Two Simple Questions Can Radically Improve Facebook Engagement

Drew Bernard
Drew Bernard Co-Founder and CEO, ActionSprout.com

Posted on July 28th 2014

Two Simple Questions Can Radically Improve Facebook Engagement

Each month hundreds of nonprofit organizations and political campaigns use ActionSprout to engage people on Facebook beyond like, share and comment. And each month, my team works directly with a few dozen of these organization to help them strategize and improve the overall performance of their Facebook efforts. Over the past several months, we have started to see some very clear patterns among the most successful pages. One of the clearest patterns we have seen relates to what content  does well on Facebook (both organic and paid) and what content fails.

In a recent article, I explained that in order for content to succeed on Facebook, it must drive people to engage. It’s not enough to post high-quality content that informs your target audience. It’s not even enough to post content that your fans enjoy consuming. On Facebook, in order for content to be successful, your fans and their friends must want to be seen consuming and sharing it.

Clicking like, share, or comment are all acts of self expression on Facebook. When we engage with a piece of content on Facebook, we do so because we want someone to see us do so.

Facebook users are keenly aware of the fact that by engaging with your content or taking any social actions, they are communicating something to their friends. As a page manager, your job is to create content that helps our target audience express themselves to their friends. In other words, when a Facebook user interacts with your content, it becomes par of their image on Facebook; part of their personal narrative.

Each time you sit down to create a post, ask yourself two questions:

  1. By taking an action on this post, what will my fans be expressing to their friends?
  2. Does that align with what I believe my fans want their friends to think of them?

Of course, no two people are exactly alike, on or off Facebook. But it’s no surprise that people are far more likely to engage with content that expresses a positive image of themselves. Keep in mind that just because someone appreciates or agrees with something you post does not mean they will want that content to become a expression of themselves. Your job as a page manager is to make your supports look good in the eyes of their friends.

Content that does well on Facebook not only helps your target audience tell their story through engagement, it also adds real value to their newsfeed and their friends’ newsfeeds.

Following are 5 strategies for creating content that people often want to engage with because it helps them paint a picture of who they want to be.

1. Post content that makes fans smile and helps them make their friends smile.

We all love a good chuckle and we all want to make the people we care about smile. Pages often feel pressure to be serious and stay on message. Organizations and candidates fear that making light of something will cheapen their brand. If you’re creating content for an organization with a serious mission, look for tasteful ways to inject humor into your Facebook posting regiment and you will find that over all reach and engagement will go up.

calvin

 Who doesn’t smile when they see Calvin and Hobbes? This post performed nearly 3X as well as the average post on this page.

hover tigers

This post performed 3X better than the average post on this page.

2. Inspire your fans and help them be inspiring to their friends.

Who among us does not want to be an inspiration to our friends? As a Facebook page manager, look for content that will inspire hope or other positive emotions among your fans. Inspiring content consistently does well on all kinds of pages because Facebook users want inspiring content to be part of their personal narrative. One way to inspire people is to celebrate success.

 This post on the same page provided supporters a way to complete an ActionSprout powered action beyond Like, Share or Comment. The post celebrated success and inspired hope. It also provided Fans a way to inspire their own friends. The post performed well organically, so the Sierra Club chose to spend some money to promote it resulting in a very high return on investment. This post resulted in over 1600 people signing up for email communication from Sierra Club.

The post celebrated success and inspired hope. It also provided fans a way to inspire their own friends. It also provided supporters a way to complete an ActionSprout powered action beyond Like, Share or Comment. The post performed well organically, so the Sierra Club chose to spend some money to promote it resulting in a very high return on investment. This post resulted in over 1600 people signing up for email communication from Sierra Club.

This is another excellent example by the Michigan Humane Society of celebrating success as a way to spread inspiration on Facebook.

3. Help your fans be a trusted source of information about a topic they want to be known for.

It’s long been known that one of the best ways to build a large and loyal network on Facebook is to be the trusted source of information about a topic about which people care. On the surface, it might seem like this is because people want your news in their newsfeed. Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll discover that the real magic is much more about your fans wanting to be the trusted source of information to their friends which leads them to share your content with their network.

This post outperformed the average content on this page by nearly 200%. It also serves as an excellent example of content that helps the page’s fans show their friends they are a trust source of information about gun control issues.

4. Empower people to make a difference and help them empower others.

At ActionSprout we have learned that roughly 10 percent of the people who engage with a given Facebook post that includes meaningful content are willing to do something beyond like, share or comment. They are willing to take an action that results in greater viral sharing and in them sign up for email communication in the process. If you manage a Facebook page for a nonprofit or a political campaign, your fans almost certainly view your organization of candidate as someone who is working to bring about change they want to see in the world.

Posts like these that use ActionSprout to empower people not only helps them show others who they really are, it also deepens their relationship with your work and results in them signing up for future direct communication from your organization via email and on Facebook.

 The Sierra Club recently ran a series of action related posts that asked people to tell the EPA to take action to protect bees. A high percentage of people that engaged with these posts by liking, sharing or commenting went on to complete this action and in so doing joined Sierra Club’s email list. This is an excellent example of a post that give Facebook users the power their Fans to empower their friends to help influence change.

Sierra Club recently ran a series of action related posts that gave people a way to “tell the EPA to take action to protect bees”. A high percentage of the people that engaged with these posts by liking, sharing or commenting went on to complete the “tell” action. In doing this, they also joined Sierra Club’s email list. This is an excellent example of empowering Facebook users and giving them a way to show their friends what they care about.

5. Run special offers that align with your mission.

The Beatles were right that money can’t buy love, but on Facebook, money can buy engagement. Contests, Special Offers and Drawings are all proven strategies for boosting engagement. But you have to be careful.  Offering people things of extrinsic value can easily result in the wrong people taking action and polluting your overall goal of reaching, cultivating and converting supporters who really care about your work or your brand.

When it comes to nonprofits and political pages, offering the potential to win a t-shirt or campaign sticker by taking an action (whether it’s simply clicking like or signing an ActionSprout powered petition) can be a great way to tap into the power of offering something of monetary value while keeping it relevant to your organization or campaign.

It’s worth noting, too, that the most effective campaigns are ones that make your fans feel like they are doing their friends a favor by inviting them to participate, too.

image of man with megaphone was modified from the original by: Mary Ann Clarke SCott
Drew Bernard

Drew Bernard

Co-Founder and CEO, ActionSprout.com

Drew is the founder and CEO of ActionSprout.com; a Facebook app that empowers nonprofits and political campaigns to engage supporters beyond like, share and comment.

Drew has been helping organizations build productive relationships with supporters online for over ten years. From 2001 to 2009 he helped create the online strategy program at the former nonprofit technology leader Groundwire.

Drew is a a rabid supporter of entrepreneurship in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and is active angel investor. He serves on the board of GetLittleBird.com and lives in Portland Oregon with his wife and kids.

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