How to start conversations on social media without ‘Engagement Baiting’

Social media sites are constantly updating and changing their algorithms in a supposed effort to bring their users the most personalized and enjoyable experience they can.

Social media sites are constantly updating and changing their algorithms in a supposed effort to bring their users the most personalized and enjoyable experience they can.

A recent article from December 2017 on Facebook’s Newsroom highlighted the fact that the people at Facebook are aware their users do not like ‘spammy’ posts that goad or trick people into interacting with them.

News Feed FYI: Fighting Engagement Bait on Facebook.  This could be with Facebook page engagement tactics such as asking for likes, shares, or comments, and is often called ‘baiting’.

Facebook decided to tackle this problem head on by watching and categorizing over 100,000 videos in order to inform a machine learning model that will demote people and pages that strive for artificial gains in popularity.

Authenticity is clearly important to them and is integral to the future success of social media platforms. Facebook want their newsfeed algorithm to send relevant and informative posts to the top of their users’ feeds every time and not have them frustrated by meaningless posts.

So, what does this mean for those who use social media engagement strategies to promote themselves or their business and engage with their audiences? Hopefully you are already engaging genuinely with your followers, but what about those that don’t realize the difference between engaging and ‘baiting’ or would like to make the shift to reach a wider audience in more authentic ways? This article will help.

Using tactics to try and mislead your followers into engaging with you will now lead to demotions on Facebook and no doubt other social media sites will follow suit, if they haven’t already. Without follower participation, your content is powerless. But what if you knew how to engage users and get them involved every time? An article on ImpactBND’s website calls this the “Two-Way Conversation” and it is important to remember this throughout.

Ask Simple Questions

Asking simple questions is one way of doing this. People love getting involved; they want to be a part of something, especially when they have a choice and aren’t baited into doing so. You could ask your followers what they think of an idea or if they have any ideas of their own.

This could prove fruitful, especially if you are going through a bit of a rut and have run out of ideas yourself. Your followers might surprise you. Or you could get them to guess what you are working on after providing some teasers, maybe offering a prize for the winner (more on this shortly). If a customer has a complaint, you could answer by asking them some questions: How do they think it should be resolved? What would they like done? They will appreciate this opportunity to give you feedback and will recognize that you are actively trying to improve by reaching out to them.

You do not want to lose a follower, and this is a great way of keeping them on board and showing that you care. Just make sure that you have your own ideas for resolution and don’t leave this up to your followers – you may come across as lazy, or that you are using your followers to sort out your problems!

Create Polls

Similarly, creating Polls that allow your followers and audience to get involved in your brand or business choices are a solid way of generating engagement. Polls allow you to ask questions directly to your followers, seeing what ideas they prefer and what ideas they dislike.

This can be as simple or as detailed as you like (the more detailed, the more insight you will gain) and could be a choice between two flavors of drink, five ideas for a story, or twenty ideas of locations for a photoshoot – it really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you are giving your audience a chance to get involved in the outcome of something and you are trusting them to make a good decision.

Co-Creation With Your Audience

Polls can also be linked to co-creation with your followers. Letting your audience create something with you or for you is another great way of gaining organic audience involvement.

Guy Kawasaki, the American marketing specialist and author, created a contest for his fans to help him design one of the covers of his books. I say this as a fantastic idea. Fans would rush to this announcement (and they did), hoping to be the one that gets their design on the front of one of their favorite authors’ books.

Kawasaki tweeted that if he ‘wanted to see the greatest diversity of ideas’, he would use crowdsourcing for any act of creativity. He’s right. Depending on how wide your audience is or how many followers you have, you could end up with a tonne of ideas for your project.

You need only pick your favorite but have generated interest and engagement in the process and hopefully gained followers. If you do receive a huge number of replies, you could take this further and pick a select few favorites. Then direct the rest of your followers to your poll and let them decide! The important thing is that you follow through with the result.

The audience will want to see the finished product, whatever it may be, and will appreciate that you carried it out to the end.

Talk To People

As previously touched upon, talking to people is essential. As one article on the Business2Community website points out, if you are looking to gain engagement then you must engage yourself! This can mean responding to comments, questions, and reviews – good or bad. It is important that you accept genuine and informed criticism and take it on board to progress and improve.

If you only reply to positive comments your audience will notice this, and you may lose some respect and some potential customers in the process. Showing that you are ready to accept criticism will do only good for your brand, especially if you then show how you have used it to advance your brand.

Buffer Reply is an app that allows you to receive and respond to your notifications across all Social Media platforms in one place and would help you to reply quickly to comments and questions.

If you are extremely busy, you could set up a time or a few hours a week where you will endeavor to reply to as many questions as you can. Give your followers plenty of notice and they will come, knowing that they have a good chance of receiving a reply from you.

Find The Conversations Worth Having

You could also look for conversations, groups, and people that are in the same niche as yourself and get involved this way. Engaging with the people on these pages will generate interest in your page if you bring something interesting to the table.

Make sure that you are authentic and say something meaningful, and people will listen. Perhaps you could look for loosely related pages that are not directly associated to your niche – you might be able to find some new followers who had previously not considered what you have to offer. Again, be genuine!

Highlight Your Good Feedback


In addition to responding to negative ones, there is no shame in highlighting your most exceptional reviews. Thanking people for taking the time to review is important and you could use this as an opportunity to ask if they would be happy for you to use their review as a testimonial. Not only will this help drive engagement (and sales, potentially) but others will see that a well thought out review could be used on your page.

This is an opportunity for them to get themselves seen if your page is particularly popular. Though you might not be able to use them all, these reviews would be there for others to see somewhere on your page anyway. It might be a good idea to give something in return for a testimonial, as explored below.

Start a Waiting List

Waiting lists can also be used to generate excitement like this, in advance of the release or reveal of a product, and free trials can have the same effect and are used by a huge number of businesses these days, including Amazon.

Show Your Personality

Showing your (or your brand’s) personality on Social Media is important. It is difficult sometimes for your followers to engage with just a logo or a company name, more so if they have questions to ask.

People want to hear a voice or see a face behind these things. Introducing humor into your posts is a good way of letting users hear the voice of your brand. Just as an author must establish a voice in their fiction, a brand or company should also have a voice. Subtle humor in your text posts are one way of succeeding with this, but with emojis and GIFs becoming an increasing part of the internet’s language, you could use these too.

There is an almost endless array now and using humorous ones at opportune times will really bring out the personality that you are trying to air on your pages. Videos are another way of branding your business and allowing your audience to put a face to your text posts. Videos where you discuss upcoming plans or release of products, and even videos of you telling (relevant) stories about your business really bridge the gap between you and your audience.

People might be more likely to buy your products when they realize that you are working alone, and they see how much work and effort you put into what you are doing.

Use Triggers

MarketingLand’s article on Social Media Marketing asks its reader to think about ‘Brain Triggers’, exploring some of the options that you have available to you above but also bringing some new ones to the fore. For example, giving your followers short puzzles to solve will pique their interest.

We as human beings love to solve problems and learn new things and doing this to reveal something about your brand (once they have solved it) will give them a sense of achievement and make them more interested in what you have to say. You should also tell your followers why you are offering what you’re offering and why they should buy in. A problem with ‘engagement baiting’ is when people post things such as “Like this post and I’ll tell you about a new product next week”.

This isn’t the same as creating a waiting list or generating interest; this is spam. Your audience doesn’t gain anything from this, but you might lose a follower or two.

Run an Occasional Giveaway


Giveaways are another strong way of engaging with followers. These can be in the form of contests, promotions, discounts, or ‘customer appreciation’ campaigns. IKEA managed a masterful Facebook campaign in 2009 when they were generating interest in their new store in Malmo, Sweden.

A small budget led them to creating a Facebook page for the store manager, Gordon Gustavsson, on which they uploaded twelve photographs of the store’s showrooms over two weeks. They then stated that the first person to tag their name on one of the products in the showroom after the picture was uploaded would win the item for free. Knowing that when a person tagged themselves in the picture it would pop up on their friend’s timelines, IKEA reached out to a vast amount of people with this campaign, creating a huge amount of interest for the posts and the new store.  While this would probably be considered engagement bait by today's standards on the Facebook platform, it's still worth considering creative ways to run a giveaway if you don't do it on Facebook.

Do Something New or Different

Your followers will enjoy seeing something new also. If they feel like you are innovating, or trying to be creative, they will recognize this and engage. It is a show of authenticity on your part. Followers also like to see lists; some of your users might not want to read a 10,000-word article about why they should buy what you are selling, but a page of bullet points or paragraphs that are clear and concise are much more likely to be read.

Integrating ‘action words’ into your lists and posts are also a good way of enticing your followers. Words such as ‘discover’, ‘explore’, ‘share’, ‘join’, ‘find’ are a call for your audience to do something, to get involved in what you are saying. Just make sure that you are being genuine and not goading them!

As seen, there are many ways of engaging with your audiences and followers on social media without having to resort to ‘engagement baiting’. You should be responding to comments and reviews as a matter of course and involving your audience by asking questions all the time.

You should always be on the lookout for meaningful insights into what your followers want and are thinking as this will help you to drive sales and gain new followers/potential customers. I believe that creativity is key and finding novel ways of engaging with your audience will bring about the best successes and generate the most positivity. It will also help your brand’s personality shine through. Good luck!

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