Jason Stewart (MD of HaveYouHeard) and his team of Cath Mori, Tracy Dale and Britt Adami, in an effort to understand Facebook Timeline better, tracked just over 30 Facebook Pages, both local and international (including our own Pages which we manage) over the past few weeks since Timeline was introduced. We looked at other studies done by similar agencies internationally, with our ultimate objective being to identify the best practices to use.
It has been widely established that the success of a Facebook Page is not its size, but rather the amount of people engaging with it. This is indicated by the amount of people “Talking About This” (which is measured as a percentage within our study to be able to compare pages of different sizes more accurately).
The reason why we want a higher percentage of people “Talking About This” is to ensure that the brand’s content remains in peoples’ newsfeeds. That is why a high number of “likes” means much less because if only a very small percentage of fans are “Talking About This”, your message is falling on deaf ears. Therefore looking at what percentage of your Page is “Talking about this” is a critical factor in determining your Facebook Page’s success. Anyone can buy “likes”, but it takes smarter thinking to generate higher engagement.
Buzzfeed found that after tracking 200 Pages, the average engagement rate (Talking About This) was less than 0.02%. We focused on the top pages from both South Africa and abroad and those Pages fared much better. We found the average engagement rate was closer to 5% which should be seen as an acceptable benchmark – any lower and your Social Media team needs to start thinking harder about content and engagement.
This article is focused on what we have learnt from our own experience as well as from the best practices of others. Following the advice should bring your “Talking About This” rate above the 5% acceptability benchmark.
Here are our Top 10 Best Practices for Facebook Timeline:
- Images are in and copy is out as communication becomes more about visual storytelling. The use of pictures is incredibly important. Forget writing detailed status updates or posts, rather use pictures or specifically designed posts that translate the message visually. The implication for the brand is that more budget needs to be set aside for developing content in this way, but with higher impact you should be able to measure the ROI on your increased spend.
- Posting Content : An entire article, or even a book can be written about this topic. The shorter the post, the better. As Buddy Media found out – 80 words or less generates around a 30% better response rate than longer posts. We must not forget that online content has become more intensive than advertising itself as people are constantly bombarded with information, from emails to alerts to articles etc. The quicker they can read, understand and respond to a post, the more chance you have of them doing it.
- Questions work much better than statements in terms of creating engagement. Officially, questions generate around 15% higher engagement than statements. We measured it closer to 30%. However, it is not always as simple as asking a question – it is what you ask that is important. Don’t ask ‘Why’ as this requires too much thought and people will more often than not gloss over it. Rather use “When, Should, Where” etc, those that require less thinking and an easier, shorter response.
- The type of content a brand posts is critical. This is where creativity comes into play – finding or creating content that is shareable and ensuring it drives the brand message. What we need to know about posting content is that Facebook has something called the Edge Ranking, which is an algorithm that ‘measures’ all content and judges how high up and for how long a piece of content stays in someone’s newsfeed for. The algorithm looks at the affinity between the message creator and the message receiver (how often they interact), the weight of the content (video versus comment versus “like” for example – with the more robust the content, the higher the weighting) and then it looks at time; when it was posted, with the sooner being the better. It shows us that we need to ensure high engagement with all our fans, more robust content (videos and pictures are better than copy), and that we need to post more often than not.
As much as possible, include pictures, links, thumbnail images and videos into posts as they increase your content’s Edge Ranking (interestingly videos that show the actual time length in the post have a higher engagement rate as the user can immediately decide whether they will spend that amount of time watching it).
- When to post has become increasingly more important. Because of Facebook’s Ticker (the stories that appear on the right hand side of your page and “tick” continuously as new content is posted), posts now only have a lifespan of roughly 3 hours in a newsfeed. Therefore, posting once a day will not do, we need to post more regularly. This is one of the most neglected but influential ‘rule changers’ for Facebook, as your Page’s “Talking About This” amount will drop if you no longer post enough. What we have noticed is that most brands post between 9am and 5pm. However, a lot of activity goes on after and before business hours and on weekends. Did you know that 30% of women check Facebook during the middle of the night and again first thing as they wake up? Which brands are they engaging with then? We found that Pages that posted more often during the day did not lose fans due to ‘spamming’ them with content, but rather increased their engagement as different parts of their audience saw the different messages at different times of the day.
- One of the areas that most brands fall short on is in how they respond on the Page. There is no reason for more than a 24-hour delay. Our aim as an agency is for no longer than a day turnaround for a response, with our goal being to respond within an hour. It is also important to continue to engage with your fans in the comments as this pulls the thread back into newsfeeds.
- Pinning and highlighting posts makes it easy for you to pull attention to the most important content. Strategic thought needs to be given to which posts go where. This is prime real estate and your most important messaging and calls-to-action need go here.
- Apps are a little more user friendly and can make a Page look great, whilst also helping users with their experience of a brand. It is great for redirecting users to competitions, brand or campaign websites or customer care. But what is more important is that a user’s interaction is recorded by Facebook’s Social Graph – which means that this activity gets pulled into your newsfeed, improving your brand’s exposure. Apps allow more reasons for users to engage with you, spend time on your Page and to share content with others.
- The cover photo is the most important real estate on a Facebook Page. One eye-track study noted that users spent more time looking at the cover photo than they did at the wall posts. Good brands change their cover photo about once a week with most only changing it every 3 to 4 weeks. Much more attention needs to be given to this. Your cover photo sets the tone for your Page and just like people ‘judge a book by its cover’ so do users judge a Page by its cover photo. Pick ‘n Pay does a really great job in this regard.
- Milestones are a great way to provide an immersion into the history of a brand. Again, great visual content can be created for this. Creatives should get involved in building up the brand story as it offers the opportunity to educate and transform how a consumer understands your brand. Ensure that the content you post is engaging and visual.
With these 10 tips, we hope you are able to improve, possibly even drastically, your brand’s performance on Facebook. If you want to get into more detail or have any additional insights to share, please get in touch with us. We would love to continue the conversation.