Social Media 101: Outbound Engagement
By Tommy Clark
You don’t have the right to complain about ‘low engagement’ if you’re not participating in the engagement.
‘Posting and ghosting’ is a dead-end strategy. After all, social media is supposed to be social.
But you already knew that (I hope).
So today we’re taking it a few steps deeper.
How deep? Here’s a meme to preview the fun:
By the end of today’s read, you should understand:
→ Why you can’t ignore outbound engagement
→ The 3 different types of accounts you should be engaging on
→ The progression of outbound engagement as your account grows
Let’s dive in.
Inbound VS Outbound Engagement
This is simple.
Inbound engagement is when you are replying to comments on your own posts or to DMs that are sent to your account.
Outbound engagement is when you are the one doing the commenting on other accounts and sending them messages.
Both are important. But too many brands either:
- Don’t engage at all (fix this ASAP)
- Only focus on inbound engagement (better, but still not great)
Why you can’t ignore outbound engagement
Outbound engagement is guaranteed impressions. Guaranteed new eyeballs on your brand.
It’s how you circumvent the ‘algorithm’ and get your company in front of new potential customers and influencers early on, even if you have 7 followers.
The best outbound comments function as a billboard for your company.
It’s the most repeatable, effective way to get your first 1000 followers on essentially any platform — Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok (I’d say TikTok is a bit different in that a video can get picked up by the FYP, but outbound still works well).
So… instead of posting into the void and being frustrated 6 months later when your account hasn’t grown…
Start identifying accounts to engage with and go hard on the outbound commenting (tastefully, which we’ll discuss in a second).
What accounts to engage with
There are 3 types of accounts to engage with:
- Other brand accounts in your niche
Building relationships with other non-competitive accounts that serve the same target customer is such a great move.
I know quite a few SMMs in the esports industry, and there are group chats that exist with SMMs across teams. They coordinate content ideas between each other and it works well.
When I was at Triple Whale, I got to know and befriend marketers from other B2B SaaS companies. We would engage on each others’ content and it creates an entertaining dynamic that your community will enjoy.
I’d create these relationships by both commenting on these accounts, and sliding into their DMs.
Building relationships with other SMMs in your industry is such a life hack (both for your account growth and your career growth).
- Content creators, influencers, and meme accounts in your niche
Large accounts in your space already have the attention of your target customer.
Commenting underneath these accounts allows you to funnel some of that attention to your own profile.
The key here is to do this tastefully.
Don’t just reword the original post.
Don’t be self-promotional.
Don’t be annoying.
Read the room, and comment with a thoughtful or funny reply that adds to the conversation.
Do this enough times and you’ll start to drive more traffic back to your profile.
Also, be sure to have your profile up to date with a compelling bio to convert as much of that traffic into followers as you can (that’s a topic for a different newsletter).
- Your target customer
This is an obvious one.
I like to do this more on Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok (commenting on someone’s personal Instagram is a bit odd, would not recommend LOL).
My biggest piece of advice when engaging with your audience’s personal accounts on these platforms is to only enter the conversation when it makes sense.
Like, if someone is making a post about their dog dying… uh, stay out of it (even if your company sells dog food 🤣).
Cool. Now let’s dive a little deeper into how to stay out of trouble while doing outbound engagement.
How to leave comments that aren’t cringe
First — understand the context of the post you are commenting on.
If there is a chance that a comment could be seen as insensitive, problematic, or out of touch… stay away.
I’m not going to name names. But we’ve seen a few brands get in trouble for this on more than one occasion over the past year. When you’re hesitant about whether you should post something, run your comments through the same approval framework you would run any other post.
→ Ask 1-2 people in your marketing department for their feedback
→ Ask 1-2 of your SMM friends for their feedback
And if you’re still uneasy — don’t post it.
The best-practice here to keep you out of trouble is to reply to accounts in your niche only.
So if you’re running social for a supplement company trying to reach fitness enthusiasts, keep the commenting to fitness influencers and stay away from the political commentary 🤣
Again. Seems like common sense. But you’d be surprised.
Now, on the less scary (but still important) side… make sure that your comment is actually adding to the conversation.
Nobody likes a brand account that inserts itself into a conversation for no reason… or just spams emojis 🔥🔥🤪.
There are a few ways to add value to a conversation:
- Add your own POV
- Show genuine support
And whatever you do… do NOT be self-promotional. I’ve seen competitors try to poach customers in Twitter replies. This is a terrible look and just makes you appear thirsty as hell.
Add value. Do it over and over again. And people will visit your profile.
The progression of outbound engagement as your account grows
As your account grows, you’ll find yourself ‘needing’ to do outbound engagement less.
Your community will engage with your posts. Your account will become one that your target customers seek out and enjoy.
That said — do not let it fall by the wayside.
As your social presence evolves, outbound engagement shifts from a way to get in front of new eyeballs to a way to surprise and delight your community.
The McDonald’s social media team is amazing at this.
Despite having millions and millions of followers, they’re still responding to comments and engaging with their community — deepening their relationship with them.
That said, you do need to prioritize appropriately. As you’re trying to brute force your way to your 1000 followers on a platform, outbound engagement might take up 60-70%+ of your time.
Once you hit the threshold where people start to view your account as a trusted resource or source of entertainment, you’ll need to shift more of your time into creating original content for your social pages.
If you’re a small team (or ‘team’ of 1) this means you’ll have less time for manual engagement.
I saw this happen as the Triple Whale socials took off. Early on I was spending all of my time replying to tweets and engaging with our community. But as we grew, I had to funnel more of my time into original content, feature launch campaigns, and more.
That’s fine — but you should always be setting aside time for outbound engagement. Even if it’s just 20 minutes per day.
Should you hire for this?
When you are just starting your social presence, it’s okay to have 1 person managing your social channels and community engagement.
I know we like to argue how these are separate roles (and they are) but as a startup or small business with limited budget, you will need to get scrappy.
But, as you gain momentum and social proves to be a valuable channel for you, I do think it makes sense to hire a proper Community Manager to support your social media team (so your social media manager can focus more on creating the content for the brand account).
If you can’t quite afford to hire a full-time community manager, you could also get someone part-time, or find a student who is looking to gain experience and learn (still pay them, but it obviously won’t be as much as a full-time CM with years of experience.
Again, this is going to depend on your brand’s resources. But generally, here are the steps I’d follow:
- Solo SMM handles both content creation and engagement (with realistic expectations for each)
- Hire a part-time CM or student intern to handle some engagement
- Hire a proper, full-time CM once you have the resources to do so
The good news is that you can, and should, see significant progress at each stage of this journey. So don’t be discouraged if you’re running social for a newer company with limited resources.
The playbook still works. What matters most is that you start engaging with your community in some capacity ASAP.
That’s all I’ve got for you today.