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Social media use in 2021, a majority of americans say they use youtube and facebook, while use of instagram, snapchat and tiktok is especially common among adults under 30..

To better understand Americans’ use of social media, online platforms and messaging apps, Pew Research Center surveyed 1,502 U.S. adults from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8, 2021, by cellphone and landline phone. The survey was conducted by interviewers under the direction of Abt Associates and is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, education and other categories. Here are the  questions used for this report , along with responses, and  its methodology .

Despite a string of controversies and the public’s relatively negative sentiments about aspects of social media, roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they ever use any kind of social media site – a share that has remained relatively stable over the past five years, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults.

Growing share of Americans say they use YouTube; Facebook remains one of the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults

Beyond the general question of overall social media use, the survey also covers use of individual sites and apps. YouTube and Facebook continue to dominate the online landscape, with 81% and 69%, respectively, reporting ever using these sites. And YouTube and Reddit were the only two platforms measured that saw statistically significant growth since 2019 , when the Center last polled on this topic via a phone survey.

When it comes to the other platforms in the survey, 40% of adults say they ever use Instagram and about three-in-ten report using Pinterest or LinkedIn. One-quarter say they use Snapchat, and similar shares report being users of Twitter or WhatsApp. TikTok – an app for sharing short videos – is used by 21% of Americans, while 13% say they use the neighborhood-focused platform Nextdoor.

Even as other platforms do not nearly match the overall reach of YouTube or Facebook, there are certain sites or apps, most notably Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, that have an especially strong following among young adults. In fact, a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram (71%) or Snapchat (65%), while roughly half say the same for TikTok.

These findings come from a nationally representative survey of 1,502 U.S. adults conducted via telephone Jan. 25-Feb.8, 2021.

With the exception of YouTube and Reddit, most platforms show little growth since 2019

YouTube is the most commonly used online platform asked about in this survey, and there’s evidence that its reach is growing. Fully 81% of Americans say they ever use the video-sharing site, up from 73% in 2019. Reddit was the only other platform polled about that experienced statistically significant growth during this time period – increasing from 11% in 2019 to 18% today. 

Facebook’s growth has leveled off over the last five years, but it remains one of the most widely used social media sites among adults in the United States: 69% of adults today say they ever use the site, equaling the share who said this two years prior.  

Similarly, the respective shares of Americans who report using Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter and WhatsApp are statistically unchanged since 2019 . This represents a broader trend that extends beyond the past two years in which the rapid adoption of most of these sites and apps seen in the last decade has slowed. (This was the first year the Center asked about TikTok via a phone poll and the first time it has surveyed about Nextdoor.)

Adults under 30 stand out for their use of Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok

When asked about their social media use more broadly – rather than their use of specific platforms – 72% of Americans say they ever use social media sites.

In a pattern consistent with past Center studies on social media use, there are some stark age differences. Some 84% of adults ages 18 to 29 say they ever use any social media sites, which is similar to the share of those ages 30 to 49 who say this (81%). By comparison, a somewhat smaller share of those ages 50 to 64 (73%) say they use social media sites, while fewer than half of those 65 and older (45%) report doing this.

These age differences generally extend to use of specific platforms, with younger Americans being more likely than their older counterparts to use these sites – though the gaps between younger and older Americans vary across platforms.

Age gaps in Snapchat, Instagram use are particularly wide, less so for Facebook

Majorities of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram or Snapchat and about half say they use TikTok, with those on the younger end of this cohort – ages 18 to 24 – being especially likely to report using Instagram (76%), Snapchat (75%) or TikTok (55%). 1 These shares stand in stark contrast to those in older age groups. For instance, while 65% of adults ages 18 to 29 say they use Snapchat, just 2% of those 65 and older report using the app – a difference of 63 percentage points.

Additionally, a vast majority of adults under the age of 65 say they use YouTube. Fully 95% of those 18 to 29 say they use the platform, along with 91% of those 30 to 49 and 83% of adults 50 to 64. However, this share drops substantially – to 49% – among those 65 and older.

By comparison, age gaps between the youngest and oldest Americans are narrower for Facebook. Fully 70% of those ages 18 to 29 say they use the platform, and those shares are statistically the same for those ages 30 to 49 (77%) or ages 50 to 64 (73%). Half of those 65 and older say they use the site – making Facebook and YouTube the two most used platforms among this older population.

Other sites and apps stand out for their demographic differences:

Use of online platforms, apps varies – sometimes widely – by demographic group

A majority of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram users say they visit these platforms on a daily basis

Seven-in-ten Facebook users say they visit site daily

While there has been much written about Americans’ changing relationship with Facebook , its users remain quite active on the platform. Seven-in-ten Facebook users say they use the site daily, including 49% who say they use the site several times a day. (These figures are statistically unchanged from those reported in the Center’s 2019 survey about social media use.)  

Smaller shares – though still a majority – of Snapchat or Instagram users report visiting these respective platforms daily (59% for both). And being active on these sites is especially common for younger users. For instance, 71% of Snapchat users ages 18 to 29 say they use the app daily, including six-in-ten who say they do this multiple times a day. The pattern is similar for Instagram: 73% of 18- to 29-year-old Instagram users say they visit the site every day, with roughly half (53%) reporting they do so several times per day.

YouTube is used daily by 54% if its users, with 36% saying they visit the site several times a day. By comparison, Twitter is used less frequently, with fewer than half of its users (46%) saying they visit the site daily.

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About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

Social Media Engagement: Why it Matters and How to Do it Well

Mike Eckstein

As social media platforms evolve to reward authentic social interactions, social media engagement has become a vital part of any marketing strategy. Here's a look into why we think social media engagement is so important and how you can overcome roadblocks to develop a successful strategy.

You will learn

Without engagement, social media is just media.

People don’t use social networks for a one-way experience. They’re seeking connections — with people and with brands.

What started out as a way for people to hang out with their friends online has turned into a place where brands can engage in meaningful conversations and turn those conversations into followers and customers. And social media engagement has a major impact on small businesses , affecting everything from brand awareness to customer loyalty.

Here, you can learn how to improve your social media engagement strategy, so you can make sure that impact is positive.

What is social media engagement?

Social media engagement is a measure of how people are interacting with your social media accounts and content. The term can cover a broad range of actions acoss all social platforms. For example, engagement might include:

Engagement is a great way to measure whether the content you're creating is actually resonating with your audience, but that's not all it's good for, which brings me onto our next topic...

Why social media engagement is so important

Why is engagement so crucial? In short, because social media platforms say so.

Organic reach has dropped on almost every social media platform in recent years. However, accounts with higher social media engagement are the least affected . In fact, Facebook uses “ meaningful engagement ” as an important signal that a post should be prioritized.

In other words, social media posts with more active and thoughtful interactions will get more reach. As Facebook explains :

“Interacting with people is associated with a greater sense of well-being… On the other hand, just scrolling through your Facebook feed, passively reading or watching without interacting with others, tends to make people feel worse.” Your customers expect you to engage, as well, particularly when it comes to providing support. Social media is the number one choice for customer care —  every month, people and businesses exchange 8 billion Facebook messages . Customers rely on you to not only respond but to do it quickly. According to research commissioned by Twitter in 2016 , 71% of their users expect brands to respond within an hour.

Graph about social media being top choice for customer care

People love seeing (and sharing) positive interactions between brands and real people. Answering a complaint on social media can increase customer advocacy by as much as 25% .

It may be a bit intimidating to respond publicly, but if you provide great service, your customers will love you for it. An average of 66% of people between the ages of 18-54 view brands more favorably if they respond to customer service requests on social media. Plus, every public back-and-forth counts as further engagement, which feeds back into your overall reach.

Oh wow, this is an amazing message to see, Mia 🤩 Thanks so much for the feedback and thrilled to hear you're digging the new engagement tool 🥳 I hope you have a wonderful day! - Danny — Buffer (@buffer) January 27, 2021

Lastly, engagement builds relationships. We use social media to learn from our customers and community about how we can improve their experience.

Thanks for sharing, Robert! What would be the priority of other channels you'd like to see us add to the engagement tool? — Joel Gascoigne (@joelgascoigne) January 26, 2021

Having this direct line to our target audience enables us to build relationships, develop empathy, and, ultimately, build a better product for our users.

How to boost social media engagement

Here’s how to keep your social media engagement rate on the rise.

1. Actually be social

You probably wouldn’t go to a party just to launch into a speech and refuse to have any conversations, would you? To be engaging, you have to actually socialize, which means interacting with the people around you.

This is something we try to do all the time on social, aiming to respond to the majority of comments and mentions we recieve.

research about social media engagement

Not only is responding a good practice to get into, it can also impact your revenue as Southern Elegance Candle Co. founder and CEO D’Shawn Russell told us :

“Our social media makes us a lot of money… We went from doing maybe $20,000-30,000 a month just posting pretty images to well over a $100,000 a month now simply by engaging people more."

Got a bit of social (media) anxiety? Use social media engagement tools to track mentions, comments, and conversations in a central place. (There are a number of social media monitoring tools out there to help you with these. Here’s a list we put together with some of our favorites .)

And here at Buffer we've just rolled out our new engagement tool to help you stay on top of important interactions on Instagram and Facebook, and turn followers into fans.

Retail business Sass & Belle uses this tool to respond to its comments in a timely manner: “We use Buffer on a daily basis to ensure we never miss a comment or question from our community,” says Sass & Belle’s social media manager, Stephanie Kaluza. "I really like how it flags out comments that may be an issue or that is potentially an important question that we may have missed."

(If you are not a Buffer customer yet, you can get started at just $15 per month .)

2. Have a consistent, authentic voice

Putting yourself out there on social media can be scary. Will people like what you have to say? Are you putting your brand in its best light?

Having an authentic voice on social media is important but not as easy as it sounds. It’s essential because it humanizes your brand and encourages people to respond and talk about you positively.

It’s difficult because things like “voice” and “tone” are quite subjective. Here’s how Kevan Lee described the challenge in a previous blog post : “We don’t want brands talking at us as if we are dollar signs. We want authentic communication. Finding a voice for your social media marketing can be difficult because the concept is somewhat unlike other optimization strategies online. Voice is not a statistic you can track or a design element you can tweak. Voice goes deeper than that.” As an example of how to develop your social media voice, here’s a four-part formula suggested by Stephanie Schwab, writing for Social Media Explorer. She breaks voice down into tone, character, language, and purpose.

A chart about finding your brand voice

But what does that look like in practice?

At Buffer, we have a tone guide ( which you can read about here , along with some other guides that we think are quite inspirational). We use this guide to help empower our team.

Establishing a brand voice is especially important if multiple people manage your social media accounts. Here, at Buffer, our Customer Advocates can refer to our guidelines for guidance on overall tone and style but still add their own personal touch by signing off with a signature.

Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed the gifts. :) If we can ever help with anything, don't hesitate to reach out! -Nate — Buffer (@buffer) January 27, 2021

Keep in mind that different styles work for different audiences. For instance, D.C. area bookstore, Capitol Hill Books, embraces dark humor on its social networks.

Laying low. — Capitol Hill Books (@chbooksdc) January 6, 2021

You can also liven up your feed with GIFs and emojis. Both have become a massive part of the language of social media . Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch says emojis allow us to add gestures and emotional nuances into our online communication. When you share content with GIFs and emojis, you add a bit of personality to your social media channels.

3. Know your algorithms

Not all platforms measure social media engagement in the same way. Familiarize yourself with the unique algorithms, so you know how to boost engagement. Start with timing — does it matter when engagement happens, or are midnight likes weighted the same as midday interactions?

LinkedIn, for example, cares when people engage with your posts and factors it into your reach. In our LinkedIn Strategy guide , we discuss the “Golden Hour” concept — posts that get engagement within the first 60 minutes have greater reach. Instagram, on the other hand, doesn’t factor engagement timing into its algorithm.

Consider your post timing as well. While there is no “best” time to post for everyone, you can dig into your audience insights to strategically post when your followers are most active.

Check into how other actions influence your chances of social media engagement, as well. For example, Instagram likes when you use Instagram Stories and will show your posts more often to regular story viewers . On Facebook, posts with videos receive 400% more engagement than text-only posts . For Twitter, hashtags are everything — adding hashtags to tweets can increase engagement as much as 1,065% .

Measure the impact of your social media engagement

Engagement is great for an ego boost, but it’s also important to monitor how that engagement impacts your business.

In my opinion, being able to quantify the return-on-investment is the biggest thing that holds brands back from investing in social media engagement.

It’s often not quite as straightforward as measuring clicks on an ad campaign, or sales from an email promotion.

At Buffer, we measure success through a couple of lenses:

1. Customer support impact

How many messages are we responding to on social media? Are we responding (and resolving issues) faster? Is it reducing the number of support requests we receive through other channels, like email?

2. Brand impact

The impact social media engagement has on your brand is more difficult to measure because someone’s journey with your brand is nonlinear and attribution is murky. Brand perceptions are built up over time and through multiple channels.

At Buffer, the brand metric that we focus on is impressions – the number of people who are coming into contact with Buffer each week. We have an annual goal for reach, and we track weekly progress against it.

Brand reach goals

We treat social media as a component of total reach, and it is a big contributor for us to our total reach number.

In the table below, Social Reach is the total number of people who see our content within a social media feed and Social Engagement is the cumulative total of likes, comments, shares and clicks, etc.

We include Social Engagement because it helps us measure the quality of our reach. By engaging with our audience on social media ourselves, we try to drive both of these numbers up!

Social media reach and engagement

To improve social media engagement, you have to monitor it

You can’t boost something without knowing your starting point. With Buffer’s analytics and engagement tools, keep a close eye on your engagement efforts.

With our analytics you can easily surface your best performing content to better understand what your audience is engaging with the most:

research about social media engagement

And with our engagement tools you can reply to more comments, stay on top of important interactions, and turn your followers into fans. All from the comfort of your Buffer dashboard.

research about social media engagement

Start making the most of your social media efforts by interacting with your followers consistently and authentically. Sign up for a 14-day trial to give engagement and analytics tools a try!

Did you find this article helpful? You might also like our all-you-need social media toolkit.

The all-you-need social media toolkit

Publish Flawlessly. Analyze Effortlessly. Engage Authentically.

Buffer is the all-you-need social media toolkit that lets you focus on doing what you love for your business.

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Social media engagement: What it is and tips to improve it

Written by by Jamia Kenan

Published on  October 20, 2022

Reading time  8 minutes

Social media engagement is the bread and butter of social media marketing . Many brands want more engagement on their social media posts but don’t know what else to do or are stuck in the same old strategy. Plus, feed algorithms are tough to maneuver given that they’re changing often, sometimes without notice.

Your social media engagement can always improve. There isn’t a maximum engagement level that one can reach. The more engaged your audience is, the more that other people will see your posts and the better you’ll achieve those social media goals .

Let’s dive more into the world of social media engagement so we can better understand how to increase it.

Table of contents

What is social media engagement?

Tips for increasing your social media engagement, ideas for engaging social media posts.

Social media engagement is an umbrella term for actions that reflect and measure how much your audience interacts with your content. Social media engagement can include likes, comments and shares, but varies by platform.

For example, on Facebook, engagement means all possible ways of interacting with a Page’s posts and profile, messages and mentions, all added together. But engagement can be divided up into different areas:

This is not an exhaustive list of engagement that can happen on Facebook but it gives you an idea of where you might start to narrow in on your goals.

When looking at engagement numbers between months or even years, this birds’ eye view is great at identifying a trend. But you need other metrics to understand how you can improve and uncover the bigger picture. The trick is understanding what engagement is on a broad level and how to examine it at a micro-level.

1. Know where to find engagement metrics

Most major social media networks like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok allow you to view your engagement metrics on their native analytics. These native dashboards allow you to see engagements including likes, comments, shares, impressions and more.

You can also use third-party social media management tools like Sprout Social to help you view and understand your engagement metrics in one place.

For example, you can see what posts performed the best by profile. In the below example, the number of Instagram engagements are added up for you. Along with engagement rate , you can view impressions and average reach per post.

Sprout Social Post Performance Report showing impressions, average reach per post, and engagement rate

How do you analyze this? If you see post engagement dropping week over week, then your posts need to be adjusted to better suit your audience (assuming nothing else has changed in the world or in your paid promotions).

If a post has a significantly higher engagement rate over the others, it’s important to make note of what made it stand out. This helps you identify what realm of content to focus on if you want to improve your engagement overall.

2. Set goals and define metrics

It’s important to understand the various social media metrics and what they mean on each platform. This is because your social media goals determine which metrics you use. For every goal, you need a related metric, which will determine if your social strategy is working or not.

Set clear engagement goals so you know what to focus your content efforts on. If you want more engagement on your posts, then you know you’ll need to focus on creating interesting content. The metrics that tie with it will be post engagement specific: how many people interacted with your posts and what types of engagement did they execute?

3. Understand your platform

Each platform has its own metrics, trends and culture, so you must adjust your social media engagement strategy to accommodate each network’s nuances.

There are over 15 social media platforms that brands are using, but this doesn’t mean you should join each one. Do your research and consider which social media apps are the best for your business and your audience, which leads us to our next tip.

4. Know your audience

The key to improving your social media engagement is understanding your target audience —the group of people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.

For example, if you’re a B2B company, LinkedIn could be the best fit since it centers on professional networking and many B2B brands are already active on the platform.

Your brand is making content for your audience, so always keep them in mind, from deciding what content to create to determining the best times to post on social media.

5. Understand the components of an engaging post

Every network is a little different in terms of engaging posts but similarities still stand out. In the Sprout Social Index™ , we found that short-form video, images and live video are the three most engaging types of in-feed social content.

We also found that consumers looking for authentic posts like customer testimonials that highlight brands’ product or service.

Sprout Social Index™ infographic highlighting the types of content consumers want to see on social from brands

Pay attention to what content does well on each platform and consider if it could resonate well with your audience. Check your own analytics to identify if and how these types of posts perform with your audience. There’s a swath of social media ideas to try out or get inspiration from, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

6. Create shareable content

You might be familiar with the phrase, “Don’t forget to like, comment and share,” but there are many other ways to increase your social media shares outside of explicitly asking.

For example, visual content like short-form video and images are more likely to be shared, so consider leaning into making more posts that feature either, or both.

If you create shareable content, your social media engagement will increase. People on social media enjoy sharing posts they enjoy, admire or find valuable, so create and curate content that will prompt your followers to hit the share button.

7. Know when to post on social media

Knowing the best time to post on social media is another key to increasing your engagement. Identifying what is the best time to post based on your platform and audience will help you determine when to prioritize upcoming posts.

Knowing how often to post on social media is equally important because you don’t want to flood your audience with too much content. You want to hit a sweet spot that allows you to maintain an active social media presence. According to Sprout Social Index™, the sweet spot is about 1-2 posts per day for brands.

8. Execute your strategy

Our last social media engagement tip is straightforward: execute your strategy. Get into the habit of testing, iterating and experimenting with your social media marketing strategy. Social media is ever-changing, so your strategy needs to evolve over the year as well.

There are a variety of ways you can create intrigue and interaction for your social media posts. Some are more short-term while others are more long-term strategies. A combination of both should keep your accounts in tip-top shape.

Here are some of our favorite social media engagement posts to help inspire your own strategy:

Marvel Entertainment: Giveaway with other companies

One of the fastest ways to get engagement with your account is to host a giveaway. People love to get free things, and if you make it an engagement-focused giveaway, it can help you hit your goals. For example, many of these contests ask followers to like, comment, tag a friend and/or follow for entry.

These Twitter contests and Instagram giveaways are common, but they can be done on other platforms too. You can even host the contest across different platforms.

#MarvelInsider is launching a month of giveaways! Enter now for your chance to win this Red Skull digital collectible from @veve_official 's Marvel Mightys collection. Terms apply: — Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) October 4, 2022

You can make giveaways even more special by personalizing it to your audience. Marvel recently did this when they announced a month-long giveaway for #MarvelInsider , a loyalty program for fans.

Discord: Get creative and funny

Humor goes a long way on social media, especially if it’s the type that your audience enjoys and engages with. Discord is known for it’s lighthearted, whimsy tone on Twitter. They use it in the below Tweet to debut their new mascot.

are you just gonna scroll by without saying hi to our new wumpus mascot? — Discord (@discord) October 14, 2022

Although we encourage creativity, note that humor isn’t necessarily right for every brand or industry. The Sprout Social Index, Edition XI: Social Personality report found that 3 in 4 consumers want humor from brands but only a third want that humor to be snarky.

Bearverse: Create FOMO

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a strong tactic to use when you want people to pay attention to your brand.  Flash sales and intriguing content both fall into this category.

The Bearverse video game encouraged gamers to sign up for an upcoming flash sale:

You blink and you miss it — this describes our first Flash Sale😉 All Mystery Boxes were SOLD OUT in just 2 hours 🔥 Wanna make sure you don’t miss the second Flash Sale this week? Leave your email here and be the first to get the link: — Bearverse (@BearverseGame) October 10, 2022

The sale created an exclusive experience by sharing with their followers something others haven’t seen yet. This encourages their audience to keep their eyes on Bearverse’s feed so they don’t miss out on any exclusive deals.

Instant Pot: Think beyond feed posts

Feed posts aren’t the only types of posts available to you for engagement. Direct messages, replies and story interactions all count towards engagement numbers.

Branded Facebook Groups, like the Instant Pot Community , are a great way to increase engagement beyond traditional promotional posts.

Instant Pot Community's page on Facebook Groups

Electric cooker fans can join the public group to ask questions, share recipes and connect with other foodies who love cooking with their Instant Pot.

The group has over 3.1 million members, but the brand limits promotional posts within the community. Instead they use, “New Product Monday” to showcase a new product the community might enjoy. They also offer several guides to help members learn how to use their Instant Pot.

Benefit Cosmetics: Use stickers that encourage engagement

Stickers are an increasingly bigger component of Instagram Stories. From polls to questions to the new challenge sticker, you have many options to make your Stories more engaging.

For example, Benefit Cosmetics has GIFs for customers to use, as shown below:

Jamia uses a Benefit sticker in an Instagram Stories mockup

Stickers encourage engagement because your audience can easily use them in their own Stories, sharing your brand with even more potential customers.

Lush Cosmetics: Indulge in the fun holidays your brand’s way

Leverage fall seasonal marketing to connect with your audience in a fresh, engaging way.

As a cosmetics company, Lush and Halloween go hand-in-hand. The brand partnered with YouTuber Alexys Fleming (Madeyewlook) to create a makeup look using their 2022 Halloween collection.

Lush x @madeyewlook = Halloween ✨ MAGIC! ✨ — Lush North America (@lushcosmetics) September 28, 2022

The collaboration is paying off with a packed comment section and over 3.1k likes.

3. Dunkin’ x e.l.f.: Brand partnerships

Another tried-and-true strategy for engagement and sales is partnering up with other like-minded brands to produce something fun and interesting.

However, even unusual partnerships can work if executed correctly. Dunkin’ Donuts and e.l.f. provide a great lesson in brand collaborations 101 with their donut-themed line of cosmetics:

@dunkin ✨Wake up and make up✨ @elfyeah x Dunkin’ collection available NOW at #elf #dunkin #newdrop #getreadywithme ♬ original sound – Dunkin’

The comments and likes reveal that their audiences appreciate the unlikely pairs new products.

Creating a social media engagement plan

Our tips and brand examples will help you increase your engagement. Continue looking for brand examples like the ones we provided for inspiration because this is just the beginning of your social media engagement plan journey.

Use our 30-day social media plan to help you design and execute more social media engagement ideas. All you need to do is fill out the template to continue improving your engagement metrics.

Resources for you

The creator economy: making dollars and sense out of social partnerships, [workbook] social listening step-by-step in 90 minutes, the sprout social index, edition xviii: us forecast, prepare to launch with a social media campaign brief: template, recommended for you.

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Sprout Social helps you understand and reach your audience, engage your community and measure performance with the only all-in-one social media management platform built for connection.

Homepage H1 can go here

How to increase social media engagement: a guide for marketers.

You should be treating social media engagement like a dinner party, welcoming people and encouraging conversation between the host and the guests.

For modern brands with an online presence, strong social media engagement is a sign that you’re making an impact in the market.

It’s not just about looking popular: it’s about making meaningful connections with current and future customers, which will serve to boost your brand ( and ROI ) both on and offline.

Read on for the ultimate guide to building, managing, and measuring social media engagement and all its business benefits.

Bonus: Use our free engagement rate calculato r to find out your engagement rate 4 ways fast. Calculate it on a post-by-post basis or for an entire campaign — for any social network.

What is social media engagement?

Social media engagement is the measurement of comments, likes, and shares.

Of course you want to rack up your followers, but ultimately, the greatest measure of social media success is an engaged audience, not just a big one.

As a business, it’s quality, not just quantity, that you should be striving for.

Imagine you threw a party, and tons of people showed up, but they all just sat there silently. No small talk, no dancing, no conversations, no questionable drinking games. Was the party really a success? The RSVP list looks good, sure, but did your guests have fun? Do they like your dip?

Activity and engagement is crucial for every social platform to build a positive brand experience, and develop meaningful relationships with new and potential future customers.

Social media engagement is measured by a range of metrics that could include the following:

Basically, social media engagement is growing anytime someone interacts with your account and can be calculated in a variety of ways . Check out our complete list of social media metrics, and how to track them, here.

How to increase social media engagement

While you could just cross your fingers and hope that your followers just start spontaneously getting chatty, chances are, they may need a little encouragement.

Luckily, there are plenty of tricks of the trade to boost that engagement and get this virtual party bumpin’.

First, analyze your engagement

It’s hard to measure your growth if you don’t know where you’re starting from.

Put on your data scientist hat (looks great on you) and jot down your current number of followers, how many comments and shares you’re getting on average per post, or whatever numbers are meaningful to you.

Then make sure to keep tracking regularly so that you catch jumps or dips in engagement that can give you valuable clues about what’s working (or, just as importantly, what’s not).

These tools for social media analytics can help you save time getting started.

Select your strategy

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Since every company’s business goals are different, every company’s social media strategy will be too.

Domino’s Pizza and Tiffany and Co. are going to have very different motivations for their engagement, and that will drive the content they put out there.

Domino’s is trying to create a young, fun, and weird brand voice, while Tiffany aims to educate about its rich design history: their tweets are both engaging in their own ways.

Domino’s Pizza and Tiffany and Co Twitter social media strategy

(Source: Dominos Twitter, Tiffany and Co Twitter) 

Depending on what suits your brand and what your business has to offer, your social media engagement goals might include:

Know your audience

It’s hard to get people engaged if you don’t actually know who you’re talking to.

The sort of language, tone, and resources that resonate are likely going to be different for a skateboarding company versus a gardening supply shop. (Save for any gnarly grinding grannies out there.)

View this post on Instagram A post shared by @antihero18

Check out our guide to conducting audience research to learn everything you need to know about your target market.

Knowing your audience will also help you determine:

Create and share valuable content

Now that you know who is following you and why you want to reach them you’re ready for the important third ‘W’: what the heck do I tell them.

Content that is helpful to the audience, that addresses their needs and pain points, is critical. Think “conversation” not “broadcast.”

If you’re just talking about how great your brand is, or what you have for sale, it’s going to be harder to connect.

For a t-shirt company, posting pics of your latest design will only get you so far; posting fashion tips for how to dress up a t-shirt to wear to a wedding, on the other hand, is offering unique service and wisdom to help your fans out. (And daring your followers to share their own “wedding tee stories”? Even better.)

In this Sephora post, the cosmetics company didn’t just brag about their mask selection, they made a game of asking their followers to choose their faves with a #wouldyourather tag.

Time for a little game! #WouldYouRather use a clay or gel mask during the hot, summer months? Comment 👇Clay masks:… Posted by SEPHORA on  Thursday, June 25, 2020

In terms of format, it’s helpful to understand which kind of content is best for each platform: artful images for Instagram, longer text posts or videos for Facebook, and so on.

That being said, don’t be afraid to get creative with these post ideas:

Overall, the best way to figure out what content is working is to watch and learn. Be a content scientist (another hat, cute!). Experiment, observe the reaction, tweak and repeat.

Stay topical

Not sure what to chat about on any given day? Just join a conversation that’s already happening. Commenting on current events and trends in a way that ties in your brand is an opportunity to instantly connect with an audience in a timely way.

Trending pop culture (remember the spring of Tiger King ?), big sporting events, holidays, or viral memes can all be great excuses for a post.

Good luck to the nominees tonight. Don't forget to look down before your speech. — Charmin (@Charmin) February 24, 2013

Keep the conversation flowing

Some may think of conversation as an art, but in some ways, it’s really more of a sport: volleying attention and questions back and forth.

Online, you need that give and take, too. It’s important for brands to practice both reactive engagement and proactive engagement.

When you’re reactive , you’re answering direct messages, incoming mentions or comments.

When you’re proactive , you’re the one sparking conversation with people who may be talking about you, but haven’t necessarily sent messages to you directly. Maybe they’ve mentioned you with a misspelled brand name (“I love La Croy!”), or a common, unofficial nickname (“can i pls marry a McD’s breakfast sandwich”). Either way, this is an opportunity to reach out and say hey.

If HBO has a search on for both #GameofThrones and #Gameof Thornes, they’ll be able to catch chatter even from fans (or, ahem, global media conglomerates) who are too excited to spell check.

Who would you choose as a roommate? • Tyrion, but he never pays rent • Jamie, but Cersei has a spare key • Hodor, but he never closes the bathroom door • Jon Snow, but he knows everything #GameOfThornes — Disney+ Hotstar Premium (@DisneyPlusHSP) March 17, 2020

To track those indirect mentions, just set up search streams on your Hootsuite dashboard so you don’t miss a chance to keep the conversation going.

Show your human sign

It’s way more tempting to engage with a brand when you think there’s a real person on the other end. And there is! (…Right?) So don’t hide it.

A lot of brands encourage their social team to personally sign-off on their posts. If you’re particularly charming, you may even find yourself with a cult following, like the security guard at The Cowboy Museum who signs each of his posts “Thanks, Tim.” (PS: Watch the episode of Fridge-Worthy dedicated to Tim here .)

View this post on Instagram A post shared by National Cowboy Museum (@nationalcowboymuseum)

But beyond names, there are lots of ways to get personal:

Keep response times speedy

With Hootsuite’s Saved Replies function , you can pre-compose responses to common queries. When an FAQ comes your way, you’ll be at the ready with a thoughtful, informative response.

research about social media engagement

Okay, this might sound counter to the “show your human side” point above, but stay with me. A speedy response can lead to increased customer satisfaction, and save your team time so they can provide even more support (and human touch) elsewhere.

Plus, by writing your answers in advance, you’ve got all the time in the world to make sure the tone is as warm, friendly, and helpful as you want.

But you don’t even have to write them yourself if you don’t want to. Answer enough questions of a similar type, and Hootsuite will suggest replies based on your previous responses (kind of like the Google suggested reply feature in G-Chat). Since they are based on your previous answers, you can rest assured that they’ll still sound human and on brand.

Hootsuite inbox suggested replies

Schedule smarter

Posting frequently—one to three times a day, ideally—is important to keep your content fresh and active in the social streams. Posting at the right time each day is important too, so your sweet hedgehog meme doesn’t miss its chance for maximum audience exposure.

You can’t be at your computer 24/7 (believe us, we’ve tried), but you can take advantage of social media marketing tools like Hootsuite to plan and prep your posts in advance.

Hootsuite social media scheduling tool

(Source: Screenshot of @RealWeddingsBC Hootsuite dashboard)

Try setting aside a block of time (either daily or weekly) to deal with creating and scheduling posts, and another regular time slot to deal with reactive and proactive responses. Then it’s done for the day and you can focus on the rest of your work (or laughing at other hedgehog memes).

A few other Hootsuite dashboard features can also help boost your productivity and ensure you stay on top of engagement:

research about social media engagement

Beautiful reports. Clear data. Actionable insights to help you grow faster.

Think beyond the feed

Comments or shares are great, but these public shows of engagement aren’t the only way to see that your audience cares.

Private conversations, like direct messages or story interactions, are also powerful examples of an engaged audience, so make sure to treat them right (and track those numbers) too!

6 social media engagement tools

Have you ever seen that reality show Alone ? They’re sent out to survive in the wild, but they get 10 tools of their choice to bring along.

Similarly, you don’t have to face the social media wilds without some help. In addition to your social dashboard (an essential, IMHO), here’s what you might want to pack in your survival kit.

Photo editing

Video editing

How to measure social engagement

Now that the comments and shares are flyin’, it’s time to crunch some numbers to prove what a great job you’ve been doing. Use the calculator below to find out your  engagement rate by post .

Note:  If you’re calculating your account’s total engagement, include information about all your posts (e.g total number of posts published, total number of likes, and so on). If you’re calculating the engagement rate of a specific campaign, only include the details of the posts that were part of the campaign.

If you’re looking for more detailed data or you want to calculate different kinds of engagement (like engagement rate by reach or engagement rate by impressions),  download our free spreadsheet calculator  that will do the math for you.

Or, better yet,  start a free 30-day Hootsuite trial  to  easily track the performance of all your social channels in one place  (so you can replicate what works and get more engagement). Hootsuite Analytics collects your stats from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok.

With Hootsuite Analytics, you can also:

Hootsuite analytics dashboard — Engagement summary across networks

Start free 30-day trial

Frequently asked questions

Why is social media engagement important.

Engagement is a ranking signal on all social media platforms. If people engage with your content, the algorithm will see that content as interesting and valuable, and surface it to more users. This means that social media engagement can help you grow your social accounts and reach more people. 

What is a good social engagement rate?

Most social media marketing experts agree that anything between 1% and 5% can be considered a good engagement rate.

Why does social media engagement matter?

Social media engagement tells you how people respond to your content. These insights can help you refine your strategy to better match your target audience’s tastes, interests, and expectations. Taking social media engagement metrics into account when planning content is a great way to grow your account.

What are the three forms of social engagement?

The three primary forms of social media engagement are likes, comments, and shares.

What are some social engagement examples?

Social media engagement includes likes, comments, reactions, shares, and link clicks. Some platforms’ algorithms also measure how long users spend looking at a piece of content, whether they follow an account after seeing a piece of content, and how they interact with shopping features (e.g. if they click through to a product page).

Put your engagement strategy into action and save time while you’re at it by using Hootsuite to manage all your social channels from one dashboard. Try it free today.

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Do it better with Hootsuite , the all-in-one social media tool. Stay on top of things, grow, and beat the competition.

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