The Facebook marketing challenge has evolved from accumulating to engaging fans. The new success objective is to efficiently and effectively beat the Edgerank algorithm to get the maximum number of posts onto fans walls and trigger the multiplier effect that places brand content in the NewsFeeds of your fans’ friends.
On average only 3-7% of fans see any given status updated posted to a brand page. In general, there’s only a 2 percent chance that a given post will get any kind of viral pass-along. Brand pages with a million fans or more generally see 1.1% of fans clicking or sharing content.
Effectively using the Facebook platform is the new black. NewsFeed marketing is to Facebook what SEO is to Google.
Becoming an effective NewsFeed marketer begins by paying close attention to the content, composition and cadence of posts and then tracking the number of likes, comments, shares and original fan posts you provoke. A consensus is emerging around the definition of engagement – the gross number of interactions (comments, likes and shares) divided by the total number of brand fans. This formula is becoming a new KPI for social media success.
Start by understanding the general patterns among your fan base. Keep in mind that most fans come to the branded Facebook page just once; to like you or to sign-up. After that initial action, all the actions takes place on their Wall where fans grant attention and access to the people or the content they care about.
Some of the general observations about usage patterns are emerging in research from companies selling Facebook publishing and metrics tools like Vitrue, Buddy Media, Hubspot, PageLever and EdgeRank Checker. They offer fragmentary ideas for testing rather than a comprehensive view or a proven prescription for action.
Consider these six emerging clues:
Photographs generate the most engagement, 54% more than text alone and 22% more than video. Photos are favorably weighted in the Edgerank algorithm. They are the high engagement vehicles for Facebook users accessing the network using mobile devices.
Early Birds Rule. Posts before noon get 65% more likes, comments and re-posts than those after noon. For mobile users after 7p is prime time. Think about where your fans are and what they might be doing that will compete for attention with your posts. The rates of Facebook use at work grew 300% in 2011. Identify peak usage times for your brand to insure that you maximize the potential eyeballs reading each update.
Best day of the week varies. Friday is the biggest day for re-posts and mobile comments. Saturday draws the most shares. Wednesday is the big engagement day for QSR and CPG brands.
Shorter is Better. Posts with 240 characters or less with a photo prompt the most engagement. The longer the post; the smaller the engagement rate. Posts with links drive likes and re-posts at much higher rates. Brand pages with more than 1 million fans are seeing CTRs of 0.14 for links.
Punctuation reduces engagement. Avoid frequent use of question marks and exclamation points. Word choice affects readership and interaction, though the vocabulary for impact varies widely by business category and user demographics. Directive language (e.g. please like this or please re-tweet) works for 20-35% of users and will drive 4X engagement.
Cadence Counts. The average Facebook post has a shelf life of 3.2 hours. After 180 minutes, the likes, shares and comments die off. Yet more than 2-3 posts per day is overkill for most brands. Increasingly brands are looking at the type of posts and categorizing them to discern optimal sequences that draw the most engagement. Ideally brands will develop content sequences (e.g. link, photo, coupon, survey question) that delight fans and drive maximum interaction.
Focus on Fans. Look at behavior, sensibility and the intensity of your fan relationships. The average Facebook fan is a fan of just two brand pages, joins 12 groups, hits the Like button 9 times and posts 25 comments, usually during 55 minutes of Facebook face time daily.
Develop an editorial calendar and individual posts with this in mind. Zero-in on your core fans; those with highest propensity to engage with your brand. Similarly, during the 3.2-hour shelf life of each post, the more you directly respond to fan comments, the more you influence the Edgerank algorithm in your favor. You have to carefully plan your content and then stay engaged and work it as fans consume it.
The implications of these six patterns is that compelling, interesting, share-worthy content posted at the right time, with an image, in the right sequence will both delight your fans and effectively game Facebook’s Edgerank formula. There is scant evidence to suggest that fan feedback per post drives additional reach. The burden is on brands to craft competitive content and engaging experiences.