ideas mentioned below will be far more effective.
1. Cater to Self Interest
One of the biggest mistakes I see in the online world is people making their engagement efforts all about themselves. They talk at their audience instead of with their audience:
- Facebook walls are nothing but a collection of links
- Tweets are all promotions instead of conversation
- Every single email is a sales pitch for a product
All of this is done before any trust is established or any sort of connection is formed. If you haven’t given somebody a reason to care, why should they? The reason certain blogs or brands evolve into movements is because readers and customers feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. They feel like they belong to something that matters. These blogs and brands cater to the self interest of their readers and customers.
2. Ask Questions
The easiest way to cater to self interest and one of the best ways to start a conversation is to ask a question. But you have to keep in mind that people have limited attention spans online and the easier you make it for them to answer, the more likely you are to get a response. Think beyond customer surveys and using social media. Sure you’ll get some data doing that.
But, why not invite 5 or 10 of your best customers to an online chat or even a dinner and ask them questions. Market research companies used to pay small fortunes for focus groups. Set up a small group of brand advocates and involve them in your business and product creation process. Today you have access to these people for a small fraction of what it used to cost. It’s inside these informal conversations that you’ll often discover the real gems of customer information.
3. Answer Questions
Another great way to increase your engagement is to answer questions. There are several different ways to do this.
- Write a blog post for every customer question you’ve been asked
- Compile all of your blog posts which answer FAQ’s into an E-book that people can download for free.
- Host a Q&A call where your customers or readers get to pick your brain for an hour.
- Make the recording available for anybody who couldn’t make it.
3. Co-Create Your Content with Your Audience
One way to dramatically increase engagement is to co-create your content. People are much more likely to engage with something that they helped create.
- Pick a topic or question and crowd source all the answers into a blog post.
- Interview one of your customers or readers and publish it in the form of a case study.
- Have your customers take pictures of themselves using your product or service and upload them to Instagram with the your brand name as the hashtag.
On some level the entire online experience of a brand is co-created. It’s up to you to determine how much you want your readers or customers to be involved in the process.
4. Tell Stories
If you want to make an impression tell stories. It’s the way we’ve communicated since the beginning of time. Stories cause people to remember things. Stories result in an emotional response and people spread emotion.
5. Use Multiple Forms of Content
95% of communication is nonverbal, but so many people limit their content creation efforts and engagement efforts to writing. Don’t forget that a blog is a multiformat platform.
- Audio content enables people to hear your voice
- Video content enables people to hear your voice and see your face
This helps you get beyond that 5% of communication that is just written. It creates a deeper connection with the audience. While video or audio is more time consuming to create, it also has a much longer shelf life. Content with longer shelf life results in increased levels of engagement over the long run.
6. Showcase Your Humanity
Sometimes the simple label of of a brand causes a loss of humanity in content. Remember that you are a human being and that’s what people on the other end of the screen want to feel. Don’t be afraid to get personal on your business page.
- Feel free to share a few nonbusiness related updates. If you’re on vacation somewhere, snap an instagram shot and share it with your fans or followers.
- If you have a community manager, let tim put their name on the end of updates. Look at what Andrea Vahl at Social Media Examiner does for an example.
- If you’ve ever talked to MediaTemple’s tech support on twitter, you’ll notice that somebody initials every tweet. You’re talking to a real person, not just a logo.
Engagement is not about growing the audience, but taking care of the one you already have. That’s how small audiences turn into loyal small armies. Have you found any particular tactics to be incredibly valuable in increasing engagement? Share them in the comments below.