Facebook is certainly the most confusing of the Social Media websites for businesses. Setting up pages is implied as easy, but can actually be quite tricky to understand. Whilst browsing I found this interesting article on how to get the best use out of the mega-website and help your business benefit.
Facebook is about sharing. We share updates that reveal little pieces of our lives, and we check out our friends’ updates to share in little pieces of their lives. And when there are pictures, links, comments, companies and various other things that we like, we share that as well. Companies and brands have a wonderful opportunity to participate in this give and take, and engage in real conversations with their customers and fans on Facebook. As PR professionals, how can we help our clients connect with their communities through Facebook? Here are some tips.
Get Started (It’s Super Easy)
Setting up a basic Facebook Page for your client is really simple. Just go to this page and follow the prompts. Note that you’ll need a personal user account to set it up, but most of us already have one. Once your client’s page hits 25 likes, you can secure a vanity URL (facebook.com/yourbusinesshere) for it. And that’s pretty much it. The rest of the Facebook game is about content and community building.
Set the Stage
You can put all sorts of stuff on a Facebook Page — but know that there’s a fine-ish line between a nicely organized variety of content that will engage your audience on an ongoing basis and a random mishmash of bits and pieces that doesn’t do much of anything. Jamie Tedford, “chief evangelism officer” at social marketing company Brand Networks, recommends starting with a content calendar. Include information such as what percentage of posts will be brand messages, community messages and promotional messages, how many promotions will run and how they will be incorporated, what kinds of things you’re going to link to, who’s posting and how often, he says.
That brings us to the obvious next question — how often should you post? Unfortunately, there’s no magic number, though there have been studies about the best times for Facebook engagement. Advise your client to start with a post once every two days, use Facebook’s built-in Insights app to track likes and audience engagement, and then adjust the schedule as needed.
Decide What To Say
Next, focus your client’s attention on the content itself. My colleague Jason Throckmorton, a partner at the San Francisco-based PR firm where I work, offers a clear-cut rule of thumb: “Each and every post you publish should give your fans a reason to engage.” Facebook is about sharing our own experiences and responding to those of others, and so the Facebook community has a built-in thirst for engagement.
Bonobos, an online men’s clothing retailer, posts to its Facebook Page two or three times daily, and keeps things organized with a set theme for each day of the week. There’s “Monday Man-Style,” for style-related posts and “Tuesday Threads” for product posts. Wednesdays are an open forum, and fans can ask Bonobos customer service “ninjas” anything they want. And they do –- from “When are the seersucker jackets coming out?” (Answer: “In the next week or so.”) to “When is the cut-off age for dressing ‘hip’?” (Answer: “Whenever you stop being able to pull it off…”)
Richard Mumby, VP of marketing at Bonobos, explains that a company’s Facebook Page shouldn’t be about selling. When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to skew early posts to a more salesy, product-centric approach, but this can be counterproductive, he says. Your newly minted fans won’t be interested in a hard sell, so don’t start that way.
Get People to “Like” You
It‘s no fun to create a client Facebook Page only to find that only “4 people like this,” no matter how many how enthusiastically (or repeatedly) you hit refresh. To build your base, start with your client’s most loyal fans — the ones that already exist. Place a call to action in email newsletters and make sure the Facebook Page is visible on your client’s website, blog, Twitter and on all physical promotional materials, especially those given out at offline events. If appropriate, place hyperlinks in press releases and other PR-related materials. Note that Facebook has specific rules about how it can be referenced and linked. For example, you cannot connect your client’s company name and Facebook in the same hyperlink. Be sure to read through Facebook’s brand permissions guidelines.
This past November, St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY ran a campaign with a goal of reaching 2,011 fans by New Year’s Eve. The day they launched, they had 1756 fans. In order to make it to “2,011 by 2011,” they kicked up both the frequency and quality of their posts, incorporating more dynamic content, such as photos and video. During a big offline annual event in December, they also handed out Facebook “business cards,” directing attendees to Facebook for post-event photos and posts. They achieved their goal a few days ahead of time — by December 26.
Let Them Win
There are plenty of benefits to running Facebook contests. Most importantly, they give people a fun way to interact with your client’s brand and a reason to come back to visit and see who gets the prize. But if you’re going to run a contest, Jim Belosic, cofounder and CEO of ShortStack, a self-service Facebook tab building platform, says that Facebook has some strict rules that your client must follow:
- Companies are not allowed to run contests in which people enter by commenting or posting to the wall.
- Companies are not allowed to use the newsfeed to announce contest winners.
- Companies are not allowed to notify winners through Facebook, such as via Facebook messages.
- Companies must run their contests through a third party app.
ShortStack allows users to build custom Facebook tabs without any developer experience. You can easily create branded pages using a template, and then there are a host of customization options from there. Using ShortStack’s contest widget, which launched earlier this week, you can quickly set up a contest and not worry about figuring out how to follow Facebook’s rules, as the ShortStack platform takes cares of meeting those requirements for you. ShortStack’s interface allows you to design a contest submission form, customize the look and feel with images, incorporate contest rules and other information, set launch dates and duration and manage several other contest functions. Within the next few weeks, ShortStack will also roll out photo-upload submission capabilities.
Note that beyond contests, ShortStack also lets you add a range of other tabs to your client’s Facebook page including contact pages, YouTube channels, Flickr feeds and polls. Service plans start at $9 per month.
Make Your Fans Feel Special
This May 16, Freedom Riders, a documentary that tells the story of the men and women who participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961, will premiere on PBS’s acclaimed history program, American Experience. In advance of the broadcast premiere, PBS is offering a special preview to its Facebook fans: A 35-minute excerpt of the film debuted exclusively on the PBS Facebook Page this past Monday, and will be available for viewing until the film airs on the 16th. American Experience has offered exclusive content to its Facebook community in the past as well. One week before the broadcast premiere of documentary Earth Days in April 2010, the film was live-streamed in full exclusively on the American Experience Facebook Page. During the screening, viewers were able to live chat with each other and with the director.
Once you have loyal Facebook fans clicking around, commenting and participating on your client’s page, reward them with something special that they won’t find anywhere else. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a movie screening, it can be as simple as a coupon code. And the allure of exclusivity will attract new fans, too, so make sure you let people know what’s going on through other channels.
Parting Advice For Your Facebook Page
- Ask tons of questions.
- Incorporate upcoming events, product launches and other happenings into your client’s content calendar.
- Use third-party apps to build out tabs, but remember that the newsfeed is the vehicle for your client’s call to action. Let fans know about new contests, events and other tabbed content by posting to the wall.
- Even if multiple parties and admins are posting, assign one person as the primary lead to make sure that the general calendar is being followed and the content of the main posts is in harmony with the voice of the brand.
- Take a read through of the Facebook promotions guidelines, Pages guidelines and brand permissions guidelines.
- Make sure that people have to “like” your client’s page before they get to enter a contest or get access to a promotion. ShortStack and other third-party apps offer this option.
- Give fans a bit of power. If appropriate, consider posting a picture of a new product and letting the community decide what to name it. Or if that’s too risky, try crowdsourcing something a bit safer, such as the flavor of the CEO’s birthday cake (and make sure you post pictures afterward).
- Let fans know that you’re listening. Make sure someone is there to monitor for comments that your client should respond to — and respond fast.