Deepening Engagement on your Facebook Page

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?

Facebook Business Pages: Timeline Changes Everything, It’s Not Just About the Cover Photo!

Everyone who operates pages for their business on Facebook has recently been subject to the most significant design change in this history of the service, with the very rapid rollout of the Timeline layout.  Whilst with profiles we were given months to play with, moan about, and generally decide about the Timeline layout, for pages it was only one month before the alteration was compulsory, and a lot of people were caught on the hop failing to update.  At least it’s now easy to spot a dead/orphaned pages when you find one, before you even glance at the content, a missing cover photo is a dead giveaway.

The cover photo is indeed a massively visual and significant change to the appearance of Facebook pages, but unfortunately a lot of people stop there, or get hung up on this big pictorial shopwindow.  The changes Facebook introduced with Timeline for pages are multiple and complex, and the business impact is still being evaluated.  Here are a few conclusions, drawn from just a few weeks in.

 

Don’t forget about ‘About’

It is now more important than ever that you complete your ‘About’ section clearly, with an appropriate and snappy couple of sentences.  Depending on your business type and the type of page you chose when you created it, some information will default here (such as opening times for local business or shop), but you still have room for a strapline, slogan or call to action.  With the restrictions placed on sales messages within the cover photo itself, it’s good to use this space as effectively as possible for your marketing message.  And be aware that the space allowed in the edit box is larger than that which may appear when you view your page, write too much and it will truncate – you want to be sure your message is clearly visible without anyone having to click to ‘see more’, so preview and check carefully.

 

Apps and Tabs

Many Facebook marketers are disgusted at the removal of the default landing tab functionality, in that you now cannot force anyone visiting your page from within Facebook to ‘like’ it in order to unlock content.  This has changed the game, and yes it has made like-locking much less of the bluntly effective instrument it once was.  You can still have this tab as an app, and you can direct people to it from outside Facebook – you could even buy a specific URL for this, if you want to drive traffic say from your blog or other social sites, ‘Sams-cakes-fans.net’ could be positioned as an attractive route to special offers or discounts for example.

But your total apps are now limited to only four visible – out of a total of twelve you may have altogether – and one of those has to be photos, so essentially you may choose three custom apps to position in this prime screen real estate.  It’s a good spot  there above the fold, so choose carefully!  You can also add any image you create as your app’s picture, to further customise the appearance of your page.

 

Pin it to win it

Slightly odd move this I felt given Timeline’s emphasis on chronology, but you can choose a single post to ‘pin’ to the top of your page – ie in the most recently-added position – where it will remain for one week.  You need to take account of this in your content posting strategy, and as yet you cannot pin a post from a third party posting application such as Hootsuite, only from within the Facebook page itself.  After the week is up the pinned post will slip back down where it belongs in the Timeline, and you can pin another.  Great for temporary special offers, forthcoming events, or anything of specifically timed relevance, quite a nice touch.

 

It’s all about you

Interestingly the new layout has focussed pages very much back on to the page administrator’s own posted content, limiting the space allocated to content initiated by fans to a small area at the top of the right column.  This area is also dynamic and what people see there depends on the interaction of their friends with your page.

This means that if user generated content is an important part of your page content strategy you need to get more creative with it, for example encouraging them to email you a picture that you will then post as the page as your ‘fan of the week’ or whatever, rather than getting them to post it directly meaning fewer people will ever see it.  More hassle for them means less likely to do it, so think about how you can reward this involvement.

It also makes your page more of a destination site than it used to be, increasing the onus on you to keep it updated.  Pages are not the place for discussion or community, so much, if ever they were – groups fulfil that role, and there is now greater distinction between the two than there was previously.

 

Milestones in Time

Remember the main implication of Timeline for profiles, was that everyone started scanning their wedding and baby photos, and locating them back in their Timeline to before they joined (or anyone invented) Facebook?  Well, it’s the same for pages.  This is good news if your page is new, and you want to create a track record and establish credibility – get the scanner out and dig back through for the polaroids of your launch party 20 years ago, the pics of your new office building you opened whenever, the Christmas party shots that show you looking human and approachable rather than wrecked and idiotic.  Tag them with the correct date and populate your Timeline retrospectively – you can go back as far as 1800, apparently, though Casslar tends to work with smaller and less long-established businesses than that.

Remember to tick the ‘do not post to newsfeed’ option if you are banging out a load of these in one sitting, or you may begin to annoy your fans. And if you are trying to create the impression of a detailed and long-established Facebook presence for your page then don’t forget to hide the automatically-generated Milestone ‘Sam’s Cakes Joined Facebook Five Minutes Ago’.

 

Messages: Public or Private?

Having in recent months substantially nobbled the functionality of messaging fans from pages – remember the days when you could send a broadcast message to everyone that went straight to their inbox?  Facebook has reintroduced a facility for one to one dialogue in private between a fan and a page.  However, this has to be initiated by them – only then can you reply directly and privately.

This has great potential as a customer service channel, if you can encourage people to use it, and manage the kind of immediacy of response that will be expected from the medium.  And whilst you can’t start the dialogue you can suggest it – ask people to message you for more information or a special offer, for example.

Of course they can still post publically to your wall just as before, and you will get alerted about it even if it’s less visible and obvious to other visitors to your page.

 

So those are some of the less obvious changes to Facebook pages, as a result of the introduction of Timeline.  Please let us know in the comments how it’s working out for you, and what the implications are for your business.

Business Success with Facebook – Training Seminar

This course is suitable for all small business owners and solopreneurs who want to make the most of the range of tools offered on Facebook to better engage with clients, build reputation and market share, and ultimately generate new business opportunities. Specially designed and adapted for the benefit of local expat enterprises in Spain, “Business Success with Facebook” will help you develop and deploy the right Facebook marketing strategy for your organisation, leading to greater competitiveness and return on investment in these challenging commercial times.  Whether you already have a profile and/or Pages set up on Facebook or you are a complete beginner, this seminar will inform and orientate your next move for greater success in your business objectives.

This course is NOT about creating new businesses or webpages related to Facebook or otherwise, nor is it about getting rich quick.  What it IS about is using social media tools to maximise the potential of your existing business or service, so you get the best possible outcomes for your time and budget.

This course includes up to date material taking account of the changes to Facebook Pages introduced in March 2012

This course will enable you to:
  • Understand and best leverage the unique role and position of Facebook within the overall marketing communications and social media spectrum
  • Understand the range of tools and services Facebook offers, so that you can plan and exploit the right blend of profiles, groups, pages, events or ads, to best represent your business and achieve its objectives
  • Create and manage Facebook Pages appropriate to your brands and products, along with a strategy for developing, using and measuring their success
  • Identify the resources and expertise within your organisation to best implement and monitor your Facebook business strategy… The tools are mostly free, but your time is not!
Who should attend:
  • Sole traders, consultants and “solopreneurs”
  • Small businesses, family and owner-managed business directors
  • Anyone considering starting up a new enterprise or launching a new brand or product
  • Those with marketing and communications responsibilities in small and medium-sized enterprises
  • Anyone with similar responsibilities within charities, non-profits and campaigning groups

Eventbrite - Business Success with Facebook - Training Seminar

Facebook Timeline for Pages

Since the changes announced towards the end of 2011, Facebook users have largely come to terms with the differences to their personal profiles enabled by the rollout of the ‘Timeline’.  Whilst inevitably change creates a degree of moaning and disappointment amongst some, the overall response to the new look has been positive – Timeline offers a more stylish and user-controlled ‘digital scrapbook’ of one’s life, in which you can share as much or as little as you like, and there are some brilliant profiles emerging.

Now in March 2012 a more abrupt change it seems is coming, with the rollout of Timeline-style changes for Facebook Pages.  In many ways this change is more serious, because Pages represent brands and organisations, managing and curating this change successfully and professionally is important.  But in the same way as it did for Profiles, the changes enable you to create a richer and more interesting visual experience for your visitors than previously, even if there are other less positive changes from a marketing point of view.

Let’s look at the visual changes first, as with Profiles you can now upload a cover photo to represent and head your Page.  This needs to be at least 399 pixels wide (max 851 x 315 px), and you can reposition for best effect.  Facebook has some specific guidance on appropriate use of cover pages, you should use it to represent your Page but it must NOT contain:

  • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
  • Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section
  • References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”
  • Anything false, deceptive or misleading
  • Anything infringing third parties’ intellectual property or copyright
  • Any encouragement or incentive to people to upload your cover image to their own personal timelines

Your profile picture is still there, in a little box on the left, and just as before that represents your Page on other parts of the site such as newsfeeds.  It’s OK to use a logo and name, and the image must be square and at least 180px if you don’t want it stretched.  The ‘About’ section for your page is also now more prominent, so make sure that is filled out with a great relevant text-bite that sums up your offering neatly.

As with Profiles, your photos, likes and apps are now next on the page, above the fold, and just below the cover photo.  After the default leading Photos app you can change the order of your maximum 12 apps to show the most important ones first – choose these well because the likelihood is that those not in the top three visible row will receive very little attention.

Indeed the big disadvantage for marketers is that you can no longer set a default landing tab for non-fans to see when they first arrive at your page.  Your old apps will work just fine – but people will have to find them.  It is going to be hard to get as much engagement with custom apps such as contests, promotions, coupons etc as previously… and ‘Like’ gates, whilst still functional, are going to be a heck of a lot less effective and useful.

Once you have played around with your apps to your best advantage under the new rules, you need to review and manage your content, because content is what timeline is really all about after all  If you tackle this during March 2012 you have time in hand to experiment before you publish your new-style Page, when the new structure will roll out for every Page on the site regardless.

If you have a lot of content this could take time to sort out, but it gives you far greater control overall.  You can pin your favourite or most positive stories to the top of your page using the pencil icon, or you can ‘star’ it to make it full width, great for photos etc.  There is also a new admin panel making it easy to manage page Insights and review history and activity, as well as messages (see below).

As with your personal timeline you can add in earlier milestones, and use your Page timeline to tell the story of your brand’s history – founding, events, Facebook is all about stories now, so you can use this to tell yours, and remember the big difference with timeline is that you can go back to the beginning, before the Page was created, tell the story as far back as you like.  Milestones appear full-width on your timeline so make them worth a good shout!

The final important change for brand management is that the default communications channel is now a private message direct to the Page admins.  Of course people can and still will post to your wall, but in terms of managing customer service problems or individual user issues many things are now more easily and discreetly cleared up, away from the public eye. Notifications of messages will show up in your admin panel, for easy management. This is a valuable and accessible channel for brand engagement – compare being free of charge to the costs of something like Livechat – but you will need to respond promptly to maintain your customer service reputation and persuade your users that this is an effective way to reach you.  Or of course you can outsource this monitoring to a social media management company such as Casslar Consulting SL.

Please contact us if you require any assistance with making the most of the opportunities and challenges presented by Facebook timeline for Pages, we’d be delighted to discuss the options and help you get the most out of what’s on offer for your brand.

 

 

 

Facebook Profile, Facebook Group or Facebook Page?

There are three possible options for creating a presence on Facebook, and despite their different purposes and methods, a lot of people still get confused as to which they should be using, whether for their personal or business activities.  Here’s hoping to alleviate some of this confusion with sound advice:

Facebook Profiles

To do anything on Facebook, you need to create a personal profile.  This is about you as an individual, and you have to create it by using your name and date of birth, even if you never intend to use it personally and use it only as a platform to develop Pages and Groups.  You should NOT create a personal profile for your business, campaign or organization: Facebook Help states that:

Facebook profiles are meant to represent a single individual. Organizations of any type are not permitted to maintain an account under the name of their organization. We have created Facebook Pages to allow organizations to have a presence on Facebook. These Pages are distinct presences, separate from user profiles, and optimized for an organization’s needs to communicate, distribute information/content, engage their fans, and capture new audiences virally through their fan’s recommendations to their friends. Facebook Pages are designed to be a media rich, valuable presence for any artist, business or brand.

If you create a profile for your business, your account may be disabled for violating our Terms of Use

Once you have created your personal profile and can log in to Facebook, you can create other presences within the platform such as Groups or Pages.  But, what’s the difference, and which should you go for?

Facebook Pages

Facebook Pages are for businesses, public figures or specific organizations/entities, to create an authentic public presence.  Think of it as an extension or alternative to your regular website.  Like any site it is indexable by google, and visible to anyone by default (although you can reserve certain content for people who opt to ‘Like’ your page).  Anyone on Facebook can connect with a page by liking it, and then interact and receive news from them.

Facebook Pages are about authenticity, and must represent a genuine entity from a credible perspective – only the official owner or representative of a business, public figure or organization, should create a page.  Page administrators have access to a raft of useful functionality, such as visitor insights and statistics, advertising opportunities, and the ability to post to their user’s news feed.  They can also obtain a ‘vanity’ (ie non-ugly) URL to promote externally.  Here is an example of a thriving page, administered by a UK-based research recruitment agency, which is used to send out information about events to their users and to share testimonials and feedback

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are a pre-cursor of Pages, and frankly date from an era before Facebook as marketing and profit oriented as it is today.  They are still very useful however, although they serve a different purpose to Pages (or Profiles).  Groups are for sharing – common interests, campaigns, specialist discussions… anyone can create a group, to share anything they like.  For example, if you are a fan of the group Florence and the Machine you can like their official Page here, but you can also join any of myriad fan groups (such as this one) to discuss different aspects of their discography, lyrics, touring, etc.  Groups can be huge, such as those discussing international recording artistes, or tiny, such as one formed as a noticeboard for parents of a local pre-school to share birthday and playdate news.  Groups can be open to all, or closed membership, or even totally secret (such as for planning a surprise celebration).

So, if you’ve gone about things the wrong way, what can you do?  If you have created a group or worse still a personal profile to represent your brand or product, you need to change that to a Page to improve your credibility with your customer base, and also to avoid Facebook enforcing their Terms of Service and arbitrarily closing you down.  Facebook can help with this, as can a Social Media consultant, and there are ways to migrate existing ‘friends’ into your new likes/fans.

If you need help reviewing your Facebook presence and overall Social Media strategy, get in touch with Casslar Consulting for support today.

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Keeping it Real in Social Media

Many people as individuals are attracted to the daring anonymity of the internet and social networking. We all have multiple facets to our individual character and personality, and the online world allows us to be more selective in how we present them – our personal Facebook profile might read very differently to our corporate blog or LinkedIn page, for example. Many people have learned the hard way that nothing is wholly siloed online, and anyone determined to find out everything about you will track down the information somehow – but at least as an individual you (usually) have a degree of choice over how you present yourself online, whether you use it wisely or not.

Brands face similar problems online, on a different scale. Failing to manage a social media presence consistently and effectively can lead to a fragmented appearance, which whilst it rarely underlies a genuinely deceptive strategy, can appear to lack authenticity. Social media offers brands large and small opportunities like never before to have a genuine ‘voice’ online, being responsive and engaging – and increasingly this is what is expected, by a generation of digital native consumers accustomed to nothing less.

It’s not about appearance – although that is important too, and a consistent corporate image needs to be deployed effectively across all platforms. It’s more about tone. Digitally-savvy followers see instantly through a clumsily-outsourced or over-delegated response team, and expect to get straight to the heart of their concern. Whether that concern is about individual customer service, or global policy, if their approach is fobbed off by someone who doesn’t understand or can’t respond effectively (or worse still fails to respond at all…), they will disengage fast.

It’s not rocket science, to coin a cliché – just about being responsive, engaging and authentic. If you outsource your social media, develop a close relationship with a consultant who truly gets your brand, to the point that they can seamlessly deliver this for you, and represent you in a genuine and effective way.

Results you can trust

Two years ago your analytics indicated search as your primary source of traffic.  Those tags and key-words were all important… leading to an unfortunate tendency to stuff them in regardless of relevance and quality, the ranking was the end in mind.  But that was two years ago… think about whether your own patterns of information-sourcing have changed in that time, what do you do when you need to find out something?

If it’s universally-agreed factual information I want – contact details or statistics, say – then yes, still Google every time.  But if it’s opinion or a local take on things, then I know I am increasingly likely to turn to my social networks instead, for advice with my needs in mind and a recommendation I can trust.

For many things, the market is either two fragmented, or too manipulated, to rely on top ranking search results.  Example – I want to buy something like a compact camera: Do I plough through 300 cnet reviews, skim a dozen pages of affiliate sales sites thinly disguised as customer recommendations… or do I ask my Facebook friends, who include several keen amateur photographers, as well as people who know me well enough to know exactly how I’ll use it and why I want it? Despite the Farmer algorithm update, many ‘how to’ results on Google are still crowded with content farm rubbish, clearly hacked out in minutes by a desperate intern… minus one to that.  If I really want to know how to do something, whether that’s to bake a cake or book a climbing tour, I’ll either ask someone I know, or turn to a specialist hub for credible information.  And if that information helps me, or is entertaining and thought-provoking in some way, then perhaps I’ll share it with my networks.

This curation of information is changing the game. So we have to change how we present and disseminate information in the digital world… We all know how important it is to write for humans first, search bots second… but the balance continues to shift, and now more than ever before, your online content has to be meaningful and engaging to real people.