How to Engage Your Fans – The Ninja Question You Need to Ask

If you want to EXCEL at engaging online; if you want to build an engaged, loyal community; if you want to crack this “social media” code, there is one question you need to ask.  It works every time. It will give you the right answer every time.  It will guide you to do the right thing.  It is priceless.  And I am going to share it with you.

Ninja Question to engage your fans
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Do you know the Ninja Secret to Engaging Your Fans?

This “question” is my Secret Ninja Weapon online, and it works for everyone, whether you are the owner of a bricks-and-mortar business, a social media manager, online entrepreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.

It's simple.  Do you want to know more?

Of course you do.  So, here it is.

Ask yourself this question:

What would I do if the person were standing in front of me?

That's it.  Noting Fancy. I call it my “Reality Check” (or should I say “Reality Cheque”). Because if you get it right, you will build more relationships, you will get more leads, you will make more sales and you will generate more loyal, trusting, raving, referring fans and clients.  If you get the “Reality Check” right.

Let's take a few scenarios that I see online, particularly in social media, in order to demonstrate.


Online Situation: Someone sends a friend request to a person they have never met before (ie on Linked In or Facebook). They don't bother attaching a message or note or so much as a hello.  Out of the blue they say to the person they have never met “will you be my friend” or “I would like to connect with you” without any further introduction or conversation.

The Reality Check: If you translate the actions above to a real-life situation, it equates to walking up to a person, handing them a business card, asking “Will You Be My Friend”, then walking out again before the person can respond (or before they can even find out who you are).  Conversation stopped.

If the person had only asked themselves: What would I do if the person were standing in front of me? they would realise that they would never do this in real life!  They would introduce themselves, ask about the other person, engage in some basic conversation at least when handing over their contact details and making a connection.  And they definitely would not end the conversation before it had begun!  They would engage!  It is the same for social media.  They should send a message with the friend request and mention something that they have in common with the person. They should open up the opportunity for dialogue.


Online Situation: A business owner has set up a Facebook Page and they want to get stuck in and “do” Facebook.  They know they need to get more fans and they want to tell everyone about their new business page. So they set about writing posts on the business pages of others.  Posts that proudly tell everyone about their business, their deals and asking them to come on over and like their Facebook Page and (hell, why not) be one of their clients too. They don't mention the page they are posting on or anything about that business.  It is all about their own business and broadcasting about it.

The Reality Check: If you translate the actions above to a real-life situation, it equates to someone walking into a place of business, and without asking, proceeding to hand out their business card to every person in the reception area of that business – people who are quietly waiting for their appointments as clients of that business.   The visitor then tells everyone about their wonderful business and why everyone should come on over and do business with them.  They then walk out, without saying hi to the Business Owner.  Without so much as compliment about the Business Owner's products, services or office.  Without even having a conversation with him or her.

If the person had only asked themselves: What would I do if the person were standing in front of me? they would realise that they would never do this in real life (at least I hope not!). They would know that the right thing to do is to establish a relationship and give value to another business before expecting to gain referrals from them. They would realise that the best way is not to “broadcast” about their business on another Facebook Page but to instead engage in conversation with the fans and page owners and contribute to the discussion. In doing so, they are making others aware of their own business.


Online Situation: A Facebook Page receives a complaint about their services. They immediately panic, delete the comment, without making any response whatsoever. They justify it by saying that they can't possibly have that sort of comment on their page as others may see it and then they will get a bad reputation.  The person is left without a response.

The Reality Check: If you translate the actions above to a real-life situation, it equates to having a customer walk into a bricks-and-mortar business and say that they are not happy with XYZ service that was provided.  The owner of the business ignores the person, does not bother to write down or record the complaint and then turns them away into the street to tell all of their friends (or whoever will listen) about how they will never do business with you again. All in front of a watching, listening waiting room full of customers (who are intently taking it ALL in from behind the pages of their magazines).

If the person had only asked themselves: What would I do if the person were standing in front of me? they would realise that they need to let the client know that they have been heard, to respond to their complaint and perhaps ask how they would handle the same situation – what could have been done better? They would engage with the person and take note of what they were saying. They would give them information that would help them to understand the situation (if relevant).  If it was an issue that needed further discussion (or perhaps was too sensitive to discuss in public) they would arrange a time to get back to them with a solution. They would demonstrate (in front of all the people watching and listening) that they were dedicated to resolving customer complaints and using the information to better their business practices.  They would realise that they can do the same online.  Respond.  Discuss.  Offer solutions.  Perhaps continue the conversation offline by email.  Come to a resolution.  All in front of the fans “watching” on the Facebook Page, who now know that the business is dedicated to providing exemplary customer service…even if things go wrong.


Online Situation: A Fan Page Owner posts a question or engaging comment on their page.  Fans respond. They like the post and a few make comments.  Then nothing.  The Page Owner doesn't bother to go back and check on their post. The fans comments are left without response.

The Reality Check: If you translate the actions above to a real-life situation, it equates to walking up to someone, asking them a question, and then walking away without saying anything before the person can finish their response.

If the person had only asked themselves: What would I do if the person were standing in front of me? they would know that they would never start a conversation and then walk out before the person has a chance to respond (or worse still ignore their response).  At least I hope not.  They would finish the conversation.  They would realise that they should therefore not “Post and Run” online.  They would know to return to the post within 24 hours (preferably within 2 or 3) and respond to the post.  They would treat it like a conversation.  A conversation that they started.  On their Facebook Page. With their fans.  They would know to come back and chat.


Now it might sound like I am judging people that forget to do their “Reality Check” and do some strange  Anti-Social things on Social Media, but I am not. This is a new space, a new way of doing things, and we are all learning as fast as it is changing. There is bound to be confusion.   I have received questions about scenarios such as the ones I have mentioned, perhaps 7 times, just in the last week. It is a challenge for all of us.

What I am doing is throwing you a lifeline.  You don't need to create a new way of “doing” social media. You don't need to create a new way of engaging in conversation.  What you do need to do is look back to what we do well.  Revise the things that work in business and in life, and the timeless habits and conventions that WORK:  old fashioned customer services, adding value, giving credit, getting to know people, building trust, and building relationships.  They are all things that work just as well online as they do off.  We just need to embrace them and make them fit in this new “space”.

So, do yourself a favour. The next time you are wondering how to handle a situation on social media, ask yourself: What would I do if the person were standing in front of me? You can't go wrong.

Have you encountered a situation online where you could have used this question to help you decide what to do?

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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is a Visual Content Strategist and founder of Socially Sorted, listed by Forbes as a "Top 5 Social Media Blog You Need to Know About". Donna helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc. & Entrepreneur and she is a speaker and trainer on visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.

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  1. Adalia John

    Hello Donna,

    Thanks for sharing. I  am proud to say I am not guilty of any of the above. I don’t request friends without adding other information such as: why I’m interested in the friendship etc. I never post and run, except I have only just recently begun to subscribe to the follow-up comments of the posts I commented on. I was concerned about e-mail overload. I do a pretty good job of promoting others. And I am looking forward to my first complaint.

    Thanks for these important reminders.

    • Donna Moritz

      ha ha I love your style!  I am glad to hear it!  I do agree, email overload is a big pain.  I am trying to streamline mine at the moment and it is hard!  I hope you don’t get your first complaint for a while! Have a great day Adalia! 

  2. Stacy Harp

    Great post.   I have a fan page that has almost 3000 likes on it, and it drives me crazy when someone with a new fan page or a much smaller following than me, comes and puts their stuff on my page without mentioning a word about my page. I find it extremely rude and sometimes I wait to see if they are going to do it again.  I’ve had a few people do it daily and sometimes a few times a day….usually I talk to them before I boot them.   The way you explained it, is exactly how I feel and I just wanted to say thanks.  If I ever want to post about my page on others pages, I ask them first.  It’s amazing how rude most people are.

    • Donna Moritz

      Oh Stacy, that would drive me crazy (good community on your page by the way!).  I think it is really good of you to talk to them before you boot them. I have actually tried in the past to do that as much as possible as sometimes they just don’t know any better or perhaps that is what they have been told to do.  Usually when they find out they are quite apologetic and thankful for the tip.  But it can get very frustrating.  I think asking others to post is a great way to go.  I have been known to quite often repost a post when I think it is a good one (so that it goes out to the newsfeed) so it is worth asking.  Thanks for sharing!  

  3. Linda Luke

    Brilliant.  I had not thought of looking at things this way.  It really provides needed perspective.

    • Donna Moritz

      Thanks Linda – glad you found it useful.  I didn’t think of this way initially but all roads kept leading back to it!  And I realised it was what I do every day in offline businesses, so why change what we do online!  

  4. @KrishnaEverson

    I love this etiquette list. It’s interesting how social media has allowed good manners to sneak out the window at times. I have a question. In the past we were able to attach a comment to a friend request, but that feature seems to have disappeared. Has it popped up somewhere else, or do I need to send a separate ‘message’ in addition to the friend request?  Thanks again for a great post Donna. Very useful. Tweeted and shared. xx

    • Donna Moritz

      You are so right Krishna…it is rather ironic that we have managed to throw our “social” out the window while on “social” platforms.  Ha ha.  You have raised a very valid point and I will make sure I go back into my blog and add a postscript about it and reference you…as yes, I always recommend that you still (if possible) send a quick message at the same time as your friend request.  It just looks really smart and friendly and genuine.  I agree though, it is a pain that Facebook removed the feature to allow you to do it at the same time.  That was so much easier!  However, now, if you actually do make the effort, I think it would definitely not go unrecognised by the person you are friending.  It is a nice touch.  Thanks for your feedback and support.  



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