This article will discuss social media engagement and the psychology behind it. Any marketer would agree that it is vital to understand your customers. However, it all depends on whether or not you understand how your customers think. Your digital marketing strategy needs to be guided by your answers to some questions.
What do your target customers need? You need to know exactly what they want. How can you influence their decision-making process? Social media engagement may come in the form of click-activated reactions. For example, the Facebook like button. Alternatively it may come in the form of shares such as retweets on Twitter. Or, it could come in the form of regrams on Instagram. In addition, it may come from responses such as comments on your LinkedIn status updates.
Engagement is expected on social media. However, the level of engagement tends to vary. This is based on a number of factors. Ones that may or may not be within your control. You will notice that not all of your updates will be a success. You will see that some will generate more engagement than others.
Here’s the burning question. What is it that prompts your social media followers to engage with you via your updates?
Social Media Engagement Rules
In the book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’. The author, Robert Cialdini identifies seven key things that encourage persuasion. Generating engagement on social media is primarily about persuading your audience to respond to you. Therefore, a close examination of these seven crucial factors may help you. It may help you to identify important things. For example, what motivates an online user to engage with you or your business on social media.
Weapons of Influence (Social Selling)
As Simon Sinek famously said in his TED talk on leadership, “start with why”. You need to give your audience a clear reason to engage. Once you do, I guarantee you that they will. “Give a reason” does not just mean the usual calls-to-action or questions.
In fact, too many questions may even have a negative effect on your engagement rate. However, I will delve deeper into that shortly. You need to talk about the significance of your offerings. In addition to how they can be of help to your target market.
The only thing that differs you from your competitors, is you. Share your why story. Tell them why you do what you do and why you are so passionate about doing it.
Reciprocity (Relationship Building)
Cialdini argues that, at our core, we hate owing someone a debt. Whether it is of gratitude or of a financial nature. The idea is that we are likely to grab any opportunity that gets us out of that perceived debt as quickly as possible. Even if it means doing something we would not regularly do.
A good example of this is the unspoken “I’ll follow you, then you follow me” strategy. This is employed by many beauty brands on Instagram. They monitor hashtags related to their industry. Then they follow the accounts of people who use them.
This is a form of profiling in itself. This is because it banks on the likelihood of people who use those particular hashtags to be interested in what you are offering.
Commitment and Consistency (Content Marketing)
In the same way we hated to be in debt, we also have a strong dislike to breaking promises. It always leaves us with a nasty feeling whenever we commit to something we eventually neglect to do. The usual result of avoiding that is to remain true to our commitment. In a way, this is another observable phenomenon on social media. If you do not post consistent updates, your followers are likely to forget about you or even unfollow you.
Another example is the Twitter account of the US fast food chain ‘Wendy’s’. It made headlines in 2017. This was because of their social media manager’s snappy comebacks at competitors and even customers. A lot of people followed that account. They did so because they wanted to read those updates for themselves. Some even tried to get responses from Wendy’s (often giving hilarious results).
There is a fascinating snowball effect. One which you can observe on your most popular updates. The more people that like and share your Facebook update, the higher the chances that other users will follow suit. Cialdini explains that people are influenced by what others do in their immediate surroundings. The environment of social media is no different.
This is also why there is such a thing as thought leadership. People who build up their credibility and reputation are more likely to accumulate followers. Ones who adhere and listen to the ideas they advocate.
Liking (Personal Branding and Storytelling)
This is where the personal branding comes in. Customers are more likely to engage with a brand that has a distinct identity that they can relate to. Brands with a face feel far more real, like a breathing human being.
We tend to gravitate towards people and things that reflect the views, values, interests and beliefs which we perceive to be vital and positive. You must know your audience. Tailor your brand identity to your audience. In addition, engage in storytelling and watch your engagement rise.
Authority (Thought Leadership)
Let’s go back to the example of thought leadership earlier. As a thought leader, you are also perceived as a person of authority. This is a credible source of information whom your followers can trust.
With this kind of reputation, you can enjoy a higher level of engagement. It could be from fans who share your insights with the rest of their network. Or it could be the ones who ask you questions to find out your views. Alternatively, it could be the ones who recommend course of action or click the like button to silently agree with what you are saying. In other words, as an authority, you would have no problem establishing and facilitating a conversation between yourself and your audience.
Scarcity has an impact on engagement. For example, when you post limited-time offers or contests on your page. People are more likely to ask questions, join your contest or directly buy your products. This is because they know that they are working within a limited time frame. So, create a sense of scarcity. This will in turn create a sense of urgency.
Social Media Engagement Tactics that Work
Updates that trigger an emotional response
Post updates which make your audience feel something. A car brand that posts dramatic advertisements for an awareness campaign on driving safely is a good example. This is because the ads can create an emotional response from its followers. The followers feel touched by such posts and engage with them. They share or comment on them.
- Relevant questions for your target audience
You can put up a poll, ask your followers about their opinions on a specific issue. Alternatively, you could turn it into a giveaway or contest.
A sense of humour
You can share funny images, memes, jokes or humorous articles. Ones that your typical followers can appreciate. Be warned that there is such a thing as too much. Particularly when it comes to sharing humorous content. So, if you want to be taken seriously in business, do not over do it.
A contrarian point of view
Present an opinion on a hot topic that runs contrary to the opinions of the majority. Do not be scared to receive negative comments. Don’t be frightened to receive dissenting opinions. They all still count as engagement.
Tell a story with your updates. On platforms such as Facebook, where there is no character limit, you are free to write long status updates. This gives your followers more insight about yourself. On Twitter, the workaround is to post a series of tweets. Ones that connect to form more contextualised thoughts. Either way, your updates have to be compelling. Remember to share information with your audience in a unique way.
Newsworthy content and updates
You can pull news updates related to your industry from credible sources. Then, share them on your social profiles. You can also provide updates to your followers about the latest events at your company.
A consistent presence
Responding to comments and messages is an absolute must. This is so your audience is aware that you are paying attention to them and their inquiries. Keep your social media engagement alive by actually being there.
Having a healthy mix of content topics and formats
Do not be scared to mix it up. Keep your audience interested. You can share content on a wide variety of topics (from personal to business). Add different voices (from inspirational to aspirational). You can also use storytelling techniques (text updates, visual marketing and images).
Include a call-to-action
Simply put: If you want people to take a specific action, tell them what that action is. As much as possible, be direct without being too blunt. In addition, do not come across as desperate. You want people to comment? Well, invite them to comment. However, provide something decent for them to comment on in the first place.
Content that inspires emotion typically generates more social media engagement. The same goes for anything that makes people laugh. However, ensure that you are sensitive about what is suitable and what may be crossing the line. Overall, a strong social media presence and better engagement can only come from a good and consistent content marketing strategy.