Engagement on social is a two-way streetMak Kats is our Social Media & Community Manager. When he’s not tweeting or facebooking on behalf of WebPT, he stays busy keeping up with the latest trends in social media marketing. You can reach him at mark.kats@webpt.com or find him on LinkedIn.

You don’t get engagement by simply blasting an open-ended question across all your social channels or posting it in dozens of online forums and LinkedIn groups. I promise, nothing you will do is likely to go viral, no matter how many of your own versions of the Dollar Shave Club video you dispatch into the Twitterverse. And even if you manage to conceive the most timely, unbelievably clever Facebook status update ever, it will mean nothing, unless you spend money to promote it.

The truth is, engagement is not some cool, hip, viral, social media thing that all the kids these days are doing. (Tweet This!) Nor is it a surefire business strategy or turnkey solution you can implement to help drive sales or otherwise directly influence your bottom line. And despite all the dashboards you analyze and bar graphs you see trending in the right direction, at the end of the day, it isn’t something you can easily measure in terms of ROI.

Engagement is not something you can ask for or something you should expect. (Tweet This!Engagement is the result of hours upon hours of meticulous planning, tedious implementation, tireless networking, and strategic relationship building. In other words, engagement is not for fans of instant gratification.

It happens…wait for it…organically, when people are actually inspired to interact with you. Last time I checked, people are not too tempted to engage with total strangers, so open the dialogue. (Tweet This!) After all, engagement is a two-way street. You should not expect participation from others if you do not participate yourself. When is the last time you got involved in a forum or online discussion that didn’t directly promote or benefit your immediate business agenda?

So, you may be wondering why you should even put in the effort. Why devise strategies, hire specialists, and spend good manhours and womanhours on something that may not directly benefit your bottom line and potentially won’t always help promote your business goals? Because it works in the long run, that’s why! How, you ask?

Think of ways to build mutually beneficial relationships with a select few Twitter followers. You don’t need to worry about getting that one coveted retweet on your one magical tweet. (Tweet This!) Instead, focus on developing key relationships, and you’ll end up the benefactor of multiple retweets, mentions, and new follower referrals over time. Pay it forward by liking and commenting on great Facebook posts by people or companies you follow. They’ll be grateful, just like you are when someone engages with you and likes your content. And you can be fairly sure they’ll eventually return the favor. And even if they don’t, another Facebook user who sees your activity may be inspired to like your page or share your content.

Increase engagement on Twitter: 10 Tips to Get Your Followers Chirping (Tweet this!)

Increase engagement on Facebook: 10 Tips to Get Your Network Talking (Tweet this!)

In the end, being genuine is what works. If you engage with others online and—more importantly—if you are honest and good natured about the way you engage with them, you can expect engagement in return. Just don’t expect it to happen immediately or when it is most convenient for your purposes. Take the long view; think beyond tomorrow’s status update and tweet. (Tweet This!)