When most companies think about social media, they automatically think of Facebook. Makes sense. With almost 901M users worldwide, Facebook has redefined our relationships, and businesses are right to find out more about the social network and how it can help to build awareness and consideration for their products and services.
Consequently, social media strategists are constantly revising their Facebook best practices to accommodate the network’s frequent changes. Some of these longer-term practices are generally good rules to live by: post midweek, post visually stimulating content and post questions asking for your fans’ perspectives.
Other practices, however, have yet to be truly tested. For example, there is often emphasis placed on optimizing content for “Friends of Fans” visibility. This means increasing the number of interactions on a post so that promotional content will appear in fans’ friends’ real-time Ticker storyreel. Yet, even if these strategies are effective, their emphasis is misplaced. Consumer evangelization isn’t simply about reach; it’s about connection. Delivering highly relevant content to your constituents makes you valuable to them, and they, in turn, advocate on your behalf lending value to your business.
This post explores content optimization strategies, and why the best Facebook practice is to value the connections you have with your current fan base.
“EdgeRank,” “Friends of Fans” and Facebook’s “Ticker” Reel
“EdgeRank” is Facebook’s algorithm that determines the prominence of content. An “object” is any item that appears in a user’s newsfeed, and actions taken on the object (likes, comments, shares, etc.) are called “edges.” The more interaction a post receives, the “edgier” it is, and the more likely it is to appear at the top of a user’s newsfeed.
For that reason, it is far too easy for businesses to focus on collecting as many edges as possible, regardless of their true value. And this practice is encouraged by some of the most well-known social media strategists who say it is the most effective way to expand the reach of company messages that ultimately lead to customer recruitment.
“Friends of Fans” is a hot new metric made popular with the introduction of EdgeRank and Facebook’s real-time storyreel, “ticker.”
The idea is that businesses already have the attention of their current fan base, and in order to gain the consideration of others outside of their already established communities, fan interactions with the brand must appear in front of their friends. For example, when I see that my best friend Brittany has checked into The Melting Pot restaurant, I may think to myself, “I wish I was having some delicious fondue,” and act on that impulse later.
Indeed, this has the powerful ability to influence my offline-buying decisions, but only if that message is placed directly in front of me. “Fans of Friends” is a meaningful metric if Facebook users pay attention and value the interactions that appear in their real-time storyfeed.
Quality vs. Quantity
The truth is, EdgeRank strategies value quantity over quality, and users are very much annoyed by an overproduction of Facebook stories. Taking a poll of close to 80 Facebook users, we found that 36% of users don’t even pay attention to their real-time storyfeed (often irritated by it), 33% only look at it sometimes (citing rare occasions), while a mere 14% said they pay attention often. Importantly, 17% of respondents didn’t even have a ticker reel. According to the Facebook Help Center, “Ticker only shows up for people with a certain level of account activity.” Your company’s messages are not as far-reaching as you think…
Instead, here is a pretty solid best practice.
Be Good to the Fans You’ve Already Got.
Abandon strategies that value fan/follower acquisition above a meaningful exchange of value with the fans you already have. If your fans love you, they will make sure that their friends and family, and even random strangers, know it. Brand stories relevant to them will most likely be shared on their personal Facebook walls, and this content is now somewhat permanently accessible to their friends with the new “Timeline” interface.
Additionally, while conversations inside the social network are important, potentially more important are the private conversations about your brand that take place between friends and family outside of the network. One truly engaging encounter between a brand and a customer online may be all it takes to create an evangelist. Just because a fan doesn’t “like” your content every time you post it, or check into your store every time they visit it, or comment every time you post a new product update, doesn’t mean they aren’t true advocates for your business. One engaging encounter is usually enough to gain their support, and solely focusing on strategies that optimize content for EdgeRank and prominence loses sight of what truly matters: a mutual exchange of value.