By Amy E. Smith.
Amy E. Smith is a content strategist and information architect. She teaches two social media courses at Northeastern, and currently works for IBM. (Her opinions here are her own.)
Whether you’re a seasoned social media veteran or just getting ready to launch your first social media channel, how to continually engage your audience in a meaningful way is a challenge that we all face.
Here are some tips that will help you get started or get back on the right track to create and maintain vital and engaged communities.
1. It's not Just About the Content
Getting to know the communities you create via social media—who they are, what they like, what social media tool they like to use and how they like to use it—will help you build a strong foundation to effectively engage your audience.
For example, if you’re a baker, it’s safe to assume that your audience has visited your business or likes your product. If you’re a large high tech company, your audience is probably interested in learning new tech trends.
Having this type of insight from the get-go is important, because you'll need to know the specific information your audience wants as you craft your messages.
2. Social Media is Social
Many organizations and businesses get caught using social media strictly for announcements and news. We need to step back and remember that social media is a conversation between you and your audience.
Build relationships with members of your community by connecting with them on a regular basis, seek out their opinions (see tip 4), chat about current events, and so on.
3. Add Value
Time is a valuable commodity. When you start a social media community, you're asking members and potential members to spend their finite time engaging with you, instead of spending it elsewhere.
Providing them with coupons or rewards is a good first step, but also consider sharing knowledge. Teach them something you learned recently, or something that will enrich their knowledge. Make sure what you share adds value to their lives, and you can bet they'll keep coming back.
4. Welcome Feedback
Getting more engagement can be as easy as making community members feel like valuable parts of the network. Just as any other community, members like to feel like they belong, and their voices are heard.
And the easiest way to get an opinion? Ask. Reach out to your community for their opinions on different aspects of your business, what they think about a particular product, or even their recommendations on improving services. You should also encourage community members to share their own knowledge and expertise with others - you should moderate the conversation, but you don't always need to be the one to control it.
5. Have Fun
Last but not least, don’t forget to relax and have fun. Ultimately, you want to enjoy engaging your audience and you want your audience to feel the same way.
Do fun things that will not only highlight your services or products but also highlight or shine the spotlight on members of your community. This will make them feel welcomed and part of an exclusive group.