Nov 04, 2010

Humanizing the Brand: Tips for Engaging Facebook Fans

Engaging Facebook fans and building visibility within this burgeoning social network was the focus of a recent PR Newswire educational webinar featuring Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist at Intel. The presentation was loaded with tactical advice, and framed by two important ideas:

Facebook is (in and of itself) a unique attention market.

Facebook is the place where people are going to hang out, interact – and seek information.  In fact, earlier this year, Facebooks’ traffic exceeded Google’s. The opportunity for marketers is clear – Facebook is embedded in the daily habits of hundreds of millions of people.  It’s created a new attention market that has its own set of rules.

Facebook’s ROI is in humanizing the brand, not in generating direct sales.

While it’s easy to get caught up in Facebook’s very attractive demographic numbers (more than 40% of households using Facebook have incomes in excess of $70,000) a central fact – and the key to success on Facebook – is recognizing that the value it offers is connection and interaction with people.

The key to the Facebook newsfeed: interaction

The rules of engagement on Facebook start and finish with individual interactions, and nowhere is that more evident than in how the news feed works. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm dictates what content makes it into the news feed – where it can be seen by your fans’ friends. Emphasis is placed on the quality of the action (e.g. a comment is more valuable than a ‘like,’) and the timeliness of the action, as well as the affinity between the interacting parties.   Simply put, items that generate little or no interaction won’t make it into the news feed, and won’t be seen much beyond the poster’s wall.

Walter emphasized the importance of generating enough interaction to trigger inclusion in fan newsfeeds – because when that happens, your fans’ friends will also be exposed to your message.  Case in point:  recent research by BrandGlue found that more than 99% of comments on their clients’ status updates came from the news feed – not their wall posts.

Rules of effective engagement on Facebook:

  • Do not automate content.  A the least, it’s less personal.  At the worst, it’s boring, irrelevant and can turn fans off.  Walter also noted that the Facebook algorithms may penalize automated content.
  • Video is your secret weapon.  It’s more engaging for your audience, and appears to be weighted highly by the Facebook algorithms.
  • Videos that are uploaded to Facebook directly (versus being embedded in other players) carry a bonus – when they’re shared by fans, a “like” button for your page appears in the Facebook player.
  • Target status updates. The default is everyone, but you can focus status updates on specific geographies.  The “everyone” button that appears at the bottom of the status update box is actually a pull-down menu.
  • Encourage engagement. Use polls to get fan opinions, and focus-group quality feedback. Put fans in charge by having them judge contests or vote for changes.
  • Exclusivity. Offer your Facebook fans something they can’t get elsewhere – such as access to live chats, exclusive videos, or a simple coupon.  Reward them for being your fans.

Fan engagement can also be augmented by timing and frequency of posts, moderation practices and a variety of other tactics  packed into the hour-long webinar.  If you missed the live event (or need to view it again to digest everything, I know I did!) you can access the archive here:

http://promotions.prnewswire.com/Facebook-for-Business-How-to-Effectively-Increase-Audience-Engagement-with-Your-Fan-Base.html

To keep up with what Ekaterina is thinking, follow her on Twitter: @ekaterina and read her blog – Building Social Bridges.

PR Newswire webinars are designed to help you engage opportunity everywhere.  Want to get some ideas and start thinking out of the box? Read our new paper, “Content is Marketing” and rethink content you produce every day – and unearth some new opportunities for your organization.

Authored by Sarah Skerik, vice president, social media, for PR Newswire.  Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahskerik

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