What Is “Outbound Engagement,” and Why Is It So Important on Social Media?

“Engagement is key.” “If you’re not engaging, you’re not growing.” “Put the SOCIAL back in social media.”

If you’ve heard any of these comments, chances are they were about outbound engagement. As social media becomes more and more saturated with brands and people trying to monetize their presence, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out, and engagement is proving to be one of the most effective ways to continue to grow in a crowded space. Think of it like the fertilizer on a plant in a crowded garden bed, helping it to grow above the others so it can get the sun, rain and exposure it needs to stay healthy.

So how do you harness this potential for growth in your business? Let’s take a look at what outbound engagement is and some best practices for implementing it.

What is outbound engagement?

Outbound engagement stands in contrast to inbound engagement, which is when people like and comment on your content, send you direct messages and share your content with others. Those people have come to you to engage. Outbound means that you are going to them. Instead of just responding to the engagement happening on your content, you are seeking out ideal clients and interacting with THEIR content.

Why should I do that?

I’m glad you asked! There are a few reasons why engagement is important, but there are two I’d like to focus on.

First, when you’re engaging, you’re not doing it randomly. You’re doing it with people who are a part of your target audience, or whose audience you would like to work with. You’re forming connections and touchpoints with potential customers, and that is incredibly valuable.

Second is everyone’s least favourite thing: ~the algorithm~

No, we haven’t specified a social platform for this discussion, but it doesn’t matter. For every single platform you use, their KPI, the thing they care most about, is time spent in-app or on-site. It means they can show you more ads and upsell you on premium features. So anything you do that makes people spend more time on their platform is beneficial to them, and they will reward you with reach and engagement on your content.

Outbound engagement is a great way to help platforms with their time spent KPI, because not only does it give people more to do in the app when they’re viewing and responding to your comments but also because it will often bring them back to the app through notifications.

So now that you understand why outbound engagement is important and how it benefits you, here are some engagement best practices by platform, as well as some more general best practices.

Best practices for outbound engagement

Across all platforms, there are general rules of thumb to follow to make sure you’re staying authentic and not coming across as spammy:

  • When you comment, make sure it’s valuable. Don’t just leave emojis or a generic “love this” sort of comment. Obviously this depends a lot on how engaging the content itself is, but try to be relevant, positive and specific.

  • Don’t spam someone’s page with a bunch of likes and comments. That feels very much like a tactic, not as genuine. A couple is okay if you’d like, but it’s always more preferable to engage with someone a lot over a longer period than all at once.

  • When you send someone a private message, it should be about something they have shared, or you should be giving them something for free. “Hey, love your content, have you ever considered xyz?” is never a good approach. NEVER.

  • You need to be engaging every single day. Unless it’s LinkedIn, that includes weekends. If you want to really boost its effectiveness, do your outbound engagement just before you post.

Engagement best practices for Instagram

Instagram is probably the most popular example of a platform where success is quite difficult without an engagement strategy. Here are the best practices for engaging on social media:

  • Engage in your feed. You follow people for a reason, so make sure you’re liking and commenting on posts and watching stories that show up there.

  • Engage with the content of the more popular accounts in your industry. You want Instagram to recommend your page to their followers, and engaging with their content is a good way to do it.

  • Watch and interact with stories. Instagram has placed a huge focus on stories, so watching them, voting in polls, reacting, and even responding with relevant DMs will help you signal to Instagram that you’re starting personal conversations and encouraging others to spend more time in the app.

  • Use IGTV. Even if you’re not posting videos on IGTV (which you should be), go on there to engage with content. You’ll be recommended different things than you would be in the Instagram app, and Instagram likes to reward people for using their new products.

Engagement best practices for Facebook

Organic reach on Facebook is really abysmal, so here are a few tips that should help you give your content a little boost:

  • Engage as your page in Facebook groups. Facebook has placed a massive focus on groups, even showing group content at the top of the feed, and now you can join groups as your page. Showing up, responding to people’s posts and sharing value (in accordance with group rules) will help your page be seen as a conversation starter.

  • Response time is key on Facebook, so make sure you’re responding to everyone’s inbound engagement in a timely fashion.

  • If Facebook is a focus platform for you over Instagram but you’re using both, try doing your Instagram activity through Facebook instead. When you have the two connected, you can respond to DMs, comments and more right there in your page.

  • Facebook has placed a huge focus on video content as well, so watching and commenting on videos, especially live videos, as your page will boost its reach as well.

Engagement best practices for Twitter

One of the biggest challenges I see with Twitter clients is their desire to have it read more like a journal with only things about them and their industry present. And while relevance is important, stepping a bit outside of your circles is really important for success on Twitter:

  • Don’t be afraid to retweet other people’s content. Twitter moves so quickly that it won’t be the focus of your account. I always say that at least half of your content should be retweeted. You can add a comment if you’d like, but that indicates to Twitter that you’re in it for the community and collaboration, not just the kudos.

  • Social listening is king. Twitter allows you to search for posts not just by account or hashtag but with keywords found in the actual text. Utilise this by dedicating a few minutes multiple times per day to searching for relevant keywords, and then respond to people’s tweets in a friendly and relevant way. For example, if you owned a pizza parlour, someone might tweet “Who the heck puts pineapple on pizza?” and you can respond with “Not us. You want Hawaiian pizza, fly to Hawaii.” Keep it casual, relevant and friendly, and you’ll possibly get a new follower out of it.

Engagement best practices for LinkedIn

The key to LinkedIn is all about curating your feed: 

  • Form strategic connections, and mute anyone in your feed that isn’t industry-relevant or a target client.

  • Once your feed is full of the right people, just scroll through and start engaging! Leave meaningful comments and contribute value to discussions.

  • Once you start to see how certain people interact with things (and only once you’ve engaged with them a few times), you can start tagging them in the comments of relevant posts. For example, “@Sam Gale, I’m curious to hear your take on this,” or, “@Sam Gale, this reminded me of your post the other day!” This helps those specific, targeted people start to think of you as a) someone who knows them and is in their circle, and b) someone who holds authority in the industry, or at least who has their ear to the ground.

  • For those you would consider a very warm audience, meaning you’ve done the above several times, you can send them a blog post or a piece of content (from your site or another) in their DMs, and this will allow you to start a more personal conversation with them and qualify them as a lead.

So now it’s time to start engaging! Remember to be authentic, add value, keep it friendly and do it daily. After a while of doing this consistently, you’ll see your content start to perform better as a result.