Why You Can’t Gain Engagement on Social Media With Content

No matter what audience you hope to attract, you’ll find them hanging out online. The trick is discovering where they are, when they’re online, and what content they’ll respond to if you want to gain engagement on the social media content you post. You also need to find a way to motivate them to make a purchase, either online or in your physical store, since your ultimate goal is to make the cash register ring, not just gain engagement on social media. That’s why digital marketing campaigns are so accessible; you can put the right content in front of the right people at the right time to drive purchase intentions. As you can see in the graphic below, most shopping begins online today rather than in response to a TV ad or snail mail campaign.

shopping starts onlineSome businesses, however, still need help building an audience using online tools like social media, SEO, and digital advertising. They may even find they achieve sufficient reach without seeing any results. If digital marketing is so powerful, what’s going on here?

It’s not because digital marketing isn’t powerful; it is!

The problem is that your content needs to do a better job of driving users toward a purchase. When it comes to social media, follower count isn’t the best metric to use but engagement rates on social media platforms that ring that register. Today, we’ll focus our attention on how to gain engagement on social media using sound content marketing strategies.

Why efforts to gain engagement on social media matter

The number of followers has no real meaning when it comes to measuring success. In fact, we call this a vanity metric since it only makes you feel good about your efforts. Sure, it says something about your efforts when you gain followers over time. It’s also a good sign because, as we’ll see in a minute, the number of followers represents the potential your page possesses when it comes to creating engagement.

In contrast, when you gain engagement on social media, you accomplish two important tasks. First, you help spread your message through the social media ecosystem as the message appears to friends of followers every time they like or comment on your content posted to a social media platform. Even better results occur when they share your content or use it as a springboard to create their own content.

Second, when your followers engage with your page, they provide a tacit endorsement of your products for all to see. This digital word-of-mouth (something Northwestern University terms the engagement engine, which is depicted below) is much more impactful on consumer’s buying decisions than almost anything your marketing campaign can do.

gain engagement on social media
Image courtesy of Marketing Profs

Finally, engagement on social media is one of the major factors Google and other search engines use to determine where your content should rank when users search with the intention of finding your content. A higher rank brings more traffic to your website, which translates into more opportunities to make a sale.

How to use content to drive engagement

If you’re not seeing the results you hoped from your social media marketing campaigns, it’s likely a function of the content you share on your platforms (or using them the wrong way). But that’s easily fixed with a few simple changes to your social media strategy. Here are some things you might be doing wrong and how to fix them.

You’re posting in the wrong places

Success in social media marketing, as with any form of marketing, requires a deep knowledge of your target market. Where is your target market online? They won’t always be where you think they are or where you believe they should be. Talk to folks that make up your target market. Listen to them talk to each other and pay attention to any feedback you get.

  • How do they speak to each other?
  • What challenges do they face that your products might solve?
  • How do they look? By using images that represent your target market, consumers feel the product is “for them”.
  • Define the demographics, geographics, and psychographics of your target market. Create images that depict various subgroups within that market.

Do some research into your analytics, which will show you how your content performs across the platforms you choose. You can follow these clicks from the specific piece of content published (using tags to identify which click comes from which individual post) all the way through to conversion on your website. You can analyze the demographics and geographic profiles of the individuals who visit from each platform and what actions they take once they reach your website. This is precious information when it comes to adjusting your strategy.

Start by choosing a few platforms likely to attract your target market. Below is some information to help you get started.

comparison of social media platforms
Image courtesy of SEO Design Chicago

With these statistics in mind, you can plan your YouTube content, Instagram content, and Facebook content more effectively. Otherwise, you’ll continue to post in the wrong place, which is a waste of time and resources. Instead, try to focus your attention on the platforms that are actually working for you.

You’re posting at the wrong times

Each social media platform has its own optimal posting time. However, even with this knowledge in mind, your content may do better outside of this time, as post engagement often depends on the differing schedules of those who make up your target market. That’s why experimenting with your release schedule is crucial.

Using a marketing automation platform like Buffer can help you stick to this schedule so you don’t forget to post at the optimal time. You can schedule your posts days or weeks in advance to save time, reduce distraction, and never miss a good opportunity to post content. Many of these platforms use AI to help you discover the optimal posting times once you have sufficient data.

After all, even vital, relatable, potentially viral content can get buried by the noise created by so much posted content. Sure, it may take a few weeks for the algorithm to recognize it as a potentially popular piece of content, but you need to see results right now. Pick your posting time carefully and your content will have pride of place at the exact moment your followers are around to see it.

Poor quality content

Most social media platforms require visually appealing content and all require content that’s valuable to users, whether that means the content provides information or entertainment. Without high-quality content, nothing else you attempt will help you gain engagement on social media. Adjust your content to the norms of each social media platform as well as the target audience you intend to attract with the content.

Ensure your posts contain unique images or short video clips, except for YouTube, where long-form video content is the norm.

Mix things up, as variety is the spice of life. Try infographics, mimes, images, short video clips, and text to create interest.

You’re not posting enough or on a schedule

Most businesses don’t post a sufficient number of pieces of content to achieve success. Create a posting schedule to ensure you always have enough content to meet your publishing goals. A content calendar is a great tool to help you stick to this schedule, as you can plan an entire month of content in a short amount of time. To get you started, I created a template for a content marketing calendar.

Don’t know how often you should post? Here’s a graphic to help you with that.

optimal post frequency on social media
Image courtesy of Plug and Play Tech Center

You don’t understand the platform algorithms

With the exception of X (formerly Twitter), all social media platforms use an algorithm to determine who sees what posts. This keeps visitors engaged with the platform by using their scrolling behavior to show them content that’s most likely to interest them. Users then fall down the rabbit hole to find themselves spending hours scrolling from one thing to the next.

Platforms change these algorithms frequently, so you need to stay on top of changes to ensure that most people see your content. However, content that doesn’t gain engagement ranks lower on the algorithm, so engagement is a two-edged sword.

You don’t analyze your data

There’s no crystal ball when it comes to social media strategy. I can’t tell you what will work. I can tell you what’s likely to work after I run through all the necessary steps outlined above. But I can definitely analyze your data to help you tweak your strategy so that it performs as well as possible. Data are your friends.


I hope you found this advice on how to gain engagement on social media using content helpful. If you follow this advice, you’ll find your engagement increasing over time. Recognize that nothing happens overnight, so give your new strategy time before you give up on it or start tweaking.

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