Social media is everywhere. It drives everything from our personal relationships to how we feel about brands. We interact with people we know and love (or tolerate) on social media. But we also interact with the businesses we patronize and the customers who patronize our businesses.
In 2024, every rise of social commerce pizza place, laser tag arena, deli, bar, and hotel has a presence on social media. But just being on social media isn’t enough for your business. With all this competition, posting content and hoping that it works isn’t going to cut it. As we just said, everyone has social media, including your competitors.
The way to stand out from the crowd is by dedicating yourself to driving more social media engagement on your platforms.
But what is social media engagement? And how can you optimize your social media strategy to boost it? That’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.
What is social media engagement?
The rise of social commerce is changing the way brands sell and engage with their consumers. Shopping through various social media platforms is also made possible thanks to social engagement.
Social media engagement is simply the likes, shares, and comments that you receive on your social media pages. Social media engagement occurs when members of your audience interact with your posts. This isn’t a measure of how many followers you have but rather how your followers directly interact with you.
Engagement could also be a conversion, a click-through to your website, a newsletter sign-up, a contest submission, a mention, or any other meaningful interaction with your target audience.
That means a business with 100,000 followers who don’t interact could see less social media success than a business with 10,000 followers who regularly engage with posts.
What drives social media engagement?
Social media engagement is how you win the social media war. It’s why so many businesses have taken to hiring employees full-time to manage their social media accounts. They’re not creating posts meant to generate more followers per se. They’re creating posts meant to generate comments, likes, and shares.
In order to get engagement on social media pages, it is important to give it as well. Engagement is not something that just happens, most of the time it is a result of time and effort put into creating a relationship with the people on the platform. Find users that fit the target audience and give them a follow, message them or like and comment on their posts. There are features that are there to help find accounts to engage with.
For example, use location tags to connect with consumers that are in a certain area. Hashtags are also a good way to get your content in front of the target audience. Our mobile devices have made it easier to engage because now we can do it from anywhere at any time.
Connor MacDonald, The Ridge Wallet
But what drives this engagement?
There are a few tried and true engagement drivers that help social media marketers interact directly with followers:
- Responding to comments
- Asking questions
- Posting statistics
- Running contests
- Using stories and Reels to hype important events
- Directing website users to social media platforms
- And many other actions that we will cover below
But to make use of the engagement you drive, you first have to measure your success or failure.
How can social media engagement be measured and monitored?
However, there is another very important step (and sadly, it doesn’t start with a C).
It’s important to monitor your engagement to determine whether what you’re doing works for your target audience. Perhaps you’re a social media marketer starting with a new company. At your old place of employment, in an entirely different industry, you saw success with a specific strategy. However, trying to use the same strategy in this new location is proving fruitless.
You can’t determine this unless you examine some common engagement metrics:
- Average engagement rate. This is the total number of actions directly related to engagement, such as comments, shares, and likes. You measure it by dividing the total number of engagement actions by the total number of followers and multiplying the result by 100.
- Applause rate. That is the measurement of what’s known as approval actions. These include likes, loves, and favorites across your various social media profiles. You track the applause rate by dividing the number of approval actions you’ve received by the number of total followers you have and multiplying that by 100.
- Amplification rate — the ratio of the number of shares you’re getting per post. This is important because sharing is a huge engagement you want to promote. It exposes your business to hundreds or even thousands of new eyes. Divide your total post shares by followers and multiply by 100 to get your amplification rate.
- Virality rate. That’s how many people are sharing your posts compared to the number of impressions that it’s getting. An impression is a unique view. To figure this one out, you divide your shares by your impressions and multiply by 100.
Set benchmark goals for yourself based on what you’re looking to generate and measure your actual metrics against them.
How to drive social media engagement: 5 ideas for engaging posts
So now it’s time to answer the all-important question, how can we actually boost social media engagement?
Below, we’ve highlighted several social media engagement ideas that you can utilize for your business right away.
1. Hold giveaways
One of the best ways to encourage audience engagement is through giveaways on social media.
Everyone likes to get something for nothing, and if you can offer them a worthwhile prize in exchange for something as simple as engagement, you’ve got a winning strategy on your hands.
The example below shows two companies coming together to run a promotion. Both Sweaty Betty and Merrell offered a hiking bundle and generated over 11,000 likes on this post.
To enter, you had to like the post, follow both brands on Instagram, and tag two friends in the comments. As you can see by the number of likes this post received, it can be an impressive way to boost engagements.
Contests with prizes worth over $1,000 receive an engagement rate of 5.8% per 100 followers.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to increase social media engagement is to run giveaways. The giveaway should be designed as a raffle system, where one social engagement (could be a like, follow, comment, tag another person) counts as one ticket.
To maximize the amount of engagement, there should not be a maximum number of times a single person can enter the giveaway, as long as they are socially engaging as mentioned above.
After a certain amount of time, the giveaway ends and the winner is randomly selected.
If you are an influencer, you could partner up with brands and the winning prize could be something from the brand. This can minimize the cost of running the giveaways and give both you and the brand more social engagement. A win-win situation!
Sean Lau, LivingOutLau
2. User-generated content
User-generated content can be a fun and affordable way to increase engagements. If someone has tagged your brand in a tweet or Instagram post, share that content (with the creator’s permission).
People love to see what their peers are saying about brands they’re interested in. They’re more likely to take action if they see a positive review.
Oh, and you’re getting this content 100% free of charge, so it’s a no-brainer.
This can also be done in the form of shout-outs.
In the image above, a jewelry line shouted out a user by sharing a lovely photo of them modeling its ear stack.
User-generated content (UGC) is the element that, in my opinion, will assist you achieve these goals if you’re seeking for ways to provide fresh new content to your social media platforms. UGC, as the name implies, is made by your users and can take various forms such as videos, text, photographs, and more.
When you use user-generated content (UGC), other customers can see how involved they are with your business, which helps you not only educate your audience but also drive sales.
One method to use this concept is to create a hashtag trend particular to your company, thank individuals who have submitted or uploaded UGC on their social profiles, and reshare their material. Including user-generated content (UGC) on your website and social media is an excellent approach to increase engagement and brand loyalty.
Jay Bats, ContentBASE
3. Interact with the audience
It’s important to interact with your audience on social media. This is one of the simplest ways to promote engagement and start a conversation.
Here’s a great example from Whole Foods Market.
As you can see, Whole Foods shared a colorful image, asked a question in the caption, used a special hashtag, and then commented on the post to answer the question and move the conversation along.
This was highly successful with 669 reactions, 387 comments, and 218 shares. That’s some excellent engagement.
You can also directly engage with your audience through Instagram stories, which are very popular.
You must be social in order to enhance social media engagement. Customers who send you a text or post a comment on a posting are allowing you to communicate with them. You should respond to each consumer, whether they give a positive or bad message. You can express gratitude for positive remarks and offer a remedy for bad communications. You wouldn’t reply to a post if someone tags a friend because they aren’t directly connecting with you.
Nathan Hughes, Diggity Marketing
In this example, a brand directly interacts with its users through a check-in.
You can also ask your audience for feedback or suggestions to get their personal opinions.
Doing this will allow you to get a peek inside the minds of your most valuable customers. It starts a dialogue that can be used to forge a relationship based on trust with your audience.
4. Connect to your website content
If you have something on your website that you’re trying to draw attention to, promote it on social media in a way that your audience will want to engage with.
Remember, engagement can also be click-throughs. Hyping a useful service that your audience needs, like this net worth calculator pictured below, can inspire clicks and move social media users along to your site.
Website engagement is valuable and can directly lead to more conversions. Posting a free resource like this or a useful free tool such as an email subject line generator on social media can be a great way to introduce your website while also boosting engagement. For more examples of resources for website engagement, check out this quiz maker or create one of your own.
5. Promote social media pages on your website
If someone is on your website, it’s a good idea to direct them to your social media pages as well. You can do this through social media buttons placed on your site.
This gives customers the option of engaging with you directly, which they might not be able to do via your website. You’re creating a path to engagement with this strategy.
For example, website visitors scanning this page on government fleet management software, pictured above, can find these social media buttons connecting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram at the bottom of the page. They can use these to engage with this business directly through any of these platforms. It’s a great example that even in “serious” industries, social media plays a crucial role.
6. Be interactive
Interactivity is a key factor in social media engagement. By providing users with the ability to engage with your content, you can get people to talk about your brand and have them come back for more. This will create a “snowball effect,” as more people will become interested in what you have to say and will want to join the conversation. In addition, interactive content is more likely to be remembered and repeated than static content.
Some examples of interactive content include polls, quizzes, surveys, and games. You can use polls to gather ideas for new products or services, or quizzes to test your audience’s knowledge. Surveys can help you understand your customers better, while you can use games to generate leads or increase brand awareness.
You can also use social media features such as tagging and hashtags to make your content more interactive. By allowing users to express their opinion or take part in a conversation, you make them feel like they are part of something bigger.
Brian Lim, iHeartRaves
Social media engagement FAQs
Here are a few frequently asked questions about social media engagement.
What is the difference between social media engagement and impressions?
Your social media impressions are the number of times your posts are shown to people. Engagements are actual interactions, such as likes, comments, or shares.
What gets the most engagement on social media?
Video is the most effective medium for driving engagement on social media. Up to 54% of marketers claim that they receive the most value and engagement from video content. On Instagram, videos receive 49% more engagement than photos.
Since Instagram reels and TikTok videos are trending, they are ideal to create engaging content for businesses of all sizes and niches. These allow flexibility and creativity, grabbing the attention and views of target audiences.
You should be posting at least 3 to 4 weekly videos to start gaining traction. The ideal theme mix has promotional, showcasing, and personal videos since people want to genuinely connect with the brands. You can make a great video by taking care of the lighting, transitions, and great storytelling.
Brenton Thomas, Twibi
Which social media platform has the highest engagement?
Instagram posts receive the most engagement out of any social media platform by far, with an average engagement rate of 1.16% per post. The next closest would be Facebook, with 0.27%.
Engage your followers on social media
Engagement is the foundation of effective social media marketing. It matters even more than the size of your overall audience.
Ensure that you’re taking the steps outlined above to increase your odds of engagement, creating an audience that’s ready, willing, and able to interact with you directly on social media.
Andy’s the co-founder of Orbit Media, an award-winning 40-person digital agency in Chicago. Over the past 20 years, Andy has provided digital marketing advice to 1000+ businesses and written 500+ articles on content strategy, SEO, visitor psychology and Analytics. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.