Using Facebook to promote your business is a great way to get exposure and build a loyal customer base. (If you haven't already, check out our post on creating a Facebook content strategy.) One of the best and hardest things about Facebook marketing is the instant feedback you get when you post a status update. People either love what you have to say and tell you by liking or commenting on your post, or they scroll right past and find something more appealing. This gives you instant feedback about your audience, which can help shape your future posts.
However, the tricky part is that your status updates are usually only shown to a disappointingly small percentage of your fans. You might not have given a lot of thought to what shows in your news feed and why, or you might simply assume that you see the latest posts as they are rolled out by users. The truth is, behind the news feed is a clever little algorithm called EdgeRank which determines what you you see in your news feed and how long you see it for. This algorithm is the reason that on average, only 14% of your fans (or "likers") will see every status update you post.
EdgeRank changes often and is both loved and loathed by Facebook marketers who try to "beat" it to get their posts seen by as many people as possible. Facebook has not released the full details about how EdgeRank works but there are a few proven things you can do to help your post stay in your fans' news feeds. I'm about to let you in on these, plus a few other tips for maximizing your Facebook engagement levels.
1. Post Images with Every Status Update
Facebook is a very visual space and photos are the most popular form of content on the platform. Next time you post an update, make sure you include an image that compliments whatever it is you're talking about. This is easy for us online retailers because we usually post about products and showing photos of them is obviously a must! Posts with images not only get more attention from your fans, but EdgeRank also gives preference to posts with images.
2. Use the Boost Post Feature
Boost Post is one of the easiest ways to increase your engagement on Facebook. When you boost your post, you pay Facebook a small ad fee and essentially pay for extra exposure in the news feed.* It's shown to your fans and your fans' friends, or people you choose through targeting. You can target by demographic, location and more. The great news is that you can set your own budget when you do a promotion and even $5 will get your post in front of hundreds or even thousands of people. The number one rule of using the Boost Post feature is to only boost posts that are already getting some good engagement. Don't try to salvage a bad or poorly performing post by boosting it. You're just pouring money down the drain and even if things go as well as they can, you will just end up with a lot of likes and no comments. Also be sure to give your post some time before you boost it, rather than boosting it straight away: Facebook guru Mari Smith recommends waiting no less than 20 minutes and no more than two hours before you hit the boost button.
*Some Facebook gurus have criticized the Boost Post feature as being less targeted than other forms of advertising on Facebook. There is some truth to this, but unless you'd like to spend hours learning how Facebook ads and targeting work, the Boost Post feature is a great solution—it's more than targeted enough for most of us!
3. Post when Your Audience Is on Facebook
Just like we schedule eBay auctions to end when more people are shopping on eBay, we must also post updates when our Facebook fans are logged on to Facebook. Using Facebook Insights, it's easy to see when the majority of your users are online and schedule your posts around these times to increase the engagement on everything you post.
To view your Insights, go to your Facebook page and click "See All" next to "Insights."
You'll see a breakdown of all your Insights. If you haven't had a look around at these before, do so—it gives you some great information about your audience. To get straight to where you can see the best times and days to post updates on your page, click "Posts," then "When Your Fans Are Online."
You'll see these graphics that demonstrate the days and times when your viewers are on Facebook most. For the SaleHoo page, there isn't a huge difference in when our fans are online, but Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are the most popular days. To see what time of the day most of our fans are online, and therefore what time we should do most of our posts, take a look at the time tracker.
As you can see above, the most popular time for us is 2am. It seems like a rather odd time of day, but Facebook Insights is based on the local time of your computer. Mine is in New Zealand time, as I'm in the New Zealand office. 2am New Zealand time is 10am EST in the US, which makes more sense! Keep this in mind if you have an international audience. Once you know the best times and days to post status updates, create a schedule around it. That's not to say you should only post updates on the most popular day(s), but you should post your best posts or best offers on those days to give them maximum exposure and chance of engagement. If the best day and time to post on your page isn't a convenient time for you, you can use Facebook's scheduling tool and create a post that will be published at a time and date you specify. Learn how to use this feature here.
More cool data that Facebook Insights can tell you about your audience:
- Best post types: See what kind of content your fans like best, whether it's photos, links or regular text status updates.
- A full rundown of all your past posts and which got the best reach (number of people who saw it in their news feed) and engagement (likes, comments, shares, clicks).
- Demographics about your fans: Age, gender, language and location.
Plus a lot more, so take a look around Insights the next time you log on to Facebook.
4. Engage with Your Fans when They Engage with You!
When someone comments on your posts, there's a surefire way to discourage people from doing it a second time around, and that is by neglecting to reply to their comments. Think about it: You reply to emails from customers, you pick up the phone when customers call, you answer their questions on eBay, so why would you ever ignore their comments on Facebook?
You might be sitting there thinking to yourself that you wouldn't ever ignore a comment on your page, but I see so many page owners who do and it's an engagement killer!
Just remember that Facebook is a social space and a place to build relationships with new and existing customers, and when people comment on your page, they're opening up a huge opportunity for you to leave a lasting impression on them. Try to reply to every comment within a few hours, or at least within a day. Use Facebook's inline comments to reply directly to your fans rather than creating a new reply.
5. Optimize Your Posts for Mobile Devices
Did you know that more people access Facebook via mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones than computers? What does this statistic mean to you? Well, the most important thing is that when Facebook is viewed from a mobile device, it looks a little bit different than when it is accessed from a computer, so you need to make sure you are optimizing your posts so that they look great on mobile devices.
The tried and tested rules for optimizing your posts for mobile aren't all that different from the regular rules on Facebook, but here are the tips that every Facebook expert will tell you if you ask how to optimize for mobile:
- Keep your updates to 160 characters or less. If you go over 160, users will have to click "Continue Reading" to view your entire post and most people won't.
- Make the most of photos. When users are looking at the little screens on their smartphones or tablets, images stand out a lot more than text. If you have something to say, consider writing out your message on your photo using free software like Fotor.com. If you want to promote your photo, you will need to abide by Facebook's rule of having no more than 20% of your image covered with text.
- If you have a call to action that includes a link, shorten the link. For example, if you are posting about a new product you are selling and you want to link to your online store or auction listing, use a Google short link or another link shortener to shrink your link. This makes it look more appealing to users and also helps to make the most of your 160 characters.
Phew! I really hope these tips are helpful. If you are feeling overwhelmed, I recommend implementing each of my 5 tips one at a time, waiting until one becomes a habit before adopting the next tip.
For those of you who are already using Facebook to help market your business, what kind of posts seem to get the most engagement on your page?