Mike Hanbery November 1, 2012

How to Start Conversations and Get Comments on Your Business Facebook Page

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How can I generate more comments and better conversations on my business Facebook Page?

When business executives and owners target engagement on social media, we frequently place the medium in a silo, letting it thrive or wither largely or entirely on its own.  While best practices within the medium help, the real answer to success in social media, as in all marketing, is to build a stronger brand.

What to Post on Facebook

One of Webolutions’® clients provides lawn care, tree care and outdoor Christmas lighting design and installation. Their most successful Facebook posts in terms of engagement to date are:

1.    A simple question: “What’s your Halloween costume this year?” posted on October 24.
2.    A recipe, posted in mid-October, for tomato bacon soup.

Why is a company in the green industry creating and posting content about soup? Because, “Please buy our lawn service,” is not shareable content and because the defined brand experience is a desire to make people’s lives more enjoyable. A simple recipe for tomato bacon soup is made more popular, undoubtedly, by bacon. People dig bacon. (Type “bacon” into the Facebook search and you’ll find an Interest page with almost 5 million likes and more than 10,000 people talking about it.)

Facebook posts that use 80 characters, including spaces, or fewer get 23 percent more interaction. The interaction rate for posts with images is 39 percent over average. The interaction rate for text-only posts is 12 percent over average which means, surprisingly, video posts are below average for interaction and, not surprisingly, so are link-only posts.

Asking a question is a popular tactic. When doing this, stick to the (self-imposed) 80-character limit and ask it at the end, not the beginning, of the post. This doubles comment rate.
Calls to action still work. Clear requests or direction are 48 percent more effective in generating interaction than posts that don’t invite readers to like, share or comment. Multiple choice and yes/no questions help.

When to Post
According to a study by Buddy Media, posts on Wednesday generate fewer interactions than other weekdays and our “non-busy hours,” specifically 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM, get 14 percent more interaction than those published during “busy hours,” 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

A frequent question is, “How often should I post?” and there are definitely concerns about too much quantity on Facebook and LinkedIn—much less so on Twitter. While a rule of thumb to start is one post a day, four days per week on Facebook, if the content you provide entertains and informs, the right audience will gladly consume it all and ask for more. The question then becomes, “How can I generate better content?” But if you’re looking for a good day to not post, it’s Wednesday.

Consider Social Media Advertising
A targeted, CPM (impression-based) Sponsored Stories campaign on Facebook exponentially increases exposure. This form of advertisement can be a great way to achieve a better return on the content they have created and published with a minimal additional investment.

Make Decisions about Tools
Social media publishing tools like HootSuite generate lower levels of engagement because they are penalized by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm , and it’s a significant penalty. Posts from these dashboards and engagement platforms lose 40 percent of their organic available market. Facebook tries to reward posts created specifically for and on its network in real time.

The question becomes one of efficiency. One of my favorite career achievements is the consulting I did with a weekly newspaper, establishing their presence online and including a social media strategy that included a publishing calendar for Facebook and other Internet social networks. We created a system by which a week’s worth of content could be scheduled in an hour or two. The certainty that content will be posted at an optimal time, during a time when the company is able to provide timely participation in online conversation, was an acceptable trade-off.

But all of these tactics are of minimal impact if a company’s brand is not defined and referable outside of Facebook.

Build Your Brand in the Real World
The real key to generating online conversations is the same as generating offline conversations. The most successful Facebook pages include:

Facebook Page Likes Talking About This
The Simpsons 55,692,323 906,301
Coca-Cola 53,813,878 906,301
Michael Jackson 52,411,522 890,230
Cristiano Ronaldo 50,525,522 14,160,925
Disney 38,730,410 1,439,562
MTV 38,250,410 5,781,638
Converse 33,406,148 93,383
Starbucks Coffee 32,583,034 3,007,168
The Beatles 29,521,442 996,313

Source: fanpagelist.com

Of note, in each case above is that each of these brands built conversation about itself prior to Facebook’s existence, before the Internet became interactive—even before the Internet (bacon preceded electricity). Each of these brands was defined and built offline. That brand, that engagement, those conversations now continue on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

While smaller businesses won’t generate the level of reach or engagement of these mega-brands, TV shows, celebrities and sports figures (Ronaldo), the recipe for success holds true:

Define your key personas. For whom is your product or service the most relevant? What has changed in their lives to make them currently consider you? What would make them care about what you have to say?
Define your experience. Why do you exist? We’re talking about what gets you up in the morning, not how you turn a profit. What unique value do you offer? Hint: It is not customer service, price or quality because even if that’s true, everyone else says it too.
What makes you referable? What about your brand is novel, useful, dependable and economic (adds good value)? The more aware you are of these things, the stronger your brand will be and the more people your social media presence will attract.

The most effective way to create engagement in social media is to build a strong brand. Engagement on and referrals through social media is just one of the many benefits strong brands enjoy. While best practices should be incorporated into any social media marketing strategy plan, the real objective should be to make your brand more referable. The nature and amount of conversation online is reflective of the overall conversation in the world. It’s the same for your brand.

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