Social Media Engagement: What it is, Why it Matters, How to Use it
By Kelly Krebsbach
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Engage: To induce to participate
Social media engagement is more than trying to gain followers. It's about making sure audiences are engaging with the content you post and it provides a metric to help determine the success of your social media marketing efforts.
Social Media Engagement is Two-Fold and Refers to:
1. Engaging with audiences – by creating content that connects with consumers, draws them in or encourages participation in forms of online interaction
2. Measuring participation – by showing how audiences are interacting with your organization's content in terms of likes, comments and shares – the three primary forms of social media engagement.
Think about it this way: In marketing, social media is your front porch and all the people walking by are your followers – or potential followers. When they see you outside on your porch (i.e., you have an engaging post), they stop and interact with you (i.e., they’ll comment on, like or share your post). When your posts are really engaging, they may even step onto your porch – or inside your house – which may mean they’ve clicked on a link or interacted with other calls to action in your post to learn more about your organization and its products or services.
Later we’ll discuss creating engaging content that invites audiences in – but for now, know that if consumers react to your content in any of the following ways, they are engaging with your organization on social media.
The basic acts of engaging on social media:
- Direct Message (DM)
The act of engaging on social media is any type of participation with, reaction to or online conversation about the content you create and post on your social media platforms. When customers engage with your content, it’s an opportunity to get to know your customers and build a relationship with them.
But beyond the act of engaging, social media engagement also means analyzing your consumers’ participation (i.e., their engagement) with your brand on social media. Measuring consumers’ engagement tells you if the content you're creating is actually what your consumers want.
Confused yet? No worries: No one expects you to be a social media expert; this blog is simply to provide some basic knowledge to start the conversation with your marketing team.
The main thing to understand is that activity (engagement) on your social media platforms is crucial to:
- Build a positive brand experience
- Develop meaningful relationships with current and potential customers
- Drive traffic to your website
Engagement is a Two-Way Street
Both organizations and consumers need to participate in social media relationships. If you want to increase brand engagement, you also need to grow your followers. The greatest measure of social media success is an engaged audience – not just a big one; you want quality, not just quantity. The more engaged followers you have, the more activity you’re likely to see on your social media. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Measuring Social Media Engagement
When people engage with your content on a social media platform, the application’s algorithm recognizes that content as interesting and valuable and pushes it out to more users’ feeds. This helps you reach more people – and more potential followers.
Seems simple enough, right? (After all, it’s not like we have to come up with the algorithm ourselves!) But its simplicity is also a bit misleading: Keeping on top of your organization’s social media is a lot of work – yet necessary in today’s marketing landscape. Social media engagement shows how people react (or don’t react) to content, which helps you improve strategies to better address your consumers’ needs, expectations and interests.
For example, you may be using social media to achieve some – or all – of the following goals:
- Change perception about your brand
- Attract new consumers
- Collect feedback about your services
- Connect consumers with educational resources
When your organization interacts with your social media audience, it’s an opportunity to increase consumers’ loyalty by building relationships with them, while often helping them when they need something; this creates a one-of-a-kind experience for them. The time you commit to build relationships can lead to higher patient volumes, increased patient loyalty, and overall more positive reviews for your organization.
Other reasons to engage with healthcare consumers may be to:
- Offer a humanizing, empathetic aspect to your brand
- Learn from the community you serve, especially about how to improve their experience with your organization
- Reach people easily, particularly for rural healthcare, where budgets can be tight
- Market your organization so that people can access it at their own pace
Remember: Every online public “conversation” counts as engagement, which increases your organization’s overall reach.
Now that we’ve addressed the whats and whys, let’s look at how to do it well!
How to Create Engaging Social Media Content
The best way to grow the number of people who follow your organization is to engage with them – but how do you create engaging posts? Start by being social! Post content regularly – and always respond to likes, shares and comments (yes, even the negative ones!).
Being active on social media shows that your organization is worth following: When you regularly post content and communicate, people may notice you and pay more attention to your organization, become interested – and realize you’re worth their time and start following you.
Comments are Opportunities to Create Connections – Use Them!
Equally important to posting regularly is to respond to consumers who send you a message or leave a comment on a post – these people are giving you an opportunity to talk to them, so take advantage of it!
Respond to Every Comment – Even the Negative Ones
We’ve heard that there’s no such thing as bad publicity (whether this is true is up for debate), but when it comes to social media, it’s probably a sage observation. If your followers leave a positive or negative message, engage with every comment. It’s simple: Show appreciation for positive messages and suggest resolutions in response to negative comments – and remember that consumers’ feedback helps you better meet their needs.
Audiences who engage on social media expect organizations to engage back, so respond – quickly. People who are active on social media anticipate speedy response times.
Pre-plan Comments for Faster Response Times
One trick to help you respond quickly is to prepare responses to common queries ahead of time. It’s a lot more efficient to compose a thoughtful, informative response in advance, which then allows you to spend the time making sure that the tone of your response is helpful and friendly (all of which leads to increased consumer satisfaction!).
Timing is Everything – So is Quality
Regarding timeliness, another thing you want to make sure you’re keeping up with is posting regularly on your chosen social platforms – most research indicates that posting 2 or 3 times a week is ideal but watch your social networks to gauge how often—and when—people are responding (which can help you determine ideal posting times for your audience and each platform). And remember, quality beats quantity: It’s better to have fewer better-quality posts than a lot of less-than-stellar ones.
Post Regularly to Keep Content Fresh
Posting frequently keeps your content fresh – and another reason to plan posts ahead of time is to help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Decide what works best for you. For many, it’s better to set aside a specific time to create and schedule posts – and designate a different time to respond to questions, comments, likes, and shares. There are many scheduling tools online that can help you figure out what works best for your situation.
Increasing Engagement Takes Time
It's common sense that increasing your social engagement will help your social media following grow, but it won’t happen overnight; it takes time and consistency to develop.
Use a Consistent Voice and Personality
Speaking of consistency, people often like to know what to expect from your organization; having a coherent theme on your social media networks can also help increase the number of people who follow your organization. Determine a consistent personality and voice for your content, especially if more than one person manages your social media. Establish a style guide to keep everyone on the same page and have all members of your social media team sign off with their own signature.
Other Tips to Increase Social Media Engagement:
- Provide content that’s important to your audience (this is another place where analyzing your engagement is critical). Experiment to see what kind of content gets the most engagement
- Make your headlines work for you. Headlines should always be truthful, but also compelling and attention-grabbing (using a word or two in all caps can have big impact, too, so play around and experiment to see what works for your organization)
- Be personable. When your posts are warm, fun, or humorous, it’s more likely that you’ll get a response from a reader – and that they’ll share your post with someone else
- Use quotes, animated GIFs, and emoticons. They’ve all proven to increase social media engagement through likes, comments and shares. They also liven up posts and add a bit of emotional nuance and personality!
- Tag someone in a post so that they see it and might like it – and others will also see the post. They may even be more likely to share it
- Write short posts – people lose attention and keep scrolling when they see long posts. Keep posts to about 80 characters or two to three lines. Spacing helps – add text in a few separate lines rather than one paragraph
- Use a call to action – always ask your audience to comment, share or like your posts
Gotcha – But Now What Do I Post?
- Helpful content. You want content to be useful to the people you’re trying to reach: Make sure that what you post goes beyond how great your service is and instead addresses your audience’s needs
- Images, images, images. Videos perform best, but include an image with every post, whether an animated GIF that cracks someone up or a product photo that suggests viewers tag their friends. Post high-quality images and graphics; if your graphics are blurry, people will scroll past it. (Remember, if you’re sharing someone else’s content, always credit them on your page.)
- Respond to concerns – and keep the conversation going. You need to react to all concerns by answering questions and appreciating comments, but you can go beyond that and start a conversation – maybe someone’s talking about your organization, but hasn’t contacted you directly? Sounds like the perfect time to say hi!
- Highlight culture – humanize your organization. Show the people behind your brand in photos or videos – or spotlight a provider or patient (get a patient’s signed consent if using their image on social media). These posts receive many likes and a lot of engagement. Provider features also get a lot of likes, comments, and shares from followers who share their good experiences with the provider. Avoid posting about service lines that are already at capacity
- Join current conversations. Comment on events happening in your community, things trending in pop culture, sports, or upcoming holidays (avoid sensitive subjects, though)
- Invite people to play! Nothing says engage like games or polls: Test your follower’s knowledge or ask them to choose a favorite option
- Ask questions! Ask your audience a relevant but fun question that encourages a response – or better yet, tell your audience to ask you a question!
Learn What Works Best For Each Platform
Not every post should be posted on every platform, nor do you need to have a presence on all of them. Pay attention to ins and outs including:
- On Facebook and LinkedIn, it works well to use two to three hashtags per post; you can use more for Instagram, but overusing hashtags can cause people to think you’re being spammy and they may unfollow you
- Use the social media platforms that are right for your organization: In rural healthcare, Facebook is a must! Our clients also use LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok is becoming a go-to for organizations with the time and resources to create videos. We typically don’t recommend Twitter to our clients because it requires posting several times a day and it’s difficult for marketers in rural healthcare to keep up with that type of demand on time and resources
Your best bet is to decide the content that works for your organization and is ideal for each platform: Experiment, watch the reaction you receive, adjust your approach, and keep trying!
If your team wants to take a deep dive into the world of social media but needs guidance, Legato Healthcare Marking is here to help. To discuss opportunities or learn more, call president Mike Milligan at 920.544.8102 ext. 101.