Social media doesn’t have to be the big, scary monster in the room that business owners are afraid to utilize. Just because you aren’t a big Yelp or Facebook fan in your personal life doesn’t mean that you should feel intimidated when it comes to taking advantage of these online platforms for your business.
By utilizing the knowledge and messaging you already have, taking advantage of the available free (and affordable) options out there, and thinking of your social audience as a resource instead of a hungry crowd, you can definitely boost your social engagement.
How to Boost Social Engagement
Hold a Giveaway
Depending on your company’s overhead costs, holding a giveaway with your own products can be a great way to not only grow your audience, but also increase their involvement. There are several easy-to-use giveaway platforms that integrate social media, such as Rafflecopter, Viral Sweep, and PromoSimple. All offer basic free plans, as well as more robust monthly plans with more features and customization options.
The most successful giveaways offer a variety of methods to enter, giving users the ability to not only enter the contest how they would like, but also additional chances to win. Be sure to follow each social networks’ policies for giveaways, and also promote the winners on your social media channels to extend the promotion. (Be sure to get their permission first.)
Because the idea of winning something appeals to everyone’s need for excitement and curiosity, giveaways can help you promote your business while also providing new and existing customers the chance to fall in love with what you have to offer.
Get the Audience Involved
Each business owner should think of their social media audience as a pool of unlimited resources. Not only are they clamoring for more about your business and products (otherwise, they wouldn’t have connected with you), they also appreciate when you listen to what they have to say.
Many companies of all sizes use social media to get opinions on what products they should develop or sell, as well as other areas that make a company tick. Examples might include, “Which updated logo is better? Would you attend a live event at our warehouse?”
Before social media, companies spent millions of dollars running focus groups to get their target audience’s opinion. While focus groups still exist, that valued opinion is now more accessible through social media.
One good example of this is Golden Tote, which is an on-demand subscription box for women’s clothing. The founders frequently ask their audience (which is full of fans of the service) what styles they should buy to sell on their site or as part of the subscription totes on Facebook and Instagram.
This allows them to prove demand before they spend money on stocking their online boutique. And better yet, it’s free!
Do What You Are Already Good At
Sometimes it’s hard not to get too wrapped up in what you are supposed to be doing when it comes to social media. There are thousands of articles on “social media for small businesses” or “how to do social media marketing campaigns.” But there’s nothing on how to genuinely succeed personally, as your own business. That’s because you are unique, with a specific set of customer needs, demographics and wants.
So when it comes to social media, think first about what you and your business are already good at, and amplify that on social media. For example, if your cigar shop has customers around the world because of your educated staff and their ability to hand-pick cigars, ask customers on social media more about them and give cigar recommendations instantly over Facebook or Twitter.
That way, your business is not only promoting your own products, but your know-how as well.
Get Local Search and Social Down
One “best practice” that does work for almost any business is to make sure you are visible in the major local search and review websites. Be sure to create and/or claim your profiles manually or using a service like Moz Local .
Encourage customers to leave reviews on your business’s Google+, Facebook, or Yelp page and be sure to respond to positive and negative reviews on these types of pages in a timely manner with a positive attitude. A BrightLocal study  found that 88 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. So monitoring these (and encouraging impartial reviews) is key to any business.
Customers will be more likely to leave reviews when they know that a business owner is listening.
Offer Exclusive Deals
Review apps allow customers to get insight on a business instantly. And offering exclusive promo codes or coupons while customers are researching you on their mobile phone (or even their computer) will help them stay more engaged in your business and its offerings. Review apps like Yelp let business owners offer deals. And you can share exclusive coupon codes on your social media profiles as well.
This helps customers see that it is a benefit to them to be engaged with your social media profiles, as you share deals that just can’t be found anywhere else. Experiment with what type of discount or deal works best (e.g. do you get more sales offering a percentage off, or from offering a buy one, get one free deal?) so you can offer the highest engaging and ROI specials possible.
Photos Speak Louder Than Words
According to  Social Media Examiner, 87 percent of the most shared Facebook posts worldwide were photos. And photos are extremely popular on other social media networks as well. Having photos in tweets on Twitter can also increase your chances of getting a retweet (someone sharing your tweet) by 35 percent.
Online audiences like photos because they are easier to consume, catch their attention more easily, and usually convey a message they identify with. Try using more photos in your social media posts to capture user attention when they are scrolling their social feeds. Facebook and Twitter allow you to upload photos and add a link to a single post, making the photo take up more space in a feed than the link preview box would.
Use this to your advantage by attaching photos to as many of your posts as you can.
Experiment With Promoted Posts
All of the suggestions in this post are free or extremely affordable, and promoting your social media content is no different. While no one likes to hear that you need to start paying to have your content be seen, the fact remains that Facebook tweaked their algorithm so that when it comes to total business page posts shown, promoted posts are shown 77 percent of the time, versus 13 percent for organic and 10 percent for viral, according to  Social Bakers. And this gap seems to only be getting wider.
Fortunately, depending on the geographical area and interests you want to target, boosting posts  on Facebook doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make a difference with as little as $5 per post, promoting one to three posts per week.
Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram also offer promoted content options. Try using promoted posts first with your social profile that has your most engaged (or biggest) audience and see if the increased visibility can lead to more engagement and clicks.
While social media can be tedious and even time-consuming, having a reasonable strategy for your business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Try several different approaches, such as hosting giveaways, asking for opinions on new products, and asking for reviews, to see what type of engagement you can expect.
As you continue to tweak your approach, your audience will continue to grow and prosper — leading to a strong and loyal online community for your business.
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