When Facebook launched 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 popular social network ever and has molded web-based interaction as we know it. From connecting friends and family members, to bridging the gap between companies and their customers, Facebook has skyrocketed our online interactions to a whole nother level.
Facebook has become an essential component of people's online social presence. Many people only participate online via Facebook, but the level of engagement varies across the wide variety of users. From the users that check it randomly throughout the week to those who are almost addictively active, the sole driving force to participation is connection: connecting with friends old and new, colleagues, alumni networks, and for an increasing percentage of users, even professional connections.
Facebook has transformed into a channel with highly customizable privacy and visibility settings. Users can manage their visibility to the point where they are nearly invisible. They can choose which posts or updates are visible and to whom. On the other hand, there are users who have chosen a more all-in approach can leave everything completely public.
Applications of Facebook go beyond the individual user's page to company pages, events, groups, and now a pseudo-standalone messenger service.
As people rely on social platforms more and more, these social networks will adapt and expand as Facebook has. While there's still a great amount of opportunity in this space, Facebook provides users the most options for the many aspects of their lives while maintaining flexibility for privacy and visibility. As people continue to adopt new behaviors and change their expectations, Facebook will need to continue to respond in order to remain at the top of the social mountain, so expect constant change. This change is needed and beneficial, but can be a pain from a marketing perspective.
As more people and businesses dive into Facebook, the noise level for the individual user increases. While Facebook's News Feed algorithm tunes the noise level by showing users what it perceives as the most relevant content, in order to really stand out from the crowd, companies must be remarkable, interesting, and most importantly add value.
You'll need to optimize your content and take Facebook-specific functionality into account to make sure that your posts are being seen by your customer-base.
Content. Everything you post on Facebook is content. As we now know from the News Feed algorithm, how users interact with that content is important. Consider every piece of content you post an opportunity for increased and specific engagement, and don't be afraid to have a little fun. It will be important to find a nice balance between being on-brand while not being afraid to show your company's human side. Also, image base posts are incredibly effective on Facebook—in fact on average, they receive 39% more engagement.
Timing. Also relevant to the substance of your content is when and how you post it. Be sure you're tracking what time of day your followers are most active. Focusing your publishing during these times will help you expand your following-base. Also be sure to pay attention to basic things like sentence structure, phrasing, and types of posts that are especially intriguing to your audience. Many users check the site on their lunch breaks and after dinner, and while the latter is outside of normal business hours, it's worth testing to see if that's a time when your audience is looking for content.
Moderation. Companies have a growing level of responsibility for user-generated content posted on their walls or in comments. You'll want to think through your position on inappropriate content that pops up on your Facebook page, and your best strategy would be to make this stance public. This way your followers know what you will and will not allow, lessens the chance of a surprise, builds a sense of safety, and sets expectations.
Engagement. Because you are constructing connections rooted in relationships, you can leverage it to the max by joining in the conversation with your customers. They want to interact with your company, and are going out of their way to do so. Respect that. The type of conversation will dictate the voice of your response. This is greatly dependent on your type of company as well; for example, an automobile manufacturer's response rates to safety issues ought to be rather quick, as their customers' needs are likely far more time sensitive than those in another industry. Only you can determine what is right for your business, but at least in the initial stages of building a following, it's better to err on the side of quicker response rates.
Community. Make your followers' experience on Facebook about their experience and their connections rather than your click-through-rates and conversion rates. Focus on your followers, and you'll succeed. Your target audience will turn into a community that prospers, grows, and supports one another. By stimulating conversation within the audience, you can help enhance the level of loyalty they will have to your company, moving toward customer advocacy.
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