A 2018 report published by Hootsuite and We Are Social states that the number of internet users worldwide has passed the 4 billion mark, and roughly 3.2 billion of those are social media users. That means every minute, your brand’s social media content is competing with millions of Facebook posts, hundreds of thousands of tweets, and tens of thousands of Instagram photos.

With those record-breaking numbers, you might be wondering how you can stand out in all that noise. Luckily, it’s very achievable. Here are 15 tips for strengthening your social media prowess and boosting your brand’s social media engagements:

1. Post Value-rich Content

It should be no surprise that posting more valuable content will result in higher engagement. Yet, most brands’ social media pages are filled with countless posts humblebragging about themselves and their products. But that’s the kind of content that pushes people away.

Instead, your brand’s social media content should be useful and speak to the intended audience’s wants, needs, desires, fears, and pain points. Constantly focusing on your audience resonates, and shows that your brand is about more than profits. Try sharing surprising statistics, thoughtful quotes, or evergreen blog content. Before posting anything, ask yourself: “If I were the reader, how would this help me?”

2. Research and Emulate Popular Content

So many marketers simply guess at what content they think their audience would like – and then they’re surprised when it doesn’t perform well. Rather than playing guessing games, spend a little time researching what kind of content has worked in the past. Try browsing your competitors’ and industry-adjacent peers’ social media profiles to see what kind of content is working for them and driving the greatest engagement.

Tools like Ahrefs and Buzzsumo can also be leveraged to see what kinds of headlines and blog posts perform best when shared via social media. You can find out total engagement, social media channel breakdown, and much more.

3. Use Relevant Hashtags

Hashtags are easy wins for connecting with like-minded people. It’s good practice to piggyback on popular, relevant hashtags in addition to making your own. Opt for hashtags that are on the shorter side with easy-to-spell words or phrases. They should give the intended audience a clear understanding of the topic of conversation, and be memorable as well.

4. Use Giveaways and Contests

It’s no secret that people adore cheap and free stuff. But you’ve got to make your giveaways worthwhile and your contests entertaining and rewarding. Nobody cares about 5% discount codes or free shipping on their next order. They want that 20% discount, free meals, free trips, or exclusive gear. And they also want their rewards now, not next month. Instant-use discount codes and fast and free shipping are win-wins.

Lastly, don’t forget to acknowledge the winner publicly so people see that it isn’t a gimmick. Better yet, have the winner create a post or video that you can share so it has a more authentic touch.

5. Host Q&A or AMA Sessions

Question & Answer (Q&A) or Ask Me Anythings (AMAs) have long been a staple of traditional interviews and sites like Reddit, but they’re rapidly becoming more mainstream across social media. For example, Instagram recently released a new story sticker that allows followers to ask questions within their stories, that many are using in an AMA style. Because these formats have a live or recent quality to them, they’re alluring to audiences of all types. Naturally, the more time people spend interacting with your brand, the more trust and rapport you can build – which inevitably will lead to more attention and sales.

6. Share Influencer Content

Blogger and influencer outreach is all about finding relevant influencers to align with your brand. Start by leveraging marketing tools to find what content in your niche is getting the most engagement, and determine who’s creating it.

Then, get noticed by sharing their content, engaging with it, or directly reaching out with a short pitch or offer. Once you’ve established an influencer is a fit for your brand and goals, then you can simply invite them to share your content.

7. Ask Questions and Utilize CTAs

If you want action, you’ve got to ask for it. It’s truly that easy. A properly-placed call-to-action (CTA) will encourage readers to engage with you further. First, show prospects how you can make their life better or address a pain point. Speak to their emotions, and you can’t go wrong. Then, hit them with a CTA that’s simple, specific, and a gradual next step. Typically, these steps involve moving them from your social media page to interacting with your content or taking them to a landing page on your site.

To build engagement, ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. These questions usually start with “why,” and the best are thought-provoking or slightly controversial to encourage people to share their opinions. Create “fill in the blank” or “caption this photo” prompts to engage your audience on a creative level that makes them feel involved. Futurism, a science and technology news site, famously does this on their popular Instagram stories.

8. Engage With Others

How you interact with your audience is a critical component of how your brand is perceived. A positive perception is typically marked by lots of engagement and a dialogue that’s positive and lighthearted. Thank them, compliment them, or offer assistance in some way.

Naturally, there will be some negative comments and engagement, but the best way to handle that is to pick your battles, keep your responses short and sweet, and point them toward an FAQ resource or bring the negative conversation out of the public eye.

9. Utilize Images, GIFs, and Videos

Adding visual elements to your content is one of the best ways to make your post stand out in social media feeds, partly because people are better at remembering visual content. For example, if you hear a piece of information, three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. But if you add a picture to it, it can boost retention up to 65%.

Visual storytelling is best served by ditching stock visual content and creating your own instead. People gravitate toward original content, and usually perceive stock imagery as spammy and distasteful. Even just snapping your own photos, adding a light filter, and superimposing text over it can create highly-shareable content.

10. Share Surveys and Polls

Posting surveys and polls on Twitter and Facebook is easy, and it’s a great way to stoke engagement and learn meaningful info about your audience. Plus, with enough of a reach, you can generate original content by surveying your audience (and sharing the results later). Instagram even has a sticker layer that allows users or brands to get near-instant feedback from their audience on ideas for new products and features.

11. Post Frequently and at the Right Times

According to a 2018 industry research report from Sprout Social, the best times to post on Facebook are Wednesdays from 12-2 PM and Thursdays from 1-2 PM. Twitter’s sweet spot is Friday from 9-10 AM or between 10 AM and noon most days. To maximize these guidelines, automate your social media posts using a tool like Buffer, or at the very least schedule them out in advance with a tool like CoSchedule.

12. Ask For Feedback

A fast and easy way to get your followers talking is to simply ask their opinions. People have no shortage of opinions, and are usually quick to share their feedback and suggestions when asked. You can also pair this with giveaways to really get people talking. Free shipping, free dessert, or a hefty discount code can go a long way toward getting people to open up.

13. Don’t Discount Live Video

35% of marketers are now using live video to reach their intended audience, partly because they garner more engagement than non-live videos. On Facebook, live videos have an average engagement rate of 4.3%, compared to non-live video content at 2.2%. That’s nearly twice the engagement – and the best part is you don’t have to do any editing or add any graphics; just point and shoot.

14. Partner Up and Cross-promote

One of the quickest ways to generate more engagement and simultaneously reach a wider audience is to cross-promote by partnering up with another brand. Obviously, you’ll want to find someone who isn’t a direct competitor, but is still industry-adjacent enough to have a similar audience. Once you’ve found a partner, you’ve got a few options:

  1. Post content supplied by your new partner
  2. Co-produce a piece of content that you both share
  3. Create a post on behalf of your new partner

Besides partnering with other companies, you can also cross-promote other social media channels. Tweet a picture of your Snapchat page, or remind people on Instagram to check out your Pinterest page.

15. Utilize Paid Promotion

If you want to reach a larger audience and drive more engagement, it doesn’t get much easier or faster than paid promotion. The hard part is finding the perfect combination of ad copy, landing pages, headlines, and offerings. Luckily, the internet is riddled with “how to” guides on successful paid promotion.

While all this social media optimization seems like a lot of work, remember, a whopping 94% of prospects are active on some form of social media, making the juice absolutely worth the squeeze. You can’t afford not to have some form of social media presence – and if you’re going to do it at all, you’ve got to make sure you do it right.

How are you winning the war for attention and engagement on social media? Share your story and tactics in the comments below: