by Jennifer Lumba | September 22, 2015
We all want to do a better job of engaging online. But with so many platforms -- and so much chatter to filter through -- it can be difficult to develop meaningful connections. Here are ten ways to focus your efforts for maximum impact.

1. Limit yourself. You can't engage with everyone, so why try? Be clear about who your audience is and who isn't so that you only spend time engaging with the right people. You'll be more likely to forge deeper relationships as a result.

2. Follow along.
Try to avoid broadcasting. Instead, follow the social media accounts of those you most want to engage with. Take note of what they're saying and what they care about. Can you be of service? If so, reach out.

3. Take note of threads.
You'll notice patterns as your network grows. Watch for and take note of discussion threads. What does your audience care most about? Why? Finding and then indulging areas of common interest is as good a method for forging relationships on social media as it is in face-to-face conversation.

4. Use saved searches.
Depending on the network you use, social media conversations will be organized around phrases or even hashtags. Smart networks allow you to search on these attributes and then save the results. Make use of this when you can. That way, you'll always have easy access to the latest thinking on the topics that matter to your audience.

5. Have a specific point of view.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but you'll have a tough time finding an audience if you don't have anything to say. Take the time to decide what you want to talk about and then make that clear. Then, stick to the message so that your audience doesn't get confused.

6. Introduce yourself.
Who you are is as important as what you have to say. Make it easy for would-be followers to engage by establishing clear biographies at all your social media sites. Include links to your company website, your blog, and a preferred method for connecting with you directly.

7. Become part of the conversation.
Once you've established yourself, it's time to start actively engaging. Look for conversations where you can add value and then do so. Leave a comment, answer a question, offer a different take, post a compliment -- whatever strikes you at that moment. Just do something to get in the game.

8. Always respond.
If you want to engage on social media you have to respect those who engage with you. Take the time to respond to comments, questions, and even criticisms. You may not get exactly what you want from the exchange -- you may even get the opposite -- but at least you'll establish a reputation for engaging.

9. Be friendly.
There's no excuse for crass or rude behavior on social media. None. Conversely, the nicer and more pleasant you are to deal wtih on social media, the more likely it is that you'll find an audience willing to engage with you.

10. Show gratitude, often.
Keep an eye out for posts that make you laugh, help you learn, or otherwise move you. Then, send a thank you. You'll be improving your relationships while letting others know the sorts of engagement you'll respond to, which almost guarantees that you'll get more of it.