You may begin posting content that Facebook users will like, remark on, and share after you create a Facebook Page. Engaging with Facebook users who remark on your updates, publish content on your Page timeline, or communicate with your business in other ways is the next step in this evolution.
Engagement is a “quantity game,” which means that the amount of time and effort you put in has a strong correlation with the results you get. In this sense, utilizing Facebook is similar to in-person networking. When you attend a networking event, for example, the more individuals you meet, the greater your business potential. Networking is another high-quality game. Continuing with the previous scenario, imagine you attend 50 events. If all you do is pass out your business card to as many people as possible while providing no additional value, the only thing they will remember about you is the moment you interrupted them.
Instead, if you offer a solution to the issues they raised during your talk, they will not only remember you, but may even return the favor by referring new business to you.
Similarly, giving helpful materials and spending time chatting with your Facebook Page community is the most effective approach to acquire new consumers, boost the frequency of return customers, and expand your prospect list.
In this article, I show you the strategies and tactics that get your fans to engage with your Page. You’ll learn about some helpful hints for encouraging fan engagement through your content:
Table of Contents
What is Facebook Engagement?
If you’ve been reading up on how to market your business with social media, you’ve no doubt run across the word engagement. Like the word love, engagement means less and less the more it’s used.
To some people, Facebook engagement means publishing interesting and creative content with little interest in understanding or listening to one’s customers or prospects. To others, engagement is all about conversation: asking questions, replying to comments, expressing appreciation to fans, and so on.
The truth is that engagement is both. You have to publish interesting content, but you also have to understand what your fans are interested in. This isn’t different from what you do to nurture and develop professional relationships or the relationships you have with your customers. Other people express a need, and you respond to that need as best as you can! All the skills you’ve developed building professional relationships in the real world apply to Facebook as well.
What engagement means for word-of-mouth marketing
Engagement, like in-person networking events or conferences, takes time and effort to meet your customers, get to know them, and inspire them to take action. People are people, whether they are online or offline, which means there are no shortcuts to developing good relationships with your customers and prospects. However, from each party’s point of view, engagement means something slightly different.
Engagement techniques include strategies to encourage your customers to talk about your company — word-of-mouth marketing. You also want them to trust you enough to tell you when they have a problem or love what you do.
You want fans to interact with your Page for two reasons:
- You can build a relationship with your fans through dialogue and discussion. Obviously, this leads to sales to a percentage of those fans.
- The activity that’s generated on your Page as a result of these discussions creates more stories in your fans’ News Feeds, which exposes your business to their friends.
Always stay on message, which means making sure that the content relates to your business in some way. And consider keeping your links on the positive side. There’s no need to associate negative news with your business.
Understanding what engagement on Facebook offers you
If you only see Facebook as a place to market your business to a select group of users, you’re missing the entire idea.
Word-of-mouth marketing is Facebook’s true power. Assume you learn about a new restaurant through one of your Facebook pals. He claims to have eaten there and enjoyed it. This suggestion carries 1,000 times the weight of an update to that restaurant’s Facebook page.
If that restaurant is smart, it will capitalize on such recommendations by directing the majority of its marketing resources toward building an engaged fan base (one that talks about the restaurant) rather than attempting to contact every Facebook user who might be a potential customer.
Understanding how Facebook users engage with your business
To create a strategy for building an engaged Facebook fan base, it’s important to understand the various ways Facebook users can engage with your business.
Facebook users typically share your content from your website or engage with your Facebook Page updates, apps, and events. Here are the various ways Facebook users can engage with your business and why it’s important to respond appropriately:
- Share content from your website. Facebook users frequently share content from other websites. If you look into your website’s statistics, you’ll see how often Facebook users have shared content from your website.
- Like your Page. When Facebook users like your Facebook Page, they create a story in their friends’ News Feeds, which makes them aware of your business (through viral reach). When a Facebook user likes your Page, there’s no guarantee that she’ll receive your content in her News Feed, but her like is an expression that she likes your organization (as opposed to liking a specific Page update; see the next item).
- Like a Page update. Both fans and nonfans (essentially, all Facebook users) can like any of your Page updates. When Facebook users like your photo, video, or text update, they create a story in their News Feeds, which creates viral reach for that specific update (because their friends see that update). This creates viral reach, meaning that a Facebook user sees a story in her News Feed because her Facebook friend liked, commented on it, or shared it. Her friends in turn may like, comment on, and share that update.
- Comment on a Page update. When a Facebook user comments on one of your updates, that comment also creates viral reach. But liking an update and commenting on an update are very different. You have to understand that when someone takes the time to write a comment on your update, she’s more invested in that interaction. In other words, likes are in some ways throwaway gestures — simple taps or mouse clicks. But a comment takes time and consideration. It’s an expression, no matter how small, of deeper engagement. Taking the time to reply to comments thoughtfully goes a long way toward building an engaged fan base.
- Share a Page update. Of the three types of actions Facebook users can take on an update — liking, commenting on, and sharing — sharing is the strongest. When a Facebook user shares an update, he’s essentially saying “All my friends need to see this!” Facebook’s algorithm also places more weight on shares.
- RSVP to an event. When Facebook users RSVP to an event, they create a story in their friends’ News Feeds (“John is attending the national hot dog–eating competition!”). Facebook Events have their own timelines where you can post pictures about the events and reply to comments from people who sent RSVPs.
How To Measure Engagement with Facebook Insights
In one sense, engagement is the human connection between customer and business. But you can’t determine whether your marketing efforts are giving you the expected return based solely on how connected they make you feel — and this is why you measure engagement.
Page mentions in status updates, replies in comment threads, and the general sentiment expressed in the actions Facebook users take on your Page can be measured with the Insights analytics tool included with every Facebook Page.
Marketers usually measure the following different types of engagement:
- Liking, sharing, or commenting on a Page story: You can view more details about likes, comments, shares, and clicks by clicking the post in the Post column.
- Playing a video or viewing a photo: You can view details about video plays, photo views, and more by clicking the post in the Post column.
- Viewing organic and paid reach: You can also view details about organic, paid, and even viral reach. In the following list, three Facebook Insights reports show how engaged Facebook users are with your content. Make a habit of regularly viewing these three reports on your Page. To access these reports, click the Insights link on the Admin navigation menu at the top of your Page.
Because real engagement with fans grows over long periods of time, choose weeks or months for your ranges of data in Insights. In other words, don’t bother tracking this information on a daily basis.
Facebook uses an algorithm to determine which fans see your content in their News Feeds. One of the biggest factors in this algorithm is the prevalence of comments and Likes each of your Page stories receives. Facebook Insights shows you how you can post updates that receive more Likes and comments.
When someone takes the time to comment on an update or post a question to your Page, she’s identifying herself as someone who’s definitely more interested in your business than the casual Facebook user who simply Likes the Page update.
How To Increase Facebook Engagement
Aside from posting content for Facebook users to engage with, below are some ways to further enhance your relationship with Facebook users by conversing with them on your Page:
1. Reply to their comments on your updates
When a Facebook user asks you a question or is interested enough in what you’re saying to post a comment on your update, he has invested time in the interaction. Not responding or acknowledging him in some way makes it seem as though you’re ignoring him. Who wants to give their money to a company that ignores them even before a sale takes place? If a user asks you a question, respond to it. If you receive a compliment, thank the person, and reinforce your commitment to creating exceptional customer experiences. If you receive a negative comment, ask how you can improve the overall experience.
In short, every time someone reaches out to engage with your Page, engage with that person in return. Failing to reciprocate can backfire or cost you revenue.
Although generally you want to respond to comments within 24 hours, in some cases — such an irate customer who’s never going to be happy with anything you say — you may be better off not responding at all. Trying to decide when and when not to respond can be tricky, so here are some tips to help you make this decision:
- If you clearly made a mistake, respond and correct the situation quickly. Apologies can go a long way if you explain that steps are being taken to correct the situation.
- If someone leaves a negative comment about something that never took place or is based on incorrect facts, correct him. Always be polite, because often, people don’t realize that they’ve made an error. If you don’t respond, however, this misconception could spread and escalate.
- Try to salvage a bad situation. If you made a mistake and think you can put a positive spin on a bad experience or convince the customer to give you another chance, a response is appropriate to right the perceived wrong.
- An irate person may never be satisfied, so you may be better off not doing anything. Sometimes, people direct their frustration with the world to you and your Facebook Page. To find out whether you’re dealing with such a person, take a look at the other comments she’s made. You may conclude that it’s better for you not to enter a fight you’re never going to win (see the next item). Instead, invest your time and efforts where you can have a positive result.
- Don’t engage in a fight you can’t win. Sometimes, a response does more harm than good. A negative comment or review can have a devastating effect on a company’s online reputation. But you don’t want to engage in a back-and-forth discussion that uncovers more cracks in the armor, so to speak. In these situations, take a passive role as opposed to going for the jugular.
- Don’t let anger derail your response. Although the saying “It’s not personal; it’s just business” is good in principle, it’s not always good in practice. Disparaging Facebook comments can really make you angry. Rather than rattle off a negative response, have someone who’s less emotional about the situation respond, or wait until your emotions calm before responding. An angry response can really damage your relationship with the customer and can have a spill-over effect on all who read it.
2. Reply to their posts on your Page
Facebook users have the ability to post content directly on your Page (or rather, they do if you’ve selected this setting on your Manage Permissions tab). They expect prompt replies to their posts, especially if they need you to answer a question.
To get timely notifications of activity by Facebook users, configure your notification settings in the Settings section of your Facebook Page. To configure your notification settings, follow these steps:
- Click the Settings link on your admin navigation bar.
- Click Notifications in the left sidebar
- Select your desired method of getting notifications:
On Facebook: Selecting this option means that you’ll receive notifications about activity by users on your Page in the same area where you receive notifications from your Facebook friends. You can also select the specific type of notifications to receive (new messages, reviews, tips, comments, posts by others, new Likes, and so on).
Email: Selecting this option means that you’ll get an email when someone Likes, comments on, or shares one of your updates; posts an update to your Page; or sends you a Facebook Page message.
The notification method you choose depends on your preferences. Keep in mind that you can choose more than one type of notification and then simply deselect the ones that aren’t suited to your work habits.
3. Reply to messages they send you
If you enabled the message feature on your Page, Facebook users can send you private Facebook messages similar to the messages that they send their friends. If your goal is to boost engagement on your Facebook posts, consider turning the messaging feature off. This way, Facebook users will post to your Page (creating viral reach) instead of sending you private messages (creating zero reach).
You can set up rules for comment moderation on your Facebook Page. If you remember that any Facebook user who has access to your Page can comment on your Page stories, you will find this feature to be especially helpful. Facebook users can still comment on your Page updates even if you deselect Posting Ability (see the preceding section).
On the Manage Permissions tab of your Page, you can automatically hide comments containing specific words:
- Page Moderation: To prevent certain words from being posted on your page, add them as keywords under Page Moderation. When users include any of these words in a post and/or comment on your Page, the content is automatically marked as spam and isn’t displayed on your Page.
- Profanity Filter: Facebook blocks the most commonly reported words and phrases marked as offensive by Facebook users.
4. Ask questions
Asking questions is one of the most effective ways to engage your fans, particularly if those questions are highly relevant and specific. Try some of these approaches:
- Find a topical news story that connects to your business, and ask what people think about it. Post the question with a link to the news story for a bigger response.
- Pose a question you get from your potential customers, and ask your enthusiasts how they would answer it.
- Use fill-in-the-blank questions. The Life is Good Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/Lifeisgood), for example, asked this fill-in-the-blank question: “A positive life lesson I’d like to share is XX.” There were more than 1,300 comments and more than 500 Likes in just a few days!
- Ask a question with a one-word answer. Don’t ask your audience to write a detailed evaluation of something. Some of the most popular fill-in-the-blank questions require just a one- or two-word response (“Chocolate — Dark or Milk?”).
5. Pay attention to how people scan content
We all have a high school friend (call her Maria) who found us years later on Facebook and who now posts firehose barrages of pictures, videos, and comments about her latest crochet creations to our Facebook Page. Because we’re nice people, we don’t want to offend her by unfriending her. Instead, over time, we’ve tuned out Maria’s Facebook updates. The ability to tune out undesirable messages isn’t new, but it’s a factor that you need to consider when publishing content for any channel (website, email, direct mail, Facebook, and so on). Instead of reading a 1,000-word article on your website, your prospects will probably just
- Scan the title.
- Scan the subheadings.
- See whether anyone has recommended your article.
- Scan the first paragraph.
- Scan the last paragraph.
- Look at the pictures.
How people filter content on Facebook includes these same strategies, but instead of viewing a single web page with a few related articles (that is, your website), they’re scanning photos, videos, links, and status updates about unrelated topics from both friends and Pages.
Also, there’s the added pressure of all this content getting pushed farther down in the News Feed with every passing moment. You can begin to see that being concise, relevant, and interesting are key success factors in getting the attention of customers and prospects on Facebook.
6. Understand how Facebook’s News Feed algorithm affects visibility on Facebook
Just because someone becomes a fan of your Page doesn’t mean that she’s seeing your Page content in her News Feed. This fact bears repeating: Someone who becomes a fan of your Page doesn’t automatically see your Page content in her News Feed. A sneaker company that attracts new fans in exchange for a 20 percent discount but fails to post updates that are interesting and engaging to fans will find a hard time nurturing and growing a vibrant fan base. Its Page updates will slowly disappear from its fans’ News Feeds because of the Facebook News Feed algorithm.
The News Feed algorithm is what Facebook uses to determine how content ranks within a user’s News Feed. In general, updates that aren’t interesting or useful to Facebook users likely won’t appear in their News Feeds.
To determine whether a Page post shows up in the News Feed, Facebook’s algorithm considers five main factors:
- Whether you’ve interacted with a Page’s posts before: If you like every post by a Page that Facebook shows you, Facebook shows you more posts from that Page.
- Other people’s reactions: If everyone else on Facebook ignores a post or complains about it, the post is less likely to show up in your News Feed. Conversely, if a post has an extraordinarily high rate of engagement, Facebook pushes that update to more of your Facebook Page fans.
- Your interaction with previous posts of the same type: If you always like photos, there’s a better chance that you’ll see a photo posted by a Page.
- Complaints: If that specific post has received complaints from other users who saw it, or if the Page that posted it received lots of complaints in the past, you’ll be less likely to see that post.
- Click-baiting: Click-baiting occurs when a link is posted with vague or sensationalistic headlines that encourage people to click without telling them what they’ll see when they reach the advertised page. These updates get lots of clicks, pushing them higher in News Feed. Here’s an example: “OMG, you will not believe how this girl handles bullying.”
The bottom line is that Facebook wants to make the News Feed useful to Facebook users so that they keep coming back. Return visits mean more advertising revenue for Facebook (its ultimate bottom line).
7. Find out how many Facebook users have hidden your Page’s posts
Just because a user liked your Page doesn’t mean that he’s reading your posts. When a user sees your post in his News Feed, he can omit your posts from his News Feed but remain a liker of your Page. To do this, he simply mouses over the name of the page, waits for a hovercard to pop up, hovers over the Liked button, and then deselects the Show in News Feed option.
You can find out how many people (but not specific names) have hidden your Page’s posts in your Insights dashboard.
To view how many people have hidden your posts, follow these steps:
- Log in to Facebook, and visit your Page.
- Click Insights in the admin navigation menu.
- Click the Reach tab, and scroll down to the Hide, Report As Spam, and Unlikes report
8. Create compelling content for your Facebook Page
Creating, aggregating, and distributing information via your Facebook Page help build trust between you and your customers. If that information is off-topic or irrelevant, however, it can weaken that trust. Being useful and relevant is the key. If you sell antiques, for example, don’t post about your fly-fishing trip just because it’s a hobby of yours. On Facebook, it’s easy to find out what sorts of content your customers are looking for. You can always ask your customers directly about the types of content they want so that you can make your Page more useful to them.
Keep in mind that creating relevant content that resonates with your audience is part science, part art:
- On the science side is Facebook Insights, which is a set of metrics that quantifies how people interact with your content. If something works based on the response it receives, by all means produce more content similar to it.
- On the art side of the equation, your content strategy requires an element of creativity. Even if you simply repurpose other people’s content, such as sharing another Page’s most popular updates, you must be artfully selective to determine what’s worth sharing with your customers.
9. Know your audience
Before you can deliver content that’s relevant to your customers’ lives, you need to understand your audience. Who are these folks? What interests and motivates them?
Ponder these questions when deciding whether your content is on message and relevant to your audience:
- Does the content address your audience’s questions, concerns, or needs?
- Does it inspire or entertain your intended audience?
- Does it help users complete a specific task?
- Will it help influence a decision?
Ponder these questions when deciding whether your content is on-message and relevant.
Content and conversations significantly contribute to making a conversion — getting a user to take a specific call to action, such as signing up for a newsletter or even buying your products.
10. Stay on message
According to the traditional marketing model, from awareness and knowledge come desire and action. With Facebook, however, the rules have changed. Everyone and everything is connected, so any engagement you do through your Page doesn’t go away.
After you post something on your Page, fans may take your advice, or they may pass on the videos you uploaded to others. Therefore, you have to maintain a common message or theme throughout all your updates to ensure that you always accomplish the goals you set for yourself in your Facebook marketing plan, whether those goals involve brand awareness, increasing sales, or both.
Get fans to share their tips as well.
An easy way to stay on message with your Facebook fans is to develop a content calendar based on topics for each day of the week. An auto repair shop, for example, might post on the following schedule:
- Monday: Safe-driving tips
- Tuesday: Do-it-yourself repair tips. Tell fans to ask questions in the comments.
- Wednesday: Discounts and specials
- Thursday: Recommendations for weekend day trips. Get fans to share their favorite driving destinations as well.
- Friday: Show and tell. Get fans to post pictures of their cool cars.
Publish content based on what your customers need or want, not what your company needs or wants. Again, Facebook is 100 percent about WIFM (what’s in it for me?).
11. Show your human side
All work and no play makes for a very dull Page. People like to share the more human side of life. Many people take part in Take Your Child to Work Day or even Take Your Dog to Work Day, for example. If you participate in one of these events, post a picture of your child or pet and then add a note that they’re doing a great job of helping Mom or Dad at work. Ask your fans whether they’re taking advantage of this opportunity, and encourage them to post pictures as well.
12. Tell your fans how much you appreciate them
Don’t underestimate the goodwill gained by saying thanks. Thanking your fans for their questions or complimenting them on their comments can go a long way in social media circles. The clothing retailer Lands’ End is known for its exceptional customer service, and its fans aren’t afraid to tell everyone about it!
13. Highlight a success story
Another tactic that appeals to vanity is highlighting a fan’s success. She’ll be sure to thank you for the attention, and your other fans will appreciate hearing about one of their own making good. Many companies on Facebook run a Fan of the Month promotion and foster engagement by soliciting entries.
14. Share your tips and insights
People are always looking for information that helps them do their jobs better. Don’t underestimate your knowledge and what you have to share that’s valuable. Sharing helpful tips is some of the best engagement around. Social Media Examiner does a great job providing a steady stream of tips to its Facebook fans.
15. Provide links to relevant articles and research
You don’t have to be a prolific writer to be valuable to your fans. By posting links to relevant articles, videos, resources, and research, you build your credibility as a content aggregator.
A Facebook engagement strategy is what matters most at the end of the day.
Facebook’s top brands are consistently posting and interacting with their followers. Dead pages, on the other hand, simply repeat their own content without engaging their audience.
Facebook — or any other social media platform — works exactly the same way. Scratch that — all human relationships and worthwhile endeavors work the same way. Be patient! Results will come in time.