OK, so I hear this a lot, that brands want more followers on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media property they have. Now I totally understand where they are coming from, as it seems like a good indicator for how well they’re doing in their social media marketing activities. I too have been part of building a few follower bases and sure – it’s really nice to see that number growing.
However, when you think about it, the only time the growing of that number is of any good is if it’s got some correlation with coming closer to reaching your business goals. I might be kicking in an open door here, but before going onto answering the question I felt that needed to be said.
So, in order to figure out the how, I’d advise starting with the why.
You might want to focus on increasing the retention of your current customers, which is often the case for subscription business models, e.g. credit cards, insurances, subscription video on demand, subscription music on demand, etc. Or, maybe you’re retention rate is already great (or doesn’t apply to you in this way) so your main focus is bringing in new customers. Another scenario would be launching something new, so per definition you don’t have any customers, but you’re obviously looking to get some.
The most common case however, is probably a combination of retaining customers as well gaining new ones. Luckily they don’t have to be conflicting, as long as you keep your objectives in mind.
Once you’ve figured out why you want people to follow you, you’ll be able to answer the question “Why should people follow me on Facebook?”. And that is the whole key to building a large, sustainable follower base – which will help you reach your business goals.
I’m fully aware I’m not the first one to say this, but marketing via social media is all about engagement. If you want people to start following you, and ultimately spend money with you and spread your brand’s message to their peers, you simply have to give them something in return.
So, people should follow you on Facebook because they get something out of it. Think about why you’re on Facebook in the first place and create content accordingly. Depending on your objectives you might want to offer them great deals on your products or services, share industry insights, share tips and tricks that is relevant for your area of business (or rather, for that of your customers), entertain them with fun and/or interesting content. Whatever you do, ask yourself if the kind of content you share with your followers are of any value to them. If not, don’t bother.
If your customers have the opportunity to spend money with you online, you obviously want to direct traffic to your website. Do so by posting good, original content there, and then let people know about it on Facebook. The same goes for great deals and promotions. I promise you’ll find this to be a very cost-effective way of attracting more business in the long run.
NB: In the start it will take a fair bit of resources, so factoring in the hours you’re spending, the ROI will most likely be negative off the bat, but as you get that process going and reach an increasingly larger audience you’ll see the payoff.
If you’re a brick and mortar business I’d suggest you use Facebook for strengthening bonds to existing and soon-to-be customers by educating and entertaining them on Facebook. Anything that’s memorable, fun or interesting (and still on-brand) is a go. So are great deals and promotions. Also, utilise your offline presence to get people to connect with you on Facebook and keep engaging with them there. An easy way is to just let people visiting your store know that you have a Facebook page and that they should start following you (using a sign, for instance).
But, don’t do the classic mistake of not telling people why the should follow you. A simple “Like us on Facebook!” does not provide a reason for liking your Facebook page.
In terms of what content to post, it might be hard to determine what your customers actually find valuable - and that’s fine. Fortunately Facebook gives you great data on what kind of content reaches the most users and what kind turned out to be the most engaging. So experimenting with what works is the way forward.
Facebook marketing centres around News Feed and I’m surprised how many marketers actually think they get tons of visits to their Facebook page. You might be the exception and if so well done, but take a look at how many visits your page gets and you’ll probably see that the visits to your Facebook page is nothing compared to your reach in News Feed.
Conclusion; optimise for News Feed.
Since there are too many stories created by any given user’s friends to show them all in News Feed, Facebook lets the EdgeRank algorithm determine what stories to show. Although I don’t know with perfect detail how it works, what I can say is that the main components are Affinity x Weight x Recency.
Affinity is the strength of a given user’s bond to another user or Facebook object (App, Page, etc). This is determined by how much interest the user shows, by visiting the profile page, liking stories, commenting, and so on.
Weight is a news feed story attribute, determining how important a given story is. A story is “heavier” if it’s got lots of likes, comments and shares. Also, some story types are heavier by default than others. For instance, photos are heavier than links, that in turn are heavier than plain text.
Recency is quite self-explanatory – it’s the time that’s passed since the story’s creation. The more recent the story is, the higher the recency score.
Ideally, you want followers to show great interest in your Page (high affinity), lots of engagement with your posts (high weight, and high contribution to affinity) and a fairly high posting frequency (to maintain a high recency). Try to avoid spamming your followers though.
Now, provided that you know why you have a Facbook page, and why people should follow you, you’re in great shape for giving them a good experience. However, unless you’re already a well known brand, or are in the business of creating viral videos and memes, you will probably find your follower growth rate rather slow – even if you’re sharing the best content in your industry.
To accelerate the growth of your follower base and expand the spread of your message beyond a subset of your followers (on average your posts will reach just shy of a fifth of your followers), I strongly advise utilising the various ad formats Facebook has to offer. This way you can offset EdgeRank and ensure you get the visibility you’re looking for with users that haven’t yet had the chance to really starting building up their affinity with you.
Page post ads have proven to be a great way to both make sure your existing followers see your updates and provide them with a chance to engage with it, as well as to reach out to new followers. Add sponsored page and post like stories to the mix and you’re applying good leverage to the great content you’re already posting.
If you have other experiences I'd love to hear about them in the comments! Do you agree? Do you think of it in any other way?