Engagement 101: Growing a Following VS an Audience


The biggest challenge we face with social media is engagement. It's easy to gain followers, but hard to gain an audience. Let's start with the difference:

gaining a FOLLOWING:
- Impressive number of followers, but that's the only good statistic you have
- High number of followers, but low level of engagement (think: 10k followers, but your picture only gets 1k likes and 10 comments on Instagram)
- You're unsure of your demographic
- You haven't built any relationships

growing an AUDIENCE:
- The end goal is a high following and a high engagement rate to match, but you don't start out with both. Don't be discouraged if you have 1k followers but your content is engaging with 50%+ of your audience
- You have comments and you reply to them
- You know everything from your demographic to the intricate details of your niche or "tribe." Or if you don't, you're actively trying to learn
- You're constantly building and maintaining relationships. Engagement is a two-way street for most people (the exception is huge companies and influencers who have gained a large enough following that the engagement continues with or without their input), so don't expect others to want to engage with you if you're not doing the same

So what now? 
Just give up if your audience isn't engaging with you? No, of course not! 

ONE: When creating content, apply the law of least effort to it. 
In Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" he writes about how when multiple people have the same goal and there are many ways to achieve said goal, they will naturally gravitate to the one that requires the least effort.
Make it easy for your audience to engage! If you have a blog, add a small, but noticeable pop-up asking them to subscribe to your email list. If you are announcing something on Twitter, add a link to whatever it is; don't make your audience search for it, because most likely they won't.

TWO: Don't just talk at your audience, talk with them. 
Engagement should start with you actively reaching out to your audience; respond to questions, answer tweets, like photos they've tagged you in. No one has ever said "Wow, that company / person replies to too many of their subscribers." 

THREE: Engage beyond your niche.
Of course you want to engage with your audience, but broaden your scope too. Engage with similar creator's audiences or the creators themselves. Share other influencer's content to your audience. See a company you're similar too trying to answer a question they can't? If you have content that can help, politely step in and guide them to your site.

FOUR: Study your audience.
Blogger and YouTuber Krista Rae has an excellent video and blog post explaining why knowing your audience is essential to engagement. 

Hopefully this post helped you gain a little insight to engagement! 
Let me know in the comments down below how you engage your audience. Do you think it's more important to have an account with a large following + small engagement or a smaller following + a lot of engagement? Or does it vary based on what the person or company's objective is?


  1. Engagement with social media is extremely important. If there is no engagement then you have no followers. This is unfortunate and does happen. To gain followers, you have to include on your blog, Facebook, or even twitter something that is intriguing to your audience. I believe the more followers you have the better. If you have a small amount of followers than your social media account won’t be as effective. With a very small amount of followers the engagement will be extremely poor.

    I believe to gain followers you do have to make relationships with the people that are looking at your feeds and such. You don’t have to make personal relationships but have to make an effort to communicate with your followers and have some sort of social media relation.

    I do agree that in order to keep your audience interested you must reply to comments consistently. This keeps good conversation and makes followers want to keep coming back to look at you social media platform.

    It’s always a great way to study your followers. Look at their blogs and such to see what they say. This could give you ideas in the long run of what to talk about on your social media sites.

  2. This idea that there is an inherent difference between gaining a following and gaining an audience is something essential for people our age to learn. For those our age and younger, the method in which social media is used is definitely not optimal in the grand scheme.
    Those around the age of a college student do not notice the difference between these factors when it comes to the real-time experience of posting. Much less does that age understand which one is more beneficial than the other. Interpreting these two subjects' inherent differences sure was enlightening for someone like myself.
    Also, the helpful tips at the tail end of the presentation also were also enlightening. My initial reaction to these tips were: "wow, I guess I haven't been paying enough attention to that..." which I think the reason for that would be I'm part of the group that does not notice this difference initially.
    If I were to answer the question for the viewers at the bottom, I would think it would be more important (at least for yourself) to have a small, engaged following as opposed to a large, disconnected following. I think it would be most important for your personal self because it’d make at least me feel better by knowing that I have people who actually care for what I have to say, as opposed to just being “popular”.