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By Christine Geraci

Four ways to increase social media engagement

Most businesses want to use social media to gain an advantage over their competition. But sometimes, businesses have a hard time explaining why. It is true that social media can help increase sales; but at the same time, social media is not the venue for a hard sell.

Social media channels are best used to find new customers and delight current ones through quality engagement. After all, that's why it's called "social" media. Businesses can engage current and potential customers by not only offering a consistent stream of useful content, but also by starting and participating in conversations.

A steady mixture of both will, over time, pay off in the form of more reactions, comments and shares. The more engagement you have, the more people your business can reach, increasing your chances of finding loyal customers who enjoy using your product or service. In turn, they will advocate for your brand on social media, doing more of the engagement work for you.

So how do you begin to generate more social media engagement?

INVEST in your social media channels

Increasing engagement on social media will take not just time and effort – it will take money. The social media landscape is now a place where brands must pay to play if they want to achieve desirable business results. This means investing in various advertising and promotion mechanisms that allow you to build your follower base and promote content. Both methods help your business increase reach and exposure on social media, which in turn increases your chances of more engagement.

KNOW your audience and what pains them

This is not negative; it is realistic. In order to connect with the audience you're trying to reach, you need to know their "pain points." What are their problems, and how can your business solve them? Sharing a mix of original and curated content that demonstrates how your product or service offers solutions to their problems will resonate with your audience, generating more engagement.

ASK for feedback

Strike up a conversation! Use social media to ask your audience what questions they want you to answer. Invite them to review your product or service. Make crowdsourcing a regular staple in your social media content, whether it's a call for questions that get answered at a set time each week, a live broadcast where you take questions in real time, or a regular Twitter chat. The best way to find out what your audience needs from you is to ASK.

RESPOND to your audience

Seize every opportunity to strike up a good conversation in the comments. Thank them for voicing their opinions. Offer to help answer a question. Be courteous and polite. And most importantly, respond as immediately as you can to any inquiry or complaint, whether it's in a comment or via direct message. Response standards are higher on social media – people expect near-instant gratification. If you do not have the manpower (or just need a vacation), set up automatic responses that direct people to another source of information when you are not able to respond yourself.

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