Simply put, engagement is attention. It happens when your content sparks someone’s interest enough that they like it, comment on it, message you about it, share it, or unbeknownst to you, talk about it offline. Each of these interactions is valuable, but only when they align with the context of your content and your original reason for posting.
What does that mean?
When you post on social media, you do so for one or more of these reasons:
- To impart knowledge, educate, or update
- To persuade change or recommend action
- To inspire or motivate
- To entertain
- To get attention and praise
The value of the engagement you get on a post is determined by how well it aligns with your original reason for posting. If you make a post trying to persuade people to register for an upcoming event and get 250 ‘likes’ but no registrations, that engagement is not valuable. It did not help you meet your objective. Whereas if you post a picture of yourself in a swimsuit on the beach and get 18 comments about how great you look, mission accomplished.
Here are three things you can do to create more valuable engagement when posting on social media:
- Create with one person in mind.
- Put your main point or ask up front.
- Use persuasive evidence.
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Create with one person in mind
When you decide you’re going to post, the first step is to define who you’re posting for – your target audience. It reminds me of a quote from Ken Haemer who was a Presentation Manager at AT&T, “designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it To Whom it May Concern.” We’re talking about social media posts not presentations, but it still applies. Without having a target audience, your content is going to be generic and weak. It’s impossible to capture the attention and please an entire group of people, and if you try, you’ll water down your message.
Once you determine who you’re posting for, I’d encourage you to take it one step further and think of a single person in that target audience. If you know someone personally in that target audience, pretend they’ll be the only person who sees your post. Doing this will take the pressure off. You can now create for a person you know will already love it, which in turn will invite your personality and unique style to be front and center. As you’ll soon find out, your personality and unique style is what creates meaningful engagement.
Put your main point or ask up front
This principle applies to all communication. Make your point or say what you’re hoping your readers/listeners do with your message up front. In writing, do it in the first 1-2 short paragraphs – the sooner the better. In video, say it in the first 20 seconds.
Don’t bury the lede. When you tell people exactly what you’re going to tell them or what you want them to do, you’re giving them the information they need in order to determine if it will be a valuable use of their time. Whether or not they stay, you’ll develop the reputation of being clear and straightforward in your communication style. Two things you want to be known for.
Use persuasive evidence
As important as your opinion is to you, it doesn’t matter all that much to other people. You’re an N of 1. If you’re trying to impart new knowledge, persuade change, or encourage action, you need to use persuasive evidence to support your message. Persuasive evidence can include: data, facts, statistics, a story of a personal experience, an example, an analogy, a quote from a source known to your target audience, or a demonstration (like an exercise demonstration).
Supporting your message with persuasive evidence builds your credibility and makes your message more compelling. You can tell your client that walking is good for their health until you’re blue in the face, and they’ll do nothing. But show them a study from Harvard that concluded people who walk lose up to 50% more weight than those who don’t, and they start walking 2 miles per day.
Social media doesn’t require a unique set of communication skills; it demands mastering the basics. Those who get valuable engagement on social media are those who know who they’re creating for, they communicate their purpose early on, and they back up their information and opinions with evidence.