5 Steps to Improve Facebook Fan Engagement

As more and more brands embrace Facebook, social media specialists have begun to analyze and measure ways to improve communication and engagement. Many of us feel like we’ve been able to mysteriously keep the plane in the air even though we don’t really understand the variables and the dynamics of interactions that keep us aloft. Dan Zarella has helped by giving us clues about language, cadence and voice.

The biggest hurdle in optimizing customer conversation, interaction and satisfaction is overcoming the natural corporate tendency to see Facebook as just a new advertising or marketing communications platform. The beauty of this growing social network is the fact that it gives brands license and real estate to do things that aren’t advertising.

Fighting this fight is critical because it directly affects the tone, manner, word choice, attitude and persona that is reflected on a brand page. If a brand insists on a top-down, promotional calendar, sell-em-everything approach, all is lost from the get-go.

Facebook is a cocktail party and a conversation. It’s not a print ad, brochure, newsletter, package insert, digital point-of-sale sign or a chain letter. People visit Facebook frequently to keep up with their friends not to follow the latest missives from the home office.

As you craft a Facebook tactical plan, consider these five best practices.

Develop a conversational tone. Craft language and topics that mirror your customer base and then talk to people like you’d talk to a friend. Keep a respectful distance. Don’t overstep. Be as real, frank and human as you can. Try to convince the brand, that they should publicly reveal the people behind the Facebook page since everybody wants to know who’s behind the corporate curtain.

Be a fan not a shill.  The page should feel like its being run by the brand’s biggest fan not by the marketing or corporate communications department. Develop a posting cadence that feels right for the brand. Most research suggests that brands should post every other day, unless there’s something immediately relevant in the marketplace or in the national news. Keep it light and relaxed. Don’t feel obliged to religiously synch posts to product introductions, sales or in-store events. You are not the Propaganda Commissar blasting out over a loud speaker. You are a friend talking to your friends.

Be contemporary. Pop culture, news, sports and events affect everyone. Feel free to selectively comment about them. Don’t slavishly link these events to the brand; especially if it’s an obvious stretch. It’s okay to have an opinion about Lady Gaga, the Oscars, the NCAA Final Four or St. Patrick’s Day even if you are a brand.

Prompt response and respond. Facebook is about talking to each other. Photos and open-ended questions achieve this faster and better than anything else. Statements prompt comments but far fewer comments than questions and hardly any pass-alongs. Everyone is a critic and everyone has an opinion. Solicit them clearly. There’s no shame in asking friends what they think or asking them to share content or like something.

Some social media marketers have begun to measure and benchmark which kind of stimuli provoke the most response and when. There’s some evidence that early in the day and after work in the early evening people touch base with Facebook more often. Test these time periods and see if you get more interaction or less.

Respond to your friends and fans. Thank them for good stuff and respond like a real person to the bad stuff. Arrange to have a way to direct unhappy friends to a customer service channel. Take down anything that’s obscene, racist, hurtful or otherwise out of bounds, but don’t take down the pedestrian negative comments. Instead empathize, respond, direct to customer service or apologize.

Other friends seeing these interactions will see the brand as more genuine and more in synch with their sensibilities and that’s exactly what you’re going for.  The whole point of putting a brand on Facebook is to integrate the brand with its customers and demonstrate that you live on the same planet with the same general sensibilities. Brands want to convince friends and customers that you get them, you care about them, you want to hear from them and that the brand is worthy of an on-going relationship.


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