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Increase Engagement on Twitter With Solid Tactics Backed by Research If your followers are spending time on your social patch, they're spending less time with your competition's.

By Mel Carson Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If getting more from your company's social-media channels is one promise your marketing team made at the start of this year, then increasing engagement should be on the list of expected outcomes.

Having more people interacting with your company's social-media profile raises the likelihood of more eyeballs on your content and brings you more opportunity to glean valuable data about what they think about your products or services -- in real time.

It also means that if your followers are spending time on your social patch, they could be spending less time with your competitors'.

Just before the holiday season, Stone Temple Consulting's Eric Enge (whom I know from the digital-marketing-conference speaking circuit) published a mammoth blog post, "Twitter Engagement Unmasked: A Study of More than 4M Tweets."

His company's study shows that building authority on Twitter is crucial to generating more engagement and the use of multimedia like images and video can drive that engagement. If someone includes a picture in a tweet, this more than doubles the chances of a retweet, Enge's blog post revealed.

Another statistic that caught my eye was that 36 percent of tweets are retweeted but less than 1 percent receive replies.

This is important because it shows that, although Twitter is predominantly a place for amplification and sharing, there's an opportunity for companies to construct tweets that generate replies, which could be a gold mine of information or feedback. Too often what I see issuing from companies is sharable content but few inquisitive updates that could generate additional discussion and data for their businesses.

Other tidbits in the report suggest the following:

1. A long tweet (about 130 characters) is more likely to generate a retweet or favorite.

2. Including a hashtag or a link only moderately increases engagement.

3. The time of day of a tweet has no impact on the chances of content being retweeted.

The biggest takeaway? Images (moving and still) catch the eyes of consumers and spur them to engage and share.

This is in keeping with analysis released earlier in the year by PR Newswire, which concluded that text-based press releases with a multimedia asset with have at least 92 percent more visibility than those without one. The PR Newswire team concluded that including an image can quickly surface themes or an idea, "giving your messages second (and third) chances at connecting with readers."

Here are some tips on how to realize more consumer engagement from Twitter via images and other tactics:

Related: Tweeting With the Enemy -- 3 Tips for Interacting With Competitors on Social Media

1. Check out what the competition is doing.

Not enough work goes into competitive differentiation on social-media channels, in my opinion. Companies that keep an eye on potential distractions for their target audience garner real-time insight about how competitors are behaving and the way their strategies are performing.

A great tool for this kind of analysis is Socialbakers, which lets users compare the social-media engagement for specific companies and benchmark entire industries.

2. Up your design game.

While some companies have gone full steam ahead with establishing a design studio within their marketing departments, smaller and leaner startups and businesses might find a tool like Canva's extremely useful for creating high-quality images meeting Twitter's and other social channels' exact technical specifications. The cost? As low as a dollar. The company also has a nifty Design School, for learning design skills from tutorials and workshops hosted on its site.

Dollar Photo Club is another resource for finding high-quality images and photos that are often found on more expensive stock photo sites, all for about dollar each as well. It's a membership club that offers 99 images for $99 and then charges a dollar after that.

Related: 14 Amazingly Free Stock Photo Websites

3. Ask your followers for specific feedback.

Businesspeople and marketers competing in the digital age have become so obsessed with data, they sometimes forget directly question their customers and potential customers. I'm not talking about something as asinine as "Morning, Twitter. How are you today?"

I'm suggesting raising considered questions that solicit a specific and detailed response that can be of use across a business, for sales and customer service as well as product development. Ask questions like these: "What did you like or not like about our latest release? Please be as specific and detailed as possible in 140 characters."

Or try, "If our product could have three new features in the next six months, what should they be in order of preference?"

Or even inquire something like "If we were to add a new flavor of iced coffee to our menu this summer, what would you want to see?"

I'm advising clients in 2015 to create less content but be more mindful of its quality and how it's being distributed. Spending more minutes thinking about the levers required to generate actual engagement should fill the gap in marketers' time as they seek to reduce waste and step up interaction with their content and messaging.

Did you make any social-media marketing resolutions for 2015?

Related: 10 Great Social-Media Strategies to Boost Your Results and Save You Time

Mel Carson

Founder and Principal Strategist at Delightful Communications

Mel Carson is founder of Delightful Communications, a Seattle-based social-media-strategy, digital-PR and personal-branding consulting firm. He is co-author of Pioneers of Digital and speaks about digital marketing and communications at conferences globally. He spent seven years at Microsoft as its digital-marketing evangelist.

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