Who is your favorite business account to follow on social media?

I’m pretty partial to the Wendy’s and MoonPie Twitter accounts. Think about a couple you like and ask yourself this: “Why do I like them?” Chances are one of your answers will be simply because they are fun! The content they post is engaging, entertaining, or at the very least informative. Now look at your business social media accounts, can you say the same thing?

Look, not every small business’ Facebook or Twitter account is going to be as popular or have as massive of a following as these brands, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swing for the fences. The accounts that tout thousands of followers aren’t doing anything special that you can’t do – they have just simply cultivated an engaged social community.

Having a social brand that reaches thousands of people and has a fan base that consistently Likes, Shares, and Comments on content isn’t as unattainable as you think, even if you think your business may not be cut out for it. Here’s how to start engaging your fans and growing your social community.

Post daily

Nothing is more embarrassing to me than seeing a social media account that hasn’t been touched in weeks. It’s a clear sign that you aren’t interested in putting effort into your community and thus there’s no reason for your community to put effort into you. The easiest way to rectify this perception, quite frankly, is just being there! Regular posting, whether it is once or twice a day, five to seven days a week, keeps you in your community’s feed and offers as many opportunities for engagement by both parties as possible.

Using what you know about a typical fan on your page (aka your customers) and experimenting with different posting times, you can even establish a regular posting window that your community can expect and know when to tune in. Tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck can help you manage the day-to-day posting and allow you to schedule your content out days or weeks in advance. But, don’t use scheduled posting as a crutch. Stay in the habit of making opportunities to hop in and post organically to keep things fresh.

Don’t be a silent participant

Time spent on your own social media pages shouldn’t be Gatsby-esque (throwing the party then just hanging out in the back of the room and not talking to anyone). A more engaging community is one that has been engaged with – so get out there and dance, damn it! Make sure you respond to reviews and comments left on your page, answer questions or comments sent through direct message, and interact and share your fans’ content whenever you can. It doesn’t take much time to do so, but the effect of demonstrating that you are paying attention and care goes a long way with your community.

You can even help stack the deck in your favor by posting content that encourages interaction like posing questions or creating polls. A word of warning though, especially on Facebook content, directly soliciting Likes and Shares with posts like “Like this if you’ve ever…” have been cracked down on recently and can result in punishment for your page. So don’t chase cheap interaction, put in the effort and earn it.

Show them the real you

What is really at the heart of an engaged community is the content that you post. Yes, you want to make sales and make money, but flooding your social media feed with heavy handed marketing messages will only result in your audience tuning out. A few every now and then are OK, but pick your battles because seeing more ads is not the reason your community jumps on Facebook and Twitter. Instead, focus more on creating and posting lighter content that is entertaining, reflects your values, or just shows the more human side of your business.

The goal should be to post content your community will be naturally interested in liking and sharing, which will push your content to their individual communities of friends and family. There’s no “perfect” formula and each community will respond to different things, consider things that YOU would find interesting – chances are your community will think so too. I’m talking about candid photos of your team around the office or out and about on the job or pictures from office parties or special occasions. Facebook Live and pre-recorded videos tend to be frequently featured across newsfeeds, so get over your camera shyness and talk to your community!

Building a community isn’t an overnight project. It takes dedication, time and patience. I want to help you – here’s how.

Learn more with our Social Networking Guide