How to Increase Social Media Engagement


Kevin Jenkins, Student & Alumni

verb: engage; 3rd person present: engages; past tense: engaged; past participle: engaged; gerund or present participle: engaging

1. occupy, attract, or involve (someone's interest or attention).
2. participate or become involved in

Seems simple enough, so why are so many businesses and non-profit organizations scratching their collective heads wondering why social media isn’t working for them. After all, that new update got a few likes. So why aren’t they coming in to spend some money?

Social media engagement tactics, when used properly, can be a goldmine. Just because you got some likes for a Facebook post doesn’t mean what you are doing is right. It’s easy to like a post (or even use one of the new emotion buttons), but at the end of the day, it’s a pretty passive behavior. Have you been one of those that liked a post to appease a friend without actually reading the article attached?

The true gem of social media is that it can be another form of two-way communication, one of the most effective ways to generate interest and action. That is, of course, if you allow it to be. During my time in the program at Purdue, I was able to analyze several organizations as far as their social media usage. Time and time again, those that were succeeding were making use of the two-way communication tools that Facebook and other social media provides. Those that weren’t were simply posting because social media was the thing to do. Developing a sound social media engagement strategy is not rocket science, at least it doesn’t have to be!

Social Media Engagement In Action

Case in point - a few months ago, I was one of those people stranded when Southwest Airlines’ (SWA) computer systems crashed. I was tired, I was hungry, and I was angry. I called the customer service number only to be told that there was nothing they could do for me at the moment and to call back later when they had answers. I got home, and the next morning, spent nearly two hours on hold, only to finally disconnect so as not to annoy my co-workers with the two-minute loop of hold music. I turned to social media communication (so did tens of thousands of others) to air my grievances. I expected some delay, after all, there were only so many customer service agents, but a couple days later, I got a reply to one of my rather angry tweets, ultimately apologizing for my inconvenience and asking for my flight information so they could process a refund and offer comps for my troubles. While I could have continued to hold for hours on end, the social media team was on the ball, engaged me, and resolved the issue.

SWA is a major company, and taking the time to connect with me on social media to discuss my concerns made me feel important, not to mention, it resolved my issue. Whether it’s SWA, a small non-profit with two employees or something in between, engaging with your audience will make your customers (or donors) feel valued, it will create a buzz, and it will drive interest in the organization.

As I said earlier, just because people are liking your post, it doesn’t mean anything. Respond to comments, have those discussions. Think of it like having a conversation with someone on the street. Would they feel valued if you just gave them a thumbs up, smiled and walked away? No, but if you engaged in a two-way discussion, they would at least feel valued. When one feels valued, they are more likely to continue that relationship, just like I am with SWA.

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Kevin Jenkins is an alumni of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.