As a business owner, you know it’s important to have a social media presence.

You have a Facebook business page, a Twitter account, an Instagram profile, and maybe a Pinterest board.

Maybe you post regularly on all of these platforms but haven’t noticed much of a difference in the size of your audience. This could be because you aren’t engaging with your followers.

In the same way that in-person networking can help expand your business opportunities, so too does engagement with the people who follow your business online. Many potential customers don’t just want a product that suits their needs—they want to know that their money is well spent on a business that knows and cares for its customers.

Use Images

The Facebook or Twitter posts that catch your eye are typically the ones that incorporate images—especially if those images have striking colors and a memorable subject. In fact, one study suggests that posts containing images get up to 94% more shares, likes and comments than posts without.

“But I’m not a photographer,” you might be thinking.

That’s okay. Most people aren’t. Luckily, there are stock photo sites like Dreamstime or Shutter Stock, which have relatively low membership fees, or Unsplash, which is free (but crediting the photographer is strongly recommended).

Whatever the photo subject, find some way to link it to the purpose of your business, perhaps with a relevant quote or funny anecdote. Get creative!

Use Relevant Hashtags

Part of the reason you might be having trouble growing your audience is that you don’t know where to find them. Using appropriate hashtags is a surefire way to bring your audience to you!

For example, if you are a writer the hashtags #amwriting or #writetip are popularly used. If you are a licensed counselor seeking more clients, try #counseling or #mentalhealth.

For help finding relevant hashtags start following other businesses and influencers in your field with large followings and see which hashtags they use. The “trending” sidebar on Twitter can also help you see what’s popular at any given time of day. If there’s a trending hashtag that’s related to your business, by all means, use it!

You can also look up what’s trending by using sites like Twitonomy and Hashtagify.

Jump Into Conversations

Normally, it’s bad manners to insert yourself into a conversation between strangers. But online, especially on Facebook and Twitter, public discussion threads are standing invitations to anyone who is interested.

If you are already following other businesses similar to yours (and you should, not only to learn from their strategies but to be aware of what the competition is up to!), add your thoughts to discussion threads.

If you are a licensed dietician, for example, follow threads on healthy eating habits or exercise,and offer insights whenever possible.

The key is not to be pushy.

Nobody likes a blatant sales pitch but people will value your input as an industry expert. If your profile information is up to date people who are interested in what you have to say will click over to your page and start following you—which can lead to business growth over time.

Balance the Promotional With the Personal

One of the best ways to turn people away from your business is to promote it 24/7. People already know that the primary goal of a business owner is to make money. The operative question is… why should they trust you, your product or your service?

Incorporating personal posts with the promotional allows your followers to see you as a three-dimensional person: someone they can relate to.

What counts as a “personal” post?

Writing a personal post doesn’t mean spilling your guts about your life. It means sharing content that enlightens and entertains, and doesn’t just aim to sell.

Share photos from your life (people love animals). What do you like to do during breaks to help you relax? If it’s sitting on the porch drinking iced tea, share a picture of that.

Ask questions of your audience that invite them to participate as well: what do they like to do when they’re not at work?

Choosing to engage on social media app while working on laptop

Ready. Set. Engage.

Having an active social media presence is critical to finding and keeping loyal customers. The more you engage, the more you appeal to them as humans (not just potential buyers), and the more likely they will be to choose your business over a competitor.

It’s important to remember that being customer-driven doesn’t just mean collecting “likes” or followers for the sake of making more sales.

When you are truly invested in serving your customers’ best interests, your connections will be more genuine (and longer lasting).

As with any relationship, engaging people online takes effort, commitment and time to build. Start by setting aside just ten minutes a day for social media engagement, and over time you’ll start to see positive results.