Engagement is one of the hardest things to achieve. That statement probably goes without saying if you are reading this post. I churn through social media accounts day in and day out as best as I can to make headway in likes and traffic. I have a small team that helps me along the way when needed. That certainly does improve things, but most people don’t have connections to just bring in some help.
I have spent years learning each social platform and I know first hand how difficult it is to gain a following and engagement. Listening to people like Gary Vee and plenty of others as they tell us how engaging on Twitter or YouTube is important. This post can be blended right into that same philosophy. Hell, Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook was probably one of the best books I have ever read because he walks through example after example of proper social posting. It is one of the few paper books that certainly deserves a spot in my library.
I don’t spend my days listening and watching these motivators anymore. At first, I was hyped and made sure they were on my list of “must watch” when I had time. That time cost me the extra minutes I could have been replying to someone instead of watching an hour per day of motivational speeches. In fairness, they are pretty damn good speeches and Q & A’s. Most of my time is spent on learning, practicing and most importantly…executing my goals.
Knowing What To Post & When
Can you speak Twitter? How about Instagram? How about all of the other social platforms that you have in your arsenal? Each platform has is it’s own language and style that you must learn or be left with a frustrating mess on your hands. You have to know how to use each platform and you have to share content that people care about. Just posting and hoping for replies and likes isn’t going to get you very far. If I have learned nothing else, I know that reaching out to people with questions, content, and telling visual stories can really give you results.
The way each platform works is different in many ways such as hashtags, mentioning people, content length, scheduling posts, stories told, and many other variables. Take Twitter, with only 140 characters allowed you are forced to craft something unique and to the point. Compare that to Tumblr and people are sharing emotional poems, gif porn, hashtags, images and everything under the sun. There is a lot for a person to digest in this landscape of constant content being fired out for likes and shares. My advice is find that one platform and own it. Become that page that people have to check every day like George Takei’s Facebook page.
We often want to do it all no matter how good or bad each effort is. Balancing posts, scheduling tweets, finding or creating unique content, and replying back to comments can stretch us all thin. This can easily degrade what we set out to accomplish. I see so many people just ignore the engagement that is there waiting to happen.
A great example in engagement is YouTube. I follow some smaller channels and after they publish a video they typically answer comments for the first hour after and then move on. Rarely do I see answers from the publisher months after if at all. Some, then wonder why their is a decline in activity. Instead of just moving forward in a linear fashion, go back and make sure you answer people. It makes you look great and it primes the engagement. I will note that I forgive YouTubers that are not responding to comments that are clearly trolling.
As for the channels with millions of views, it’s rare to see them engaging in the comments and it could be that there isn’t enough time in the day or the comment section looks like a bloodbath already. They typically try to reach out and do what they can. I think this is an area that you really have to say to yourself that it just isn’t feasible to spend your time like this.
I have always agreed with Gary Vaynerchuk’s approach in managing what you can handle. He advises people to focus on 1-2 platforms, and do it the best that you can. His advice is always relevant no matter how you package it. He does something that most people can’t because he has the money to hire a team, but more importantly he executes his plans. He has always managed his own Twitter profile from what he has said in the past.
Personal Example: The 40 Reasons I Hate Albuquerque Story
In 2010, I was stationed at Kirtland AFB, NM. During my time waiting for an assignment to Korea I decided to keep busy with a personal blog called 2 Kilograms. I later moved all of my humor(less) content to this blog to condense 3 blogs to 1. Eventually I just removed it all together and focused.
I had written a short list of the 40 things I didn’t like about ABQ with some help from others around the office. I wasn’t picked up or read by anyone until I had long forgotten about it. It wasn’t until 2.5 years after I published it that a Facebook page called I Love ABQ found it and shared it with their 40,000 fans. People were disgusted at my list and left over 500 comments on my article and another 500+ comments on the Facebook group. I was hammered with every insult and a few “he is right about that”. I only found out because a friend noticed the writing style and asked me if this was my website. She was from ABQ and if she had not told me I would have never known early enough to use it to my advantage.
I could have apologized for my 40 items and let it be, but that’s not me. I had an opportunity to use this to further my reach and I did just that. I switched over to my Facebook page identity and answered every single comment with humor over a 48-hour span. I did the same for my post comments on my blog as well. I had gotten about 20,000 hits on my blog in one weekend and decided to write a follow up post about the 10 Things I Love About ABQ and shared it with the same page. It tipped the scales back into my favor and people gave me kudos for taking the punches and having fun with it.
This 48-hour window was crucial and I turned them from hating me to loving me (not all). I am serious about answering every single one too. It shocked them and I grew my audience out of that. I don’t advise doing this each time it happens because you can really get lost in the “time suck”.
I wish I could find the screencaps to show an example of what positive engagement looks like in that example. I took all the hatred in the majority of comments and tried to get them to appreciate my humor. Many walked away with emotions intact and actually started reading my blog on a regular basis. I didn’t fight fire with fire and instead I replied with love. My engagement was targeted to bring people into the fold and not start a fight. I could have easily burnt down the village but for what gain? Ask yourself how you can take a spiraling situation and turn it into an easy landing by choosing the right words, tones, and empathy if needed. Think before engaging to make sure you walk away with something to gain versus an avoidable event that lives on forever on the internet.
The Downsides of Ignoring or Fighting With People
When you reply to someone you are starting that connection. Now, not every engagement is positive as we have covered. You have to be able to notice trolling versus someone being real with you. A good example of negative engagement is Amy’s Baking Company. They engaged with every customer in a negative way to the point where people stopped coming and Gordon Ramsay gave up on them on during an episode of Kitchen Nightmares. Let’s avoid the negative engagement since it ends in some serious damage to you or your brand.
It’s easy to click publish and move forward without coming back and responding to people. I have done this from time to time, but I take a pause often and look at my analytics to see what is good and what is not. I switch my priorities for each platform to see what works and what doesn’t. I do what normal people do…I think. I let my numbers tell me where I am winning and where I am failing.
I see the comments on YouTube that go unanswered because the video is older. I publish videos too so I know you get a notification when someone comments. I scratch my head when I see no engagement between creator and audience. It’s a perfect opportunity to talk with someone and let them know that you want to engage. These small things may seem like nonsense, but it’s the little things that add up to more or less views, shares, and people who give a shit about what you are putting out.
I use YouTube as the example because it’s what I spend a good amount of time on. The same thing goes for any platform. While I might not be executing a flawless plan, I never let a chance to have a conversation slip by. I want each person to come back and build a relationship with them. They care enough to respond to my content and that is truly priceless. I have several commenters from years ago that still hit me up because I connected with them once or twice. The absence of this engagement sets you on a path to be average at best, and irrelevant at worst. We want to be liked just as much as our fans like to know they matter.
Choose your place and reach out to people and talk. The conversation that can be had or lost is really up to you. Don’t allow engagement to be your achilles heel.
The Upsides of Engaging
Finding opportunities to comment back to someone wanting more information can elevate you to an authority figure in your niche. When people seek you out for quality advice you become a bit more powerful even if it’s not noticeable. Don’t let this get to your head though, because the moment you relax on engaging you will see it starting to fade away. That is a huge loss and I have been there before. I got tied up in doing too much, but I got back on track and people reached out to me daily because they knew they are going to get my attention.
This is the positive engagement that encourages people to consume all of your content and even share your stuff with their influence. This kind of positive engagement is what gets a million subscribers on YouTube or a few million Twitter followers.
The upsides in replying or even liking someone’s comment is enough to keep them hanging on to your future content. The upsides a limitless as long as you know that you will always get more with honey and not with vinegar. I smash people with hugs and caring. I take the extra time to write something personal. I love people as much as possible through email, comments, and anywhere else they want to engage.
Hopefully this excites you to want to make more connections by interacting with your readers, listeners, or viewers. Own your content and own your audience. No one will do this for you and it’s not hard once you commit to it. Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have a story you can share? I want to hear from you!