Chats over Chatter: Engage Your Followers with Conversation

When was the last time you had a conversation with a follower on one of your social networks?

If that question is hard to answer, chances are that your audience is less than engaged. Any social feed can push content out to the world, but it takes skill and a human touch to pull content and participation from your followers.

Genuine engagement happens when your audience has the opportunity to contribute, AND they know that you’re out there listening. When you appreciate and encourage your followers’ participation, they are more likely to continue to engage with you in the future. Your audience is out there waiting for you to start a conversation. Why not start now?


Social Media Is Not a Soapbox

If you’re using social networks only to broadcast, you’re doing it wrong.

We’ve previously explained how content ratios matter. That is, the majority of your content should be a mix of interesting articles, tips, and information, with the minority going towards self-promotion. Regardless of your content ratios, social media is meant to be, well, social. This means two-way conversations, open dialogues, and responsive communication are crucial aspects of your social strategy. Without follower engagement, you might as well be preaching to an empty room.

What not to do

Look no further than PR darling United Airlines for an excellent example of how NOT to do social media. In 2008 customer Dave Carroll wrote to the airline with a complaint about damage to his guitar. When he was refused compensation, he took to YouTube with the song, “United Breaks Guitars,” which became a reputational nightmare for the company. The company landed itself in hot—no, scalding—water simply because they were unwilling to have a conversation.



By contrast, the most successful social media profiles engage with their followers on a regular basis. Starbucks Coffee executes this well, often replying to, retweeting and re-sharing their followers’ content.


Engage your followers like Starbucks does on Twitter


Excite and Engage Your Followers with Interaction

To get the most from social media, you need to interact with your audience.

Make interactions happen by attracting interest with a conversation starter that can’t be ignored. Reach out with questions, contests and promotions on a regular basis. Start dialogues with other brands and influencers. Congratulate your partners on their successes. Stroking egos is never a bad place to start!

No matter what you’re talking about, you can adapt your engagement strategy to your audience, and how much time you want to dedicate to social conversations. You can interact a lot or a little, fast or slow, regularly or only on occasion. You should always look to experiment with different strategies to find what works best to engage your followers.

Fast and Furious: Questions and Polls

For spur-of-the-moment, instantaneous engagement, ask your followers questions or set up polls with limited time frames.

Engage your followers with polls on Twitter

Slow and Steady: Competitions, Contests, and User-Generated Content

To engage your followers over a longer period of time, create contests or competitions where users have time to make something and share it, usually by tweeting to a certain profile with a specific hashtag. You can also host competitions using this same strategy. Competitions don’t have to have prizes, you could simply ask users to solve a puzzle or find a trivia answer.

Or, just ask your followers to send you their content! This is the best way to add interest to your social media profiles because it puts the focus back on your customers. Here’s an example from Wayfair, who reposted a photo originally taken by a follower, using their #wayfairathome hashtag.

On The Regular: Chats and Live Video

To encourage engagement at a consistent time, schedule chats and live video broadcasts in advance so that your followers know when the conversation is taking place.

Engage your followers with chats on Twitter

No matter what, just make sure it’s a two-way street! Always reply to those who start conversations with you.


The Mechanisms of Engagement

When embarking on a strategy of engagement, start slow. Identify a few users who are interesting to you and send them a message. Engage your followers by asking for insight, advice, or even their life story. Most people will be more than happy to talk about themselves and what brought them to where they are now.

Once you’ve learned how to walk, you can start to run your first engagement campaign. Choose one of the formats above and get posting! Don’t be discouraged on your first try if you don’t see strong participation. Engagement campaigns become more successful over time as your users get accustomed to interacting – they’re rarely hugely successful out of the gate.

Some engagement best practices to be aware of:

  • Schedule your posts to repeat for the long-term engagement campaigns.
  • Pre-advertise when competitions or scheduled chats will happen, so that users can plan to attend.
  • Say Thanks! Always thank people afterwards for participating.


An Engaged Following is a Happy Following

Social media is so much more than just free advertising.

The best social media profiles engage their followers on a regular basis with questions, competitions, and conversations, and see better statistics as a result. It’s not hard to get your followers talking to you, you just need to ask the right questions.

With post recycling, analytics and categories built-in, SmarterQueue is the best platform to engage your followers. It’s the smartest way to do social media. Properly.

Courtney Apps

Courtney Apps is a business owner, MBA, and never met a dessert she didn’t like. She is the owner of Upstream Digital, which specializes in web design, branding, and social media for small business. She lives in North Vancouver, BC.