notes on using facebook pages effectively (warning: boring stuff)

A facebook page could be one of many online ‘faces’ of a company (other than their website), and in our case being an online store, could be the first points of contact when customers have a problem or want to leave feedback. After a small explosion of growth on one of my company facebook pages, I developed a set of guidelines and good practices to ensure consistency amongst all our other administrators and, what I found to be, a good way to manage your online presence. Oh, and to also target influencers with engaging assets to act as platforms for conversation.

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

To start off with, the mentality is that the page is NOT an avenue to sell stuff
Too many businesses have this misunderstanding that facebook and twitter are just another way to ‘sell your goods and services’. And in a very, very small way, they are. Like when you try to sell something over the phone, which we all know, isn’t very effective. One thing you can do is to try to turn those ‘goods and services’ into promotional content which would make users interact with the page, as opposed to sending a one-way sales message.

For example, instead of announcing the arrival of a new product that you’re selling with a one sentence status update, you can upload a photo of the product, followed by a photo of your warehouse and get your users to guess in which bay it’s hidden for them to win it. You’ve added a personal touch to your message, creating more authenticity, you’ve given them a reason to respond to your status, and you’ve created a discussion touchpoint where they can share their views on where the product could be hidden.

The idea behind this is that:
  • * You want to be building brand equity; who doesn’t want returning customers who willingly subscribe to your brand?
  • * Facebook is a social network, hence, user expectations are different, and so would be the way you communicate your message.
Ebay is the sort of destination where users expect to see promotions and hard-selling ads, hence they wouldn’t feel as hostile towards being advertised to. Facebook is the sort of destination where users want to catch up on what their friends are doing, hence when an ad pops up, their alarm bells ring like crazy and will, naturally, try to reject it.

Let’s relate this back to the real world, where Ebay is the department store and Facebook was your friend’s house. You walk into a store expecting to be sold an item. You see sale signs everywhere, pricetags, etc. Fair enough, that was what you expected and in most cases, it was what you were looking for. You hang out at a friend’s house to chill. Over at his house, you see pricetags, sale signs and product promotional posters. It’s not really the same dynamic now, is it? If anything, it’s lame and you probably don’t want to hang out at your friend’s much longer than you have to.

A high school mate of mine likes to come over to build random Lego starships. We create different designs, add ridiculous amounts of guns and cannons on them and role play like we were in Star Wars. We spend hours talking about ways to improve on them, take photos to share with our friends and find other Lego products to complement our future designs. Put this into an online context. See what happened there?


(Off the track here, he sent me an interesting article from Business Week on how Lego revived its brand and that is a SW Sith Infiltrator Lego set I did a review on for FBTB)

This is where we’re heading when developing a clear communications plan when leveraging social media within a business context.

Content Guidelines
I also sometimes like to call this ‘Professional Trolling‘; a means to provoke a reaction from your users (without pissing them off!). I did the lame thing and created a PERFECT acronym to describe what your content should normally consist of.

Picture It’s inbuilt into our minds that we love graphics and that we are attracted to it. Like shiny things. It’s how the whole magazine/ gossip/ paparazzi industry survives. So wherever possible, always include a relevant image to accompany your message.
Cat Hands

EngagingFrom the title/ headline to how you write your message: make it short, to the point and interesting! People are reading hundreds of statuses a day and you need yours to make them pause for a second to read on, or click that elusive link after your message.

RelevantThere are a few misconceptions where people thought it’d be cool to go on a bit of a tangent here and there or ‘get too personal’ with their customers and write about a day out with the family. It really is a case-by-case basis, so really keep in mind what really fits your business model. Are you a local butcher with mums as regulars or a 10,000+ staff corporation manufacturing and selling cars?

Though, as a general rule of thumb, you need to control your brand within the confines that it should be in. We are a pop culture  imports company targeting 16-21 year old savvy internet users, our content would mainly focus on breaking pop culture news and memes. Our most responsive content always revolved around asking for product opinions, helping a fellow customer out or being first newsbreakers.

FeedbackMonitor how your customers are reacting to your content either via facebook insights or individual status view counts and adjust accordingly. What are they ‘liking’ more? What are they commenting more on? How many impressions are being received per status? What’s the clickthrough rate for attached links to statuses?

One of the key concerns we had when launching one of our specific campaigns was how receptive they would be to it. We started it off small, and what a response! Throughout the campaign, we monitored for all hours of the day and made changes to it accordingly, asked for feedback and kept our finger on its<doucheyterm> social pulse </doucheyterm>. It eventually delivered a 100% increase in membership over a week and helped us deliver our biggest sales campaign turnover for the year.

ExclusiveThis is sometimes pretty difficult for small businesses who have limited resources, but wherever possible, try to create your own content. Write a few blog posts relevant to your industry and get your customer’s thoughts on the issues you’ve raised. Hire a camera guy and make it his sole job to take and upload photos for a recent promotional event.

We’re currently shaping a campaign around for customers to make quick 4 sec videos of themselves with their newly purchased products from us.

ConsistencyFrom basic formatting to grammar, it provides for a smoother read. An editorial procedure to read it/ edit it before it’s posted is sometimes not appropriate for some pages which demand constant feedback. As a result, all your administrators should get into the habit of quickly scanning previous statuses/ comments and respond accordingly.

TimelySet a day, time and frequency. Again, this really is a case-by-case basis and you should specify these according to your demographic’s usage of facebook. Suss out when your users are usually online!

When deciding on a time to post a status for maximum effect, take into account the following:
  • + Time required to build status reputation: likes and comments build the importance of a status and give it a position within the ‘recent posts’ page, the first page someone sees when they first log onto their facebook accounts on their computer.
  • + The morning skim: where people check their twitters and facebook on their way to work, or first thing at work.
  • + You’ll be surprised how many people are procrastinating online on a Saturday night.
  • + Having a few evangelists of your brand amongst your page fanbase really helps!
One strat is to post a status update in the morning, putting it at the very top of the ‘recent news’ page, giving it exposure for people to comment and like on their way to work. This is particularly the case with phone apps where they would be prone to browse their news feed. If your facebook is connected to your twitter, you can have it linked back to your facebook if they decide to check their twitter feed first. Provided you’ve posted an engaging status for them to respond to, the morning will give people enough time to improve the reputation of the status, earning it a spot in the ‘top news‘ page whilst the status loses its way down the ‘recent news’ feed as other people start logging on. By earning a spot in the ‘top news‘ feed, your status is now prone to appear on the first page as people log onto their facebooks throughout the day, keeping your status relevant and at the top of your user’s feeds.

The unique thing about the Facebook page is that you can be juggling between owned and earned media, the best of both worlds.  You can control and disseminate what you post and that is what most, if not, all companies are doing. At the same time, the companies more successful in leveraging their social media strategy have turned their page into a venue for customers to generate word-of-mouth and buzz.

The Facebook Status
Any statuses/ messages posted that doesn’t contain any of these when it could/ should is a wasted post. Here is why:

Crap Post = Post that may not get any reactions
Post that may not get any reactions = A facebook page that looks like no one cares
A facebook page that looks like no one cares = A brand that does not care
A brand that does not care = Wrong

Therefore Crap Post = Wrong.

Proven mathematically y’all.

1. Attach a link (with a photo or youtube), upload a photo or video to your status
I think it’s important that wherever possible, you should utilise what Facebook has to offer to make your statuses stand out. And that includes an amazing image search function which allows you to select an appropriate thumbnailed image to accompany your status when you attach a link.
Click on the note with a pin icon to start attaching a link.

Type in the url and click attach. Make sure your link will also be relevant to the status message you’re going to put up, like a blog entry where your users can get more information.

The arrow buttons allow you to scroll through all the images that Facebook picked up from the link attachment. I’ve selected the Fafi figurine one for this example. Write your status in and then click share.

Hey, doesn’t look bad at all on the feed eh?

When you’re down on material, attaching and sharing a youtube link is a nice and easy way to continue interacting with your customers. The absolute cool thing about it is that they can play that video in facebook without leaving the page, so it will be props to you, and they can leave comments and like it at the same time.

2. Build online omnipresence through status tagging
Tagging another page in your status helps you cross-post to another page’s feed, in other words, sowing your seeds. Simple type “@” and a dropdown list will appear as you keep typing. Once you find the page, select it and it’s done! You need to be a fan of the targeting page first before you can do this.

I’m surprised by the number of pages which still haven’t caught onto this. Going to be at a trade show? Announce it to your fans whilst tagging the show’s page so people browsing that page will know you’ll be there. Just restocked on something? Tag the brand’s page as well so that their fans can find where they can buy their stuff.

Consider the following examples, where the bold words are opportunities to tag.

Fashion Retailer posts a status about new arrivals by BRAND, which was featured in FASHION SHOW, attaching a Youtube video of a snippet of the FASHION SHOW.

Toy Retailer posts a status about a new CARTOON, created by a legendary ARTIST and will have merchandise from TOY DISTRIBUTOR available.

It’s really important to also recognise the opportunities to tag. Here’s a quick example I noticed on the Pepsi Australia Facebook page when I was looking at their Max It campaign:

Pepsi Australia missed 5858 people by forgetting to include “@” in their status before ‘Sophie Monk’. That’s all it took! ARGH makes me angry lol.

Respond to everything. Even if it’s a general comment or feedback, thank them for it, or better yet, like it.  Old Spice guy did; he took the extra step and made a video for it too.

If someone is posting negative feedback, take that as an opportunity to convert them and propagate that message across! RESPOND RESPOND RESPOND! Take the time to RESPOND! If you don’t respond, you are not doing your job as a page administrator, simple as that. Individual messages and comments or blog posts picking out several comments to respond to, acknowledge your users that you are there, you are reading and you are caring.

4. Brand reinforcement through link-riding (Facebook ‘retweeting’)
This is relatively new, and mainly a cosmetic change to the way shared links on statuses are shown on feeds. If a page shares a link, and another page shares the exact same link, both pages will be acknowledged together, with separate comment feeds under the same line. This is a brilliant way to reinforce your brand to people who are members of both your pages.

I can’t really write much more on this and will investigate this one further as I play around with it more. I discovered it when I saw a shared link from a page we really liked and ‘reshared’ it through our page only to find on my feed that both our link statuses aggregated into one, with our brand sitting alongside theirs. Thought it would’ve been neat, like it was a collaborative effort between the two.

Everything covered here was discovered by endless hours of administrating and observing a small business facebook page. Spending more time on it has made a huge impact on not just its performance, but the way customers have now perceived the brand. We have people introducing themselves to us, pointing fingers at who is who and  referring back to conversations on the page. A few evangelists are born!

I invite everyone who has yet to take into serious consideration investing more time and/or more attention on their facebook pages to do so and to leverage it appropriately in any integrated communications plan.

P.S. This entire thing could also be summarised in one line via

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