By: Jan Wesner Childs

Whether you are just getting started online or already have a robust social media following in place, a new year is the ultimate time to evaluate your strategy. Users want more engagement from brands with a focus on personalization. After all, whom are you more likely to follow or purchase from? Someone you feel a connection to.

Check out these five tricks for getting more personal with your audience.

Connect. Making connections is the whole reason social media exists. Yet many social media managers make the mistake of posting something and then promptly moving on to the next message. Savvy marketers know that personalizing your brand and starting conversations with your followers are the keys to increased engagement. Share user-generated content. Respond to every comment, retweet, and mention. Ideally, you should put as much thought into the message in those replies as you do to each individual post, but even a simple “Thank you!” is better than nothing. Followers want to know you are listening to them and appreciate them.

Create. Post selfies, photos of your employees at work, or behind-the-scenes shots of your company. Better yet, do those things with video, preferably in 30- to 60-second clips. More than 500 million people view videos on Facebook EVERY DAY, according to an article in Forbes magazine, and posting more video should be a top priority for every company. IGTV, YouTube, Twitter, and your company website are all great platforms for video. Remember to keep it engaging and interesting. Try apps like Adobe Spark, Boomerang, and InShot.

Innovate. Remember when tweets could only be 140 characters and Instagram didn’t allow video sharing? Things change rapidly in social media, perhaps more so than any other marketing segment. Brainstorm with your team on ways to keep your brand fresh and pledge to try something new at least once a month. Stay up to date with new trends and technology and strive to be among the first to use them.

Strategize. Update your social media strategy and marketing plan annually. And if you don’t have a plan yet, make this the year you do. The first step is to identify your target audiences and analyze any and all data you have available on their social media usage and spending habits. Know who their influencers are. Leverage that data into a strategy to take your marketing to the next level.

Collaborate. Social media is a team effort. Pull the whole company into your social media marketing strategy. Encourage employees to take video or photos on the job or in the field. Invite them to suggest social media posts related to their section of the company, chat with you about things they think could or should be shared on social media, or even just scroll through your social media calendar. Encourage user-generated content and be sure to connect on social media with your peers and similar companies. Follow companies and professionals similar to you. Keep the “social” in social media.