Ren LaForme speaking at the 2017 conference.

Ren LaForme speaking at the 2017 conference.

Audience engagement goes beyond simply sharing an article, media or photo on social media. It involves creating a post that’s compelling enough to get your audience to interact with it. More importantly, it’s finding what your audience wants and capitalizing on it, says Ren LaForme, interactive learning producer at The Poynter Institute.

It’s not an easy process, and it requires assessing your audience, understanding their wants and giving them a reason to interact. Sharing is the easy part. Now, how can you get your audience to engage with your posts?

Know your audience

Finding out who your audience is will help you find out what types of posts they like to read and hope to see on your social media feeds. Start by asking yourself the average age of your audience, their average income and how they’re accessing your content.

Scroll through some of your old posts on social media. Examine which posts received the most interaction and strategize how you’ll capitalize on those posts. For instance, did you receive a lot of feedback on a “how to” post? If so, create a “how to” series on your website and post the articles weekly on your social media accounts. Did most of your interactions come from Facebook? If so, be sure to maintain a consistent posting schedule on Facebook. Key in on your strong suits and use them as leverage to improve your audience engagement.

Get your audience excited

Now that you’ve determined your core audience, develop a posting strategy for your social media accounts. Determine how often you’re going to post and what types of content you’ll share on each platform.

“The ‘ideal’ frequency depends entirely on your business goals and the amount of time that you are willing to commit to your social media marketing efforts,” says Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics, in an article on Forbes.

If you don’t have the resources to post frequently on your social media pages, or if posting a lot simply isn’t a part of your social media strategy, make sure you capitalize on your audience’s interests.

An integral part of this includes offering opportunities for your audience to engage throughout your writing process. If you’re writing a particularly intriguing feature story, let your audience know what you’re working on and offer them little previews or tidbits of your piece, LaForme says. You can do this by sharing quotes, images or teasers of your work.

LaForme also suggests sending out a number of connecting tweets in regard to your story, as well as sharing your story with the sources who helped you write it.

Don’t hold back

Even if you’re new to audience engagement, one of the most important goals is to establish your brand as an industry leader. Don’t hold back and don’t be boring: Respond to readers’ comments, ask readers for their input and share posts from other industry leaders on your pages.

“You need to show people that you’re comfortable being an expert on your topic,” LaForme says. “Don’t always publish your own stuff,” he adds.

When users engage with your posts, don’t hold back from responding to them. Develop a tone and company guidelines for how you’ll respond to a comment, whether it’s a rude or friendly one.

Post like you talk, LaForme says. Ask yourself what you’d say to a friend and use that tone. It’ll help you avoid being stiff or boring.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try something new. For example, Wendy’s introduced a new, sassy tone that’s leveraged engagement from its nearly 2 million followers. When user @_inkedSnowFlake sent a tweet to the fast food chain asking where the nearest McDonald’s is, Wendy’s responded with a picture of a garbage can. The tweet earned more than 13,000 retweets and nearly 40,000 engagements.

Audience engagement won’t happen overnight. It’s a process that requires time and dedication from your entire organization. If one strategy doesn’t work, move onto another.

Keep your chin up and have fun with it, LaForme advises. “It’s really such a huge opportunity.