How Thought Leaders Increase Engagement on Social Media

December 27, 2023

mark gillespie director of content

Written by
Mark Gillespie

social media marketing icons next to a computer

You become a thought leader when your work and reputation have garnered you a built-in audience. Thousands of followers look to you for guidance. You’ve solidified your presence as the author of a book or the host of a podcast. Journalists have interviewed you because your perspective is relevant to current events.

Your missing piece, perhaps, is social media engagement, one of the most reliable ways to keep your followers … well, following you.

Let’s look at the best ways to plan and deliver content across all stages of your follower’s journeys.

1. Know Your Target Audience

Your target audience members are the people most likely to respond to your messages. They’re different from your followers because they haven’t heard of you yet. You don’t get to choose your audience; they choose you. You can only create content you hope will appeal to them.

To do that, expert marketer Neil Patel recommends you ask the following six questions:

  1. Who Are They? You answer this question by understanding basic demographics: location, age, ethnicity, education, and all the other parameters traditional advertisers use. Then, you see what content people like on your channels and elsewhere.
  2. What Are Their Desires or Pain Points? Your content should answer specific questions for your target audience. It should reflect their wishes and dreams.
  3. Where Do They Go Online? Your audience will gravitate toward specific social media posts, websites, podcasts, and other sources of information. Is your audience drawn to the flash of Instagram, or would you find them on a more professional channel like LinkedIn? Would they commit to long-form content found in podcasts or on YouTube?
  4. What Do You Have to Offer? Compelling content is not primarily about self-promotion. It’s about helping others. If your content doesn’t solve a specific problem or help them reach some of their aspirations, your audience may pass you by.
  5. What Might Count Against You? Adverse reactions can help you learn what kind of content to avoid. Are your opinions divisive? Do you tend to drone on about obscure details? Do you put hard selling above helpful information? Find out what turns off your target audience and make adjustments.
  6. Where Do They Place Their Trust? Above all, audience members become your followers, customers, and evangelists because they trust what you say. Your advice leads to good results. Other trustworthy people have endorsed you. You need to find your way into your audience’s inner circle.

2. Choose the Right Social Media Platforms

In the 1960s, cultural theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message.” His wisdom has stood the test of time.

Today, the formats offered by different social media channels shape the content they carry and, ultimately, the behavior of their users.

Let’s apply this theory to various social media platforms.

  • Facebook: This pioneering and still-dominant platform maps onto your social connections: friends, families, former co-workers, and people you admire. It’s a place to post links to consumer-facing podcasts, blog posts, or other long-form content. You can also use Facebook to collect RSVPs for special events, post short videos, or host live webinars.
  • LinkedIn: People join LinkedIn to boost professional connections. It’s a great place to acquire new skills, learn about an industry, participate in networking, or look for work. Share links to your content or other posts you think are essential. Recognize the professional achievements of your peers. Publish a newsletter.
  • Instagram: Above all else, Instagram is visual. You can appeal to your target audience with brand-driven memes, image slideshows, or short videos. Instagram’s hashtags let you reach people according to their interests.
  • TikTok: The youth-skewed TikTok audience prefers prominent personalities and lifestyle brands in short, snackable video posts.

The jury is still out on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. With declining traffic, shifting content moderation policies, and brand identity struggles, this haven for quick takes and trending topics isn’t what it used to be. If you already use X, keep it up—but we recommend waiting to commit to it anew.

3. Plan Content for Your Audience and Your Followers

Your audience and followers are different groups. You’ll need to plan content that rewards their interests in different ways.
Most of the time, you are introducing yourself to your target audience for the first time. Your message needs to be clear and memorable, and your persona simple and focused. Create clear visual identity guidelines that list fonts, colors, backgrounds, composition, hair, wardrobe, and presentation style.

If these elements work together in the right way, you’ll become a pleasant surprise. People will linger over your posts and share them with others who might like them, too.

Audience members become followers when they press that “follow” button and make you a part of their regular social media consumption. You have set expectations, and now your followers want you to deliver.

Followers engage with content that is consistent, timely, and useful. If you gained followers after explaining a concept using simple animations, you may want to return to the same approach for a series of posts. You will build trust through repeated formulas that align with your audience’s interests.

4. Stick to a Content Calendar

We encounter social media streams one post at a time, but we don’t have to produce content the same way.
Social media management experts develop a content calendar that schedules posts in advance, often based on what time of day people are most likely to be online. Then, they will often produce an entire week’s—or even a month’s—content in one session.

In a way, social media content production is like a television game show recorded in front of a live audience. These shows typically pick a day of the week to record several shows in a row, with the host changing outfits in between tapings.

You should post frequently—daily, if you can. You might record a series of reels or produce several inspirational memes. You might also plan a series of link shares that promote your latest YouTube video, podcast, or blog post. You may also simply post links to recommended resources, congratulate colleagues, or share interesting news articles.

If your social media plan is limited to Facebook and Instagram, you will find a nice content calendar tool at Meta Business Suite. If your strategy includes other platforms, consider a free tool like Buffer or subscribe to premium social media management platforms offered by Hootsuite, Hubspot, or Sprout Social.

Include a call-to-action (CTA) statement at the end of your post as often as possible. This invites the reader to take a specific, measurable action, such as following a link to another website.

5. Watch Social Media Metrics and Optimize

How do you know if your social media strategy is working? Each social media platform allows you to see engagement metrics. Facebook and Instagram, for instance, call these “insights.”
Here are nine social media metrics to keep track of, which tell you whether your strategy has gained traction with your audience and followers:

  1. Reach. This is a count of how many people see your post. It includes your followers, those who follow you through hashtags and shares. You should be able to see follower and non-follower reach.
  2. Impressions. This differs from reach because it measures how often a post is seen. If you share a post multiple times or run a paid advertisement campaign, your post might show much more than once in someone’s feed.
  3. Engagement. This measures how often people act upon your post through likes, shares, or comments.
  4. Audience growth rate. Over time, you should see a percentage of change in your audience size. This allows you to track whether your growth is speeding up, slowing down, or shrinking.
  5. Amplification. This tells you how often a post was shared compared to your number of followers. It’s another measure of audience growth.
  6. Virality. This works the same way as amplification but compares shares to impressions. The higher the rate, the more likely your post will “go viral” and spread organically through a set of users.
  7. Video views. With video, there’s more than a click. People must take time to watch a little before this metric is useful. Did they watch the video all the way through? Where did they lose interest?
  8. Clickthrough Rate (CTR). When someone clicks a link in your posts, they add to your CTR. Your clickthrough rate is your number of impressions divided by those clicks.
  9. Conversion Rate. This is similar to CTR, except you’re only measuring whether someone buys your product through your social channel’s e-commerce features or subscribes to your channel.

6. Use a Multifaceted Approach to Build Engagement

Engagement is the secret sauce of social media. When people slow their scroll and interact with your posts, you know you’ve got their attention—at least for a few seconds.

To increase engagement, you need to run little experiments, observe your results, and be willing to fail and try again.

To grow and activate your target audience, you’ve got to post frequently so your message soaks into your audience’s awareness. Your posts should be eye-catching and interesting while conveying a consistent personal brand. You need to interact with your audience enough that they know you’re a real person they might want to meet one day.

A simple internet search will generate hundreds of great social media engagement ideas. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Choose hashtags strategically. Hashtags, which always begin with the # sign, are phrases social media users follow. A hashtag like #finishstrong isn’t an empty sentiment. It’s a topic that almost a half million people a day follow. How do you know this? Social media management platforms like Meta Business Suite show you follower numbers and suggested alternatives for any topic you enter.
  • Respond to comments. Jump into every response to your posts and add your two cents. Be a gracious host and avoid arguments by offering solutions rather than opposition.
    Share updates about people you admire. When you share a link from a mentor or thought leader you look up to, you connect them to your followers. You also connect yourself to them. Next time you publish something interesting, they may take notice and repost it.
  • Share interesting articles. Your followers trust your thought leadership, which means they want to know what you’re reading, watching, or listening to. If you come across an interesting article or podcast, share the link. Include hashtags
  • Show off testimonials. Solicit testimonials from your supporters and create a branded design alongside your professional portrait with their words of support. Be sure to tag the supporter in the post content below the image. Several free platforms can help you get started with image posts, including Canva and Adobe Express.
  • Start a closed community. Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to create discussion groups separate from your feed. You can set moderation levels to be automatic or private. Once inside, your followers will speak more freely and interact with people with similar interests. Closed groups are where the real networking happens in social media.
  • Use special publishing features. Instagram stories place your latest visual content front and center for your followers. LinkedIn Newsletters let you maintain a blog inside your account, which shows up in your follower’s feeds. Facebook Live lets you fire up your phone’s camera and interact with followers in real time.
  • Write compelling CTAs. As in sales, you won’t get the engagement you seek if you don’t ask for it. Remind people to click links, play videos, or follow you. Be creative and repetitious about how you ask.

Boost Your Engagement

By following these strategies, you can build an impressive social media presence that keeps your audience engaged and growing. Visit our blog for ongoing insights into thought leadership and authority, or request a consultation for personalized professional guidance.

mark gillespie director of content

Mark Gillespie

Director of Content

Mark leads a team of full-time content developers and ghostwriters who amplify our Member voices through all available communications channels.

Mark’s background includes two degrees in English and more than 30 years of professional e...

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