How to Keep Social Media Followers Engaged

You have to be on social media to survive in business today. Unfortunately, most people don't know how to keep their followers engaged once they've drawn them in.

Experts say you should think of it like a personal relationship: You need to be both trustworthy and a good conversationalist. They liken it to starting a conversation with the person in front of you at the supermarket, who would deem you a weirdo if you just kept shoving advertisements in their face.

"The most common mistake that brands are currently making on social media is that they are selling 90 percent of the time and giving value 10 percent of the time, when they should be doing the exact opposite," says Drew Larison, social media marketing director at Web Success Agency in Kokomo, Ind. and West Palm Beach, Fla. "Your Facebook page isn't a billboard, and a lot of brands use it for that very purpose."

To keep fans engaged on social media, you need common sense and these handy tips from online gurus:

Don't be lame
Besides a barrage of promotions, steer clear of posts built for industry insiders and boring info that will never generate conversation. "No one shares mediocre content," says Larison. "Create amazing content that if you were the end user you would share." Link to cool tidbits relevant to your company or share humorous anecdotes about your business.

It's not about you
In some ways, social media conversations are one sided. While you need to participate in the talk sometimes, you should not be posting stuff that's just for you or the company. Save that for the company newsletter. Instead, find out who is following you with a tool such as Facebook Insights and learn about their interests by paying attention to what they're posting, says Dominik Vacikar, who is in marketing at Nestpick in Rotterdam.

To insure variety and interest, Nestpick only allows a certain number of posts per week to be about the company and its products. Instead, says Vacikar, they sprinkle their postings with motivational quotes, photos that are taken in house, and other more general news items.

Make a game of it
Take polls or ask trivia questions to get people to participate. For example, if there is a FIFA soccer game on, you can post a picture of both teams' logos and ask your fans to vote for the best team, suggests David Ring, a marketing assistant for Computer Market Research in San Diego. A 'Share' would indicate one team, and a 'Like' would indicate the other. Remember, people use social media both to get news and information, but also for entertainment. Make sure you aren't taking yourself too seriously.

Post photos
Photos, videos, and infographics catch the eye of social media visitors and are a great way to get people interested in your company. "Entice potential customers with visuals," says Phil Pallen, brand strategist at Phil Pallen Collective, LLC in Santa Monica, Calif. "Photos consistently drive higher engagements on nearly every social platform out there, and there's research to prove it. According to Social Bakers, 87 percent of a Facebook page's interactions happen on photo posts."

Talk back
Everyone wants to be heard. Fans whose comments go unaddressed likely won't participate again. So, be responsive. Answer questions, ask questions, and keep the conversation flowing when others aren't adding their two cents. "Think of tweets and comments as a potential customer calling you on the phone," says Larison. "You're not just going to let it go to voice mail are you?"

Your human touch will win the day, even with this technology. "Be conversational and real in your posts and people will respond to you accordingly," says Jeff Kear, owner of Planning Pod in Denver. "If you try to sound too corporate or proper, people will smell you out fast and ignore your posts." In other words, refrain from being a corporate machine because social media won't have it.

This article originally appeared on MBAprograms.org

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