The Rules of Engagement: 5 Ways to Connect on Social Media

Social media is not just about posting your favorite quotes, photos or links. To succeed, you need to interact on a much more personal level.

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By Ann Tran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Social media is not just about posting your favorite quotes, photos or links. To succeed, you need to be much more involved – engaging with others. Not only does interacting allow your voice to be heard but also you can sometimes get a window's view to a person's heart, soul and personality depending on what they choose to share with you.

But what is the best ways to really engage (and come off as genuine)?

Here are five tips to help people not only get to know you but also allow you to know your audience.

1. Leave meaningful or humorous comments on people's photos or blog posts. Really read their content and photo captions and extend the conversation from there. Also, make sure to check back and follow up if they've responded.

Related: The 5 Habits for Social-Media Success

I sometimes hop on social media for 15 minutes and scan through the photos and links on my social channels. I read or share what interests me and leave a comment and then hop off. However, I do go back later in the day and check to see if the person answered my questions, and often this can create a very intriguing discussion.

By interacting through discussion, you get to see different perspectives and get an insight into their view of the world and how they tick. Be courteous, especially if someone is expressing a view that does not correspond with yours. I tend to stay away from negative debates, as I prefer to look at the positive.

2. Cross promote your followers' articles. When you find an article or post that resonates with you or you feel will resonate with others, share it. This really helps make a connection with the author, an action that may result in the author returning the favor. (That shouldn't be the motivation to share, so don't do it just expecting a return on the transaction.). Share because you genuinely feel readers will appreciate the share or you believe the content is a must share.

3. Choose favorites. The "favorite" button on Twitter is a quick way to acknowledge you saw their re-tweets or hello. I can't always say hello back but I do "favorite" the initiation or go back and share something from their page. It is also great tool I use to bookmark Tweets to return to at a later time.

Related: 5 Ways to Build Your Brand in Short Chunks of Time

4. Get chatting. I find I pick up more followers through another form of engagement: Twitter chats. Organize a chat on a topic that will be interesting to your audience and post content that will draw people into conversation. The best chats are those that focus on the audience, not about direct sales.

That said, Twitter chats can be a bit intimidating, but there's a simple solution. When I approach a chat that is on a topic I'm unsure of or where I may be a newbie to the community, I search on the chat and try to find something to share that I think may be useful and content worthy. (Be warned: some chats can move very quickly). Just remember you don't have to dominate the chat but make sure if you do contribute, it's meaningful. One of the best approaches is humor, as you don't come off as stiff. There is a bit of an art to it, but it gets easier the more chats you participate in. Also, show your personality and knowledge on chats and don't just use re-tweets.

Recently I participated on a travel chat. I thought that they hadn't noticed me at all during the chat, but the next day, the director of Travel + Leisure asked me to be one of the judges for the Social Media In Travel + Tourism Awards this year. My point is that you never know who is listening and watching on the social "fire hose".

5. Take online offline. This is my most valuable tip: Once you make a connection online, take it offline to build and nurture your relationships. Try meeting over coffee or a Tweetup (a Twitter meetup). Tweet out your local fans, put together an entertaining shindig and initiate the social event. You can always have someone else from a local hotel organize the event. I do this when I am not traveling. At the end of the year, I would like to catch up with my social-media friends to wish them happy holidays and share a toast to welcome in the New Year!

Do you feel ready to hop on the next Twitter chat? Sit back and watch a couple of chats and you will be ready to chime in. When I first joined Twitter, I sat back and waited six months before I felt I was comfortable enough to join. Practice and within time you may even lead your own Twitter chat.

Remember, social media is not a one-way conversation. Join in the discussion, after all it is social media. Take initiative, and give people time to respond and engage with you. Don't take it personally if the person does not respond immediately. Their stream may be extremely active. Be patient, in time you will find your voice and community.

Related: 11 Unusual Social Media Tips to Drive Branding, Clicks and Conversions

Ann Tran

Social Media Consultant

Ann Tran is a respected social media consultant, travel social marketing strategist, influencer, and sought-after speaker at social media and technology events.  Ann helps brands understand and use the power of digital media and online influence to build their business. 

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