February 10, 2011

15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook


Increasing your brand’s visibility on Facebook won’t get you a $136.38 ROI per fan, but it will solidify customer relationships on the most important social network in the world.

Tactics to stay on your fans’ radar — begin with targeting their news feeds & making your updates count

This is part 4 of a 4-part series on using Facebook strategically. Updated a few hours after publication to include news from Facebook about its upgrade to Pages today.
Also see:

• 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

JD LasicaYour brand or business has a Facebook Page. That’s nice. Are you getting much traction, and is it worth your investment of time and effort?

I get the sense that many brands understand that Facebook needs to be an important part of their business strategy. But they’re fumbling the execution. What steps should your business take to increase your reach and visibility on Facebook and to turn supporters into paying customers?

And how will Facebook’s upgrade of Pages, announced today, affect managing your brand’s Page?

First, a dose of cold reality: Your brand isn’t reaching as many people as you think through its Facebook Page. Most people who “like” your Page never go back to it. Jeff Widman of BrandGlue found that 88 percent of Facebook members never return to a Page once they’ve clicked the Like button.

Your opportunity lies in engaging with fans through their News Feed. (Let’s call them fans until someone comes up with a better term.) But here’s a second harsh truth: Only 1 out of every 500 updates makes it into your fans’ critical Top News feed, which is how 95 percent of Facebook members get their updates (excluding mobile users), according to Facebook itself. (The percentage of Page updates visible in a user’s Top News feed may be even smaller today.)

Bottom line? Many of those status updates exquisitely crafted by your Facebook team will never be seen by the vast majority of your fans.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Several major brands — Starbucks (nearly 20 million Likes), Skittles (15 million Likes), Adidas (7 million Likes), Best Buy (2.5 million Likes), Target (3.8 million Likes), Buffalo Wild Wings (3.9 million Likes) and others — have learned how to use Facebook intelligently, as a conversation-rich public square rather than as just another marketing/promotional channel. With the time users spend on Facebook now far exceeding the time they spend on Google, and with traffic driven by Facebook often matching or surpassing Google referrals, it’s time to turn your Facebook presence into a larger conversation strategy for your brand.

Here are 15 tips for your business to stay on your customers’ radar by increasing your visibility and reach on Facebook.

Connect Facebook to your website

1When Facebook unveiled a slew of social plug-ins last year, it benefited not only Facebook but businesses, too, by lowering the barrier for people to react to products and services. When someone clicks the Facebook Like button on your site, an average of 40 of their friends see it. Genius! (See Mashable’s use of it at right.) Other plug-ins include Comments, Recommends, Like Box and Registration — see which ones make sense for pages on your website. Twisted Oak winery, for example, lets people Like and post Facebook status updates about specific wine bottlings. As the Spaniards say: ¡Perfecto!

Find your rhythm

2You’ll want to post regularly: Try to get into the habit of posting every day — and certainly not just when you have a marketing announcement. One or two strong Facebook updates per day is better than a half dozen scattershot updates that fly by and don’t have the staying power to attract people’s feedback. You may find that you have a more active community that responds to frequent postings. Every brand is different, so find the rhythm and pace that work for you. Use Facebook Insights to see which updates resonate with your fans.

Use the 80-20 rule

3It’s not all about you. Brands starting out on Facebook almost uniformly focus on pitching themselves. What they eventually discover is that Facebook is about conversations. You want to stoke conversations and Include links to stories that are interesting, remarkable, sexy, funny or newsworthy — whether they’re on your site, blog or an outside website. Use visuals if possible — our eyes are naturally drawn to imagery. As a rough rule of thumb, post four status updates on items about outside news items or discoveries for every post promoting a product. And when you do mention a product or service, try to do so in a helpful way.

Interact, be brief, be topical — and be human

4Businesses obsess about creating perfectly tailored content. But the best content is short and snappy. Buffalo Wild Wings studied their most successful updates last year and found that, overwhelmingly, their most popular postings were 10 words or fewer (see chart above). Wow! While your updates are important, conversation is key. Facebook rewards genuine interaction. Strong interaction with your fans helps brands show up in fans’ news feeds. Use a wide range of conversational techniques: Educate, inform, entertain, be engaging. Comment on current events. Occasionally be provocative and invite passionate debate. Use the comments to say “thank you,” and, in general, don’t delete negative comments. Have a light touch, have fun in a smart, positive way and be funny if you’ve got it in you. Leave the copywriting and marketing-speak in the office. Let down your guard and be real. Or, as Buffalo Chicken Wings says, “Post like a friend, not a brand.”

Use the right media

5As we covered in part 2, Facebook rewards certain kind of status updates — video, photo albums, Facebook Places check-ins — over others, like plain-text postings. So whenever you can, think visual. Retail stores like Ikea (image above) can easily add a homespun charm to their Facebook presence (“Posing on his Stockholm chair with his Barnslig curtains!… lol”). Use an under-$200 Flip HD camcorder, Kodak zi8, video-capable iPhone, Android device or the like to capture live events, then upload it to Facebook or YouTube and share some details in your status update. Mix in different kinds of updates: interviews, contests, multimedia, events, photo albums.

Use @ tagging strategically

6One of the most underutilized tools in Facebook is its tagging feature. When posting an update about a person, aligned brand or cause, be sure to type @ in your update field followed by their name. Facebook will automagically drop down a selection for you to choose from (see above). When you post it to your Wall, it will also post to the Wall of anyone you’ve tagged (maximum six tags per post). Think about when the person or business might welcome this. Just be careful: There’s a fine line between spam and content that you think is valuable. And use common sense: Never use a tag to slam a competitor. Also see “Some tips for new Facebook Page administrators” below for tips on how to tag — Starting today, brands can Like another Page as a Page and tag that way as well.

Target by location or language

7Many brands aren’t aware that Facebook allows you to target your updates by location or by language. You can update fans about an event taking place in their city, let followers know about state-by-state product rollouts or speaking tours, or send important updates to people about a disaster in a confined area. You may have followers who speak languages other than English — they’d be thrilled with an update in their native language, assuming you have Page administrators with that skill set. Send an update in Spanish without alienating your English-speaking fans. Facebook Pages also allow you to target private updates to fans. These show up in a user’s messages folders, under “Updates,” although not everyone welcomes these missives. See more tips on how to target Facebook wall posts to specific fans.

Ask questions

Best-Buy-question

8If you look at Facebook updates that garner the most comments, often they’re generated when someone asks a question. People love to help out or to weigh in. You could post a question tangentially related to your product line, as Best Buy does above, or ask for input about a product design decision. Packers or Steelers? was a natural question for Buffalo Wild Wings to pose in Sunday — it garnered 7,300 comments. On Tuesday Skittles asked, Why are koalas always bent on world domination? and received more than 1,400 comments. Yesterday Target asked about fans’ favorite Grammy artists in advance of Sunday’s Grammys and received 700 comments.

Use mobile

9Tailor your content to mobile users. While 95 percent of desktop users use the Top News filter to see their Facebook updates — bad news: Most likely it won’t contain your Page postings — mobile users (via the Facebook app for iPhone and Android) see the Live Feed, identical to the Most Recent firehose that contains virtually all updates from friends and Pages. That means almost all your updates will make it to your users’ mobile devices. There are more than 200 million active users who access Facebook through their mobile devices — and they’re twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users, Facebook says. As tens of millions more of us access the Internet through our mobile gadgets, companies that create mobile-friendly content — games, alerts, interactive apps — will forge deeper relationships with their customers.

You can also attract new fans to your Page via SMS. Mari Smith points out in Social Media Examiner:

“Your fans can join your fan page via text message! … To join your fan Page, Facebook users just send a text message to 32665 (FBOOK) with the words “fan yourusername” OR “like yourusername” (without the quotes). This feature is ideal when you’re addressing a live audience, say. Have everyone pull out their mobile phones and join your fan page on the spot! … (Note that this only works for Facebook users with a verified mobile device in his or her account.)”

Start by liking the Facebook Mobile Page, download the app, then in addition to liking Pages you’ll be able to upload photos from your camera phone straight to Facebook or use your phone’s mobile browser at m.facebook.com.

Have a heart

10We’re big fans of corporate social responsibility and cause marketing, and we love it when we see companies contributing to the social good. Target’s Bullseye Gives” campaign enabled its fans to slect which of 10 charities they wanted to see the company donate to. For each member’s vote, a post goes up on you Facebook wall and into your friends’ News Feeds. Some apps and enabling companies to consider: Wildfire Apps, Involver, Virtue, Buddy Media, FanAppz, Context Optional, Bulbstorm and others.

Run polls

11April Covil of Vitrue writes: “Polls delivered directly to users’ news feeds are not only effective in their reach but also in their ability to drive engagement. Polls allow users to share input on topics and issues by simply clicking a button. From a marketer’s perspective, brands can gain key insights from their fans about their products and services. Reaching out to users and seeking their advice also allows them to engage directly with the brand.” And she notes that you can schedule polls to appear at any time of day. A good poll can take only minutes to create. Just don’t overdo it. Some poll apps for Facebook include PollDaddy, Poll and iPoll.

Set a time your updates

Conversation-times-on-Facebook

12Aside from commenting on breaking news and events, you’ll want to establish a regular schedule for your brand’s Facebook updates. Be aware of when your activity will generate the most interest. In October social media management company Vitrue released a study that identifies the days and hours users are most active on the Facebook channels maintained by companies and brands. Highlights:

• The biggest usage spikes tend to occur weekdays at 11 am, 3 pm and 8 pm ET. (I’ll chime in: Your mileage may vary if you live in a different time zone. And, of course, optimal posting times may depend on the nature of your business and whether your customers are young, elderly or working class. If your Facebook Page is for a late-night dance club, night owl postings may work out best.)

• Brand posts in the morning are 39.7 percent more effective in terms of user engagement than those published in the afternoon — which makes sense.

• Wednesdays are the busiest day of the week for fan activity, weekends the least busy.

Posts made before noon get 65 percent more engagement than posts after noon across all fans served, according to a study by Vitrue. So you should test during different days of the week and times of day to see what works best — check your analytics. One tip-off: Keep chat on and see what time of day most of your friends are logged in. Finally, be aware that freshness counts: You’ll seldom see content in a News Feed more than 48 hours old.

Assess the business value of your Page

13To really make the most of your Facebook presence, tie your progress on Facebook to your business goals. Periodically your team should evaluate the business value your Facebook efforts are generating. Buffalo Wild Wings offers one instructive success story. At last year’s WOMMA Summit, Brandon Murphy of the interactive agency 22squared outlined how Buffalo Wild Wings jumped from 100,000 fans in August 2009 to more than 3.5 million — and, more importantly, research showed that its Facebook fans visit the brick-and-mortar restaurants more often and spend more money ($616/year) than non-fans. See Buffalo Wild Wings’ SlideShare presentation on becoming a top brand on Facebook. Bryan Person of LiveWorld writes: “Gaining new fans and keeping them engaged is a good, and important, start. But getting them to do something that supports the brand’s overall marketing goals and objectives — raising brand awareness, generating new sales, empowering brand advocates, etc. — has to be part of the equation, too.”

Run a contest or campaign

14At Socialmedia.biz, we believe in running smart campaigns — not six-week efforts that generate a transitory blip of activity but rather sustained efforts that result in long-term affinity and uptake. Hold a contest, conduct a campaign — move your fans to take some action to advance your business goals in a natural way. See my writeup on the book giveaway & iPhone app campaign we ran for DaleCarnegie.com. Consider prizes, promotions and sweepstakes targeted to your Facebook fans, as BMW, Sears and Stash Tea do. Just don’t run afoul of Facebook’s promotions guidelines.

Hold real-world events

15We’re big fans of holding live events to forge a deeper connection with your fans. TOMS Shoes does this frequently. Hire an event planning agency if necessary, including a photographer to take photos, and instruct them to grab business cards. Ask the attendees to tag photos — one of the most viral means of getting uptake on fans’ news feeds. You’ll add hundreds or thousands of fans by publicizing periodic events on your Page.

How to see Pages you’ve liked

We sometimes get asked: How do I see the complete list of Facebook Pages I’ve Liked over the years? Mari Smith offers the answer:

Go to your Profile page. Click on the Info link the left nav. Scroll down to Activities and Interests and you’ll see the link Show Other Pages:

Click it, select “and … more,” and you’ll see a complete list, like this one:

Complete list of Facebook Pages

You can also see the Pages you’re following on your iPhone. (I don’t have an Android — perhaps there, too?)

Other tactics for brands to use

Here are some other ideas for businesses to consider on Facebook:

Diversity your team’s voices. Sometimes we like to hear from people, not just brands. For some companies, it may make sense to assign Page admin roles to only two or three people and have other team members post to your Page from their individual Profiles, with the proper disclosures where warranted. Socialmedia.biz’s clients FreeSpeechTV and Blue Shield of California use this approach on occasion: In addition to pronouncements from the official administrator, other staffers chime in with updates using their own Facebook identities, generating more conversations.

Open the door to user content — but not the floodgates. Invite fans to share content and recognize their achievements, but if you’re just starting out with user-generated content, be conservative. Appeal to Facebook members’ creative side, but take into account the dark side. See the user-created contributions above from wahoha.com.

Monitor comments on every post you publish. Facebook’s native tools don’t make it efficient to learn when fans have responded to brand posts. Third-party tool can help, such as Hyper Alerts, which will send an e-mail notification, or LiveWorld, which has human moderators and robust moderation tools to review all posts from fans. But whether you do this yourself or outsource it, it’s essential that you don’t just publish a new post and then forget about your Page. You need to regularly review feedback and respond as appropriate. A lot of brands struggle with this. Update: Starting today, administrators will be able to receive e-mail alerts for all new comments on Pages.

Make use of “Add to My Page’s Favorites” — the link immediately below your Page logo — as a gesture of community generosity.

Use Facebook apps. There are thousands, so see which ones support your business objectives. For example, a new live video-streaming app called Vpype may prove useful for live events: You could broadcast regular live Internet TV shows from your Page and generate considerable buzz.

Consider placing Facebook ads. Facebook’s social ads have been called “the most targeted traffic your money can buy.” To buy an ad, scroll to the foot of any page inside Facebook and click the link at the bottom that says Advertising. But be wary — at least for now — of the “Sponsored Story” ads derived from members’ promoted posts, which could face a backlash.

Some tips for new Facebook Page administrators

Facebook isn’t the easiest labyrinth to navigate, particularly because the UI keeps changing and because the company has only recently begun devoting attention to serving its business constituents. With that in mind, here are some tips for admins who haven’t figured out the ins and outs of Pages:

• Brands can’t follow people. Only people can follow people on Facebook. If you friend people in a professional capacity as a representative of your brand and post a comment to their Wall, it will be with your identity and icon, not your brand’s.

Starting today, if you’re a Page administrator, you will be able to comment on your Page as yourself (with your own name and personal icon) or as the Page (with the brand’s name and icon). While Pages can comment on other Pages, they can’t post to the Walls of individuals (a reasonable restriction) unless the member has opted for the “Everybody” privacy setting. But there’s no way to tell who has done that.

Starting today, brands can Like another Page as a Page, and tag that way as well.

Starting today, Page administrators will be able to get e-mail updates for all new comments.

• Brands can’t comment on, post to or Like other brands’ Pages. But your brand’s administrators can.

• Brands can’t create Friends Lists or Groups.

• As a Page administrator, you can tag other Pages — but only if you’ve Liked them via your personal account. If one of your admins has liked Starbucks Page from her personal account but a second admin has not, the first one can tag Starbucks when posting a status update but the second admin cannot. Note: the tag will appear as the brand’s post, not as the individual’s. For a fuller explanation, see How to post to other Facebook Pages – as a Page. Also note: If you post as a Page admin, rather than on behalf of the brand Page proper, you’ll only be able to post to other companies’ walls if your personal privacy settings are set to allow Everybody to see your posts.

Some of these (odd) rules may soon change. In December, Facebook seems to have accidentally released a prototype that would allow you to log in as yourself and switch between any of the Pages you manage, Mashable reported. Under this approach, you would be able to Like another Page and comment on that Wall as the Page rather than as an individual.

Also be aware that a new set of capabilities are set to go live soon, including a Top Posts filter that surfaces the best user content on Facebook Page walls.

Update:

• In addition, administrators now have the ability to set up keyword-based spam filters for wall posts. The site also suggests possible spam postings by highlighting them in gray.

• And another change from Facebook that allows you to make sure you’re seeing posts from all your friends (if you want that) when you switch to the “Most Recent” filter.

Facebook as part of a social business strategy

That’s it for our weeklong series on Facebook for business professionals and brands. The tactics we outline above assumes that you already come into Facebook with the basics down: a clean Facebook Page with an inviting Welcome page, a professional Facebook image and icon, and apps like Static FBML already installed.

As we’ve said on endless occasions, companies need to approach Facebook, Twitter and other networks with the mindset of becoming social businesses, using social tools as the means to implement a new integrated approach to interacting with customers — one that helps inform multiple parts of your business: product development, customer support, public outreach, lead generation, market research and campaign measurement. So it’s not really about optimizing your Facebook Page. Your team should be engaging in genuine dialogue, delighting your fans, turning spectators into customers, tracking metrics, creating campaigns where it makes sense and keeping in mind both your business goals and your fans’ interests.

Good luck, and let us know if we can help!

Thanks to Bryan Person of LiveWorld for help on this series.

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
• Part 4: 15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook (above)

Related

Lessons for brands launching social media campaigns (Socialmedia.biz)

How a social media campaign helped HP Israel’s PSG Group gain momentum (Socialmedia.biz)

How to use Facebook: Tutorials on Socialbrite.org

8 new Facebook plug-ins to socialize your site (Socialbrite)

12 steps to creating a compelling Facebook Page (Socialbrite)

How to use Facebook Insights (Socialbrite)

11 stats you need to measure on your Facebook Page (Socialbrite)

How to target Facebook wall posts to specific fans (Socialbrite)

Facebook Pages now offer easier ways to create friendly urls (Socialbrite)

How to send invitations to 5,000 prospective Facebook Page fans (Socialbrite)

How to measure Facebook Page fan growth and engagement (Socialbrite)

How to post to other Facebook Pages – as a Page (Socialbrite)

13 Facebook Page features that will make your day (Socialbrite)

3 tools to measure your Facebook clout (Socialbrite)

21 creative ways to increase your Facebook fanbase (Social Media Examiner)

The Facebook Marketing Bible: 24 Ways to Market Your Brand, Company, Product, or Service Inside Facebook (Inside Facebook) JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

10 thoughts on “15 ways to increase your brand’s impact on Facebook

    • Great. After reaching out to a lot of experts on the subject and conducting several campaigns, I feel a lot more up to speed on all the ins and outs of Facebook for brands now.

  1. Thanks for the comments, Alexis, Patsy & Sam. Funny that Facebook rolled out major changes to Pages on the same day we published this piece! But then, no real surprise. :~)

  2. This series of articles have been VERY helpful and insightful in creating a strong social media strategy. The EdgeRank info was especially helpful. I find most people know little to nothing about why some content makes it to their news feed and some doesn't. Again, GREAT posts!

    • Thanks for the comment. Facebook isn't exactly forthcoming about how EdgeRank works, so we had to tease these tips out of several sources. Here's to better Facebooking!

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