The dirty little secret behind social media success

Why “re-engagement” may be the most important aspect of your content strategy.

Not all impressions are created equal.

That one-liner not actually the “dirty little secret” of social, but it’s the basis for this post; the more you understand that, the sooner you will be able to grasp what I have come to believe is the most important — and most overlooked — aspect of any social media strategy: Re-engagement.

Don’t be fooled by the numbers. Social media “impressions” are as deceiving a metric as they come.

Before I jump into re-engagement, there are three guiding, fundamental principles of a strong social media content strategy.

1) Attention is everything. Just because someone “sees” your content, that doesn’t mean they actually SEE it. The content you are creating is only effective if people are truly paying attention to it…

2) The New Car Smell. Attention is HIGH — maybe even the highest it will ever be — right when you establish a relationship with a follower on social media. Things are new and exciting, and your content catches their eye. Just like when you meet someone for the first time, you are acutely aware of when you see them in different places. But…

3) The “New Car Smell” quickly wears off. As your audience gets used to seeing your content, the allure wears off. Your updates are not as relevant, your content isn’t all that unique, and your one-time stranglehold on that follower’s attention is now a dead-fish grip.

Before we even get to re-engagement, let’s establish something about social media marketing and content strategy:

The true goal of any social media marketing campaign is to cultivate a deep level of brand attachment amongst your audience.

I could — and probably will — write much more on that topic by itself. In fact, I sort of did a few months ago . But there’s one twist I’ll add here: the optimal time to cultivate that brand attachment and win over your followers is within that “New Car Smell” period detailed above.

Winning deep brand attachment is tough, and often takes several cycles through a customer journey. So here’s where this “re-engagement” idea comes into play: How do you WIN BACK potential customers and brand advocates? How can you set up a metaphorical net for anyone that falls through the cracks?

First off, I would advise that you should ALWAYS be looking to re-engage with your audience. However, the most urgent time to emphasize re-engagement is obviously when you find your primary engagement metrics (likes/retweets/conversations/comments, etc.) are nowhere near where they used to be, and consistently underwhelming you…even while you are continuing to put out strong content.

Getting Tactical: How to make it happen

Below are some quick re-engagement tips for the three major platforms that brands are relying on most: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They are all built from the same guiding ideology: the key to re-engagement is to do something that grabs audience attention within their social feed. Just like your master content strategy itself, your re-engagement efforts must be native to each particular platform.


Facebook’s news feed “algorithm” has been masterfully created and re-worked over the past few years. While I don’t know enough to explain the technical aspects behind it, one major piece is that it has made re-engagement extremely difficult. It heavily rewards those who receive click-throughs on their links, and serves content from pages and profiles that users have identified with in the past.

To prompt re-engagement on Facebook, start by switching up your typical content cadence. Maybe post more often, or post content that is longer and gaudier than usual. Upload VIDEO — hosted on Facebook, rather than linking out to one hosted on YouTube, and start exploring the new “Facebook Live” and Instant Articles options, now open for all content publishers.

To add some skin in the game, commit a few bucks to Facebook ads. Boost your strongest posts to get back in your audience’s timelines, and do some dark posts out to those who like your page. In doing so, you may recapture some attention, generate a few more visits to your page, and reinvigorate the engagement loop.


While the whole #RIPTwitter saga generated some headlines around an algorithmic feed, users will still — and allegedly will “always”— be able to see every tweet in their timeline. However, just because a tweet appears on someone’s timeline — and registers as an “impression” for you — does not mean they are ACTUALLY seeing it, or paying it any mind.

There are so many easy ways to start standing out in a Twitter timeline, and nearly all of them are aesthetic in nature. Some may annoy people, too. The simplest are to change the way tweets are formatted: all caps or all lowercase, using the “enter” button to create a tweet with some space, adding emojis, and so on. The more substantial, deeper ways to stand out have to do with content: attaching stunning images to tweets, posting more relevant content that piques interest (good news headlines are great for this), or switching up your default profile picture on a regular basis.

Another easy, quick tip: Have some witty, fun back-and-forth conversations with other brands that your followers also follow (you can find this info at Doing so will get you in more timelines, add some personality to your brand, and may catch a few eyeballs that usually glance over your content.


Attention is very high on Instagram, as users are likely to take at least a brief look at every single photo in their stream when they navigate through the app. However, people may stop liking or commenting on photos if they become too predictable. As a platform built on seizing attention, even slight dips in engagement can be catastrophic, as users may feel less at ease with engaging if others are not.

With the idea in mind that people actually SEE and pay attention to everything in their Instagram feed, the key to re-engagement is by capitalizing on that behavior. The simplest tactic here is to change up the copy or style of your captions: throw in a long caption once in a while, or create one that’s emoji-only. Or, run a caption contest every two weeks, with the promise of a free giveaway.

One additional method of re-engagement on Instagram that has less to do with the subject matter is to really invest in your comments section. Answer or react to every single comment, but do so about 24–36 hours after the original post. This may help drive someone fully into the loyalty loop, without spamming your own comments section during the “primetime” hours immediately after posting.

The New Frontier: Snapchat

Starting to see your engagement levels on Snapchat slip? Tweet me @Edgar_Walker for some Snapchat re-engagement tips!

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Edgar Walker has been managing social media accounts and strategy for sport, media and e-commerce brands for the past five years. He is the co-founder of Surge4 Digital Marketing, and a Knight Media Innovation Fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism.