facebook-likeWhen Facebook started in 2004, it was a bare-bones social network focused on connecting college students. Nine years and more than 1 billion active users later, Facebook has become the most widely-used social network to date and has shaped online interaction as we know it. From connecting distant friends and family members, to bridging the gap between brands and their communities, Facebook has taken the way we interact online to a whole new level.

In 2011, Facebook released data showing that its users were, on average, 3.74 degrees of separation away from one another, making them nearly as connected to each other as Kevin Bacon is to the rest of Hollywood. In the years since that study, the network has only continued to grow. That’s pretty amazing, and social media can take credit for making it happen.

How are people using Facebook?

Groups are user-created and have varying levels of privacy and security, much like individual profiles. Users can organize groups around any topic or event they like. From professionally relevant groups to those organized around special interests, such as nutrition, the variety is limited only by interest of the users. These groups have undoubtedly been a welcome and sticky addition to the platform over time.

Events allow users to organize around a point in time. Security here is fairly customizable, allowing for public, private, and somewhere-in-between events. A key feature here is the baked-in ability to export your Facebook events to other calendars, no doubt increasing usage and reliance on this feature that blends users’ personal and professional lives.

Business pages have been an evolutionary product for Facebook. Over the years, they have taken several different shapes, though they are fairly stable today. Like other types of pages, the feature set is ever-evolving as they add more to meet the needs of the marketers behind the brand’s efforts. Facebook has recently added more features in terms of analytics, reporting, security, and access, as well as increased the richness available to those wishing to dive into Facebook advertising.

Facebook Messenger is a new way to combine email, instant messenger, and Facebook messages. As new stand-alone group message services popped up throughout 2010 and 2011, Facebook clearly saw an opportunity and acquired one of the more popular group-messaging apps known as Beluga. They have since re-branded this app as Facebook Messenger. On iOS, Blackberry, and Android devices, this is a stand-alone app, but it also integrates across the Facebook app and web experiences.

Strategies for Success

Facebook posts with questions generate 92 percent higher comment rates than posts without questions, according to the Buddy Media report. Be sure to ask your question at the end of your post—that draws a higher comment rate than if the question is placed higher up.

If you post a cool or amusing picture, don’t just ask your audience to “check it out!” Increase interaction rates by encouraging your audience to caption it, too. Or you can ask your fans to “fill in the blank,” a tactic that leads to four times as many comments as other posts.

Research shows that photos perform better than videos, links and text alone on Facebook. According to digital marketing blog Kissmetrics, photos attract 53 percent more “Likes,” 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more click-throughs.

Here’s the caveat, though: The best pictures are self-explanatory, like infographics and charts. Just posting a stock image doesn’t do much. Social media publishing app Buffer compared the responses to two different photos, one that didn’t need a caption to explain it and one that did. The infographic, which didn’t require a caption, drew 78 “Likes” and 20 comments while the other only attracted 11 “Likes” and three comments.

Facebook is an open and public space, so you can’t control everything people say. Instances in which it is appropriate to remove user content would include: advertorial content, harassment and abuse, derogatory or offensive language, threatening posts, and posts that contain sensitive information (credit card numbers, addresses, etc.). Instances in which you should address the comments instead of removing them include: customer complaints, negative commentary, and critical statements. You may not like what people always have to say, but in social, you always have to listen.

Because we are building relationships, you can take full advantage by joining in the conversation with your customers. They want to interact with your brand, and are going out of their way to do so. Honor that. The type of conversation will dictate the cadence and rhythm of your response.

Etiquette tips and guidelines

Don’t spam: This is a big no through all of marketing. Always be tactful, classy, and do not spam. This includes sending mass-event invites and messages and invitations to like your brand pages from your personal account.

Respond: Response times are going to vary based on the issue and the product in question, but in social media timeliness is critical. Users expect things to happen much faster on social channels than on more traditional web channels like email. In most cases, same-day responses are required. Don’t ever let your community feel like they’ve been forgotten.

Say no to clustered updates: With the notable exception of image albums, avoid making multiple updates within a short time span. Beyond News Feed algorithmic concerns, it’s just annoying to your followers. Your signal-to-noise ratio falls, and you may lose the long-term attention of your audience.

@Name: If you want to call out another public Facebook page or user, you can directly link to their Facebook page, which also notifies them that you’re talking about them, by putting an @ and then typing their name. (Facebook will help your selection with a drop-down.) This also makes it clearer to whom you’re addressing. Note that private users can’t be called out in this way unless you’re replying to a comment they left on your page.

Highlight important posts: If your brand has any very important updates; e.g. acquisitions, sales, or feature in news articles; you can highlight them in your page’s timeline. This expands the post to both columns, and may get these important updates further into people’s News Feeds.

Messages: People can send your page private messages. You’ll find the most of these messages will be customer service-related, so make sure to check them. The messages section functions like an email inbox.

Notifications: The notifications box will show you the most recent likes, comments, wall posts, etc., on your brand’s page. Depending on the volume of incoming activity, this administrative section can be useful when tracking activity by your community. Due to Facebook’s focus on recent activity, you’ll probably only receive comments and likes on recent posts, but the notifications can help track activity on older posts.

Page favorites: You can mark other brand pages as favorites on your business’ page. This is a helpful way to promote partners, good causes, or others you’re connecting your business with.

Posting: While many social media tools allow you to post from them to Facebook, you’ll have the best results by posting directly to Facebook from Facebook itself. Facebook’s algorithm biases toward post that originate from its own interface. Responses and comment moderation, however, can be done via social management software without issue.

Scheduling: Thankfully, Facebook does allow scheduling of posts directly in their interface. If you are sharing linked content, this content must already be live on the web, which can be a pickle for those scheduling unpublished blog posts or other content. Scheduled posts will appear only to the moderators in the “Activity Log.” Keep in mind, though, that engagement is a primary goal, and you’ll want to be around for the responses to your scheduled posts.

Recommended tools

Facebook for Business: A helpful portal for business page owners offering support for page creation, ad campaign management, and other platform resources.

Facebook Page Insights: (available in the admin panel of any business page): This tool offers up increasing amounts of data specific to your brand page. While this doesn’t give you any type of competitive insight, this panel tells you about who your fans are, where they’re located, and how much they’re engaging with your page and individual posts. Much of this information can be downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis.

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