Social media has completely revolutionized the way people and businesses interact online.

It has never been easier for companies to build meaningful relationships with their audiences – or even speak with them directly. But, simultaneously, it has never been more challenging to grab their customers’ attention, as competition is fiercer than ever.

It has been estimated that over 90% of all American companies have at least one social media profile. Further, the majority of consumers follow one or more brands on social platforms, primarily to learn about sales and discounts, and to be updated about new product releases. Only 29% of people follow a brand simply to show their support.

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Engagement on social media is critical for businesses for several reasons.

First of all, it contributes to reinforcing your brand’s credibility (social proof). It can also give your company a leg up – as most algorithms on social media platforms tend to give higher reach and visibility to posts and accounts with higher engagement levels.

Over time, engaging with customers can also help to build connections and relationships – which can lead to conversions and long-term loyalty.

But, what kind of content is best for creating real, meaningful engagement?

In this blog post, I’m highlighting 5 forms of content to consider to increase your engagement rates on social media.

1. User-Generated Content

User-Generated Content (commonly referred to as UGC) is just what it sounds like: content created by everyday users that promotes the brand.

To give you an example of a UGC campaign, Starbucks knocked it out of the park with their #WhiteCupContest. They had customers submit pictures of how they customized a Starbucks cup with the appropriate hashtag.

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This was an awesome tactic to get customers more engaged while promoting the brand across Instagram (at a small cost).

UGC is incredibly powerful on social media because it appears to look like “regular” posts that an everyday person would publish versus traditional advertising.

And the best part? Customers do most of the heavy lifting in promoting the brand!

Studies have found that consumers prefer UGC over branded ads. They find UGC to be far more authentic – and the chances of engagement are far greater than with stock images or branded content. Furthermore, 79% of people also stated that UGC influenced their purchasing decisions.

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How to kickstart your UGC strategy?

The trickiest part of leveraging UGC is actually generating it.

Customers don’t necessarily take pictures of all of the products they try on their own, so sometimes you need to prompt them.

This is why certain brands have created engaging initiatives around UGC to get their audience base involved, such as the “Share a Coke” campaign from Coca-Cola.

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This clever addition to their bottle labels generated a lot of shared images on social media (including over 662,000 on Instagram alone) which Coca-Cola incorporated into their own marketing.

How should you leverage UGC?

The purpose of UGC is to show customers that other people like the product, service, or brand itself.

86% of consumers actively look for reviews before making a purchase.

Using UGC (along with a mention of the customer who created it or a quote from a real review) is a great way to give your audience the kind of content they really want to see, like this post from Hum Nutrition.

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2. Share non-branded, but original content

Since consumers appreciate authenticity over the heavier brand-focused approach, it is no surprise that another popular method to boost engagement is non-branded content.

Now, this is not to be confused with UGC. This is original content created by a brand that does not appear to be outright promotional.

What exactly is non-branded content?

It sounds a little bit confusing, but the point of non-branded content is to use storytelling to connect with your audience on a more personal level. People these days are exposed to more branded messaging than ever before.

And truth be told, it can sometimes be a bit of a turnoff.

By using non-promotional content, brands can indirectly introduce people to their products and services, in a more natural way.

The key to non-branded content is to support your overall brand values rather than promote specific products or services. Most companies use natural storytelling and content marketing to weave in this kind of promotion. Basically, they tell customers stories that are related to things that the brand cares about or supports.

The viral “Like a Girl” video from Always is a perfect example of non-branded content story-telling done correctly.

This campaign was not promoting Always’ products in any way.

With that being said, this campaign turned out to be a great success because it had everything to do with what the company stands for: defend gender equality and female empowerment.

This, in turn, generated positive sentiment towards their brand, which led to a boost in engagement (including over 67 million views on YouTube).

3. Share interactive content

 

Social media has opened up a new way for brands and customers to interact.

People can ask questions, share comments or concerns on their social media pages, and businesses can respond to these, publicly.

Interactive content takes things a step further by inviting customers to engage in several ways. And the results can be pretty incredible in terms of engagement.

According to research from Go-Gulf:

  • 81% of marketers agreed that interactive content outperformed static content in grabbing attention.
  • 88% found that it helped their brand to stand out from their competitors.
  • 70% found that this type of content was also extremely effective for converting online visitors into customers.

What kind of interactive content is best for social media use?

Many social media sites are now offering features so their content can be truly interactive, such as polls, quizzes, and Q&As.

Instagram in particular, has expanded its offerings for interactive content with the Story features, which allows brands to connect with their followers on a personal level.

Ulta Beauty recently took a creative approach using the Instagram poll option. Their goal was to gather feedback directly from their audience about the type of content they were most interested in.

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Sometimes, going straight to the source is the best way to learn what customers want. The key here is knowing the where, when, and how.

If you have the budget, contests, and giveaways are another great option to increase engagement. Many brands reward customers with entries for sharing posts to their personal pages or by tagging friends to increase awareness and reach.

Drop recently ran a giveaway through both Instagram and Twitter by awarding customers points for sharing reviews and commenting on their posts through their social pages.

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This created a boost in engagement while also giving them some great review (aka UGC) content for future posts.

4. Host exclusive live experiences

Yes, a lot of brands go live and you’ve probably heard that live-streaming is great for building engagement. But to make these videos actually engaging, brands need to offer something extra to incentivize people to watch all the way through.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a more exclusive experience that consumers can only get by watching live videos from your brand.

Opening up the opportunity for customers to submit their questions to be answered right then and there (live Q&As) has been a tried-and-true approach since the early days of live streaming. For example, Benefit Cosmetics’ “Brow Hour” allows fans to ask makeup artists questions directly during a live video.

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What type of live content works best for audience engagement?

According to a study from New York Magazine and Livestream.com:

  • 87% of people wanted to see behind-the-scenes type content.
  • 56% want to see breaking news.
  • 43% desired access to events like concerts and conferences.

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It is also interesting to note that 80% of viewers preferred to learn about a brand or topic through a live video as opposed to a blog post.

So, the key here is to keep the topic educational, rather than promotional. Teach your audience something or answer their burning questions to avoid turning your live stream into an infomercial.

5. Share … shareable content

Why do people share posts from brands on their social media?

According to psychologists, it is because this content acts as a reflection of ourselves – or, at least, of how we want to be perceived.

  • 68% of people who shared content online said they did so to “give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.”
  • 84% shared because it allowed them to show public support for causes and issues.
  • 69% did so because it made them feel more involved with current events.

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People tend to share content that reflects themselves as a person, so they are more likely to share things that are funny or inspiring.

So, if you want to increase engagement, particularly in terms of online sharing, then you will need to create content that is likely to be shared.

What kind of content is highly “shareable”?

According to a study from Revive Social, four types of content are highly likely to be shared on social media:

  • Breaking News
  • Heartwarming Stories
  • Practical Advice
  • Behind-the-Scenes content

You can easily see how these types of content match up with the motivations to share on social sites. These all allow people to subtly show their followers the kinds of products, brands, or topics that are important to them.

So, how to create highly shareable content for your brand?

One example here is inspiring, funny, or thought-provoking quotes. Many people like to share these quick thoughts to shed some light on how the quote connects with their personal thoughts or beliefs.

One brand that does this quite well is the online coaching program To Be Magnetic. Their Instagram page is full of easily shareable quotes (often coming from speakers featured on their podcast).

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People also like to share content that they find funny and humorous – such as memes or funny short videos. Humor can be tricky for brands to truly nail, but if you get it right, it can lead to extremely high engagement rates.

Take Netflix for example, primarily on Twitter. They are often spot-on with trending topics and frequently incorporate GIFs from featured shows to create funny tweets that get lots of likes, shares, and replies.

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Conclusion

The true secret to engagement on social media is understanding your audience to a tee. You must understand what kind of content they really want to see and what information will resonate best.

So, take advantage of social listening tools to learn about what your customers really want to see on social sites. Then experiment to gauge what kind of content gets them to engage!

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