For too long, organizations were told that Facebook was only for "building awareness."
Today, we all recognize how silly it is to think that awareness alone could somehow have a real impact on our mission. Impact is the result of action, whether it’s supporters lending their voice or time to a campaign or making a donation to support your cause.
“Engagement” is the term used to describe action online these days and the evolution from “awareness" to “engagement" is a very positive one indeed. But engagement is a two way street. Engaging people requires action on your part, too.
So, how do you manage your Facebook page with an eye toward engagement? How do you track progress and know if you’re getting the most out of Facebook?
Here are three big bucket goals that you should be working to improve upon no matter if your page has 3,000 fans or 3 million fans:
3. Capturing Data
To succeed on Facebook (and get real value from it), you need to reach a worthwhile number of the right people, engage with them in meaningful ways that deepen your relationship, and capture data so that you can continue to cultivate your relationship over time.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of these three goals.
Reach is simply a measure of how many people your message is getting to.
Let’s look at an example:
As I was writing this, I popped in and took a look at two excellent Facebook pages to see what we can learn. I chose OurTime.org and DoSomething.org because they both do a wonderful job with their pages. They also happen to be relatively large pages, but the size of the pages isn’t what really matters in our example here, relative performance does.
At the time of writing, OurTime had 134,505 fans and DoSomething had 457,471 fans. If we look at fan count alone, DoSomething is putting OurTime to shame.
But not so fast!
You see, OurTime has over 600,000 people talking about them. This means they are reaching the equivalent of 4.5 times the number of Fans their page actually has.
That is not just fantastic reach, that’s insane! Nice job team OurTime!
Now let’s look back at DoSomething with their 425,000 fans.
Hmmm… it turns out that they currently have 77,000 people talking about them. This means that the equivalent of 16% of their fan base is talking about them on Facebook.
Now, don’t be fooled, that is a VERY solid reach. But it certainly doesn’t come close to what OurTime is doing.
Now I feel sort of bad that I chose OurTime to compare them to, because OurTime is out-performing many, if not most nonprofit pages today. Sorry team DoSomething.
Which organization has greater reach?
Clearly, it’s OurTime.
And why are they reaching so many more people?
The answer is painfully obvious: OurTime is creating much more highly engaging, viral content than DoSomething.
Which leads us to our next key objective.
So, how did OurTime earn a reach that’s 4.5 times the size of their Fan base?
They worked hard to post content that got people liking, commenting and sharing.
Engagement and Reach are tightly intertwined, but it’s important to measure both separately so you can know where and on what to focus your time and energy.
The truth is, no matter how large your page is, if people are not engaging with your content, your page will fail to provide a meaningful return on investment.
Furthermore, if people are not engaging with actions that further your mission, how can they possibly impact your work?
Facebook is constantly making changes to the algorithm that determines which of your posts show up on which of your Fan’s walls and on which of their friend’s walls.
This algorithm is called edgerank. Edgerank has always been a source of frustration, but the most recent changes have made Facebook even less forgiving to pages that fail to post content that get people clicking.
However, as we can see from OurTime’s page performance, edgerank is not hurting everyone. In fact, edgerank can be your friend if you focus on engaging people on Facebook.
To put it bluntly, posting content that engages people on Facebook is the only way you can hope to succeed without spending a whole lot of money on Facebook ads.
And even if you do spend that money, without having engaging content, your ad dollars aren’t going to bring the return you hope for.
Let’s look at how you can measure engagement. This one is a little harder than reach.
Facebook gives us some good metrics that can help us measure the overall engagement of a page, but it can be hard to really see and learn how we’re doing on a post-by-post basis.
What we really want to measure is how many people on average are engaging with each of your posts and identify those that fell flat.
Understanding average engagement per post, and being able to quickly find your top performing content are the key steps to learn what’s working. Then you can make adjustments to the types of posts you share on your page. One quick and free way to do this is with our free Page Analyzer: http://engagement.actionsprout.com/inspire.
Let’s do a quick analysis on the DoSomething and OurTime‘s Facebook pages to see how well they’re each doing with engagement.
By running the tool to generate the report, we can see that over the past hundred or so Facebook posts, OurTime, on average, has engaged 9,134 people per post. Keeping in mind that their current fan count is 134,505, we give them an engagement score today of 679. This is nothing short of extraordinary.
DoSomething also has excellent engagement (any score over 50 is good). With 457,471 fans, they have engaged 7,100 people on average per post they have pushed out. But given their larger fan base, their engagement score is lower than OurTime at 159.
Okay, so posting content that gets people clicking “like”, “share” and commenting is required in order to succeed on Facebook. Does that mean you should just post softball images of kids and kittens?
Of course not.
As one of our customers explained it to me, successful pages on Facebook do a good job of balancing the cheese and the broccoli. That is, you don't want a page that has nothing but cheap memes, however a page with nothing but on-message all-business posts will fail over time. The right mix is one that allows your page to continually grow while, at the same time, maximizing the quantity and quality of engagement you can drive from your Facebook page.
There are other important factors to be thinking about as you work to engage people on Facebook. These include:
We’ll cover these two topics in a future post, because now we need to explore your third key objective that will bring you success as you manage your Facebook page and ensure that your efforts directly impact your mission.
3. Capturing Data
Different organizations value different kinds of data. Depending on what information you keep in your donor or supporter database, and on how you use email and advertising to support your work, you will be looking to capture different information from supporters on Facebook.
For most organizations, the most important pieces of data they can capture are names and email addresses so they can connect with their supporters directly via email.
I have written about the power of combining Facebook and email before as well as the power of cross channel promotion. Facebook can be a powerful tool for building your email list, and when coupled with your email strategy, can really help you take your donor cultivation to a new level.
Capturing data is, of course, tightly connected to your engagement efforts on Facebook. What you really need to be doing is capturing information about every person that completes an action on your behalf so you can find your biggest supporters, and then reach them directly when you need them.
I said above that Facebook’s edgerank is not the insurmountable problem some people make it out to be when it comes to reach. But edgerank does greatly impact your ability to reach your supporters on Facebook when you actually want to reach them to collect data.
I don’t know if or how DoSomething is capturing data from Facebook, but OurTime uses ActionSprout. They have given me permission to share some insights gleaned from what they are doing and the impact their actions are having.
Each week OurTime publishes a few posts that include a call to action asking people to do something beyond “like”, “share” or “comment”. They use ActionSprout to do this, enabling them to keep action takers on Facebook so that Facebook does not punish them for driving traffic off site.
OurTime has been using ActionSprout for a few of months now. They’ve run 9 different actions, each of which has been included as calls to action on several posts.
In those months, OurTime has captured information, including the names and what action they cared about, on 149,000 people. Of those 149,000 people, 16,000 have opted in for email communications.
This means that in just a couple of months, OurTime has acquired email addresses for the equivalence of 10% of their Facebook fans.
Interestingly, of the 16,000 people that have opted in for email communication with OurTime on Facebook, only about 30% of those were current fans of their Facebook page. The remaining 70% are new fans won through using engaging actions.
So there you have it. The formula for getting the most out of your Facebook efforts, include three complimentary, intertwined objectives: Reach, Engage and Collect data.