As we head into 2024, there is one particular buzzword that is louder than ever: ENGAGEMENT.

For the last few years, improving engagement on social media media posts has been touted as the must-do to grow your business and generate sales. Despite this being the universally understood crucial metric, almost no one is talking about what it is, why it matters and how to measure if it is working or not for craft based small businesses.

In an era that is filled with influencers trying to sell you on ideas that they can’t prove work, it’s important to breakthrough the noise and the get-results-quick schemes to really understand the nitty gritty bits of what makes our social media marketing successful.

What IS Engagement?

The term engagement in social media marketing refers to the actions and response of those who come in contact with your content. Depending on the type of content and the platform, this can encompass a variety of key metrics. These metrics are measured by the algorithm and trigger the algorithm to push or suppress your posts in different ways. Here is a look at what is measured by each content type and platform:

Facebook Groups: Post likes and comments.

Facebook Pages, Instagram & TikTok: Post likes, comments, shares, saves and watch time on short videos.

The purpose of the algorithm on any platform is to deliver the best user experience. The user experience is tailored based on how a user responds to the content that they see. When they respond consistently it tells the algorithm that they “like” that content and it will show more; when they don’t, it decreases the visibility of that content. This is true on every platform whether it is business pages or the accounts of your friends and family.

At some point in recent years, you have probably noticed that you stopped seeing certain friends/family in your feed as often – correct? You failed to engage adequately and the algorithm responded by decreasing visibility of content from those individuals.

If you’re thinking: That makes me feel like I need to constantly be on social media to keep upthen you are not alone. The end reality is that social media platforms want users to spend time as much time on them as possible. The time spent data translates into the worth of the company in the eyes of investors. It is no secret that many things in this world are taking the “good with the bad” and social media is no different. In order to keep their usage data favorable, social media platforms are endlessly working to improve the user experience so that you will want to be mindlessly scrolling and engaging with content. Hence why engagement metrics have become the key to growing your business with social media marketing.

What does engagement DO?

The right kind of engagement is what helps your business grow and reach new audience. How a platform responds to engagement and what that translates to for your business is dependent on both the content type and the social media platform. Every post you make is first shown to your loyal followers – the ones who are constantly engaging. Their actions dictate what happens next.

Facebook Groups: In Facebook Groups, an increase in likes and comments from your loyal followers will result in your group being pushed to the newsfeed of more members. Members it reaches will be those who have been more engaged in the last few months or who engage with similar groups. If the new reach of audience results in likes and comments then the algorithm will continue to push your content out to more members. This process is the difference between someone getting a notification for your new post and someone seeing your post 4 days later. The tricky part about Facebook Groups is that in order for the algorithm to actively promote your group to non-members who share similar interests, there has to be a steady stream of member-generated posts which ALSO get likes and engagement.

Engagement is not just about your content in groups but also your members.

Since the 2020 pandemic, the groups algorithm has consistently been evolving to facilitate community. As such, selling and promotional content is heavily suppressed. Many craft based small businesses have relied on groups for a few years to generate sales – myself included. Simply put, this is no longer a lucrative platform for gaining sales. Groups are best leveraged for sharing and community with limited expectation of sales revenue. For most craft businesses, this means that groups are dead in the water.

Facebook Pages, Instagram & TikTok: Although Facebook Groups are on a decline, Facebook Pages are on the rise alongside of Instagram accounts. TikTok continues to steadily decline due to lack of overall value and user-burnout – but is still an option if that is what you prefer.

Once again, on these platforms, the first users to see your content are going to be your loyal followers. For stories, these are only shown to your followers but it’s priority in their stories feed will be dependent on how often they watch your stories. In-feed content such as single posts, carousels/slide-decks and reels operate similarly to content in groups. If your loyal followers engage then the algorithm will push your content into the feed of more followers. Unlike groups, Facebook Pages, Instagram and TikTok will take the second round of engagement as a sign to promote your content on the For You/Search areas for reels/tiktoks and posts. If you receive strong engagement from non-followers at that point, you will find your posts suggested to other non-follower accounts. This reach continues to grow as long as there is engagement on your content.

How do we MEASURE engagement?

Within each social media platform there is a metrics dashboard where you can see likes, comments, post reach, audience demographic and a breakdown of followers vs non-followers that your content reached. Many people think that these metrics are crucial – they are not.

Engagement doesn’t matter if it doesn’t result in sales.

Yup, you heard that right. Sure, you can “trick” the algorithm by using a text only post with colored background or sharing a picture of your dog. If there are not sales coming in as a result, then your engagement has fallen short. For small businesses, sales and account growth are considered a Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

It does not matter if you have 100 followers or 100,000 followers. If your content is not garnering engagement that results in reaching new customers and increasing sales then it is failing.

Unfortunately, for most business owners, this is the where they find themselves with their social media marketing strategy. They might see followers increase and some engagement but they are not getting sales and growth for their business. The lack of results is what makes marketing feel like a struggle and leads many business owners to feeling like they are failing altogether.

What CREATES Engagement?

Fixing your social media marketing strategy to actually grow your business is easier that you might think. Here are 10 things to do to create engagement:

  1. Refine your target audience. Your content is only as good as the audience it reaches. If you want to drive sales and business growth, you need to find your niche and focus on catering to that customer demographic. Your target audience should not be anyone with a wallet. It should be individuals who are passionate about the kind of product/service you offer and are likely to not only spend but also refer customers to your business.
  2. Use each platform accordingly. TikTok is for entertainment; Instagram is for business connection; Facebook groups are for community; Facebook pages are for branding. Instead of batch posting the same content on each platform, tailor it accordingly for each platforms use.
  3. Diversify your content. Content for your business should do one of six things: Inform, Entertain, Engage, Inspire, Involve or Sell. Content should be divided among these with selling posts making up less than 20% of your content.
  4. Show your face. Your audience wants to connect with the person behind the business. Break out of your comfort zone and get on camera every so often to help bring more authenticity to your brand.
  5. Stop putting links in every (or most) caption/post. Social media platforms hate when you provide external links because it takes users away from their platform. On Instagram, not only can you not click a link in caption but you also can’t copy and paste it. Instead, have all your links available through a link tree that is embedded into your page. You can include it in the ABOUT section and anywhere there is a call to action button (for example, on Facebook Pages there is the option to add a button). You can provide your links in an automated response when someone messages you or comments, as well. Lastly, consider inviting people to sign up for an email or text list to stay in the know and leverage that as your way to reach them with sales links.
  6. Make sure posts contain a hook and call to action. In order to “stop the scroll” and increase watch time, saves and comments – you need to have something that entices them. A good hook and call to action comes into play here.
  7. Increase your caption/post length. Longer captions/posts are favored by the algorithm. Use alt text (if available) and emojis for easier readability. Not only does this allow you to give more information to your audience but it also increases engagement.
  8. Improve your hashtags. Hashtags arestill an important tool for connecting your content across the world wide web. Think of them like strands of a spiderweb. You want to have thick strands that will guide potential customers to you. This comes from quality hashtags. The 3×3 rule is my favorite to use. Select 3 hashtags each that answer: Who do you/your products serve? What do you offer? What problem/need are you serving? Add in geographical hashtags if you are a local business. Avoid hyper-specific or silly hashtags.
  9. Engage with followers and non-followers. Your engagement isn’t just about what you post. If you post and run then you are actively hurting your business growth. Every time you post, make it a point to respond to and/or like comments on previous posts, respond to messages in your inbox, follow your hashtags to non-follower posts and like and comment genuinely on their content/watch their stories. Aim for 2-5 minutes of engaging with accounts before and after every post you make.
  10. Be consistent. Consistency is doing things even when you don’t see the results that you want. Consistency is trusting the process and giving it your best even on your worst days. Consistency delivers results. If you wanted to reverse an illness or lose 100lbs, you wouldn’t expect to have it happen in 30-60-90 days – right? You would look for small signs that change is happening and keep pushing forward. The same is true for small business marketing on social media.

Economic recessions come and go. Let 2024 be the year that your business grows while you work smarter, not harder. Focus on improving your social media strategy so that you can reach the customers of your dreams – and more. Grab the 365 Social Media Content Calendar for Craft Business for your full marketing guide + access to daily post breakdowns and examples.