Audience engagement is the holy grail for social media marketers who agonize over the most minute details of a status update. Essentially it’s a question of how to maximize the opportunity for engagement when the window is brief and the audience is remarkably diverse. Adding to the complexity of the problem is that every social media platform presents its own set of attributes and challenges, and you have to learn how to best connect with your audience on each one in order to get the most value out of the process.

Trying to convey nuanced ideas with so little space across several distinct channels seems like a daunting task, but the rewards are well worth the effort. When one of your status updates manages to strike a chord with the audience and go viral, it could lead to weeks or even months of sustained exposure as it gets shared throughout an exponentially larger audience.

If there’s one core component to always keep in the back of your mind when creating status updates, it’s that these posts are designed to be shared on social media. “Social” is a very important word in that phrase, because it is a reminder of what the ultimate goal of creating a status update should be. It has to provide value to the community at large (or at least a particular segment of it) in order to activate the social side of the equation. You can think about your status update as if it were a person immersed in any social setting: what kinds of things would the other participants like to see and hear from it that would make for a lively and substantive conversation?

Connect it to your culture and audience

Just as studious sales professionals usually have a very clear understanding of who their customers are and what they hope to gain from their relationship with the company, so too should any successful social media marketer know the same about their followers on various social platforms. When you understand who they are, why they follow you, and what kinds of content would be valuable for them, you can use this as a guide to create status updates that cut directly through the noise of social media and drive engagement.

Every year on March 14th, technology, mathematics, and science enthusiasts around the country note the arrival of “Pi Day” on social media, in reference to the infamous mathematical constant that allows us to calculate the diameter and circumference of a circle matching the date on the calendar — 3.14. Earlier this year, one social media marketer at Siemens Corporation saw this as a perfect opportunity and published a status update to connect Pi Day to innovators and the future impact of science and technology on the world.

Use high-quality images and video whenever possible

It’s astonishing how profound of an effect images can have on our brains in such a short amount of time. The cliche, “A picture is worth a thousand words” has been repeated so often that we sometimes forget just how potent this power can be. According to LinkedIn, including an image with your status update on the site can increase engagement by nearly 150%, and almost every one of the top 50 most engaging status updates each month feature either an image, video, or link. If you need further proof of the primacy of the image when it comes to audience engagement, look no further than the fact that Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, sensing that a social channel based entirely around photographs would prove compelling for a mass audience.

Two things to keep in mind are that images are most effective when they are relevant to the post in some way, and of a higher quality. Lower-quality photos may work in some instances, but if you post too many of them you run the risk of the audience associating your organization with shabbiness. Also, something that many new business owners overlook is that images are copyrighted content. Whenever you share an image through your social media channels, always attribute proper credit if you are not the owner or didn’t create it.

Be aware of frequency

How do you engage your audience frequently enough to make them anticipate your next post, without inundating them with constant updates? It’s a somewhat tricky question to answer, because the topic of frequency in social media status updates can never be completely divorced from the issue of quality.

If you had access to an endless supply of content that provided real value to your audience, you could probably post as much as you want and not alienate any of your followers. In the real world, however, we have to be more judicious about how we dole out our limited cache of value-added content. LinkedIn notes that it takes at least 20 updates per month to reach 60% of your followers, so one-to-two times per day is probably sufficient for most circumstances.

Delve into the personal

People are interested in the personal stories of employees who are behind-the-scenes at a company, and many social platforms present the perfect opportunity to share such stories with a devoted audience.You can use your status update to tease a link to a personal story on your company blog, or you can ask employees to record Q&A video content that can be embedded directly in the status update. When your followers feel they have a personal connection to actual representatives of the organization, it strengthens and enriches their relationship with your company.

This technique can even be used during times of sadness to help the community heal and share the value of someone’s life with a wider audience. In a tribute to the late Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who had completed his residency at Stanford University School of Medicine, the university shared a status update which included a video of Kalanithi reflecting on his perception of time as it changed through different life stages as a doctor, a patient, and a new father. This way, even those in the Stanford community who were unfamiliar with Kalanithi’s work could learn of his contributions and connect to those who were close to him.

Inspire readers with quotes

There’s a reason we return to famous quotes; in lieu of trying to succinctly and creatively express a thought when someone else has already done it better, why not just borrow their words? Most social media users see a significant number of quotes in there feeds everyday, so you need to make sure that the quote is germane to your brand in some way so the audience can make the connection between the two entities. Make sure at the end of the day they remember something like, “Tesla shared an interesting quote from Thomas Edison about the importance of innovation,” instead of, “I read a quote from Thomas Edison today.” Two ways to successfully accomplish this include:

  1. Sharing quotes about topics that directly relate to your brand.
  2. Sharing a series of inspirational quotes from different sources so your brand is the only constant and is remembered as a hub for uplifting information.

Contently does this well with a blog post it authored titled, “50 Quotes That’ll Make You a Better Content Marketer.” One caveat when sharing quotes: take extra precaution to research that the quote is accurate and properly attributed before you post it. The Internet is currently awash in image macros containing inaccurate quotes that never cease to find a gullible sharer.

Find the right mixture of brevity and expression

While Twitter has taken the initiative to proactively limit the number of characters that can be used in a single post, most other popular social networks allow much more freedom in determining how long you desire a status update to be. This presents a challenge to the savvy brand, as many marketers are unsure of whether to sacrifice engaging content in the face of intimidating the reader with too much length. Facebook, for instance, allows status updates to reach a staggering 60,000 words! Although experts have concluded that Facebook posts with at least 80 words lead to double the level of engagement, it’s important to remember that you can go too far with this excessively generous limit. Many times, I’ve been seduced by the gray “See more” button on a Facebook post, only to abandon reading almost immediately upon clicking and discovering a seemingly endless stream of content.

Inspire confidence with statistics

87% of your audience is more likely to trust your status update if you include relevant statistics. Well, I just made that up, but it definitely sounds good. What sounds even better on social media platforms are real statistics that are backed up by sources, as they are a great way to demonstrate to the reader that your company is an authority on the topic about which you’re posting.

Emirates Airlines posted a particularly effective status update in 2014, featuring several points of hard data (accompanied by a relevant photo) that demonstrated the lengths to which they were going to upgrade training initiatives and enhance the customer experience. This post instantly instills in the reader that the author is an authority figure in this area, and that these statistics have an impact on their life.

Ask questions that spur honest answers

When you want to know how your audience feels about a particular aspect of your company it’s simple to ask them on social media; just be prepared for them to answer you honestly, for better or worse. This honesty is actually incredibly important, because it opens another route for engagement for the customer, and it also gives you the opportunity to listen intently and respond effectively. After all, interacting with your audience on social media is a two-way street; not only does it give them a glimpse into your brand, but you can learn more about them as well.

Consider using at least one of these eight elements – if not all of them – in future social media status updates. And after you apply these, tweet us @EveryoneSocial to let us know how your audience reacted.