Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TUESDAY TIP Facebook Engagement - Do's + Don'ts @mashable @socialmedia2day @AskYTM #Hootsuite @Hootsuite

I've been wanting to blog some tips on how to use Facebook, probably not as extensively as I've blogged about Twitter but with FB undergoing constant change the last 6 months, it's been hard to catch up to this moving target.

Then I saw an interesting article on the Social Media Today site mistakenly titled "5 Ways to Increase Facebook Engagement" and I became committed to correcting some of Mac's misstatements. I say he mistitled his article and made misstatements because the article touched on so many salient points--then twisted them around. Mac didn't offer ways to increase engagement so much as he spent more time telling you what not to do.

In addition, although I was interested enough to keep reading, I kept waiting for what was exclusive to Facebook, but nothing was, except for the concept of "liking" (which he didn't exactly discuss as a method of engagement despite its being FB's #1 original feature, like hashtags are to Twitter). Basically, I had a bad motivation so it's probably a good thing I didn't get to respond until now. I have to acknowledge Mac managed to inspire me off my duff (Thanks Mac!) but the FB target's still moving.

After a couple of weeks of trying to get this Tuesday Tips blog on Facebook slotted into the blog schedule, I've come across several additional sources of tips for engagement. Between Mashable's never-ending stream of great data on social media trends, and a variety of studies that've been released to report on the Facebook Timeline nightmare, I probably have 5 blogs worth of data backed up now.

As a result, today's blog is about far more than merely "Facebook tips" but also addresses general social media engagement approaches to capture the interest and interactivity of your prospective customers. Click through the jump break to see what tips I've compiled so far. I'll have more "Facebook tips" on my Tuesday blogs coming soon. Due to jury duty next week, however, the blog will be shut down again until Monday, Feb. 20, 2012.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
First and foremost, never assume anyone knows anything. Some Facebook (FB) users barely know how to login and get to their home feed. In fact, when FB runs a script and presents them with a login screen they don't recognize, they think something's wrong. In Mac's opening remarks, he made a simple but critical observation, which I quote here:

Keep in mind that for some people, Facebook is the Internet and vice versa. As a community manager, you have to place yourself in an ordinary user’s shoes.

This is such a key concept, it should've been one of the bullet points of his article, not a passing comment! So many people create Pages on FB to promote their own business or interests and just like the whole epidemic of "If I build it, they will come" fantasy of the 90s when the web was just being formed, newbie FB Page community managers assume everyone who encounters their Page will (a) be interested in joining the community and (b) know how to get something useful out of it.

Again, I say, never assume anyone knows anything.

Far too many FB users randomly surf around and may or may not engage for a variety of reasons. The #1 reason a user doesn't click, however, is that your bait doesn't hook them. Either they don't understand the message or they just aren't interested at that moment. You might never capture some users--you might also capture others so quickly and easily, you can't figure out how you did it!

To get the most return for your effort, make your message simple and direct. Don't try to be cute or gimmicky in your sales pitch. Definitely don't hide the link to "Buy now!" And please, ask for the sale--explicitly. Your visitors probably cannot  read your mind. If you don't make it blatantly clear what you're selling and how to buy it, you can't use your Facebook Page to sell anything.

Example of an EPIC #FAIL

I was once directed by a FB friend to a FB Page for her book. She wanted me to help her promote it. I didn't know the person well so we hadn't chatted much before she sent me the link. She just wanted to get the link out there. I got to her Page and I actually could not find the title of the book, let alone where to buy it.

Now, I'm a fairly adept social media user: I've been "online" since 1986, since before the web existed and I "learned at the speed of the internet" throughout the 90s when I ran my own web development and internet consulting business. I'm not a n00b. If I cannot figure out how to buy what you're selling (or worse, what it is that you're selling) there's something really wrong with your message delivery system.

Key takeaway from this lesson: Most users are clueless; don't expect them to come armed with a cluegun. Don't make them hunt down a means of interacting with you. Make it obvious, make it easy, make it convenient--for them. If it's good for you, too, that's just a bonus!

The Internet is International + Online 24/7
The word "internet" stands for "international network." It was spawned from a US-only network (DARPAnet) and differentiated by the fact it was international, not country-specific. Anyone from anywhere in the world could be on this new internet at any given time of day or night. It was supposed to be an always on, 24/7/365 flow of information. A highway, not a local side street. Are you trying to pull users over into your own private little cul-de-sac? Is there any good reason for them to consider interrupting their own voyage online to stop dead in their tracks at your doorstep?

Mac referred to this idea of "time management" which I believe was another one of his misstatements. Time management is the ability of a person to prioritorize and schedule their own activities in a cost-effective manner with the goal of optimizing their own time and effort.

What I think Mac wanted to talk about was the idea that time zones will affect your users' availability to read your message--or see it as "fresh." I think he wanted to stress you have to cater to your customers' schedules, not your own time-management needs. He was probably trying to say don't try to knock on someone's door when, for them, it's the middle of the night.

To get a higher rate of interaction with your content, pay attention to what your customers are doing. Understand when people are online, why, and for how long and you can modify your own online behavior to exploit the opportunities better. A study performed from 2007 to 2010 by Vitrue (and reported here, on Mashable, with graphics) offered several enlightening data on this topic.

Wed at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET/USA) is the busiest time of week.

This makes sense for two reasons. First, 3:00 p.m. ET/USA corresponds to 12:00 noon Pacific Time, so west-coasters are on their lunch break and it's 8:00 p.m. in the UK so Brits (the #2 largest English-speaking market on Facebook)  are doing their evening online activities.

Other peak times of day included 11:00 a.m. ET/USA which corresponds to when east-coasters are just starting lunch and west-coasters are just starting work while Britons are just about to wrap up their work days; and 8:00 p.m. ET/USA which is when east-coasters are settling into their evening online activities and west-coasters are wrapping up the workday. Britons aren't as participatory at 8:00 p.m. ET/USA since this is the middle of the night there.

The second reason 3:00 p.m. ET/USA on Wednesday might be the busiest time of the entire week is that, on Twitter, there's a meme or "Trending Topic" called #WW (worth watching or writer wednesday or a variety of other WW meanings). Indie Authors, in particular, are doing #WW mentions of each other so there's a flurry of activity simply to respond to the trend. Many times, new followers on Twitter will also follow--or at least visit--a Facebook Page to learn something about the new tweep. In fact, you might find interactions on Facebook lead to getting new followers on Twitter more than vice a versa.

The reason for that might be that Facebook gives a faster, easier-to-read access to the history of your activities than reading a tweetstream (which only displays one side of the conversation--the tweets by the tweep whose stream you're reading). As an outsider to the conversation, Twitter doesn't give the same insight as a Facebook Wall or Page's newsfeed. New tweeps visiting your Page will get a sense for who you are and what you're offering within moments.

This was probably the driving force/logic behind FB's decision to develop Timeline (and force it upon all users). Sadly for FB, Timeline is getting a big thumbs down because it's not very user-friendly. I've resisted it and still, already hate it. Timeline doesn't simplify, it complicates. See rule 1 above: KISS. And See a future post on Timeline--when I find time (haha)

Fans are less active on Sunday compared to all other days of the week.
This is an interesting stat for writers to internalize. On Twitter, Indie Authors arrive in hordes to the #SampleSunday or #SixSentenceSunday hashtags trying to entice readers to try out their wares. Given this is the least popular time of the week for casual users to get online, it's probably not a great time for us Indies to covnert passers-by into paying customers.

Most comments and "likes" are done between meetings or during breaks.

 The Vitrue study found the top of the hour (:00) will see more interaction than other parts of the hour. That makes sense since the first quarter (:0 to :15 minutes) is when meetings are letting out. You'll see more "likes" and comments at this time of any given hour. The second most popular time for interaction was the third quarter of the hour (:30 to :45 minutes), probably due to breaks in long meetings typically being scheduled on the bottom of the hour (:30).

Additionally, 65% of Facebook users tend to interact with their Twitter and Facebook feeds before work (early morning), during lunch (mid-day), or after dinner (usually after 8:00 p.m. local time). In other words, when they're not working. Given that using company resources for personal use is still grounds for termination in a lot of white-collar offices, this is good news to hear. Time was, users were less responsible about their social media usage. Good news for us providers of content as it makes it more predictable when we can reach more of our target audience in a receptive state of mind. If they're at work when they see our sales pitch, they're like to think they'll come back to it "later, when I'm home" and as we all know, that rarely converts into an actual sale.

Give, Don't Take
Customers actually hate surveys--unless there's a prize at the end, in which case it's a contest, not a survey. If it's a game, it's also okay and because FB users love games, might even gain you some new followers, but unless you camoflage your "survey" as a contest or game, don't ask your customers to answer a bunch of questions. They won't risk engaging you at all next time around if their "reward" for having an interest in you is to be interrogated.

Facebook's built in polls are great--and super easy to use. Mashable's Recruiting on Facebook infographic suggests making quizzes and contests--something like a game, not something to interrogate your visitors. Never ever forget that your customers don't want to be grilled and expected to pay for the "privilege." Customers want to get something for free. If you want to run a poll, quiz, survey or other interactive doo-hickey on your Facebook Fan Page, strongly consider making it a contest. Just be sure to offer a prize worth winning.

In a survey by Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) it was determined that 80% of customers wanted coupons and discounts from brand Pages they visited on Facebook--they went to the Page to get something free or cheap, not to take a survey, not to provide customer demographics to you, not to spend money, but to save money.

Automation Assists

This is the concept du jour but one of my favorites. By using one of the many free tools for scheduling Facebook status updates, you can reach a broader audience. If you know anything about me at all, you'll know I just heart Hootsuite to death. I specialized in automation tools in college and cannot think of anything better than automatically hooting out to the world--except actually interacting with my fans.

When it comes to Facebook, though, using Hootsuite can actually hurt me. Facebook will often collapse all "like kind" statuses together into one "Read 5 more stories like this" link which means nothing, right? According to an algorithm known only to the Facebook developers, any or all of your Hootsuite posts from any given day (or week) are going to be hidden behind that meaningless link with no indication of what you actually posted--let alone pictures or other things to attract attention and get click-throughs. Unless or until you interact as a human, Facebook won't give your automated statuses much credence. It's sad. It's also why I said automation assists. I did not say automation replaces your presence on Facebook. You, the human, still need to show up.

In fact, AYTM found that 74% of all Facebook users actually log into their account daily. Wow, huh? They don't necessarily stop by your Page daily. You have to give them a reason to notice what you have to say. Only posting automated statuses won't cut it. You can schedule news to post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time, but you should make a point of logging into Facebook, personally, and either commenting on your own post, liking it, or posting some other original content to make your Page appear in your customers' news feeds.

What's Next....
I have about a gazillion more things to say on the general topic of how to use Facebook, so future Tuesday Tips might be Facebook-heavy, but next week, I've been called to serve Jury Duty in Wake County. I just did this 2 years ago so I'm kind of annoyed that they called me again so quickly. Technically, they are legally allowed to call me every 2 years but in all of the years of living in 7 different states and countless counties, that last time was the first time in my 51 years of life I'd ever been called at all. I'm not sure why Wake County has such an interest in me but this means the blog will be shut down until Monday Feb. 20, 2012. I'll try to schedule an automated post (haha) but no promises!

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