All too often businesses use a push strategy in their social media efforts, sharing out messages to their audience without engaging with their audience at all. To do so is to ignore one of the most effective marketing tools in the marketing arsenal, the power of 1:1 conversations.

Individuals in social media are looking for those connections, even from brands. Twitter in particular seems to be the network we see brands using a push strategy rather than engaging, but it’s not something unique to that channel.

Directly engaging with your customers can be hard, time-consuming and sometimes even expensive. But the rewards — and the ROI — are worth it.

So how do you get started?

Begin with understanding your audience. Watch and listen to not just your followers, but also the types of accounts that you want to have follow you back. See what they are talking about, what they are passionate about, what makes them engage with each other and with other brands. Take note of topics, trigger points to avoid, and what types of conversations get people the most excited.

And while you can take that information to develop more effective content, it will also help you understand how to better engage with your customers and prospects.

Start small. Pick one channel where your audience is most engaged and start there, then expand to other networks as you grow. 

Start talking to your customers. A novel concept, right? Answer questions, thank them when they say nice things about you. 

Moo-1

Sometimes all it takes is a picture to make someone happy.

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Consider re-sharing those nice things with the rest of your audience, in the form of a retweet, for example.

Petco

Be funny. Responding with a funny animated .gif can go a long way to foster engagement. Just be careful that the .gif won’t offend in any way (hint, if you question it at all, don’t use it). Know your audience and be true to your brand voice. Eat24, pictured here, can get away with irreverence whereas it might not go over so well for IBM.

Eat24

Use emojis! Cute but powerful in showing sentiment, these little graphics can boost your message visually and show that your brand cares and/or has a sense of humor.

keurig

Take advantage of #hashtags and jump on the bandwagon for specific holidays, events, or activities.

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Here are a few other ways to think about engaging your audience:

  • Offer value. Provide additional information such as a link to a blog or a book title that corresponds to their inquiry.
  • Ask for reactions. Ask people what they think about things, ranging from the latest news, how they are hunkering down in the upcoming storm or what their weekend plans might be. Tie it in to your brand personality and make sure it sounds authentic as part of the ongoing conversation you are having with your audience.
  • Ask for reviews. This is a tactic that is especially good if you have a loyal base that loves your services and products. Sometimes all you need to do is ask to get people to tell the world how much they love what you are doing. But be ready to respond if they don’t love it; how you are going to make things better or take their words into consideration.
  • Ask for product commentary. Ask your audience for input, perhaps on which color they might prefer for a new product.
  • Conduct polls. Twitter makes this super easy. You can have casual, fun polls or ask serious questions.
  • Live stream videos and respond to comments in realtime. Realtime is where it’s at!

If you are a small team and are wary of doing too much customer support directly within the social channel, prepare a variety of statements (and modify them as you use them to sound authentic to the moment) or images that direct people to the proper channels for having those types of questions answered.

That said, it’s worth thinking about how you can more directly respond to customers right there in those channels. According to Martech Advisor, a study by Aberdeen Group revealed that companies delivering social customer service see an annual financial gain of 7.5 percent, versus only 2.9 percent for brands that don’t. These brands also experience a 5.4 percent increase in social buzz, whereas brands without social customer service don’t experience any gains.

It might sound like a lot of work, but the good news is that this type of engagement is often the most rewarding. Individuals who engage with you on social are likely to trust you more, have deeper loyalty and will be more likely to recommend your products and services to others.

If you are using the HubSpot social tools, you can easily start engaging with your fans and followers directly from the monitoring tool by clicking on conversations, or interactions. You can also use inbox streams to manage your engagements with specific contacts.

Engaging directly with your audience should really be, in more ways than one, the heart of your social media strategy. If you want to start making big advances in driving loyalty, reach and awareness, then get talking in social with your customers, your prospects, and your partners!

Get certified in social media by HubSpot Academy!

Originally published Apr 5, 2018 10:00:00 AM, updated September 11 2018