How to Build Social Engagement 101

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Use Personal Connection to Leverage Mass Engagement

The two most important things to remember of this article are:

  1. When you post, write with just one specific person in mind.
  2. Craft for the platform, not to send someone to another place.

I’ll also tell you how to make content that makes people want to engage: like, share, and comment. The feeling of having people engage with your posts is SO much more rewarding than money. Nothing is more frustrating to a content creator than posting something that gets no engagement. 

At the end of this article is a bullet-point summary and a 30-second video summary, as well as a challenge I’m offering for fellow storytellers. 

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Step 1 – Create With One Person In Mind

Which of these two statements are you more likely to leave a comment:

  1. What do you all think of this?
  2. What do you think of this?

Do you notice the subtle difference? You don’t necessarily use the word “all,” but the implication is there. When you craft an article or post, you try to appeal to the crowd on the platform–this falls flat. Instead, make your content as if you were making it for one person in mind.

Make the content for a specific person. Yes, actually have a person in mind. It can be a friend, a coworker, someone you know on social media, but make sure you create for that ONE person. 

What happens is: everyone reading it will think you are talking to them personally. They will be much more likely to engage in your piece. They will think they are personally involved, which is excellent! You want personal involvement. It feels great!

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Step 2 – Create For The Platform (No Links)

Every social platform–Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram–has its own algorithm built to keep people on their platform. This is why:

  • The longer people stay on their platform, the more ads they see.
  • The more ads users see the more money the platform makes.

What do you think Facebook will push to the top of a user’s feed: something with a link to Twitter, or something with no links?

Their algorithms find other signs of engaging (sticky) content, too. Machine learning uses keywords and phrases to promote based on what users typically engage with and share. For instance, if something has a picture in it, or emojis, or emotional words, it will have a higher priority in other users’ feeds.

You can craft the same piece of content but then tailor it for each specific platform. For example, this post you are reading now. I took the gist of it and made it for FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn. It didn’t take too long to change it: a short summary, a few pictures, and change the hashtags. It helps if you make a storyboard ahead of time.

What about links to my site or blog? There is only one acceptable place for your links: in your profile. I know you want people to see a specific piece of content on your blog. But it useless to try and post links on social media (very low ROI). Instead, post a linktree or mailing list page on your profile. With a mailing list, you control the priority of what your readers see first.

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Step 3 – Create Engaging Content

You’re going to hate this next part. I will mention two names that might make you cringe—the names: BuzzFeed and MrBeast. You can’t argue with the fact that they produce consistently engaging content. People by the millions like, share, talk about, promote, and comment on their work. 

Buzzfeed created a TED Talk about their method. They use something called Cultural Cartography, which is a map of what makes people engage. The picture of the map is below. The idea is that people are more likely to engage with something that makes them feel personally involved, or makes them laugh, or appeals to their sexual interests, or makes them say, “WTF?”

Image from BuzzFeed TED Talk

YouTuber Paddy Galloway broke down MrBeast’s success using one (usually more) of six engagement criteria: money, reactions, challenges, pranks, drama, or featuring a large YouTuber (fellow content creator). Simply put: it works.

Image from YouTube

One note: talking about a large YouTuber on a different platform is similar to using links to other platforms. Twitter prefers you talk about a Twitter celebrity versus talking about a Facebook celebrity. 

Image via Hoot Suite Presentation

Step 4 – Be Engaging

This name you will like: Genius Turner. His articles get more engagement than anyone else on Medium. For example, his piece on Mozart got 8k claps and 88 comments. President Barrack Obama’s piece on Cicely Tyson got 4k claps and 16 comments.

How does Genius Turner get over four-times the comments of Barrack Obama? Simple: he’s engaging. Look at both of those linked articles. Genius replies to almost EVERY comment. Obama–none. Genius also reads other people’s writing and leaves comments on those. 

Keep in mind, Genius has NO other social media platforms. He stopped writing on Quora and his blog in 2019. He’s currently working on his book, and he writes on Medium. That’s it. No website. No mail list. He writes content, and he engages with others.


Below is a 30-second video summary. I enjoyed making it, and I think you’ll appreciate watching it. But here is the bullet point summary:

  1. Write for one specific person.
  2. Don’t share links.
  3. Craft engaging content.
  4. Be engaging.
30 second video summary by author

Do You Like Telling Stories?

I’ve put together a project for storytellers and writers. The idea: everyone has their own voice. I want to get over 100 writers to retell the same story, making it uniquely their own. It can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever. I’d like you to craft something and submit it. Thank you, my friend!

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