Many entrepreneurs believe that posting about their products or services is a social media engagement, but they are mistaken. To engage an audience is to hold their attention. It does not require a reaction from them, though certainly that spells a greater level of engagement.

Just because you have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn business page, or a google+ page, does not mean you are engaging on social media. Social media engagement is not a passive experience. Engagement is not waiting for clients to reach out to you and visit your page. You have to proactively engage with anyone who mentions your brand or product.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners need to create valuable content for their social community and present it in a way that works for that particular social network or community. In simpler terms, engagement is a two-way conversation. One of the great benefits of social media is that customers and prospective clients can have a relationship with their favourite brands, businesses or stores and still have a two-way conversation.

Social media monitoring (or social listening) is one of the biggest missed opportunities for small businesses. It involves monitoring what people are saying on social media about your industry, your products, your business and the issues that affect them. This can be a difficult job without the use of a social media management tool like those offered by HootSuite, Buffer, SocialOomph, TweetDeck or Sproutsocial to track brand mentions, competitors, key industry terms and relative keywords. This listening allows you to identify opportunities as they happen and for you to be able to reach out immediately.

It is important to note that engagement takes time and requires trust. Trust and knowledge take time. That is why it is important for businesses who are trying to build online trust to be patient. Small business owners need to understand that they have to create valuable content and demonstrate experience and expertise in order to build their social-media engagement. Your social postings should not be about your business, but about the needs of your customers. Providing valuable content for your followers will be seen as being helpful, personal and authentic. Over time, providing valuable content for your followers will build trust and prove your expertise.

While many businesses are doing an excellent job of sharing content that attracts and engages new followers and clients, they may often neglect the engagement required to retain their existing customers and followers. Your content needs to stay fresh and of value to your audience – not just mention what you want to promote. If you just approach your audience as people you want to inform and entertain with your content (rather than just meeting your post-per-day quota), you will find that you will get more engagement back from them.

Remember that your social postings or engagements do not always have to revolve around your products or services. Your content can be about offering advice about things your followers are also interested in. Don’t be afraid to bring in a guest blogger to offer advice regarding areas in which you lack expertise. For example, come tax time, get an accountant to offer up some tax tips.