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3 Never-Fail Tactics for Superior Social-Media Engagement Building a profitable online business is an art but, increasingly, there is some science that helps you figure it out.

By Rohan Ayyar Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The waters of social media are difficult to navigate. You risk going unnoticed by your audience if you put up new posts only once in a while but you stand to turn off dedicated followers if you bombard them with updates every hour.

Data shows that tweets with 110 characters or fewer receive much higher engagement (read retweets and replies) than longer tweets. However, even if your tweets are the perfect length, tweeting more than three times a day can result in a drop in engagement rates. You simply never seem to catch a break with this multi-headed beast.

Admittedly, there's no silver bullet to perfect engagement rates. There are however some tangible measures that do guarantee better results than just shooting in the dark and hoping something sticks.

1. Quizzes and contests.

One of the biggest trends sweeping social media has been the resurgence of quizzes in the style of trashy magazines. (No, I'm not calling Buzzfeed a trashy magazine.) You know the kind that tells you "Which State Do You Really Belong To?" or "What Disney Princess Will You Marry?" These quizzes work for many reasons. First off, they're a guilty pleasure that too many of us have not indulged for far too long. They're fun. They pander to our narcissistic sides. As sociologist Christine Whelan from the University of Wisconsin puts it, they start conversation on social media.

Ride this wave of interest in social quizzing by creating some fun quizzes of your own. They don't have to be complex. As long as the quiz has an interesting hook that attracts your fans, is easy to complete, and most importantly, complimentary to the quiz taker, you're assured it will be shared far and wide on social media.

Woobox helps you to build quizzes and contests. The tool offers a huge variety of quiz formats to pick from - custom quizzes, polls, video contests, sweepstakes, and more. Woobox allows you to offer quiz takers bonus points for posting the quiz on their timelines or referring it to friends, a gamification ploy that makes your quizzes more shareable.

For $30 per month, you also get to design your own contests and engagement programs on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.

Related: Most Essential Social Media Tools

2. Focus social media on growing your mailing list.

The votes are in, it is official. Email marketing offers the most bang for your buck among your various marketing tools. The average ROI for email marketing is 38:1, with 20 percent of businesses reporting 70:1 ROI, according to latest numbers from the DMA National Client Email Report 2015.

While you can pay your way to a large fan base on social media without any negative repercussions, buying an email list is still the worst thing you can possible do to your email marketing program. Through social media you organically grow an email list of users that is perfectly relevant to your brand. Getting the fans and followers that you've so painstakingly acquired onboard a well-crafted email marketing program will nurture them into engaged and loyal customers. The benefit of having social fans turn into email subscribers is three-fold.

  • It instantly exposes your fans to more meaty content about your brand, making them more hands-on with your products or services.
  • It overcomes the problem of low organic reach on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
  • Email marketing is nearly free of cost. Social media is now nearly synonymous with paid advertising.

Tab Foundry is my tool of choice when it comes to building email subscription tabs on social media. It's intuitive to use and offers a degree of flexibility rarely found in form builders. You can pick from existing widgets offered by TabFoundry on your brand new email subscription tab or integrate external email list builders like Mailchimp or Aweber, if you so choose.

Tab Foundry's free version offers a good sneak peek into most of its features. Paid plans start at $14 per month.

Related: 9 Huge Mistakes You Don't Know You Are Making on Social Media

3. Seriously, automation breeds engagement.

One of the common preconceived notions is that automation kills that personal touch. Whether it is an automated customer care number or an automated email response, we shudder at the thought of a machine bumbling through our customers' problems and queries.

While you need not "favor" automated responses over direct conversations with your customers, you certainly can tame that big bad wolf -- automation -- to improve personalized interactions with social media users. Let me explain.

Most social media campaigns are time consuming. They leave very little time to do what we came to social media for in the first place -- talk to our customers and fans. So why not automate the humdrum chores of putting up posts at all hours of the day and instead invest that time in getting to know your customers, listening to their conversations on social media – in other words, truly engaging with your users?

Tweet JukeBox is an interesting new tool I discovered recently. It offers you curated libraries of posts that can be used in your social media interactions directly – no time wasted in discovering content, curating it, or creating new stuff from scratch. These libraries of pre-filled content are quaintly called "jukeboxes" and can be set up to send out tweets automatically as per your chosen schedule.

You also have the option of building your own jukeboxes filled with content that you've created yourself and schedule these to be published without you lifting a finger. What do you do with all that free time you suddenly have? Interact with your social media audience, including on platforms other than Twitter. Talk to them. Engage with them in the real sense.

Stay on top of sentiment.

While the ideas and tools discussed above will help you boost engagement, you can't ignore the nature, value or results of this increased engagement. Increasing mentions of your brand on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ directly means raising top-of-mind awareness and recall. Therefore, a word about key metrics such as mentions, sentiment and NPS is warranted here.

Mentions and sentiment gauge how hot your brand is at any time to demonstrate, in an impartial way, the direct impact of your marketing campaigns. A spike in mentions or a more positive sentiment towards your brand are indicators that the audience has warmed to your message and is positively inclined to act on it. On the other hand, a drop in mentions means it's time to up your social media activities and get back on top of your customers' minds.

Brand awareness, perception and loyalty on social media are not unquantifiable metrics. One of traditional marketing's core ways of measuring customer loyalty – Net Promoter Score (NPS) – is closely related to sentiment. NPS is a simple score of how a customer perceives your brand. NPS checks whether a customer is likely to promote your brand to friends and family or detract them from using your service. The difference between your promoters and detractors (percentage values) gives the NPS for a brand.

NPS = Promoter % - Detractor %

Each brand attribute, from customer service to product quality to response times and brand value, that reflects the trust a customer has in your brand contributes towards an overall positive NPS. Conversely, poor customer perceptions about your brand lower your satisfaction score, contributing to negative NPS.

The goal of achieving a consistently high NPS is achieved by maintaining positive engagement with your fans and followers. Offering excellent customer service, having conversations with your fans instead of talking at them, and inspiring brand loyalty helps build stronger customer bonds and raises the lifetime value of the customer.

Social media is tough to quantify in numbers, but aren't most things related to relationships tough to pin down? So stop worrying and take this quiz to figure out which social media platform holds the key to your success!

And don't think twice about presenting insights from your sentiment-tracking reports to your C-Suite either!

Related: How One Entrepreneur Grew a Global Business From Her Facebook Friends

Rohan Ayyar

Analyst. Strategist. Resultist.

Rohan Ayyar works at E2M, a premium digital marketing firm specializing in creative content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups. He is an avid blogger, with posts featured on MarketingProfs, Social Media Today and Business Insider, among other places.

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