In the following post you will get a crash course on improving your reader engagement through social media. Whether you’re a lone blogger or managing the marketing efforts for a huge company, you need to take these tips on board to get more engagement which will ultimately amount to improving the amount of traffic and social shares your website gets at the same time.

According to a recent post by Jeff Bullas, there are now over 1.15 billion active users on Facebook, 343 million active Google+ users and 288 million monthly Twitter users. There is a huge portion of the globe actively using these social networks and a sizable chunk using the smaller social networks and niche social networks. Everyone is jumping on social media and trying to make it work for their blog or for their business but most of them are throwing their time away.

Engaging with the right people
You need to ensure that you’re engaging with the right people, whatever social network you’re focusing on. If people don’t care what you have to say, how can you expect people to engage with you? This process can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it and ultimately it depends on what your end goal is. If you just want to connect with like-minded individuals then simply using the search function on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ would work completely fine. If you want to step up your game and find influencers within your target market on Twitter for example, then there are a select are a number of tactics and tools that I mention here on the KISSmetrics blog.
Open questions are your friend
Let’s bring this back to the real world, have you ever tried to strike up a conversation without asking a question or asking a closed question? It doesn’t do too well at keeping the conversation going does it? Whatever you publish, whatever social network it’s on, you need to be asking open ended questions and driving the conversation forward. Next time you promote a piece of content, try adding a question to the end and see what sort of response you get.
Don’t hide your social profiles

This may seem extremely basic, but just mentioning your social profiles and putting them in a place where your websites visitors can find them seems to be something that falls by the way-side for a lot of blogs and websites. People want to connect with you and your business – there is an incredible audience of people that want to hear what you have to say and they won’t be able to if you hide your social profiles. You could take this a step further to include calls to action at the end of posts or pages on your website or within your author bio if you blog regularly.

E.g. – “Follow Adam on Google+

You will be surprised the effect a clear cut call to action can have, and there’s a saying that fits quite well here: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Take this a step further and include a call to action in emails to your mailing list, Benchmark Email has some templates that work quite well for this.

Contribute to communities
Social media communities are a great way of finding like-minded people that want to hear what you have to say. A lot of people do this wrong and use these communities as a way to drop links on auto pilot (Facebook Groups seem to have a lot of this going on). That type of thing just isn’t going to help you drive engagement forward, instead you need to ask open ended questions like I mentioned previously. Facebook groups, Google+ communities and Linkedin Groups are used heavily and chances are you will find a community that fits exactly with your target audience, if not quite a few of them.
The power of mentions

Just clicking that publish button isn’t enough anymore, there are some sites that don’t have this issue, but unless your Moz or Mashable then chances are you need to do a bit more than click publish. The next time you publish a blog post and you mention an individual or a company in that post, mention them in a tweet and ask them to help you share the content. I usually tend to go with this type of layout for example:

“Blog Efficiently And Productively: How To Blog More In Less Time (featuring @evernote)”

You could be even more direct and try:

“Hey @evernote we mentioned you in a blog post would you mind giving us an RT? please”

I’ve use this tactic regularly and it gets me great results, sure not everyone will retweet or share your post but some will and it lets other people and companies know that you exist. You will probably find that the chances of the user sharing your content increases, the more mentions they get.

Offer an incentive

A lot of websites are jumping on board with incentives for sharing your content and that can come in various forms. The most popular of which seems to be contests where you offer up a prize and as a method of entry you can encourage users to share the post, follow your on Twitter or like you on Facebook for example. It’s easier than you may think as well, tools like Rafflecopter spit out some code for you to add into a blog post and take care of all of the hard work for you.

Another way of giving an additional incentive to share is offering premium content in exchange for a share, or even for opting in to your mailing list. If your website is running on WordPress, there’s a number of plugins available to help you, I’d recommend checking out this post: The 9 Best Content Locker WordPress Plugins.

Don’t forget the social element

Real people engage with real people – if you think you can get away without being authentic then think again. That being said, being ‘real’ is an extremely time consuming task – just automating your social networking presence can seem like an easy option but it’s not engaging in the slightest. You need to be out there, asking questions, talking to like-minded people and engaging with them.

You can offset the extra time that this takes by using some powerful tools for managing your social media presence. I’m a big fan of Buffer and Hootsuite, I use them both to do different things. Buffer is extremely effective at scheduling shares across Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and G+ pages quickly while I find Hootsuite more effective as a general social media dashboard that I use across all of my devices – iPhone, iPad and my desktop computer.

The takeaway

If you take anything away from this post, you need to remember that people engage with people – starting a conversation and opening dialogue with other people is the only way to truly move things forward. It’s sometimes a bit too easy to forget that it’s another person at the end of that computer, but it is and it’s time to put the social element back into social media marketing.

Do you have anything to add?

I’d love to know how you’re driving reader engagement forward, whether it’s through social media or any other marketing channels.