A distinct trend over the summer of 2012 picked up by many commentators, is an alarming drop off in the reach of Facebook Page posts. As a proportion of Likes on the Page itself, the ‘xxx saw this post’ report under each posting has declined noticeably in recent weeks, from 10-15% of total Likes to often less than 10%.
Of course, this trend is coinciding with deeply disappointing returns for Facebook’s new shareholders, combined with the launch of a number of new ways you can now pay Facebook to reach people who have liked your Page already… Promoted posts, targeted promoted posts, Facebook offers – a cynic might say the two factors are unrelated. Facebook are desperate to monetise their platform more effectively, and having encouraged businesses to invest time and effort building their fan bases on their site by providing them with free tools and applications, and now you’ve got that community established – start paying us, if you want to actually reach them. Nice.
So that leaves us a fairly limited range of options, and for most businesses and organisations walking away from Facebook isn’t really one of them. If you deal with the public, Facebook is where your customers and prospects are to be found, still here more than any other online destination. So, do you have to start paying Facebook? Possibly, a little, carefully and wisely… however, there is another way to play along.
Remember Facebook’s main monetisation model is their on-page advertising – this was the backbone of their IPO earlier this year, and their product is essentially YOUR eyeballs on their website. It’s those analytics that drive the sales and placement of ads, and by developing and promoting your Facebook Page, you bring more eyeballs to the platform and to Facebook’s bottom line. That’s why they gave us Pages for free. So, Facebook reward us when we post content that gets more ‘edges’ they can measure, and sell on – likes, comments, and shares, basically. The more we create content that gets a reaction, the more exposure it gets organically as well as virally, because this is what the site needs.
So, how can we do this, drive up that visibility rate? Here are some thoughts and ideas, I’d love to hear yours in the comments.
Think visual – Facebook is a highly visual medium, tending more so daily with the advent of Timeline, and posts that contain images are popular, video even more so. Video you have to click to view, giving a measurable edge for Facebook. Win-win.
Think newsfeed – most people will see your post in their feed, not on your Page – people rarely actually visit your Page as a destination in itself, so don’t refer to other posts or apps on your Page, that’s not the context it will usually be seen in. If you want people to visit your Page and engage with your other content, they’ll need a reason.
Encourage comments. Comments create stories in the ticker, a visible trail on your post itself, and engage the community. How do you encourage them? Ask for them! Be open, provocative even, ask questions, ask for feedback. Posting as your brand can encourage a degree of conservatism but you can risk posting the occasional provocative link or image if you distance yourself from it ‘is this what you want us to be making for you next season? Please let us know!’ etc.
Maintain the dialogue – if someone comments, respond, answer, continue the conversation. Encourage the commenter to expand, others to join in – “that’s an interesting point of view, what does everyone else think about that?” “when you say xxxx do you mean yyyy exactly…?”
Encourage likes, again you can ask for them directly. Don’t overuse this technique and keep it relevant, but you could find a historical event relating to your niche and ask ‘like if you remember this!’
Use ‘ask a question’ to create a poll – if you can ask the right question that people feel strongly about, this can generate a great deal of buzz, as their involvement in answering generates a story right in their newsfeed rather than the ticker. Consider carefully whether to allow people to add their own poll answers, this can lead to deeper involvement and creativity, but can also mean a loss of control of the message itself, and this is your brand Page it will appear on.
Post from on Facebook – it’s controversial and hard to prove, but there is a definite sense that posts made from third party apps such as Hootsuite are being penalised from an exposure point of view, and in the light of Facebook’s priorities this makes some sense. If you post from outside of Facebook then YOU are not there on their site, so that’s minus one set of eyeballs at least. They want you there, on Facebook, doing Facebook. Makes sense.
Keep it real – don’t buy or trade likes on your Page, they are valueless and ultimately dilute your analytics. A lot of the kind of ‘bought like’ services are weird and valueless profiles anyway, people with no content on their timelines and next to no friends, but they like 4000 Pages… hmm. Many are multiple accounts maintained by the same IP, and Facebook is clamping down on all this so they will probably disappear anyway. And if I visit a Page that is a month old, has thousands of ‘likes’ on it but no actual engagement, well that looks pretty weird too.
Know your audience. Who are they? Check your analytics, and target your content accordingly. For example I recently managed a Page for a lingerie retailer, their target market was women – but the Facebook analytics suggested more than 50% of the fans were actually male! So, we re-oriented some of the content accordingly (tastefully, without turning it into Loaded! But working on the basis that men need help and advice about what to buy, as well as just enjoying looking at pictures of bras)
Know your audience #2 – Your analytics will also tell you the location of your fans, and you can use this to schedule content accordingly. If they are more likely to be awake and online when your post enters the newstream, they are more likely to see it and engage with it – so if 70% of your audience is in the US East coast, don’t post when they are all asleep. Use the post scheduling feature to time your message for best impact.
What else can we add to this list, to get back the value of our Pages on Facebook?