In this extremely competitive world, how do brands get their campaigns to generate customer loyalty, product curiosity, and ultimately, more sales? Many companies believe that social media is the answer.
Social media for brands isn’t just about showing off products and announcing sales, it’s about building trust, authentic relationships, and long-term customers. But algorithm updates to social networks rolled out in the last 5 years has meant this is much more easily said than done.
During this post, we’ll walk you through the importance of engagement in the age of algorithms, top tips for driving engagement on social media, and a handful of brand examples that you can take inspiration from.
The Role and Impact of Algorithms for Engagement on Social Media
These days all social media networks have enforced algorithms, set to improve the user experience. These algorithms prevent brands from targeting the masses and instead favour content that a particular user will find interesting. Content that receives high engagement, tends to be favoured by the algorithms and leads to a higher reach of your content.
Read our blog about the Facebook algorithm change.
A few facts to help us understand the challenge we as marketing professionals face:
- Every minute, 527k photos are shared on Snapchat, 695k giphys are sent and 350k tweets posted
- The average person receives over 120 phone notifications a day
- Organic reach for branded Facebook pages is 2% on average – so if you have 1000 followers, only 20 people will see your content.
- People miss up to 70% of their feeds, this is because Instagram/Facebook’s algorithm filters out a lot of content.
Whilst people are spending more time online than ever, there’s also an overwhelming amount of content. Brands are having to compete for attention and find ways to stand out amongst the noise. This is made harder by social media sites algorithms that filter out content. To add to this challenge, Facebook claimed they’d be making it even harder for brands to stay visible, with an algorithm change favouring content from friends and family.
Aimlessly posting masses of content in the hope it’ll reach a large number of people is no longer a wise approach. Customers expect highly targeted personalised and authentic content. We need to engage with our audience and create bonds.
Traditionally, in order to understand if they’ve been successful on social media, brands used vanity metrics such as followers. Since the importance of engagement has now massively increased, brands are now looking at social media engagement as a key metric. This is partly because engagement fuels visibility (and therefore further engagement), but also because having thousands of followers who don’t care about what you have to say brings little ROI value.
Tips to Increase Engagement on Social Media:
With the above in mind, here are our top tips for increasing engagement on social media
1) Use more video
Across all social networks, video content tends to see higher engagement, so naturally, social media algorithms favour this content type. Don’t just take our word for it, Mr Zuckerburg himself has said going forward, video (both live and pre-recorded) is going to be a big priority for Facebook.
2) Go live
Leading on from the previous tip, going live on social media is another online trend we need to hop on. Live video is currently getting the most engagement on Facebook. According to Facebook, viewers comment 10x more on Facebook Live videos than regular ones. If you’ve been following our social media news, you’d know that Facebook has also announced two new features for live video: polls & gamification! Some brands, such as Buzzfeed and Fresno are using live video to host game shows.
We can start by showing behind the scenes of our brand, such as showing how we make our products or day in the life of our teams. We can even live stream our events or host Q&A sessions with an expert. Overall, use video to increase engagement on social media!
3) Go the extra mile for customers
After a child left their beloved stuffed toy at the Ritz Carlton, staff sent pictures to the family of a stuffed toy enjoying ‘an extra night of vacation’ before sending it back to the child. Whether it’s going above and beyond to provide an amazing customer experience, or providing amusing replies to people’s tweets, these will help increase engagement on social media.
As mentioned, humour is a great way to engage an audience. Just look at companies such as Innocent, Tesco and Oreo. They use humour in their social media accounts, and people like it. Many of Tesco’s sassy responses to customers have become infamous. Just because our brands haven’t got anything to do with humour, doesn’t mean we can’t use it as part of our brand persona.
We all know the importance of a call to action in our campaigns. The same applies to social media. If we want people to tweet photos of an event we’re hosting, or have people send in photos of them using our products in a particular place, ask. Encouraging people to share, is a great way to build communities and increase engagement. It also organically expands the reach of our brands because our audiences are sharing their posts with their networks.
Asking questions is the easiest way to create a conversation. This is such a simple, yet often forgotten method of engaging our audiences. All of our favourite platforms now let you post polls, which is a perfect way to increase social media engagement.
- On Instagram: In Instagram stories, you can either create a ‘poll’ or use ‘ask me a question’ features.
- On Twitter: You can ‘add a poll’ to your tweet.
- On Facebook: You can add polls to your page
Kinds of questions you can ask your audience:
- Advice & recommendations
- Product feedback
- Would you be interested in X content?
- Trendjack social media days & news headlines e.g. emoji day
6) Look outside of your brand, industry and competitors
We should regularly benchmark ourselves against competitors, to understand how we’re performing in our industry. However, we need to go beyond this. We should look beyond our own industries to gain inspiration from other successful brands.
Just because we don’t sell smoothies, doesn’t mean we can’t take a leaf out of Innocent’s book when it comes to increasing engagement.
Using emoji’s may seem a bit juvenile- but everyone’s using them! According to scientists, when a person sees an emoji, their brain lights up in the same way as when they see a human face. Emoji’s have the power to change the mood of the reader. Gifs are also a great way to bond with audiences and bring some humour to the conversation. Check out giphy for some inspiration! Even adding a GIF as a reply to a tweet, can transform a simple ‘thank you’ tweet, so something much more engaging!
8) Embed your content
Lot’s of algorithms don’t favour links. This is because by posting a link to video or article we’ve created, takes the user off their website. When possible embed videos into your post, rather than sending users off the website. Whilst we may want to promote our blogs, create content that can be enjoyed on the particular social media site as well.
Videos & Infographics can easily be embedded. Canva is a great tool if you’re after a quick way to create infographics!
9) Think differently
‘Think outside the box’ it might be a cliche, but it’s true. Try lot’s of different social media platforms and see what sticks. Whilst we tend to stick to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you can increase engagement by considering alternative sites such as Reddit, Tumblr and Giphy. If you have a big personality in or associated with your brand or a particular quirk in the office, consider utilising it. Our audience is more likely to relate to another human than they will a faceless brand, so start getting employees involved in social media campaigns.
Take #AskEddie for example. Southern rail let a 15-year-old work experience teen, loose on their social media pages. This led to a huge boost in engagement, viral posts, and even people forgetting about their complaints against Southern Rail.
Trend jacking is another great way of thinking differently. Jump on a viral tweet or story and put a unique spin on it. We’ve seen loads of great examples of trendjacking such as Oreo’s superbowl tweet.
10) Tell stories
One of the most effective ways to build trust and authentic relationships with an audience (and sell products) is through the use of storytelling. Stories are one of the oldest forms of communication and they are still deeply embedded within our DNA. Get it right, and a good story can help to spark curiosity and drive action, so, what makes for a good story?
Acclaimed Pixar director, Pete Docter, once said, “What you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to write about an event in your life that made you feel some particular way. And what you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to get the audience to have that same feeling.”
There’s so much data out there, utilise it. Looking at vanity metrics isn’t always enough. Having thousands of followers doesn’t mean thousands of people are engaged with our brands. Analyse how many people mention our brand or product, what sorts of posts are sparking engagement, and what isn’t.
It’s worth performing a brand health check every now and again to help inform strategy going forward. Meltwater’s PR Insights reports is a good place to start. We can provide digestible data about competitors, media exposure, reach and tonality.
Brands who successfully engage their audience
Here we’ve detailed a few of our favorite Non-Profit, B2B, B2C brands to takes inspiration from when crafting your own social media content strategy.
B2C Ecommerce Brands
Here we’ve detailed a few of our favorite Non-Profit, B2B, B2C brands to takes inspiration from when crafting your own social media content strategy.
We live in one of the most exciting times in ecommerce history—thanks in large part to social media. Over the past decade, thousands of online-first consumer brands have emerged onto the scene, challenging traditional retail on all fronts and transforming the industry before our eyes. To spark some inspiration for your own social media campaigns, here’s a handful of ecommerce brands who have successfully engaged their audiences using this channel.
1. Altra Running
Altra Running is a shining example of storytelling in action. Take the 2019 Boston Marathon, for example. This iconic race is a staple in many running brands’ social media marketing calendars. Altra Running didn’t use the Boston Marathon to simply sell their products, they used it as an opportunity to connect with their customers through stories.
2. More Labs
Another way to attract long-term customers is to relate to them on a personal level by using their language and speaking how they speak. Many ecommerce brands on social media thrive at doing so, while some fall flat.
More Labs, creators of supplements for people who want more out of life, are a great example of a brand that understands what their audience is looking for in terms of social media content: alcohol and recovery. More often than not, they share light-hearted content focused on engagement such as delicious drink recipes:
Then, at the perfect time, More Labs throws in tasteful product promotion that fits with their brand style:
Playing off the old saying “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear”, they creatively promote their product while simultaneously keeping the content fun.
Social media, after all, should be fun.
3. TOMS Shoes
Humans naturally feel inspired by and invested in brands that stand for something good and many ecommerce brands have benefited tremendously from aligning their product, mission, and marketing efforts with overall company profits. In fact, 64% of consumers point to shared values as their main reason for working with a brand, and 90% expect companies to operate responsibly to address social issues.
TOMS Shoes is one of those brands. Behind all of their success is a mission statement that acts a “call to arms” to their audience – aligning values and views of the world with a product. That mission statement is woven throughout their social media content as well:.
Ecommerce brands on social media that successfully align their content with their brand mission will build a loyal, engaged, and active community.
Ecommerce brands like TOMS Shoes inspire people with their mission statement and values, while other brands inspire people by evoking wonder and curiosity. Huckberry, an online shop and journal that inspires more active, adventurous, and stylish lives, intuitively understands that by sparking their audience’s sense of wanderlust, they are able to sell more products in the long run.
You may be wondering why Huckberry focuses energy and attention on creating a unique brand story and publishing content around that story. Because it works.
In an interview, Huckberry Brand Management Director Micah McKay explained, “Roundups, gift guides, gear guides, you name it, have all been a huge part of why people enjoy our brand. To take directly from our mantra, we’re not just selling products, we’re selling inspiration.”
5. Lorna Jane
What started off as small, home-based business, Lorna Jane is now a leading global fashion brand providing sportswear for women embracing healthy living.
Lorna Jane’s one-of-a-kind lifestyle brand persona incorporates a fun-loving and nurturing tone of voice into all of their social media content. But most of all, they actively engage with their audience on a consistent basis:
The Lorna Jane team takes full advantage of the opportunity to answer customers’ questions publicly on social media. To them, it’s just another part of building a successful company. When SmartCompany asked marketing manager Jessie Dean what makes Lorna Jane so successful, she replied, “Lorna Jane is perceived as so much more than a clothing brand, we’re Active Living advocates that share everything with our customers to help them live their best active lives. We’re deeply involved with our community.”
B2B companies often feel handicapped in their efforts to market on social media. Typically, they believe B2C companies have the upper hand because these companies have a greater opportunity to create visually interesting, compelling and sharable posts, graphics and campaigns. But nothing could be further from the truth. Many B2B organizations are launching successful social media campaigns and generating significant results.
Among them are Juniper Networks, NorthShore University HealthSystem, and Maersk Line. See how these three B2B companies in technology, healthcare and manufacturing launched inspiring social media campaigns to engage their key audiences, expand their community presence and become industry thought leaders.
To gear up for a new product launch, Juniper Networks brainstormed ideas to gain the attention of both its existing data center community and new audiences. But initiating conversations with busy, marketing-adverse data center engineers wasn’t going to be easy. Juniper knew that engineers in its social communities’ value hands-on learning opportunities. Additionally, they like to celebrate their interests and share visuals of what they have created with others. This is particularly true with individuals who are known to have authority within the industry.
Then Juniper hit on an idea — a Lego contest! After all, what tech engineer as a child didn’t love building things, breaking them down and building new things with the building blocks? And what could be more visually interesting?
The company invited 10 key influencers to participate in a challenge to build the best data center design out of Legos and to feature the designs on their blogs. The designs ranged from a Star Wars data center to a “Back to the Future” data center to an eco-friendly data center.
Knowing this light-hearted content directly represents the interests of the community, the brand established a Facebook takeover the month of the product announcement. Juniper leveraged Facebook’s photo-sharing capabilities to highlight the fun and engaging data center designs the influencers created. The company further leveraged the opportunities on Facebook to showcase the design images from all submissions. As it announced winners, the company compiled images from each submission, including descriptions and links to contestants’ blog posts.
The contest was a hit. It successfully initiated a data center conversation among the brand’s influencers and community members. Engagements with Juniper’s unique content increased 75.27 percent during the month of the contest. The increase was achieved through a social media snowball effect, including a combination of announcing contest winners on Twitter, influencer-shared news and amplification by the community through congratulations and retweeting the winners’ victories.
NorthShore University HealthSystem
Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem launched a social media campaign with a clear goal: To maximize exposure and pique interest among patients and potential patients in the community. It also wanted to build trust for its four award-winning hospitals and its medical professionals by allowing its current and future patients to interact directly with physicians.
The hospital began its social media program by first conducting a competitive analysis of other area hospitals’ social marketing efforts. It identified two gaps: hosting live Twitter chats and promoting infographics.
NorthShore launched a series of themed Twitter chats with its physicians using the hashtag #NSChats. Discussions addressed a variety of healthcare-related topics relevant to the public. The organization worked to increase engagement and raise awareness by identifying and targeting influencers to participate, and by conducting targeted outreach to capture audiences—no matter where they were in their patient journey.
To maximize the Twitter chats’ impact, NorthShore created follow-up resources for participants. For example, they could view curated lists of questions and answers. Also, chat transcripts and tweets were shared on the hospital’s blog, giving patients another opportunity to interact.
Along with the chats, NorthShore also created an ongoing stream of infographics that aligned with national health-related observances and seasonal events. Each infographic had its own unique targeting strategy to boost exposure, and increase relevance and the likelihood of engagement.
The Twitter chats and influencer-targeting program were extremely successful. They helped the organization build trust and grow affinity within the community. NorthShore’s metrics for success included overall engagement in the form of post likes, post comments and post shares, as well as clicks to its website. For example, the breast cancer awareness infographic was liked 1,641 times and shared 218 times—respectively, 1,782 percent and 249 percent more than an average NorthShore blog post. The overall reach of NorthShore’s social campaign included 1.6 million impressions and a 291 percent increase in followers.
NorthShore stated: “When patients need a healthcare provider, it is usually for a specific purpose, which makes it difficult to get individuals to casually interact with a healthcare provider on social media. Brands need to create smart and appealing content to engage with their audience, but also build trust and communication with future and existing patients.”
Maersk Line is the world’s largest container shipping company with routes stretching across 150 countries. Its social media program is equally vast, stretching across multiple channels with each platform providing a different purpose, such as intriguing photos on Instagram, time-lapsed videos on Vimeo, and user-generated content on Pinterest.
Before embarking on its voyage into B2B social media campaigns, Maersk spent a great deal of time listening to the social media scene, and researching and understanding the value, benefit and role of social media for a B2B company. Its ultimate goal is to gain useful insight into the current market, get closer to its customers and boost employee satisfaction. By incorporating engaging content such as questions, photographs and links, it fosters conversations rather than advocating its products and services.
A great example is LinkedIn, where the company has 178,000 followers. After conducting a social media survey, Maersk found that its customers prefer to connect with them on LinkedIn more than any other network. The company uses the platform in a B2C manner to provide shipping industry news relevant to its followers.
In particular, it also has found that LinkedIn Groups offer a great opportunity to interact and engage with customers on a more personal level. The company regularly engages in high-end industry discussions in private groups it manages, including The Shipping Circle and The Reefer Circle. Users include shipping experts from around the world who debate industry challenges and opportunities with each other. Maersk has found these professional forums are a great opportunity to gain knowledge from experts who it might not otherwise meet.
Also, in a bid to introduce what it calls “social commerce,” the company uses LinkedIn’s Products & Services tab to describe some of its core products and ideas. Followers can then comment on them and provide peer-to-peer recommendations.
Maersk stated: “Social media is about communication, not marketing. It’s about engaging, not pushing. And social media is definitely not just about the media side. For a company like our social media creates more value when it challenges the way we think and interact. In fact, social media is a mindset, a way of thinking and working together. It’s based on the fact that we are social animals, and that means we can only benefit from sharing our thoughts and ideas with each other.”
B2C Ecommerce Brands
While there are many opportunities for nonprofits to raise money throughout the year, one of the most philanthropic days is Giving Tuesday. Around $331 million was raised on Giving Tuesday in 2018 – a 21% increase ($57 million) over 2017’s record-breaking day $274 million. So, whether you’re a nonprofit or a brand partnering with nonprofits, knowing what makes a Giving Tuesday campaign successful can assist you in activating this year’s strategy. That's why we're highlighting three nonprofit campaigns with outsized success, let’s see what we can learn from them.
Dress for Success Worldwide (#GivingShoesDay)
Why it works: #GivingShoesDay demonstrates the importance of getting creative with your nonprofit giving campaigns and creating a story around your cause that people care about. In this campaign, Dress for Success encouraged supporters around the world to “shoe their best” as the nonprofit redubbed #GivingTuesday as #GivingShoesDay on social media.
Though not quite at the level of other post-Thanksgiving marketing campaigns such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday, #GivingShoesDay has made a major impact on Dress for Success. Since the campaign’s launch in 2012, more than 8,400 pairs of shoes have been donated through the organization’s affiliates. They continue to see a roughly 400% increase in shoe donations year-over-year as well as an increase in monetary donations from their supporters.
DoSomething.org and Tinder (#ImAvailable)
Why it works: #ImAvailable is a great reminder of why social media can be such a powerful tool for inspiring action, particularly when organizations join forces. It doesn’t take much to get people involved, it only takes a compelling call to action and an audience primed for your cause. In 2017, Tinder launched its famous #ImAvailable campaign – partnering with DoSomething.org to donate $100 to the global website for each social media post that includes #ImAvailable across all networks. Tinder pledged to donate up to $200,000 and needless to say, it was a huge success for the nonprofit.
In total, Tinder raised more than $202,000 (at the time of writing) for DoSomething.org– surpassing the full amount Tinder originally committed to donating.
Special Olympics International and Finish Line Youth Foundation
Why it works: Two is often better than one, especially when it comes to giving. Special Olympics International and Finish Line show what a difference creating a matching-gift campaign can make to donations on Giving Tuesday. During the holiday season, cumulating on Giving Tuesday, the Finish Line Youth Foundation runs an at-register fundraising campaign in all of Finish Line’s stores across the country to support Special Olympics.
Finish Line raised more than $875,000 in stores around the U.S. during the holiday period. This money supports more than 15,040 Special Olympics athletes who receive one month’s coaching and training. Special Olympics International matches Finish Line donations up to $50,000 to make an even bigger impact in the lives of athletes. Today, SOI has helped more than 4,600,000 athletes.
By identifying the right influencers nonprofits can level up their Giving Tuesday campaigns by exposing their mission to new audiences.