Get the best results from your Facebook posts by following these eight simple steps from Salesforce.com
Social networks like Facebook are capturing an increasing share of marketing dollars - and they are doing so for two simple reasons. Firstly, that's where your potential customers are and secondly, as a marketing channel, Facebook works.
But you don't have to be Proctor and Gamble or American Express to make the most of Facebook, in fact you don't have to spend any more at all (although even a small investment helps - as we will get to later).
We are going to assume that you already have a Facebook business page and enough people who 'like' it for it to be worth your while. If not, here's a link to get you started.
You can spend a lot of time building up an audience on Facebook, but once you have built your network, your job has only just begun. It's how you use the network, and in particular the effort you put into your posts, that makes all the difference.
Then there are the vagaries of how different types of customers behave in different environments, at different times of days and at different times of the week.
Luckily there is a gathering body of evidence based on real data to guide you along and the surprising thing is how few people use this information, instead leaving their posts to chance. That means you can steal a march on your competitors by being lead by the data others have collected, instead of betting on your gut feel.
CRM vendor Salesforce.com earlier this year put out an infographic outlining some simple rules for making the most of your Facebook posts.
I've even run a road test on a post for my site Which-50 and I'll share the results below.
A couple of points before we get started. While Salesforce.com's rules are universal, the subtleties will vary from site to site. Which-50 is a niche site for senior executives in the digital business space. If you operate in retail for instance and sell commodity widgets, the relative impact of various of the various tips might change.
Trail and error is an important part of working out what works for you - the good news is, it shouldn't take too long and it needn't cost any money.
Here are the eight tips for the perfect Facebook post highlighted by Salesforce.com:
- No rambling. Keep your copy tight. Limit your post to 90 characters, or at least make sure any links appear in the first 90 characters. To increase engagement pose your post as a question. If you are just starting out however, don't over do it. The latest advice is that newer sites with fewer members should keep questions to a minimum while they are growing their audience.
- Don’t forget the call to action - Be clear about what you want the customer to do and don't make them work to hard to do it. It sounds obvious but if you want them to visit a site then include the url!
- Images, images, images. There is a reason Facebook paid $1 billion for instagram. Social networking is a visual medium so always include an image. Use striking colours like red or orange says Salesforce.com. The research tells us that photos are five times more popular than links, and videos are 10 times more likely to be shared. (There’s a whole set of guidelines you need to follow which are not incorporated into this infographic, but to avoid running foul of them here's a simple tip - people like looking at faces of other people. My experience on Which-50 is that posts with people's faces rate higher than posts without. And at the risk of setting of being misinterpreted and setting of a gender war, the evidence from the data is clear that women engage more with pictures of women and men also engage more with pictures of women.)
- Where appropriate, make sure you target your post, especially if your post is specific to a country, or even a language.
- Mobility is a critical consideration these days, especially as Facebook's audience has moved so rapidly to smartphones. You should expect that 70% of your customers will first see your post on a mobile device. “Use simple imagery, short copy and yes/no questions, ” says Salesforce.com
- Track user engagement with the Talking About Us metric in the stats package that Facebook provides you, and adjust your future posts accordingly. You will very quickly get a sense of what works and what does not.
- Forget “fire and forget” posts. You need to stay engaged by adding questions or comments. But remember, once its live the community owns the conversation so don’t over do it.
- Think about spending a few bucks to boost the post within the first 24 hours, especially now that Facebook seems to have throttled right back of the free rides of the past.
Actually you might argue that the last tip kind of defeats the purpose of all those other tips. But frankly, it's so cheap to do, why quibble? And my experience on Which-50 is pretty clear - if your goal is to get more Facebook likes, then boosting the post works wonders. But if your goal is to get click-throughs then think about advertising instead.
When should you post?
It turns out that there is no right answer. Instead, the best day to post depends on the type of business you are, as this article on the site entrepreneur.com points out.
The article on entrepreneur.com cites a survey of Facebook pages which found that Mondays are the best time to post for general retail businesses, for example. They posted this chart showing which type of businesses should post on which days.
Our infographic test drive:
Here is our attempt - and it is harder than you might think.
- Tight copy, limited to 90 characters - Yes
- Include the URL in the first 90 characters - Yes
- Images, images, images - Yes but only half a point. The image is too blue and Salesforce.com recommends simple images and striking colours.
- Target the post - Yep we did that by age and profession.
- Design for mobility. 1/2 a point (if we are being generous)
- Track progress. The good news is this post continues to attact users long as we first put it up.
- Stay engaged. While a lot of people have read the post, it hasn't attracted much commentary, although it has been shared a lot. So half a point.
- Spend a few bucks on a sponsored story. Yep, did that. $15 bucks in fact.
This post received about 300 times more views than usual - but in reality it was the money we spent with Facebook boosting the post that actually made all the difference. So there you go, advertising works.
We give ourselves 6.5 out of 8 for our first try using the saleforce.com method. How well will you do?
Andrew Birmingham is the owner of Which-50. He writes about technology for Haymarket Media.