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How To Connect With Your Audience On Social Media

Not all social media followers are created equal. Some are far more engaged, far more valuable, and far more interested in your brand. So how about focusing in on them, and building more genuine, one-to-one connections?

There’s a principle in social media advertising that can save you a ton of money: Only boost what’s already working.

In other words, boost and advertise social media posts that are already doing well on their own. This has several benefits. It will:

  • Reduce your cost per click. Social media platforms (Facebook in particular) are designed to be friendly to content that does well.
  • Increase your click-through rates (or engagements, or whatever you’re optimizing for). You’ll be promoting content that your users like, thus you’ll be advertising content that already gets a good click-through rate.

What we’re suggesting is a twist on this. That you go find your social media followers who are already fans. These micro influencers have already demonstrated that they like your content and your brand, so they make ideal brand ambassadors… aka customer advocates.

The more of these people you can identify and nurture, the larger your army of micro-influencers will become. Pair this tactic with the power of user-generated content, and you’ve got a recipe for way more reach and engagement for your content… possibly without ever spending a dime. 

1. Start saying thank you for the shares.

This is so easy. It’s free, and it’s a natural human response. Somebody did something nice for your company – they shared your content or left a comment – and so you say thank you.

You don’t even have to give them anything or gush about how awesome they are or how profoundly grateful you are. Just say thanks. It’ll make you appear (and actually be) more genuine.

It takes maybe 30-60 seconds to thank someone. Which means that even if you only have a few hours a week to do social media, you can reach out to 20 people a week and say thank you…. in 20 minutes or less.

Say thank you on social media

2. Start tagging your top engagers in your posts.

There’s a best practice in social media to ask questions in your posts. To have a post that says, “New study shows 40% of time spent in meetings is wasted… do you think it’s more or less?”

That’s a great start, but if you add just one person’s handle to that post, you’ve just shined the spotlight on them. You’ve asked them the question directly. It’s almost like sending a personalized social media message.

Kinda like this:

Start tagging your top engagers in your posts

Experiment with tagging one, two or even three people to your questions. Also test how you phrase the questions and the tag formats. Does one format seem to generate more responses than another? Is there a way to open up the question, so you still spotlight one or two followers, but also actively encourage other members of your audience to participate?

You can find your top engagers with many of the social media management tools available. BuzzSumo will also show you who’s shared specific pieces of content. It will even rank them according to influence. FollowerWonk, for Twitter, will let you sort and search through your followers, too.

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But you don’t actually need either of those tools. The analytics data from each social media platform is enough to show you whom to tag.

Facebook lets you see this from your own analytics info, but you can also see who’s shared or liked content from any other page. This might be a way to lure some of your competitors’ followers over into your audience.

See who liked your post on Facebook and engage with them

Here’s a view of Twitter analytics data, too. This is organized by month, but you can also drill down to look at who’s sharing your content tweet by tweet. The notifications section of your Twitter account will also show you who’s engaging with what you’ve been sharing.

Who's engaging with my content on Twitter?

Pinterest makes this easy, too. In Pinterest analytics, look for the section “Boards with lots of your Pins”. Those are the people and brands to reach out to.

Who are your Pinterest micro influencers?

Of course, you can also set your Whatagraph reports up to show your most-shared posts, and who’s shared them. If you’re not a customer already, try a free trial here.

3. Try reaching out to your customers, too.

Social media can be a great channel for boosting loyalty. And just because your customers aren’t wildly sharing your content doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention to it, or that they aren’t buying as a result of seeing your posts.

So try getting their attention. Instead of just targeting your “super-sharers”, try reaching out to about 100 or so of your top customers on social. Show them a little love, and they might show you some, too.

This could be particularly effective on Facebook because user-generated content is getting more love in the Facebook newsfeed algorithm now. If you can figure out a way to engage with your existing customers in a time-efficient way that doesn’t embarrass them, you might be able to get your posts to reach them and their friends and followers, too.

If they have even a modest circle of influence, that could result in some nice exposure for your brand. It’ll also be more trusted exposure – user-generated content gets far more conversions because of the implied endorsement it carries, and because most consumers trust what their friends and family saw far more than what brands say.

Here’s an Instagram post that asks people what they think of new tie designs. What if it had been tagged to get the attention of a couple of existing customers?

How to engage your customers on social media

One caveat with this: Don’t encroach on people’s privacy when you tag them in posts. They might not be okay with you saying “based on your past orders” publicly. But you never have to even refer to what they’ve ordered, or even if they’re a customer. 

4. Hook into other things your audience has affinity for.

What is your audience passionate about? If you don’t know the answer to that, you need to find out. Whether it’s a movie, a TV show, puppy pix or funky colored socks, every audience has surprising affinities for stuff that is not directly related to your brand.

Find those affinities (perhaps through your social media analytics) and then weave those themes or things into your social media posts. This often gets outsized results, and gives you a whole new creative theme to spin new content from.

There’s even a term for these kinds of group affinities. It’s called “social affinity”, appropriately enough. Some social media tools let you measure the “social affinity index” for influencers, movies, and television shows. It’s a trick the big-time advertisers and brands have been using for years – but you can use it on a smaller scale, too.

You’ve almost certainly seen this done with, say, Game of Thrones content. Here’s an example:

Game of Thrones marketing map

5. Pick a fight.

Sometimes, you just have to zig while others zag. In that spirit, “going negative” on social can sometimes work. It will, for sure, make you stand out from the sea of niceness that most brands (and people, fortunately) deliver online.

Case in point: Wendy’s was having trouble increasing their online share of voice. They were stuck around 11% in their market. Nothing was working. So they decided to get scrappy.

Like this:

How Wendy's earn their share of voice

Followed by scrapping with whoever comments on the posts, like this:

Getting your online share of voice in style

The result? Picking thousands of little fights with their audience more than doubled Wendy’s share of voice.

Even months after the campaign launch, they enjoyed a 36% increase from when they launched the campaign – a 15% share of voice as opposed to the 11% they started out with.

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Is this tactic for everyone? Absolutely not. But I can see how it could potentially work for an ad agency or any number of consumer brands. Just proceed with caution.


Engagement on social media requires more than just broadcasting information about your company. In fact, it requires even more than sharing good content. You have to be… social.

If you want to stand out from the sea of content, you need to do things differently - to project a brand personality, to connect directly and personally with your audience.

None of this is hard, but it does take time and judgment. So ask yourself… would you rather put in some time and judgment, or just keep watching your engagement rates fall?

Pam Neely
Written By Pam Neely
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