It should be abundantly clear by now that unless they offer great content, organizations are not going to be able to engage with clients through social media. Recently, we saw that content engagement across social media had dropped by 50 percent in the past three years according to recent research from Buzzsumo. Julianne Coyne, SEO Manager at Austin, Texas-based Volusion, summed up the problem as one where private sharing is now more prevalent than public sharing, resulting in lower organic reach on networks like Facebook. 

Alex Novkov, content lead at Kanbanize, agrees with Coyne, but believes there are two factors that will determine whether content will be effective in encouraging engagement, or not. “There are two major factors that will determine whether your content is engaging: First having an active community of followers; Second, addressing real pain points. If one of these two is missing, you'll have a hard time sustaining engagement across your profiles,” he said.

He also argues, as a result, that before sharing post after post, marketers need to know their potential clientele and their pain points. He suggests marketers join niche groups and forums, and research their audience. Afterward, they should create content that is really going to be of value to the users. “Following this recipe, you'll be able to both grow your audience by attracting engaged people and keep the discussion going across your channels,” he said.  There are five steps markers can take to improve their performance.

Build Communities

John Kalis, is VP of U.S. Business Development for indaHash, a global marketing technology platform. He says the first thing organizations need to do is build communities and that there is a current misconception that engagement is all about producing great content. Many will talk about the content side and how brands should poll their audiences on what they want to see and A/B test images and other elements. The fundamental flaw here is that brands often expect great content to deliver massive engagement. “As a result, brands believe that it’s all about ‘follow’ count and ‘likes’. In today’s fast moving social driven world, interactions are overlooked, and we simply engage with a 'like' or a 'follow'. The key for brands is to engage in conversation with their audiences and fans. The idea of building community is a two-way street, not a one-way conversation with brands expecting all the love and engagement to come from a beautiful picture or well written piece of content. You cannot just post and sit back today,” he said.  

Brands need to be engaging with their fans, building true community, trust, and loyalty. He said that if someone asks a question, provide them with an answer or at least guide them in the right direction. If someone shares a counter opinion or comments negatively to a post, Kalis suggests opening a dialogue with that follower. This idea of engaging back with your audience effectively sparks more conversations and can even drive up post rankings to beat the new Facebook algorithm.

Related Story: Why Social Media Is So Addictive (And Why Marketers Should Care)

Use Real Time Data

One way of creating engaged communities is providing them with real-time data, according to Nick Bell, Chicago-based Cision’s vice president of Marketing Communications and Content. Cision is global public relations and earned media software and services company. With countless brands striving to stand out amongst their competitors, it's no longer enough to simply have active social media pages with consistent posts, he said. To optimize social media content engagement there needs to be an understanding of consumer data and an integrated approach to earned, paid and owned media, which will lead to strategic content creation that generates results. “When it comes to understanding consumer data, we know more today about a brand's targeted audience than ever before due to technological tools. Such tools demonstrate how social audiences engage with a brands' original content and unique brand story,” Bell said.

This real-time data provides audience-based insights on preferences and interests across a wide range of demographics. This information can demonstrate who you should be targeting across social media channels and how to market to fans and followers in the most efficient ways possible.

Additionally, an integrated approach can provide gained insights derived from earned and paid media to influence social media strategies for better performance. Such insights reveal the roadmap for personalized social outreach, which makes a huge impact to a business' bottom line. Finding synergy and leveraging data across all three channels will result in meaningful social media activity that drives engagement.

As a final thought, he points out that strategic content creation is possible if marketers assess what type of content their audience is interacting with to determine what works best via social media. This is vital nowadays, as consumers are expecting content that is personalized, interactive and visually appealing.

Learning Opportunities

Practice Engagement Building

With Facebook’s recent change in algorithm, the only way marketers can ensure page ‘likes’ and views is through audience engagement, according to Sowndarya Kishore, Content and Social Media Manager at Dallas-based Social Animal. She defines social engagement as follows. When someone likes what you post or share, they react to it in various ways. They might comment, share or choose one of the emotions that they think is appropriate for that post. This is called audience engagement. When you monitor how people engage and think of strategies to engage more people, you are thinking of audience engagement management. Before trying to engage your audience, you need to check the following tasks off your list:

  1. Do you have a clear idea of who your target audience is? (Define age groups, location and interests)
  2. How can you help your audience? (Define how you wish to impart what you know about a product/commodity/field/interest)
  3. How do you convey your message? (What are the types of posts you post/share?)

Once you have done that, there are several ways of improving it.  Here Kishore shares some ways.

  1. Use the element of surprise to their advantage. People are naturally curious and when you post questions or facts that tingles the reader’s interest, they are automatically drawn to what you have to say.
  2. Spy on your competitors. Peek at what’s working for them as they might work for you too. Competitor research is more important than you think. And when done right, the findings from your research might work wonders.
  3. Create posts that encourage click throughs.
  4. Keep posting content that is updated. People don’t really want to look at things that aren’t trending.

“While the above suggestions might not guarantee an immediate increase, do remember that to engage an audience, it takes time and careful planning,” Kishore said.

Related Story: Think Social Media is Technology? You May Want to Think Again

Be Adaptable

Lizz Venanzi is online marketing manager at Sparq Designs, a Wexford, Pa.-based marketing agency. Speaking about the change in the Facebook algorithm, she said that there should be no before the algorithm change or after the algorithm change. Being a part of the digital world is all about being adaptable. You need to adapt to when a new platform takes over (i.e. the rise in Snapchat). Adaptability is a key factor in your online marketing success. “In regard to the newest Facebook algorithm change and the importance of authentic engaging content, think of your brand/business as a person. Change your voice to be less factual and more conversational (and no I don't mean comment-bating). I am talking human to human interaction. The ideal goal for any brand is to create a personal interaction,” she said.

Create and Use More Relevant Video

Even if the recent algorithm changes announced by Facebook have made it harder for brands to get noticed organically, businesses can take proactive measures to increase engagement on their posts, according to Lisa Lerman, digital marketing specialist at West Des Moines, Iowa-based social and media marketing company Blue Compass. “Research and experience show us that posts including photos and videos have much better engagement rates. When including a video, shorter is usually better. We typically recommend keeping video between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. Make sure to include captions whenever possible, because according to Digiday, as much as 85 percent of Facebook videos are watched without sound," she said.

Along with including visuals, the best way to increase engagement is to share content that your audience is interested in and pay attention to when they’re engaging. Users want to see content they find valuable, not self-promotion business videos. Spend time researching your audience and reviewing high-performing posts to see what content has worked in the past and what time of the day posts perform best.