February 9, 2011

Cheat sheet: Key principles of social media marketing on Facebook

Stash Tea lures newcomers with a sweepstakes and charms them with Tea Haiku Friday.

The following is excerpted from Facebook Me! A Guide to Socializing, Sharing, and Promoting on Facebook (Second Edition) by Dave Awl. Copyright © 2011. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press. This is part 3 of a 4-part series on using Facebook strategically.
• Part 1: Demystifying how Facebook’s news feeds work
• Part 2: 15 ways to increase your Facebook stature
• Part 3: Cheat sheet: Key principles of social media marketing on Facebook (below)
• Part 4: 15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook

Guest post by Dave Awl

DaveAwl-AuthorPhoto2010Whether you’re promoting yourself or a client, Facebook gives you the opportunity to reach many people quickly and for no or little cost. But if you misuse the site, you may do more harm than good. Here’s how to take advantage of Facebook’s potential.

Facebook tools like status updates, Notes, Pages, photos, and videos make it easy to grab the attention of your friends and fans—and give you the opportunity to reach out to their friends as well, without being pushy or annoying about it.

For more about the tools, read 12 Tips for Creative Pros on Facebook. But first, let’s look at some of the ABCs of social media marketing and how to keep your Facebook presence engaging.

Strengthen emotional attachments with customers

An experiment conducted by the Harvard Business Review in early 2010 found that Facebook Pages can be very effective at creating stronger “emotional attachments” between businesses and their customers. HBR e-mailed a survey to thousands of customers on the mailing list for a Houston-based bakery called Dessert Gallery (DG), then set up a Facebook Page for DG and invited everyone on the mailing list to become a fan of the Page. They updated the Page several times a week with news, positive reviews, info about contests and specials, profiles of DG employees, and of course, lots of photos of scrumptious desserts. (I want to click the Like button just reading about it.)

Three months later, HBR surveyed DG’s customers again. They found that becoming fans of DG on Facebook “changed customer behavior for the better”: Customers visited the store more often after becoming fans, were more likely to recommend DG to their friends, were most likely to say that they preferred DG to its competitors, and reported a greater emotional attachment to DG (3.4 on a 4-point scale, compared to an average of 3.0 for customers who weren’t Facebook fans).

Cheat sheet: Key principles of social media marketing

I thought it would be useful to give you a checklist of some of the most important do’s and don’ts of social media marketing in one handy bulleted list.

Don’t advertise—engage! People come to Facebook to socialize, to be entertained, and to get useful information, but almost nobody comes for the deliberate purpose of being advertised to. To reach people on Facebook, you need to grab their attention by giving them something they need. See “Free ice cream: Delivering value to your fans” (below) for more on this.

Show, don’t tell. Remember that the best way to persuade Facebookers that you have something great to offer is to use Facebook’s sharing tools to give them a taste of how great that something is, rather than just telling them about it.

The great value of social media is that it creates a two-way connection — an opportunity to build a stronger bond with your audience

Don’t just talk—listen. The great value of social media is that it creates a two-way connection: an opportunity to build a stronger bond with your audience by listening to what they have to tell you and responding to them directly. In a world where customers who try to contact companies are routinely greeted with, “Please listen carefully because our voice menu options have changed,” genuine communication is a killer app. If fans know they can get your ear by visiting your Facebook Page, that can do wonderful things for your traffic.

Responsiveness matters. One of the worst things you can do is set up a Facebook Page and then neglect it. Make sure that you have one or more people keeping an eye on the Page on a daily basis to respond to comments and questions in a timely fashion. You want your customers to feel like there’s a real live person on the other end of the metaphorical line when they post on your Wall (as opposed to the feeling of talking to, you know, an ordinary wall).

Practice good customer service. In one of my early retail jobs, a wise manager pointed out to me that when customers complain, the main thing they often want is an opportunity to voice their frustration and know it’s been heard—a chance to vent. It’s amazing how quickly you can turn their frowns upside down (or at least smooth them out a little) if you give people a sympathetic ear, acknowledge their frustration, and demonstrate your desire to make things better.

Free ice cream: Delivering value to your fans

It’s easy enough for people to become a fan of your Page on Facebook: All they have to do is click the Like button. But the other edge to that sword is that it’s also easy for people to tune you out if they find the content you’re posting uninteresting or even annoying. All any fan has to do is click the Hide button next to one of your postings on the Home page, and poof! Your postings are no longer reaching their News Feed.

For this reason, fan counts on Facebook can be deceptive. Sure, you may have several thousand or more smiling faces in your People Who Like This box. But Liking isn’t the same thing as listening, and you can’t be sure that those people will continue to pay attention to what you post on your Page unless you make the effort to engage them.

So how exactly do you hold your fans’ attention on Facebook? The key is to make sure that what you’re posting speaks to your audience’s needs: It’s not about what you want to say but what they want to hear.

Try to put yourself in the minds of your fans, and think about what motivates them to click the Like button on your Page. What kind of information or entertainment are they hoping will show up in their News Feed once they’ve added your Page to the mix?

FBME2-FrontCoverThere are many different kinds of value that posts can deliver:

Useful or helpful information: Maybe you’ve got breaking news or announcements that can be shared more quickly on your Facebook Page than anywhere else. If you’re in the consulting or training field, share a little of your expertise on a regular basis to show it off.

Free ice cream: Offer your fans goodies like rewards, tips, discounts, and giveaways. Some Pages post regular coupon codes that you can enter when placing online orders or visiting a business—a 10% discount on your next order, a free appetizer, and so forth. These posts are not only good motivators for your fans to stay tuned, they create good News Feed mojo because they’re highly shareable: If what you’re offering is good, customers will be motivated to hit the Share button to pass the info on to their friends. The Redbox DVD-rental company helped build a following for its Page by regularly posting codes that could be redeemed for a free one-night movie rental. And here in Chicago, the local Pockets restaurant chain let its fans know that they could get a 10% discount by entering a code word in the promo field for orders placed on its website.

Thought-provoking or inspiring ideas. I’m not saying you should make the common mistake of posting a lot of recycled “inspirational” quotations on your Page. But if what you do genuinely involves ideas—because you’re a writer, a designer, a nonprofit working to build schools in impoverished areas—then by all means discuss those ideas. Sometimes inspiration can be as appealing as ice cream (and more nutritious, too).

Entertainment value and humor. Bringing personality to your Page is a big part of making it engaging. A little humor of the non-abrasive sort can be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Stash Tea's Tea Haiku Friday.

Opportunities for fans to express themselves. Remember that the fans on your Page make up a community with something in common—the interest they share in whatever your Page represents. Your Wall is therefore a place where they can enjoy the camaraderie of Like-minded people, and express their enthusiasm among others who “get it.” Give them questions to answer and plenty of fodder for discussion and sharing. The Stash Tea Company invites its Facebook fans to post haiku about tea every Friday—and fans not only respond prolifically with dozens of poems, they actually complain if the company neglects to post the Tea Haiku Friday thread.

The inside scoop. People often connect to Pages on Facebook in order to feel like they’re joining the inner circle—the hardcore fans who are really wired in. Try to reward your followers with a little more info than you’d include in an official press release, on the assumption that they care a little more than most of the people who would read your press release. To put it in movie terms: Give your fans the kind of “bonus” info you’d put in the making-of/behind the scenes featurette on a DVD.

Putting the “social” in social media: The art of the friendly voice

Facebook is primarily a social space—it’s like a party where you should show up in something casual and a little fun instead of your navy-blue business suit. The vibe on Facebook is relaxed, friendly, and social. Which means that to enter into the spirit of the party, the voice you use to communicate with customers (and potential customers) on Facebook needs to feel friendly—rather than overly formal, pushy, or promotional.

So how do you achieve that social, friendly tone? Here are some useful dynamics to consider:

Cold Warm
Formal Informal
Distant Congenial
“Written” style “Spoken” style
Prerecorded Live and spontaneous
Official Confidential

In general, for social media, you want to steer toward the Warm side of the scale for the dynamics listed above.

Formal vs. Informal: Even if you’re in a more formal kind of business, on Facebook you can move the slider a little more toward the informal side of the scale than you might in your regular business communications. Be conversational, direct, and by all means use contractions. You don’t have to get slangy or dumb things down—eloquence and proper English are never anything but a plus, at least in my book—but you want to sound like you’re talking to your fans rather than declaiming to them.

Distant vs. Congenial: Think of yourself as the host or hostess of your Page, and your fans as your guests. Be welcoming, supportive, and continually let them know that you’re grateful for the enthusiasm and energy they bring to your Page. You want your fans to understand that there are real live people on the other side of that Facebook Wall, and that you’re enjoying the process of connecting with your fans.

Written vs. Spoken Style: This is closely related to the Formal/Informal dynamic mentioned above. The best social media writers, in my opinion, manage to create the feeling that they’re speaking out loud to you as you read their writing. That brings energy and a sense of connectedness that’s appropriate to the medium. Try saying your status update out loud—does it sound natural and conversational? If not, rewrite till it does.

Prerecorded vs. Live and Spontaneous: Even if you’re writing content for your Page days or weeks in advance so it can be pre-approved by a client or manager (a process I work with all the time for my corporate clients), it should be written to sound like it’s as spontaneous, timely, and “in the moment” as possible.

Official vs. Confidential: This ties in to what I discussed in the “Inside scoop” bullet point of the “Free Ice Cream” section earlier. Ideally, you want your fans to feel like you’re lifting the veil just a little bit—confiding in them and giving them the real dish, so they get more out of their Facebook connection with you than they would just by reading your regular advertising or the official copy on your website. I wouldn’t recommend actually typing “Pssst” at the beginning of all of your status updates—but if you imagine doing that, it might help you find the tone I’m talking about.

Dave Awl is a Chicago-based writer, performer, and Facebook aficionado who has been described by Time Out Chicago as “Facebook’s Emily Post.” He’s the author of the book Facebook Me! A Guide to Socializing, Sharing, and Promoting on Facebook, now in its second edition from Peachpit Press. As a consultant he works with a mix of large companies, small local businesses, and arts organizations, helping them successfully develop and maintain their social media presences. An alumnus of Chicago’s popular Neo-Futurists theater company, Dave has appeared on NPR’s “This American Life” and has published a collection of poems and monologues called “What the Sea Means.” Follow Dave Awl on Twitter at @daveawl.

Excerpted from “Facebook Me! A Guide to Socializing, Sharing, and Promoting > on Facebook,” Second Edition by Dave Awl. Copyright © 2011. Used with the permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press. Thanks to CreativePro.com, which first published this excerpt from “Facebook Me!” on CreativePro.com.

In this series

• Part 1: Demystifying how Facebook’s news feeds work
• Part 2: 15 ways to increase your Facebook stature
• Part 3: Cheat sheet: Key principles of social media marketing on Facebook (above)
• Part 4: 15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook

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2 thoughts on “Cheat sheet: Key principles of social media marketing on Facebook

  1. Great tips! It's always good to rethink how we interact with our fans. Because I am a writer and not a business, I feel honored that folks have liked my page and I am careful with what and how I post to that wall. Thanks for the tips and encouragement!

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