5 Tips for Engaging People on Social Media

One of the biggest challenges businesses have with social media is engagement: Generating likes, comments, shares, etc. After all, what’s the point of your social media presence if you’re just shouting into the abyss? Building an audience that will interact with your business on social media can be difficult. But before you get discouraged, take a look at these tips:

Offer a contest. Everybody loves to win something, even if it’s bragging rights (but if you have an actual prize to offer, so much the better). Contests can be a fun once- or twice-a-year thing, and they don’t have to be very complicated. You can even make it as simple as “Guess how many jellybeans are in the jar for a $25 gift certificate.”

A few years ago, Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound offered a Facebook contest where users created an “unofficial slogan” for the restaurant in order to be entered into a random drawing for a t-shirt. There were a couple hundred entries and an increase in page likes over the duration of the contest.

Brainstorm with coworkers and/or check out others in your industry for contest ideas.

Ask Questions. Ask your followers questions on your social media platforms to drive up engagement. This article recommends avoiding broad questions such as “What’s your favorite flavor?” Rather, they suggest giving users multiple choices and an accompanying graphic. Questions can be phrased as customer-service oriented, too. Example: “If we were to add a new machine to the cardio room, what would you choose?” This could also be done using a multiple choice format. Asking a question encourages people to interact with your page (and bonus points to you for responding back).

Encourage people to share. Encourage followers to share how they use your product (this is also known as “User Generated Content”). If you have a brick-and-mortar store, post a sign encouraging people to check in and/or tag your business on social media. And, the more content you can get others to post on your behalf, the better — it increases your reach, and all you did was put up a sign! Again, there’s a lot of ways to be creative.

Ask for Reviews. It may feel a little weird at first, but trust me — one of the best ways to get online reviews is to “make the ask.” It doesn’t have to be frequent — maybe once a week or every other week — in order to remind people where you are online. Cross-pollinate these requests. Example: Folks might already be reviewing you on Facebook. So post on Facebook a reminder that your business can also be reviewed on Yelp or Google+. People are willing to help you out, but they have to know where and how.

People are willing to help you out, but they have to know where and how.

Pay attention to analytics. Sounds boring? Maybe, but following your analytics may be the most helpful thing you can do to boost engagement. Look at individual social media accounts to devise the best strategy for each. For example, you may find Twitter requires more posts per day than Facebook. Automate this task using online tools such as Buffer, MeetEdgar, or Hootsuite. (Source)

As you create a social media marketing plan, think about how you can incorporate some of these ideas into your strategy and encourage people to interact with what you have to say.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Sharing is Caring

Leaving a review is one way to show your favorite businesses some online love. Another way is hitting that “Share” button (on Facebook, which translates to retweeting or reposting on other platforms, or just passing along information). As a business, there are ways to make it easy for people to share your stuff, which ultimately spreads your marketing to a greater audience than it otherwise would have.

There are plenty of ways to share on behalf of a business or organization you care about online. Some of the more common methods include:

  • Share as a status update, on a friend’s timeline, or in a private message.
  • Invite friends to an event on social media or share link to event registration.
  • Retweet (Twitter) or Repost (Instagram).
  • Forward a newsletter to a friend and/or tell them how to subscribe if it’s something they’re interested in.

Sharing as an individual is fairly straightforward. But as a business, what can you be doing to make your content more shareable? Besides being generally useful and interesting, here are some things to keep in mind:

On Social Media.

Whether you’re promoting a sale, sharing an event, or just doing general updates, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering “share-ability” of your post. Most shared content on Facebook includes a photo or video. If you have one or the other, consider quality (is it blurry or off-center? Is there unnecessary footage?) as you’re posting- fans want to help you promote your business but might not want to share a ‘meh’ visual. This goes for Instagram, too, since it’s an all visual platform.

If you’re making a flyer for an event, check out our post on How Not to Design a Flyer for tips on this particular type of visual.

Keep in mind that well over half of Facebook users are on their mobile devices, so double check your links (especially those that you share from your own website, if you have one) can be read on mobile. Test it on your own device or ask a friend to help!

On Your Website.

A lot of websites have plugins or extensions for sharing through email, social media, or even text messaging on mobile. Hubspot has an easy to follow guide for adding social buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. This is an easy way to let people share your material on a channel of their choice, not necessarily one that you’re active on. If you aren’t automatically publishing blog posts on your social media accounts, social sharing buttons on your website makes it easy for others to share them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

We’ve talked about this before, but if your website is where all the “big” things happen (sales, registration, donations, etc), having a responsive/mobile-friendly site is something you really want to consider. If someone is getting to your website through Facebook on their phone on the train, they might not remember “Oh when I get home I have to sit down at my computer to follow through with this.”

In Your Newsletter. 

In addition to social sharing buttons at the bottom of your newsletter (example pictured below), you can also add options for “Forward to a Friend.” True, a person can easily hit “Forward” on their own, but the idea is to make sharing easier for people.

In addition to making it easier to share, you can also give followers an incentive to share. Some businesses offer a “Share this post for a chance to win” contest on social media, which is a fairly simple contest to set up. Encourage people to share your content, be interesting, and have fun with it!


Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Virtual Empathy in Social Media

VirtualEmpathy Panner

I love psychology and contemplating what makes people tick. So, when I saw this article that examines why we like, comment, or share things on social media, I had to do some reading (because this is the sort of thing that makes me tick). The article made some interesting suggestions (it’s an attempt at self-expression, it feels like we reap some benefit out of it, etc), but what stuck out to me was reason #3: “To express virtual empathy.” Before reading this article, I understood the concept of “virtual empathy” but didn’t realize people had named it. The article goes on to discuss that, in terms of the types of interactions we can have with others on Facebook (and elsewhere), “liking” is alright, but commenting is better, or “more satisfying,” for both parties. And then it gets into why we share things in the first place (to alleviate loneliness) and why we choose not to share things (self-censorship). It was, overall, a very interesting read. But back to virtual empathy.

“Regular” empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of another. Virtual empathy is the ability to do so through a virtual medium, such as social media. People have tried to quantify virtual empathy to see how it stacks up against real-life empathy (for lack of a better label), and while the numbers vary from study to study, it’s widely acknowledged that virtual empathy carries less weight (from personal experience, I’m inclined to agree).

What are some common ways people experience virtual empathy? Let’s take a look:

Thumbs Up. The simplest form of expressing virtual empathy is through a “like” (coincidentally, it also carries the least amount of empathy-weight). Studies show that people like being “liked” Likeacross the boards: no matter the social network or demographic. That probably seems like a no-brainer, but who doesn’t enjoy a “truth universally acknowledged”? A “like “can be a way of expressing approval, solidarity, understanding, compassion…the list goes on.

In my opinion, virtual empathy in the form of a “like” doesn’t carry a lot of weight (in the article mentioned at the beginning of this post, a “Like” is described as “a quick and easy nod”). Being overly cynical, a “like” is just a click into the void. If I write a heartfelt status update about a deceased relative, for instance, am I really going to feel a person’s compassion and understanding because they clicked a button? Probably not.

Commenting/Sharing. A comment or share ranks higher on the virtual empathy scale, because they require a deeper amount of thought and action. Since they’ve consciously taken time and effort to comment on something, a comment is given more weight. In the example of a deceased loved one, a quick “Sorry for your loss” comment goes a bit further than a “like.” When we measure the success of posts in terms of marketing, this holds true: posts that are commented on or shared are considered more successful than those that have been “liked” (even by the algorithms that measure analytics).

Sharing is usually done out of support- maybe an event or announcement that could use a larger audience (like a fundraiser or lost dog post). In other words, sharing is caring!

Virtual Reality & Telepresence. When you Google “virtual empathy,” the results include a string of articles on virtual reality.  At first I was slightly peeved that Google misunderstood my request, but it appears that the two are interwoven in a tremendously interesting way. One of the results was the story of an elderly, disabled woman who was unable to leave her bed but wanted to be outside towards the end of her life. Her daughter used modern technology to give her the experience of being outdoors without putting her health at risk. There’s also Henry Evans, who, though quadriplegic and unable to leave his bed, is utilizing something called “tele-presence” so that he can still interact with the world. In fact, he has given several TED Talks on the idea of “tele-presence”:

Virtual reality has also been used to help people understand conflict in far away places. Students at the University of Southern California created a virtual reality experience (I hesitate to call it a “game”) called Project Syria (read more about that here). I have to admit, the intricacies of virtual reality escape me because I’ve never used Google glass or even played video games (unless you count Mario Kart/Super Smash Bros), but the idea intrigues me. If something feels real enough that it provokes a deep emotional response- like empathy- well, that seems like a pretty powerful tool.

In the same vein, tele-presence carries some weight in the world of social media, with new apps and networks that allow us to experience the world through the eyes of another. Snapchat has recently started playing up this idea in it’s Live Stories Feature. In this section of Snapchat, you can view what’s going on in the world (I just took a screenshot of what’s in there today- it changes on a daily basis). Last week, the featured story was West Bank and a look on either side of the barrier. The running of the bulls was also featured.

Snapchat Live Today (7/13/2015)

Snapchat Live Today (7/13/2015)

A few months ago, I explored the idea of increased awareness through social media in this blog post about hashtags. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the newer live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope provide us with the unique opportunity of exposure to other areas of the world without ever having visited. We can learn about events from a source other than huge news channels. We can see what regular people are saying or experiencing, without ever having met them or spoken with them before. It’s not the same as a real life connection, but I think it has a more powerful effect than we realize.

Maybe you’re on Periscope live streaming a video of a kid riding a bike for the first time, as narrated by a parent, and suddenly you remember your first time riding a bike, or what sharing that experience with your kids was like. Maybe you don’t have any recollection at all, and you just reflect on how excited that kids must feel. Regardless, you’re bound to feel something, to care at least a little bit. Maybe you hit like, comment, or just move on- but you probably just experienced a little slice of virtual empathy.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.