5 practical steps for better social media engagement

Sheila Averbuch offers five tips on stimulating social media conversation that can benefit your business.

I’m a professional social media manager but personally I’ve stopped using X, the platform previously known as popular. At its peak, this was the platform that gave me the most satisfaction – I loved the excitement of listening to and following anyone interesting.

But the rise in vitriol and disinformation, and the way X monetizes hate, mean that I can no longer tolerate it or recommend it to my clients. Its demise is a real loss for businesses who relied on it to reach journalists, hear from customers and find opportunities to connect.

“Like and repost where relevant. You’ll bring yourself to their attention and teach the algorithm what you like”

But there’s good news: you can still engage with people elsewhere, if you know where to look.

  1. Follow the breadcrumbs to other platforms

Many folks who are deserting X put details in their bios about where to find them elsewhere. For the literary prize where I manage social media, we’re following these crumbs to connect and engage on other platforms. The key concept here is “engage.”

Platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn are algorithm-driven, so you won’t see a chronological list of content from everyone you follow. The algorithm decides what you see and serves you more of what you interact with. So don’t just follow your people elsewhere; read, click and comment on the activity of these new connections. Like and repost where relevant. You’ll bring yourself to their attention and teach the algorithm what you like.

  1. Stop scrolling and start chatting

Commit to further engaging with people you’re already linked to on other platforms. Mindlessly scrolling LinkedIn is a habit that even I fall into, although I know I should stop, read deeply and engage.

When you next look at Instagram, TikTok or whatever platform you find meaningful, look for a chance to interact. You wouldn’t go to a real-life mixer and drift around, staying silent and earwigging all night long. I advise my clients to go onto social media with the express goal of reacting to existing conversations.

Follow people you admire in your industry (if you don’t already) like analysts, journalists or speakers. Don’t be spammy, but pay respectful attention, and you’re sure to find something in their recent activity that inspires you to reshare, comment or both.

  1. Tag strategically and often

As I mentioned in my article on how to use digital media to promote your event, tagging is vital. Keep track of influencers, customers, and others in your business world who use social media, and note down their handles.

All social platforms (including LinkedIn, where you can tag people in pictures) handle tagging the same way: put a @ in front of their ID, and they’ll get an alert that you’ve mentioned them in a post. When I share an interesting news article, I tag not just the publication, but the journalist who wrote it – it’s an authentic way to show my appreciation of their work.

Do not tag journalists or authors when criticising their writing. In fact, I avoid criticising anyone or anything online, because I’m using social media not to socialise, but for marketing. Any issue worth getting heated about is too nuanced to discuss in the short salvos that social media allows.

  1. Search and engage with relevant hashtags

Because you’re not brand-new, you know that tagging people on social media is different from hashtags – the latter let you search for content you want, like #iot or #HistoricalFiction.

The market is always changing, so have you done recent research to determine the keywords people use when looking for what you offer? Use those keywords consistently in your posts, and keep them as saved searches that you check frequently.

multiple filters in linkedin hashtag search.

LinkedIn lets you filter results by time, popularity and other parameters. In Instagram, filter the search results to show top recent posts. (You’ll quickly discover that Instagram currently favours video content. See this article on making the most of mobile video, and remember to hashtag your content appropriately).

Instagram hashtag search show only top recent posts.
  1. The slow burn: finding key people to follow

You’re engaging with content relevant to your keywords, finding your Twitter contacts elsewhere, and tagging people where it’s appropriate to do so. The next step takes longer: finding new, high-calibre people and engaging to build those relationships over time. Let’s say there is a Big Fish you’d like to be noticed by. Which Fellow Fish does Big Fish follow and interact with? Follow those Fellow Fish yourself, then listen and learn. What topics interest them?

By consistently paying attention to the content that Big Fish shares and enjoys, and following some of their Fellow Fish, you’ll understand your market better. And that’s the real secret to more engagement: truly understanding the people you want to reach. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to thinking up content ideas that they’ll find irresistible.


Sheila M. Averbuch
Sheila M. Averbuch is founder and managing director of ENNclick. Sheila holds an MA in journalism from Stanford University and a BA from Harvard University in American History & Literature. Previously she served as Ireland correspondent for USA Today and was a reporter with the San Jose Business Journal, Silicon Valley's chief business newspaper. She writes on a range of topics, from ICT to medicine, and writes the gardening blog Stopwatch Gardener . Her fiction includes the children's novel SPACE KIDS AND THE PLUTO PLOT.