Guest post by Jim Belosic, CEO of ShortStack in response to my earlier Fast Company post
I recently read Ekaterina’s interesting Fast Company piece about the number of people who hide or block Facebook content even if they “Like” the brand or business. As the CEO of a software company that makes apps for Facebook Pages, websites and mobile web browsing, one of my missions is to help businesses create content — including promotions and surveys — that increases the number of fans who engage and interact with a brand on Facebook.
Ekaterina noted that many marketers focus on maximizing fan count instead of increasing fan engagement — a strategy that is a huge mistake. She also made the point that fans will remain loyal as long as a brand’s content is relevant and engaging, and as long as they don’t see too much of it.
Finally, she offered five things that brands should do if they want to increase loyal fans: Focus on quality rather than quantity; stay on topic; meet posting frequency expectations; make the content consistent with your brand’s voice and, finally, experiment.
I agree with all of her points and I have some suggestions for how brands can do each of these five things (plus a bonus tip).
1. Focus on fan quality rather than quantity by keeping your content relevant.
Lots of businesses, when they first create a Facebook Page, focus on getting lots of Likes. Some of them even resort to buying them or offering extravagant prizes for contests. This is a bad idea for a bunch of reasons. I’m sure everyone has seen the “Like our Page and enter to win an iPad” post. They are still ubiquitous, long after the novelty of the iPad has worn off. The point is that people who like your page just for the chance to win an expensive gadget are probably not the right Likes, unless your business is in the tech sector. Why? Because if you’re a restaurant or a shoe store or a housecleaning service, when your contest is over, the people who didn’t win the iPad but who are still receiving your updates will likely unlike or hide your page because they were never that interested in your business to begin with. And Facebook considers all this negative feedback. Negative feedback ultimately decreases your EdgeRank across the board, meaning that fewer people see your content. On the other hand, if you keep your content — and any prizes you offer — relevant to your business, you will get positive feedback from your fans and improve your EdgeRank. So if you’re a restaurant, post recipes and cooking tips and host “dinner for two” contests. If you’re a housecleaning service, offer cleaning and organization tips, and limit prizes to cleaning products and services. The prizes might not seem as exciting as an iPad, but in the end they are more valuable to your customers and you.
2. Stay on topic most of the time. This suggestion piggybacks on the previous one. While I agree that most of the content you post (and prizes you offer via contests and promotions) should be about your business’s products and services, you need to mix things up or people will get bored. Every once in a while give your fans something fun and irreverent. They might like seeing photos of your CEO doing something totally unrelated to business — something sporty or travel-related — or they might be interested in reading Q&As with your employees to learn more about the faces behind your brand. They might like learning about trends in your sector and things that similar businesses are doing. At ShortStack, we try to follow the 70-20-10 rule: 70 percent of our Facebook posts include content that is valuable to our users, including best practices, tips and industry news. Twenty percent of our content is helpful information that has already been shared by others, such as content from other business Pages or insightful information from Twitter or Pinterest. The final ten percent is promotional, meaning content that is about our new products, special deals, events, etc.
3. Post just often enough to give your readers what they want. How often to post and whether or not to repurpose “old” content on Facebook is something lots of bloggers and people in the social media space struggle with. It seems like a waste to create something that is only used once and yet… the last thing you want to do is bore your readers with redundant content. So how do you find the sweet spot? One social media consultant we work with, Jon Loomer, recently wrote about an experiment he ran that looked at how his readers engaged with his Facebook content. During his experiment, he posted a new piece of content every day between 7 and 8 a.m. MT. Then later in the day, either at 7 p.m. or 2 a.m., he would republish previous content. He found that he had equal engagement whether he posted one or many times a day. The reason? Part of it has to do with time zones — he has readers all over the world — but he concluded that he is giving his readers exactly what they signed on for. Mashable posts dozens of times a day because the editors have determined this is what their readers want. There is not one recipe that will work for everyone. It takes some experimentation to figure out what will work best for you, but such experimentation is time well spent.
4. Have a consistent voice so your users know what to expect. Coming up with a voice for your brand’s social media presence, whether you’re the sole proprietor or a company with hundreds or thousands of employees can be daunting. It is especially challenging if you already have a presence but you want to fine-tune your voice and aren’t sure how to go about it. There was a great piece on Forbes.com a few weeks ago about how to find your brand’s voice, but the gist of it is: ask a lot of questions.
Ask yourself and/or your stakeholders questions such as:
- “What does your company do?”
- “Why did you start the company?”
- “Why do people visit your website?”
- “Who are your customers?”
- “What do you love about your company?”
From there, determine the emotional responses you hear in the answers. This will help you see patterns that should lead to a better understanding of the company and your customers. From there you can also determine if your clients/customers want casual, educational information, how-to guides, news, or humor-tinged posts. If you’re an enterprise service company that publishes lots of white papers, your users might not want to see an Instagram shot of your CEO munching on an enormous donut (like the photo that recently appeared on my company’s Facebook page that our users loved) or of your crew at Friday happy hour. Another tip: no matter who your audience is, refrain from posting polarizing content. I was amazed by some of the Facebook Status Updates and tweets I saw from big companies during the recent presidential election. There is nothing to be gained from posting opinion-laden content that has nothing to do with your brand.
5. Experiment early and often. There is no way you can know what types of social media efforts will work best for you if you don’t have anything to compare them to. At ShortStack we do A/B testing for everything from new features to our Facebook ads to the colors of t-shirts we give to our fans. We’ve discovered that you never really know what your users want until you ask them. You might think they prefer red t-shirts, for example. But if you offer them a choice between red, blue and green you might discover that blue is more popular.
6. Bonus: Ask the people what they want and listen to what they’re saying. People ask me all the time about social media ROI. It’s a complicated issue because it can be difficult to calculate its value. But social offers insights that traditional types of marketing and advertising don’t. If a company is broadcasting its message via television, radio or in the yellow pages, it doesn’t give the company a chance to hear what its customers are saying about them, or what customers might want in the way of new products or services. This is a long-winded way of explaining the true value of social media: it’s about opening up channels of communication with customers, being transparent, establishing good will, and branding. Of course there is a caveat. Sometimes if you give the people what they want, you end up with the Pontiac Aztec- the car that everyone in the focus groups the manufacturer set up said they wanted but no one actually bought. One way to avoid an Aztec is covered in point #5: Experiment!
Jim Belosic is the CEO of ShortStack, a self-servicecustom app design tool used to create apps for Facebook Pages, websites and mobile web browsing. ShortStack provides the tools for small businesses, graphic designers, agencies and corporations to create apps with contests and forms, fan gates, product lines and more.