Improving your social media engagement is the key to earning more fans and followers, but what many forget is that social engagement is also an excellent way to earn feedback. The more you can connect with your audience and earn visibility for your brand, the better content you can produce in all aspects of your business. Social channels offer yet another place for you to show off your expertise and establish credibility, so you want to make sure you're creating a place where people want to engage.

Unfortunately, it isn't always easy to raise this engagement. It takes a lot of work and creativity (and oftentimes different strategies for different platforms), but there are things you can do to help give your social platforms the boost they need for those extra fans and that valuable feedback.

Below are five major steps you can take to get started improving the social engagement on all of your different channels:

  1. Assist Where You Can

Social media will reward you for helping others. If you are able to offer assistance with any of your current or potential followers, oftentimes that favor is returned. If you notice something on your feed that users might find useful or helpful, share that information with them as it will only strengthen your relationship with them. Social media is all about social connections, and others will feel more inclined to share your information if they know you will reciprocate.

  1. Hashtags and more hashtags.

This is particularly useful for Twitter and Facebook, but even platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are starting to take notice. Use hashtags to start a trend and help gain more brand visibility. There are two major ways and reasons that you can use hashtags to your advantage:

  • They give you a good place to send new customers who want to read some of your social posts on a particular topic. If you faithfully use the same hashtag for a given subject, users can search that hashtag to get a list of your posts on that topic all in one place. You can ask others to use the hashtag when posting related content to get people involved, and then advertise that hashtag for those searching for more information on that topic.
  • They work great for contests. Hosting a contest is a great way to get social connections and get your community involved. Have participants upload a video, piece of content, or even answer a question all using the same hashtag. This will encourage people to spread the word about your company and help you create more connections and get people engaging with your account.

Brands such as Charmin, DiGiorno Pizza, and the Make a Wish Foundation have used hashtags very successfully as a way to get their community involved. Check out this article for some examples that worked, those that did not, and what should have been done differently.

  1. Be as visual as possible.

This not only means using more stock images but also uploading videos and posting photos of your team. If a team member did something interesting, post that on your social channels with an image or video. People respond well to real-world events, so this is a good way to get there. Getting your team involved can help spark conversation. People like to hear from other people, not just brands, and images are a good way to grab their attention.

Behind-the-scenes images also work great for engagement and fostering comments, and asking users to send in photos is a great way to get the community involved and help your page seem more appealing and personalized to new visitors.

  1. Be Personable.

It is important to have a presence and personality so your followers know there is a real person behind your logo. Social media is about creating real relationships socially and the best way to be able to achieve success is to have that personal touch. Share information about yourself or your business that shows your character.

  1. Ask questions and talk with loyal customers.

It's also a good idea to simply ask questions. This is a great way to get people to start participating because you're essentially telling them exactly what to do. Remember when someone does answer, that answer will oftentimes go onto the person's homepage feed, getting your brand out there even more to all of his or her friends and followers. Extra Reminder: Always respond to questions to create a dialogue.

A Few Extra Tips

First, it's incredibly important to use a social media monitoring tool so you can have even more insight into your audience members and what they like to read. This will help you know exactly where your focus should be and what is working so you can continue to improve in the right areas. A few social media tools I recommend include SimplyMeasured, Hootsuite, and SocialMention. One tool will usually do the trick, but try out a few to see which system works best for you.

Last, it's worth mentioning that you have to advertise your social channels and make them obvious. You can do this by making sure that you have social buttons on all of your pages and social buttons to your accounts on your homepage. Get the advertising ball rolling by talking to some of your best customers about connecting and sharing as well as featuring cool interviews or promotions on your channels that might entice people to come check it out.

Published on: Oct 21, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.