So – you set up accounts for your business on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and maybe even Instagram. You told your family and friends to follow you, and started posting updates about products, specials, and events. But is anyone paying attention?

Now that social media is becoming increasingly saturated with ad content, your followers won’t pay attention unless you give them a good reason. That’s where strong user engagement becomes important. Make your profiles and pages into spaces for two-way conversation, and your followers will be more likely to stay interested.

That being said, I know that creating engaging content is easier said than done. Here are a few tips – as well as examples of companies who excel at interacting with their followers – to help you get started.

Create content that is designed to engage

This might sound obvious, but too many businesses simply don’t plan their content this way, and then they wonder why their followers are silent. They create content that is designed to promote, not realizing that users scroll right past without a second thought.

Instead, get users involved by showing them that you value their opinions. Ask for feedback on existing products, thoughts about new ones, or maybe even what they’d like to see from your company. This will not only help you step up your social game, but can also serve as a great source of content ideas and inspiration for new products.

It’s also entirely possible to engage users with content that doesn’t require them to be customers or have strong opinions. Take, for example, this post from haircare brand Aussie:

aussie blow drying

It’s a simple question – whether time or heat is more annoying – and relates to their “Air Dry Revolution” campaign that encourages customers to skip blow drying their hair. It’s nothing too involved, but still managed to generate quite a few comments from users who dislike using heat styling tools during the summer months.

Listen and respond

Once users start engaging with your posts, the only way to keep them involved (and keep them as happy customers) is to listen to what they have to say and respond accordingly. Kraft Mac and Cheese does a particularly great job of this:

kraft2

The brand responds to tweets like this on a daily basis, and almost always receives an excited Tweet back from the original poster. It’s a simple action, but their customers clearly appreciate it. Plus, as this particular Tweet shows, it’s okay to drop the “professional” tone you use in other marketing channels if it suits your brand.

That being said, not every post warrants a funny response – especially those from users who aren’t entirely satisfied with your products. You should still address users who have concerns or complaints though, and the way you address dissatisfied customers is arguably more important than how you address happy customers.

You need to show users that you care about what they have to say, much like Lean Cuisine does here:

lean cuisine vegan comment

The company does not have any vegan products (meaning that this user is very unlikely to become a customer), yet they still took the time to address her concern and note that they appreciate the suggestion.

Post visual content

You may have noticed that most major brands use photos in almost all of their posts, and that’s no accident. Put simply, social media users love visuals. Posts with images receive more engagement than those without, so it’s a no-brainer to include them.

This may sound like too much work if you don’t have a professional photographer on staff, but if you have a smartphone, you can take, edit, and post a photo to your business page in under five minutes. Don’t worry if they aren’t quite as put-together as the visuals from major companies, either. Behind-the-scenes type photos can lend a sense of authenticity to your page, and typically perform well with followers.

If you’re feeling ambitions, you may even try posting a video or two. Amazon posts videos frequently, like this step-by-step tutorial for making cookie ice cream sandwiches:

amazon kitchen shorts 2

The video is part of their “Kitchen Shorts” series, but the more notable part of the post is the caption. By telling users to tag their friends, they achieved 475 likes, 351 shares, and 29 comments. The fact that the video is fun to watch is part of its success, but it likely would not have reached those numbers without a little encouragement.

Share content that isn’t yours

If you write an article or create a graphic that you’re particularly proud of, it’s completely understandable that you’d want to share it with your social followers. But if that’s all you share with your followers, your page can start to look like a nothing more than shameless self-promotion.

Avoid this by sharing content from other sources that is relevant to your followers, like Fiverr does on Twitter:

fiverr1

The site helps connect freelancers with employers, so this article is directly relevant to many of their users. As an added bonus, the article’s image provides some visual content for their timeline.

Sharing content from news sites and industry publications is an easy way to keep your accounts active and interest your followers, but there’s an even better source: Your customers. Photos from happy customers are often more interesting to other users than the ones from the company itself, like this user-sourced post from Honda:

honda

Of course, it’s best to ask for permission before sharing content from other users, but most customers are more than happy to have their photos shared by the brands they like. And if your followers don’t often post photos, there are other ways to get user generated content.

Start engaging!

These examples can help you get an idea of what other brands have had success with and serve as a source of ideas for engaging your users. But considering that every audience is different, it’s impossible to know what will work without a little trial and error.

Ask your followers questions, respond to their concerns, and encourage them to like and comment on your content. Growing a social following takes time, but with dedication, you can use your company’s accounts to build a loyal customer base both on and offline.

Does your business have an engaged social media following? Have you tried any of these tips? Let me know in the comments below!