You’re keen to turn social media into an effective marketing tool. “engagement” is supposed to be the magic bullet to drive organic traffic to your site and increase sales. Maybe you already have a decent twitter following, but is anyone getting off twitter and onto you?

Turning social media engagement into tangible results is easier than you think. Here’s a secret even the heavy hitters themselves don’t believe: it has almost nothing to do with what big brands are doing. But engagement is not a goal in itself. If your social media outreach is not driving brand awareness, opt-ins, and an increase in sales, you need to reassess your approach.

Engagement v. Selling: which are you doing?

It is critical to remember that all tweets are not created equal. Some tweets establish rapport and brand build, while others are sales efforts. Engagement for its own sake may seem like throwing money away, but your sales won’t exist without it. Straight sales messages, “Buy Now!”, “Special”, etc, is the online equivalent of a cold call. Even if they have some idea of who you are, they don’t care and you will be lost in the Twitterverse. Engagement lays the groundwork for every other lead generation effort.

The lead generation equation: content + content + content

A small business owner can figure Twitter out, follow their policies, learn some tricks, and gain a following. The hard part is creating original content that will drive users to your site, and maybe even to share it. Original content includes a huge variety of things, which can make it a bit easier to create: blogs, articles, e-books, videos, art, and infographics. Make sure any infographic is branded on the PDF file with your logo and URL so that when the art is expanded, someone is seeing your name. In this case, the tab effect works in your favour because the customer will open a tab to search you.

You are probably too busy running your business to sit down and write an article. Instead, you might find someone in your firm who can write and has the time. Or you could hire a content writer or creator. Did you know that over 24 per cent of all verified online Twitter accounts belong to journalists? You could grab global headlines if you get your tweets in front of the right eyes.

Original content includes a huge variety of things, which can make it a bit easier to create: blogs, articles, e-books, videos, art, and infographics. Infographics are a fantastic starting point as they are visually appealing, immediately engaging and present information in a way that is an easy digest. If that all seems too hard, try grabbing your mobile and make a quick video of yourself sharing something important to your niche market.

What do your 140 characters say?

When you have an infographic or other content, what do you tweet with it?

The anatomy of an engaging tweet:

Keep it short, use eye-catching art, and drive your audience to a website for more information. You don’t have to do much more for a basic tweet that will grab attention. However, to compete with the biggest brands, you might want to step up your game with some of the “secret weapons” off ered by Twitter.

Did you know that over 24 per cent of all verified online twitter accounts belong to journalists? You could grab global headlines if you get your tweets in front of the right eyes.

Not so secret (and completely free) twitter weapons

Contained in Twitter’s cache of articles are how-to’s that allow you to do anything from use meta tags to move your content-linked tweets up the news feed, overcome the 140-character limit, and get an extra layer of analytics, to tools that let you spy on your competition, and your customers, with no one the wiser!

Among some of the lesser known, and completely free tools Twitter has to help you engage customers, gain retweets, and drive traffi c to your pages are Twitter Cards. It allow you to: Tweet 140 characters about your content, but also a content preview of your page including summary and art. Tweet photos with clickable URL embeds that take someone straight to your page. When used with pics.twitter.com, they move your art content up front in your followers’ news feeds.
When used with Vine, they also do the same for video links. You get a full breakdown including analytics, of which audiences responded best to which type of tweet. Tweet, tweet, and tweet again! You cannot send a single tweet into the world and expect to make a splash. Over 320,000 tweets a minute run on this massive platform, so be prepared to send your tweets out three to 15 times a day.

Another “secret weapon”: lists

Knowing Twitter lists will put you far ahead of most social media managers. They make engagement simple and far more eff ective. You can make them private or public: add someone to a list, and receive every tweet they post in your curated list newsfeed, without following them!

The bottom line

Engagement on social media is the opening act, warming up your audience to the idea of buying from you. The starting point in engagement is sincerity: empathy, trust, and credibility. Twitter builds rapport faster than any other medium. If you can connect before you mention your off er, you will be better able to convert engagement into sales.