Pro Tip: The Dirty Little Secret to Facebook Success

colindelany
Colin Delany Founder and chief editor, Epolitics.com

Posted on September 27th 2013

Pro Tip: The Dirty Little Secret to Facebook Success

ImageRemember those creative advocacy campaigns we talked about last week? A couple of them illustrated a dirty little secret to Facebook success: if you want to get your content widely shared, and you have an email list, send out a message asking people to share it. You’re likely to find that the posts you email will far out-perform your normal Facebook content.

Sounds like cheating, doesn’t it? After all, the whole point of putting good content out on Facebook is that it boosts engagement (Likes/Shares/Comments), so that Facebook will think you’re popular and show your posts to more people, an effect that carries over to your future activity. But words and pictures alone aren’t enough — Facebook only displays a given post to a small percentage of your fans by default, and many of them won’t even be online in the brief window when your content is high in someone’s feed. As a result, most of your hard-earned fans won’t even know it when you’ve put out something great.

Unless, of course, you reach out directly to them. Actually, using email to drive Facebook activity is a classic example of campaign integration — using tools to reinforce each other. In this case, Facebook’s strength is that your supporters’ engagement with your content is visible to their friends, since their Likes/Shares/Comments will show up in their own feeds. Hence, your CONTENT is visible to their friends, giving you opportunities to spread your messaging and recruit new followers.

Email’s strength, by contrast, is its relatively high response rate — if you have an active list, your members are much more likely to act on an email than they are to even have a chance to see your content on Facebook. Of course, you’ll need to make the action as easy as possible, particularly by including links that allow people to promote your content simply by clicking on them (don’t forget to test the link!). So, by emailing a “Share ask,” you leverage your email support to boost your Facebook visibility. And in the process, you give your activists something practical and useful to do that doesn’t involve emailing Congress for the umpteenth time. Also note: your list isn’t the only email tool that’s valuable for Facebook support, since a good coalition/issue listserv post can encourage your allies to help out, too.

BTW, here’s a quick trick to spotting when someone’s promoted a post via email: look at the ratio of the post’s Likes, Shares and Comments. On a normal post, we’ll usually see more Likes than Comments and more Comments than Shares, and usually the numbers will be fairly close to each other. In an email-promoted post, by contrast, one of those numbers will go through the roof compared with the others, since people will take the action you ask them to take. I.e., if you ask people to comment, they’ll Comment. If you ask them to share, they’ll Share. So if one of those numbers is waaaay higher than the usual ratio, particularly if it’s the Share that’s over-performing (Sharing is the usual ask), someone likely promoted the post via a non-Facebook channel.

In any case, always look for the ways different tools can reinforce each other’s strengths and cover their weaknesses. We often talk of the tools separately, but how they play together very often determines success or failure online.

colindelany

Colin Delany

Founder and chief editor, Epolitics.com

Colin Delany is founder and chief editor of Epolitics.com, a site that focuses on the tools and tactics of Internet politics and online political advocacy. Epolitics.com received the Golden Dot Award as “Best Blog – National Politics” at the 2007 Politics Online Conference, and Delany was a part of DC Fox affiliate WTTG-25′s live coverage of the 2008 presidential election results. Delany also wrote the e-books Learning from Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond, How Candidates Can Use the Internet to Win in 2010, and Online Politics 101: The Tools and Tactics of Online Political Advocacy, together downloaded from Epolitics.com over 60,000 times.
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