Who needs heroin when you have an expanding social media following? As the most visible feature of an account page, it’s certainly a thrill to watch your follower count escalate, knowing that every user stumbling upon your page will be immediately greeted with an impressive statistic. Often, businesses employ cheap tactics to grow Instagram pages, such as following users en masse, waiting for them to follow back, then unfollowing. This practice is guided by the belief that a successful account must at least have a few thousand followers to be respected. But ultimately these numbers mean nothing when the posts are greeted with zero reception. There are, on the other hand, numerous advantages to having active, engaged followers, even if their total sum is less than what you’d like. An engaged community expands of its own accord (like mould or bacteria), and fosters a loyal consumer base. Read on for more information on why engagement matters.
Engagement is the key to visibility
Engaged users like, comment and share your content. With each user possessing their own internal network, each interaction increases visibility through new consumer communities. People are also much more likely to receive a brand well when they see friends or family engaging with that brand. Knowing this, Facebook introduced a rule that prioritises content shared by friends and family over corporations. Whether or not Facebook is a platform you lean heavily on, content that is organically shared by your followers has much higher value than content with paid likes. You’re introducing yourself to new, potentially loyal customers, almost guaranteed a good first impression as your brand is now associated with the friend that originally shared your post.
Increased engagement reduces ad cost
Both Facebook and Instagram ad managers assign a relevance score to your ads after 500 impressions, based on the engagement the ad receives. The better the feedback of your ad, the lower the CPC (cost-per-click) and the cheaper it is to boost that ad. On the other hand, if the ad receives negative feedback (low engagement), the cost can be increased twofold. Analyse which ads generate higher engagement and focus your efforts on those.
Utilising metrics to measure engagement is a key step towards achieving this active community. The most basic way to track engagement is to look at your average number of likes per post versus your total follower count. More important, however, is the growth of engagement over time. Compare the like count of your posts against the follower count at the time of each post using Instagram Insights (or the data analytic tool for whatever platform you’re using). If engagement isn’t growing enough, analyse which posts attract the most engagement and tailor your posts to that kind of content.
Return the favour
Once users have engaged with your account, you then have an opportunity to strengthen this tie by commenting back or liking the comment. You don’t have to do this to every comment — doing so is actually counterproductive, telling followers that you’re trying too hard to grow engagement rather than interacting organically. It tells users that you’re a business first, not a fellow peer, viewing comments as numbers on a chart to monitor and analyse. Reply to and like the occasional comment and users will be excited by the reciprocated exchange rather than bored by another company employing aggressive marketing tactics.
Be a consumer-first
Successful accounts are often those that establish a personal connection with users. Brands with professional tones of voice that talk to consumers like a business are less well-liked than pages that feel like they’re run by humans. While polls, surveys and questions posed to your audience can be well-received, statements like, ‘We love Christmas at Jenkin’s Dry Cleaning! What’s your favourite holiday? Let us know in the comments below!’ aren’t exactly exciting to users. It sounds like fake interest, a thinly-veiled attempt to reel in consumers and grow a page. A better tactic would be to simply make a statement, to express an opinion or thought and let users decide whether they want to react or not. Feel free, however, to make use of hashtags as a way of attracting traffic in a more subtle way.
Successful content strategies, while touted as the most valuable marketing tool, are hard to come by. Most businesses grow their online following through a successful product or service that users appreciate and engage with. Building a following with content alone is a rare feat, one that often requires a dedicated team to achieve. Ross Pike of Quadrant2Design comments, ‘Generally, successful content marketing simply expands upon the topic area the business is already dealing with. Clothes manufacturers discuss sustainable manufacturing, fitness companies discuss health topics and so on. Content works best when it’s natural and unforced. Consumer-centric companies inevitably have an easier time, while B2B companies often have to dig deep to develop a viable, long-term strategy.’ Engagement is how you measure the organic appeal of your content, and is the key to growing a lasting, profitable social media presence.