Since Facebook went public in May, they have made a number of changes that have downright outraged the Facebook user community. Facebook used to be a free source of advertising, a vital component for most small business and community organizations. While Facebook is still free, they have now changed their algorithm, or how they prioritize posts. Businesses and organizations that once saw a considerable reach, gained likes on a daily basis, and had a lot of action on their wall, are now seeing their numbers drop. To top it off, Facebook is now encouraging owners of Facebook fan pages to pay for promoting their posts.
Obviously there is outcry over these changes, as their always are when Facebook makes even the slightest change. But this time we aren’t talking about look and feel, we are talking about money. And in a time where small businesses and organizations are struggling to get by and relying on free advertising, this is a major blow. As a small business with an almost zero dollar advertising budget, I understand the outrage.
On the other hand, I also think free advertising is only going to take us so far. Because any advertising and marketing plan should be consistently evaluated and modified to meet the needs of the business or organization, the Facebook changes give us the opportunity to do just that. After spending the last several weeks researching this issue, I have come up with the following strategy.
Engage Your Fan Base
Facebook has ALWAYS stressed the importance of engaging with the fan base. In fact, as they rolled out their design change last March, that was one of the main explanations they gave for implementing the new look – it made it easier for fans to engage with the product or service.
That’s great, but how do we engage?
I think the most effective means of engagement is through opening up a conversation. Posts may or may not be about your product, but should establish you as an expert in your field. Remember to strike a balance between self-promotion, offering information that is useful to your followers, and general professional but light-hearted conversation that is related to your product or service.
Conversation starters should be no more than 130-140 characters, and no more than a couple of short sentences (especially if you have your Facebook account cross post to your Twitter account). You only have a couple of seconds to capture attention and hook them, so make these conversation starters catchy. In addition, the best conversation starters are ones that fans could write one or two words as their answer, for example in response to a fill in the blank.
One great way to up the ante on establishing yourself as an expert AND getting more clicks is to post a link to an article, and pose a short, but interesting question, or a thought-provoking response to the link. Add an interesting photo (see below) and you have a pretty good chance of being seen by more of your fan base.
Use Images and Videos
Since the last design change Facebook has been stressing the importance of using images, but in terms of an alluring cover, interesting profile image, and consistently updated photo albums. Now, the changing algorithm has forced us to realize that engaging photos and videos in status updates are getting more clicks, ranking higher on the algorithm, thus being seen by more people. It makes sense – people are visual. Using visual aids to draw people in is third grade presentations skills 101. We should remember to use it!
In addition to using effective videos and images, analytics are showing that uploaded images with the links in the status update or caption, are ranking higher than a status update with a link that pulls a thumbnail from the article or site. So the next time you are writing an article or a blog post and posting it on Facebook, go to your Facebook page, and hit Photo/Video for your status update. Upload the image you used in your article, and put the link in the text box. This creates a larger image that will be more obvious in your fan’s newsfeeds, making them more likely to click. Just make sure your image is great and legal to use.
Monitor Analytics and Cater to Your Fans
This one is short and sweet. Use your insights! There is a TON of information here on your reach, your organic views versus your viral views, plus the demographics of your fan base. Use this information to cater your messages to your fan base, monitor your success continually, and adjust as needed.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is
We need to accept the fact that we can’t expect social media to be free forever. Fortunately in the case of Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts, it’s a fairly inexpensive advertising cost, which makes it worth at least trying out.
Both Facebook Ads and Promoted Posts let you choose your budget, which is based on your area, your industry, and your desired scope of reach. You can choose as much or as little to spend, and stop the ads or posts at any time. My personal plan is to do what I have outlined above, and promoting my most excellent post, for example, the post I write about this article. I also plan on investing in targeted ads to see where it leads.
Putting some dollars behind your product is one of the best ways to show your fan base and potential customers that you believe in your product or service. Think about it, how can you convince someone to put dollars into your product or service when you won’t even do it yourself? Try it out, and analyze your return on investment. It just might be worth it in the long run.
Marketing and advertising is about research, engagement, evaluation, and modification. We have to be prepared to accept new obstacles, including re-thinking our marketing and advertising budget.