When It Comes to Social Media, Double Down on Engagement (And Forget Follower Counts)


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Since the rise of Facebook, social media has changed many times, and so have the strategies that brands use.

What used to be a game about who has the most followers has shifted to how much your followers engage with your brand.

Instead of worrying about how many people follow your account, you should worry about how often they interact with you.

There are several ways to increase your engagement numbers, but first you must understand what “social engagement” means and why it’s so important.

Below is a thorough explanation of social media engagement and what it can do for your brand. We also break down some methods for increasing engagement.

When it comes to social media, engagement is far more important than pumping up your follower count. This image of a computer screen with various social media icons surrounding it reminds us that creating connections is what social media is really all about.

What Is Social Media Engagement?

Think of engagement like a conversation between two people — one person says something, and then the other responds.

When you post something, you start a conversation with your followers, and when they like, share, or comment, they are talking back — they are engaging.

All the following actions would be considered engagement on social media:

  • Liking a post (usually a thumbs up or heart icon)
  • Sharing a post (this includes retweeting)
  • Commenting on a post (this usually indicates a high level of engagement)

Social media posts also track impressions, but these don’t mean much.

Basically, an impression is when someone looked at your post and kept scrolling. The person didn’t engage with your post; they just gave it a quick glance and moved on.

Unlike impressions, engagement matters because it means that people are interacting with your brand and what you have to say.

A like is always appreciated, but shares, comments, and clicking on the provided link are the gold standard. People who comment online are a tiny percentage of the population, but if they are commenting on your post, it means they found something of value.

Get the organic social media ebook

Types of Engagement on Social Media

This is how followers can engage with you:

  • Sharing your posts
  • Commenting on your posts
  • Tagging a friend in your posts
  • Clicking on the provided link (also known as clicking through)
  • Mentioning you on their own posts by tagging you
  • Watching a video you shared

Shares mean that more people outside your network are looking at your post, and that might convert to a follow, which can lead more people engaging with your brand (and, ultimately, a sale).

Finally, click-throughs are the cream of the crop because that means people liked your post so much that they visited your website; they maybe even purchased something or asked for a quote.

Mentions and tags are other ways that people can engage with your brand, but that’s mostly out of your hands — still, when it happens, it may be an opportunity for you to reach out to the person tagged and help them get to know your brand.

Social media is about forming a relationship with someone who might become a customer in the future. The more engaged someone is, the more likely they are to think about you when it’s time to make a purchase.

Social media is often the first step in what may become a long-term relationship. Social media engagement can lead to website visits, email signups, or even service/product inquiries.

Social media and engagement strategies can be different depending on your company. Companies who are B2C have a larger group of potential buyers (and thus a larger chance for engagement), while B2B companies usually operate in a niche where the pool of potential customers is necessarily small.

Learn more about social media marketing for B2B

Engagement is a Two-Way Street

Engagement goes both ways, so don’t forget to engage with other brands in your industry. You don’t have to interact with competing brands, but if you own a yoga studio, then it’s a good idea to engage with brands who sell yoga products.

This can lead to:

  • Partnerships
  • Shoutouts
  • Endorsements
  • Sponsorships

It doesn’t hurt to be friendly to other brands that share the same values and ideas, and it might actually help your bottom line.

This should go without saying, but if a follower posts about you or comments on your post, make sure to reply if you can. People love it when brands communicate with them. It builds trust and loyalty between both parties.

It’s not always feasible to reply to everyone, but it’s important to do your best to respond to every inquiry, even if it takes a while. You wouldn’t ignore a phone call about your services if it meant a potential sale — treat social media comments or messages the same way.

Why Followers Are No Longer as Important

It used to be that followers were the end-all-be-all of social media, and brands did everything  — shady or not — to get the highest number of followers possible.

That’s no longer the case because many social media companies have reduced organic reach to entice companies to pay for advertising. Essentially, this means that anything you post is only reaching a small number of your followers, further reducing the value of having a high follower count.

If your focus is on organic social media (unpaid social media), your social media game is going to be more effective if you focus not on posting constantly, but rather on engaging with followers who are already engaged (and engaging with other brands who are going to appreciate your input).

A large following is meaningless if the followers aren’t all engaged and aren’t seeing all your posts anyway.

Think of it like this — if you know 200 hundred people but only 3 show up to your birthday party, then what’s the point of knowing so many people? Social media is the same — having over 10,000 followers will not do you any good if those followers aren’t engaged (or aren’t seeing your posts in the first place).

Ultimately, the goal of social media is for people to visit your website, buy something, or ask for a quote. If your followers aren’t even engaging with your posts, then they won’t engage with your business.

Whether you are big or small, sell cameras or tables, or focus on Twitter or Instagram, your social media strategy should have engagement as one of its biggest priorities. The goal is to have a high rate of interaction between your followers and your posts. A small follower count is valuable if the followers are highly engaged.

Don’t get me wrong — you still need followers, but don’t waste your efforts on ballooning your following. Obviously, without followers, there is no one to engage with your posts, but it shouldn’t be your main focus. Instead, the focus should be on getting those followers engaged in the first place (and engaging on your own with other brands to invite them to return the favor).

Learn more about the benefits of being unselfish on social media

Social Media Tips and Strategies

If you want to increase your return on the time and money you’re spending on social media, consider following these strategies (we’ll dive into each suggestion below):

  1. Don’t sit around and wait for people to come to you
  2. Don’t buy bots
  3. Be patient — success doesn’t happen overnight
  4. Get to know your audience
  5. Post frequently
  6. Respond to your followers
  7. Engage with followers with these tools/strategies
    1. Conduct polls
    2. Conduct quizzes
    3. Run giveaways
    4. Be funny
    5. Comment on current affairs

Let’s dive into each of these

Learn more about what NOT to do on social media

Simply Existing Is no Longer a Good Strategy

When sites like Facebook and Twitter first came out, the only objective of brands was to claim their name and fill out a portion of their profile, and for a while, sitting around and waiting for people to come to them worked.

Small businesses, like restaurants, would only have a location and store hours available for customers, and major brands were content with just providing a link to their website.

Today, simply existing on social media isn’t good enough anymore. If you want to convert followers into customers, you’ll have to work on it.

The days of posting once a week are over. Users of social media can smell a lousy profile from a page away. No one wants to visit a profile that was last updated a month ago and whose consistency is as reliable as a rainy day in Texas.

People want to see a page that’s updated every day, and sometimes, depending on the platform, multiple times a day.

Updating your social media profile continually shows people you care. People want to know that you’re available if they have a question. The more active you are on your pages, the higher the chances are of new followers engaging with your brand and your content.

But you definitely have to exist… ignoring social media isn’t something you can get away with these days either.

Bots Are Not the Answer

So, you started a business and opened a few social media pages and realized that acquiring a following is actually harder than it seems. You might even look online to find answers and social media tips, and someone will suggest buying fake followers — also known as bots.

That is a big red flag.

Sure, you might balloon your page to a couple of thousand (or a couple hundred thousand) followers, but no one will like, comment, or share your posts…

Because they’re not real — they’re robots.

And even if they do, it will be automated and without meaning.

The main reason people buy followers is because they want to appear to be successful by having a huge following. So when people visit and they see a huge following, they think it’s a good page, but in reality, the whole thing is fake.

Other times, these bots will engage with posts, and it might trick social media platforms into thinking the content is really good when it isn’t, which then ranks the post higher in people’s feeds.

This practice of fake it ’til you make it is disingenuous and can backfire. Your account could be suspended for buying or using bots.

With bots, you can have a party full of guests but none who will talk to you or interact in a meaningful way (or actually buy something).

Your best bet is to grow your audience slowly and to be consistent, and before you know it, you will have a loyal following. You want the kind of following that is genuinely interested in your brand and the services or products you provide.

Recently, sites like Twitter have cracked down on bots and deleted them from the platform, which caused a decline in following for many prominent accounts.

Sometimes, bots follow pages for no reason at all, but stay away from buying bots or likes because it’s just a waste of money. While social media is an important part of a marketing strategy, you shouldn’t cheat to get a good result (it won’t work anyway).

Why you can’t ignore social media anymore

Social Media Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Most companies are not happy with their current social media engagement strategy because they expect social media to explode overnight, or they aren’t focusing on the right things.

Unless you are already a well-known brand like Adidas, success won’t happen immediately. If you’re trying to grow an organic following, then that’ll take some time, but once your following is big enough, you’ll realize that these are the people who will engage with your content.

People will slowly begin to trust your brand, and once you have their loyalty, they’ll tell their friends and family about you (or, at the very least, share about you on social media, which is essentially the same thing in many ways).

This sort of organic growth leads to site visits and purchases. Just hang in there, follow some of these tips, and you’ll see your following and engagement start to grow.

The Basics of Engagement on Social Media

The first step in crafting a social media engagement strategy is knowing who you want to sell to — the type of people who would be most interested in your products or services. Essentially, this boils down to figuring out who your audience is, but there’s more to it than that.

Not everyone with a wallet is a potential customer, so you should focus your efforts on people who find value in the products or services you offer. Finding an audience can be hard, but our customer persona templates can help you get started.

Selling a product can be darn near impossible when you don’t know who you’re selling to. Knowing your audience is integral to your sales strategy, but it’ll also help you develop your social media strategy. What you post and how you post depends a lot on the audience, and it can change drastically depending on factors like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Education
  • Location
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Religion

The great thing about social media is that all kinds of people, from all walks of life, have accounts. Still it’s not feasible to sell to everyone at all times—what this means is that, if you stay true to your brand, someone who resonates with you and what you do will find you.

If you’re a niche brand that sells imported Indonesian coffee, you probably wouldn’t appeal teenagers. Instead, people in their mid-20’s to 40’s who don’t mind spending a little more for a quality cup of joe are more likely to interact with you.

It’s not possible to be everywhere at all times, or to sell to a majority of the population; finding an audience on social media is the same. It’s easy to think that anyone with a social media account is part of your audience, but it’s important to go after the people who respond positively to your products and services so that you don’t waste your time.

Get a customer persona template now

Measuring Social Media Engagement

How do you measure engagement on social media?


Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, have their own analytics tools that can help you track what’s working and what isn’t.

You can view stats like overall likes, shares, and comments, and even look at the success of individual posts. The analytics pages usually have graphs that make it easier to grasp the overall success of your social media engagement strategy.

Social media scheduling platforms like Sprouts Social or Hootsuite have their own analytics pages that are usually more in-depth, and they offer even more visual aids that break down the information in a more digestible, and more straightforward, manner.

Of course, social media marketing strategies are not a scientific formula that can be easily replicated for every brand, but taking a look at your analytics pages is vital. Dive in to see what posts your followers engage with the most or the least, and you’ll have a better understanding of your audience.

Why You Need to Post Frequently if You Want to Dominate on Social Media

This is one of the simplest of all social media tips:

Post frequently.

The more people who see your posts, the higher the chances are that they’ll engage with you.

Frequency can mean different things on different social media platforms, but you should at least post once a day on every platform you’re active on.

  • For Facebook, a couple of times a day is fine; anything more and you run the risk of looking spammy and losing followers.
  • On Twitter, you can get away with posting multiple times a day, but don’t get carried away either.
  • On Instagram, it’s more about quality than it is about quantity; make sure that your posts are visually captivating.

The National Geographic Instagram page posts more than once a day — a breakaway from the normal one-post-per-day schedule —  but their images are so stunning that users don’t mind, and because of their high-quality images, they garner tons of user engagement.

Obviously, National Geographic is well-established, but it’s good to take note and try to replicate some of their methods.

Finally, users like to interact with brands that seem like they are always available, even if you post just once a day. Be consistent, and people won’t forget who you are, but don’t overdo it.

This article from CoSchedule breaks down frequency even further. It’s also a great idea to engage with other brands and share their content with your users. You never know what might lead to a partnership between two awesome brands.

Learn more about social media marketing for manufacturing companies

Customer Service as a Social Media Engagement Strategy

Social Media Managers are the new customer service representatives of a brand. Most people today expect to have their questions answered quickly on social media.

A recent poll by Sprout Social found that, of all the ways a customer could contact a brand for support, social media ranked above all else, including 1-800 numbers and email. For customers, it’s easier to type out a short tweet and ask a question about a product or complain about a defective product.

These customers expect to be answered promptly, so it’s up to the social media team to respond as quickly as possible. This is one form of engagement that builds trust and loyalty with your followers because your responsiveness, and willingness to help, will not go unnoticed.

Let’s say you sell pet supplies online, and someone buys a ceramic food bowl for their pet. When they receive the bowl, it might be chipped or cracked, so the first thing they might do is write a tweet about their experience and mention your company, but all you need to do is reply promptly with an apology and ask to continue the conversation privately.

Engaging with a customer goes a long way, and it shows that you care.

Using Social Listening Tools

It’s essential to have your ear to the ground, but you can’t be everywhere at once. Knowing when a customer is praising or complaining about you is crucial, which is why there are social listening tools.

For example, you can set a google alert for your company name, and if a newspaper or online publication writes about you, then you’ll get a notification.

If you want to stay on top of what people are saying about your products, your competitors, or if you just want to keep up with specific keywords, then try one of these social listening tools. Now you won’t have to wonder what people are saying about you when you’re not around.

Growing Your Community

Having a solid community is the bedrock of being successful on social media.

A community is a group of people who buy your products, engage constantly, and are loyal to your brand.

These are the people who talk to their friends and family about your brand, and they’re the first ones to buy your products. There are lots of reasons why someone might join your community, but here are a few:

  • They love your products
  • You have great content
  • They admire you
  • Your brand speaks to them
  • You’re funny
  • You give away awesome prizes

Growing your community will take some time, but you’ll have deeply loyal customers who love what you do.

Content Marketing

One of the best ways to get people to your site and to get them talking on social media is through the use of content marketing.

By offering something useful, and of value, to your followers, they are more likely to comment on your post or tag friends who might be interested in the content.

Maybe the article offers some insight into a new trend and people want to discuss, disagree, or join in on the conversation.

Types of content marketing:

  • Articles
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks
  • Tutorials
  • Whitepapers

This kind of social media engagement may not directly lead to a sale, but it fixes you in the minds of your readers as a reliable source of information. They are more likely to think of you when they’re ready to purchase (instead of your competition).

Sharing informative content from other places may be of value to your followers too, but when you share your own content, you get eyeballs on your website, and ultimately, that is the goal. Try to share 80/20 other people’s useful content/your useful content. Sharing too much of your own stuff comes across as selfish.

Just like email marketing and cold-calling, social media can be the first step in making a sale.


Big brands with large budgets have a rotation of influencers who promote their brand, services, or products, but hiring a well-known influencer may not be feasible for smaller brands.

With a surge of micro-influencers in recent years, it seems like there are more influencers than brands to promote, but still, not all of them are the same.

Smaller companies should aim for micro-influencers who have a small, but very dedicated, following.

A friend of mine writes for some prominent outdoor publications and keeps his Instagram, his preferred social media platform, at around 2000 followers.

His audience is small, but his engagement is impressive because he grew his following slowly and organically. Brands love working with my friend because he often gets better results with only a fraction of the followers of much bigger influencers.

Another benefit of working with micro-influencers is that they don’t demand big paychecks, and often enough, a shoutout or free product is all the payment they need.

As more and more individuals attain a following, brands will have no problem finding the right micro-influencer to speak on their behalf.

Get a customer persona template now

Using Humor to Increase Engagement

Humor, especially on Twitter, can go a long way, and that’s because people love a good a laugh; they like to share it with friends and family even more.

Wendy’s, the burger chain, is notorious for its jokes, quick wit, and humorous brand voice. Humor may not work for every brand out there, but if your social media manager has a good sense of humor and it aligns with your brand voice, then why not?

Give it a shot, and those laughs may become visits to your website.

A few months ago, the Twitter pages for Cheetos and Burger King had a hilarious exchange about a new product, and after I was done laughing, commenting, and sharing, I wanted to try the product.

The product was the Flamin’ Hot Mac and Cheetos, and I was there the next day making a purchase; don’t judge. (They were just okay.)

The point is, if humor is done correctly, it can work. Still, be careful when choosing which topics to joke about as the Twitter mob loves nothing more than going after somebody who messed up. Keep your jokes in good taste and be considerate of others.

There is, however, a huge potential downside to joking about the wrong things, and it can hurt your brand if you mess up badly, so make sure to research whatever topic you’ll be commenting on.

The last thing you want is for an insensitive joke to ruin your relationship with your audience and turn into a PR nightmare.

Commenting on Trending Topics

When something that’s even remotely tied to your industry is trending, it’s sometimes a good idea to weigh in. Sometimes people haven’t heard about the topic, and they have opinions too, so it offers an excellent opportunity for engagement and conversation.

It’s probably not a good idea to comment on every single topic, but if you feel like your followers would respond to it, and you’re knowledgable about it, then go with your gut.

For example, if you sell gourmet dog treats, and it’s national puppy day, then it might be a great time to let the world know. Trending topics reach a much wider audience than you do, so you have the potential of reaching some new people who have never heard of your brand. This can combine well with a discount code, a poll, or a quiz to inspire engagement.

Polls and Quizzes

Most platforms now give you the option to post polls or quizzes — this is a great way to increase social media engagement.

Consider quizzing your followers on industry-related topics or asking them a question about your products or services.

For example, you could ask which new product your company should focus on next or if they liked the newest iteration of your product line.

Making your audience feel as if they have a say in your decision-making process can only positively impact your relationship with them.

Valuing the opinion of your followers will improve the trust between both parties, and it’s easy enough that most followers with an interest in the topic will choose their favorite.

It doesn’t matter too much what the quiz is about, but it has to be engaging enough that people will want to participate. You can quiz or poll your followers about your brand, or about something completely different. The point is that you want people to engage, and it’s easier than you might think to come up with an engaging quiz or poll.

A social media manager I know uses quizzes and polls frequently on Instagram stories — she typically gets massive participation.

Polls and quizzes on sites like Twitter and Facebook are not as popular as they once were, but using it occasionally is not a bad idea. Ask your followers for their opinion, and because this is the internet after all, you’ll get it.


Giveaways are one of the best ways to not only increase your followers, but to also drive up engagement. A few months ago, the company I was working for did a giveaway for a drone, and our following jumped by 5000, but the most important part was how many people were coming to our website and creating accounts.

The beauty of giveaways is that, if you’re giving away something awesome, people will go out of their way to try and win.

Still, you need to have a plan to keep these followers engaged once the giveaway is over — people who follow you or sign up to get something free are initially loyal to the free stuff (and not to you). You still have to convince them you’re worth following, but the bar to keeping them around has been lowered.

Most of the time, people sign up for a giveaway and forget the brand right away, so you need to introduce yourself to these new followers and engage with them.

Some of the followers who stay will do so because they hope there will be more giveaways in the future. As they wait for the next giveaway, they will get to know your brand over time — be patient.

Using services like Gleam can help you track useful data about your new followers and help you strengthen your strategy for future giveaways.

For the first few giveaways, keep your budget low, but don’t be cheap either. Below are some ways you can save money and still create a badass giveaway.

  • Partner with other brands so they can pitch in
  • Ask brands to buy product from them at cost
  • Give away your own products
  • Give away lower-cost items more frequently
  • Ask followers for images or video relating to the giveaway, which you can then use as content for future posts

Get a customer persona template now

Social Media Engagement Is Not a Science: It’s an Art

Throughout the course of managing your social media pages, you’ll develop your own methods and strategies because every brand is different — not one size fits all.

However, all the social engagement strategies mentioned above should help you understand where to start and where to focus your efforts, especially if you’re a small brand.

Whether you own a lawn mowing company or sell light bulbs, you should be able to have a social page with decent engagement. In the end, all you need to do is be attentive and figure out what your audience wants.

Even brands that have high engagement numbers and tons of followers had to start somewhere, but you’re already one step ahead of where they were when they started.

Now that you’ve got social media down, take your marketing to the next level — check out all our advanced marketing tools and templates in the resource center.

Adam Fout

Adam Fout is an addiction / recovery / mental health blogger at adamfout.com and a speculative fiction / nonfiction writer. He has an M.A. in Professional and Technical Communication and is a regular contributor to Recovery Today Magazine (https://recoverytodaymagazine.com). He has been published in Flash Fiction Online, superstition [review], and J Journal, among others.

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