How to work your Facebook following
By Dave Williams
Whether you have 500 or 50,000 Facebook fans, it don’t mean a thing if you’re not in the swing of user engagement. If your intention is to market to your fan base with a view to driving sales, there are some fundamentals to bear in mind.
Firstly, always remember that Facebook is a social network. Imagine the world’s biggest cocktail party, with hosts and hundreds of guests, all getting to know one another. You might have ulterior motives for attending but it would be a serious faux pas to corner someone with the hard sell. Exchanging views and business cards would be much more appropriate. Having someone Like or engage with a brand on Facebook is the digital equivalent of getting that card.
Secondly Facebook is an interchangeable mobile channel, not an extension of your static website. Working it correctly demands an investment of time and budget, one-to-one dialogue, incentivised offers and promotions. Talk to your audience, ask questions, post updates. Reply to their messages (friendly or otherwise) quickly and honestly, be prepared to accept feedback and demonstrate that you’re listening.
Brands should avoid at all costs driving users off the Facebook domain. Once they leave, the ability to exploit their social graph and target friends by proxy is lost and conversion rates drop dramatically; instead use Facebook Ads to drive traffic to a custom tab on your page, to act as a soft landing before leading them on to your brand site for the complete e-commerce experience.
Among those getting it right are Innocent Drinks and the fashionista’s favourite Topshop. Granted, both have the advantage of selling products we generally like and enjoy – healthy fruit-based drinks and clothes – but while their brand positioning is quite different, the way they engage their Facebook following is the same. Vibrant, visually-led Walls with lots of areas to explore, easy up-to-the-minute customer exchanges, games, competitions and offers intertwined with product news, TV and display ads and kooky asides. Reinforcing the point that numbers aren’t everything, whereas Topshop has 8.5 times more followers than Innocent (at the time of writing), over twice as many Innocent fans are actually talking about the drinks company to each other and their friends (4.8% compared to Topshop’s 2%).
A strong engagement strategy should always be centered around the social graph. Facebook is one of the greatest tools with which to grab and inspire an audience, and maximise consumer influence. There's no better way to do this than through the diverse amount of valuable information openly shared by Facebook users, which ranges from age and gender to hobbies and interests, geographic locations and more – all of which can be leveraged by brands to serve up targeted ads.
For me consumer-initiated ads are the future of advertising, not only on Facebook, but across other social networks too. Facebook's Sponsored Stories - initiated by the consumer, not the brand - is one of the cleverest ways to tap into this data mine. Here the user becomes a brand champion, with micro interactions such as likes, posts, check-ins or apps used relayed to friends and turned into subtle, but promoted content.
To illustrate, a coffee shop might pay to have a percentage of all brand check-ins featured in a Sponsored Story. Brand generated content is then replaced with a user’s friend’s actions. When users see their friends Like that coffee shop, they are more likely to notice, remember and interact with the story. It’s one of the easiest and most authentic routes to going viral.
Starbucks is the obvious brand example here that has utilised Sponsored Stories well, steadily building up its fan base before using the social graph to pick up on discussions around coffee breaks and its various food and drink products, and serving up ads with a social context. Starbucks is mostly using it to highlight friends' check-ins at local Starbucks stores. The product itself is broken into four possible buys for advertisers - page Likes and check-ins, and actions Facebook is calling ‘application play’ and Page Posts.
With over 800 million users worldwide and a constant flow of consumer opinions, another utilisation of your Facebook audience is as focus group – perhaps the most immediate, accurate and cost effective in existence. Carefully crafted questions can return comments and feedback that helps us better understand brand composition and levels of audience responsiveness. Remarketing on the back of this and running a sharp eye over the resulting performance data will reveal which interest groups performed best across specific audience segments.
Beyond segmentation analysis it’s possible to uncover telling brand insights that a traditional focus group might never have found, along with surprising correlations between consumers and brands. Such insights have led brands to modify creative and media placements across digital and traditional channels with impressive results.
Measuring your social media success can be done in a variety of ways – obsessing over the number of click-throughs per ad is not one of them. By all means scrutinise engagement rates, conversion rates and unique click through rates, but remember that metrics around audience reach, frequency, earned and shared media value will offer far more valuable insights into how well your Facebook campaigns are doing.
Dave Williams is CEO at BLiNQ Media.