Facebook features

Social 101: 5 Tips for Facebook Engagement

This post is the second in a two-part series on Facebook that originally appeared on LaraWellman.com. You can read the first part here. I thought it was a great way to kick of this month of Facebook posts. 


In my first post for Lara, I talked about the big question of whether to use Facebook pages or groups for your community. Now that you’ve set up your Page or Group, here are five strategies that you can use to make your content professional, useful and promote engagement with your followers:

1) Watch other pages.

Are they good at engaging? Do they have engaged followers? What are they doing that works well? What doesn’t work as well? You can get ideas for your own Facebook strategy by watching what works for others. One size doesn’t fit all, so if a technique doesn’t work, move on and try something else.

2) Link to Content

Here’s a little secret - the content doesn’t have to be yours every time! In fact, you should share others’ content. Do you have a question or opinion based on something you read? Link to it! Make sure your FB followers can see what prompted your query so they get the full context. If you want people to give opinions about something, link to it so they don’t have to go looking for it. The easier you make it for your followers to engage, the more likely they are to jump into the conversation.

3) Post to your page daily.

If you’re wondering when, you might be interested in this article from Mashable. Or this one from Social Times. All I get from these, and countless other similar articles, is that the perfect time is a moving target and probably depends on your audience anyway. Who are you targeting? When are they most likely to be on Facebook? Answer those questions and then do your own research of the trial and error variety.

4) Don’t spam your fans.

The average lifespan of a post on twitter is 10 minutes (this can vary a great deal based on how many people you’re following). Facebook doesn’t move nearly as fast - the lifespan is roughly 3 hours for a single post. Some Facebook pages can get away with quite a few posts by updating followers with up-to-the-minute information (news organizations). Most other pages don’t need to post updates more than two or three times a day - more than once in three hours can be a turn-off for some users.

5) Ask questions.

What’s the best way to start a conversation? Ask questions:

  • Input about products and services.

  • How your fans’ day is going.

  • How they spent their long weekend.

  • Topics, current events or news items relevant to your page’s purpose.

But whatever you ask, be sure to show an interest in the answers. Interact with your audience and be engaged.

There is no magic formula for growing your page following. Pages grow at different rates, but having good content and an actively engaged page will go a long way toward growing your audience.

What are some innovative ways that you’ve seen pages successfully engage with followers?

Five ways to avoid social media pitfalls with good driving sense

I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to driving and I'm betting all of you do as well. When I started this blog, I used the analogy of an acceleration lane and the planning and foresight that a driver should use to merge safely into oncoming traffic. The same situation can be applied to use of social media. Getting the lay of the land and watching to see what others are doing around you is essential. Sometimes you see valuable strategies that can be used in your own efforts. Other times you see things happening that you swear you'd never do.

1) Shortcuts and detours don't necessarily mean a short trip.
It's Monday morning, it's raining and no one remembers how to drive in the rain. Traffic has slowed to a crawl and you're definitely going to be late. So, you take your trusty back roads. Except, you aren't the only one taking a detour. How many times have you tried a shortcut only to realize that it's made your trip even longer?

Some social media users take shortcuts all the time. They buy followers for Twitter. They run contests that require users to "like" their Facebook page. They max out their circles on Google+ hoping those they circle will circle them back. These shortcuts give an appearance of greater reach, but quality over quantity should be the guiding principle in using social media. You want followers who have a genuine interest in your product or services, not a placeholder who doesn't care.

2) Noise annoys and pollutes.
In my hometown in Florida, there is a large (roughly 60,000) population of college students, many of whom like the boom. You can't drive anywhere without being shaken from head to toe by the bass speakers in someone's car and it's usually several. If I wanted to listen to my radio, it was usually impossible until I got out of hearing range of these cars - it was annoying.

Have you ever followed someone on a social network who was "noisy"? I have unfollowed dozens of people who clogged my stream with an overwhelming volume of content. Sure, there are ways to filter their content out. I've muted users, hidden them, and eventually if they bother me enough, I just cut them off. I don't believe in reciprocity, because I want my stream to add value to me. Do you think about the value you're adding to your users when you post on social channels?

3) Be respectful of all traffic.
I've been cut off by drivers so many times in such a way that the driver gains a whopping second or two on me. I have come to the conclusion that those drivers who are in such a hurry feel that their time is more valuable than mine. What they have to do is more important than being safe. These are often the same people who make it dangerous for smaller traffic to share the roads - bicycles, motorcycles, etc.

In social media, we don't have a physical danger element to our use, but there are many users who tend to be elitist. They speak to those who have a certain minimum. Maybe it's follower count. Maybe it's Klout score. Those numbers do not matter. Why? Because we all started with zero and those of us who've been around for a while all like to think we're adding value. Why not spend a little time responding to new people too?

4) Clear communication is crucial.
I was merging onto the highway recently when a woman behind me was furiously waving me into her lane. Not because she was angry, but because she wanted it to be obvious that it was OK for me to jump in. Traffic was heavy and her waving amused me as much as I appreciated it.

The conversation in social media channels can be fast and furious and so easily misconstrued. Careful wording, careful timing and doing your research will all help prevent misunderstandings.

5) Accidents happen; take responsibility.
I've had four fender benders in my life and I was at fault in half of them. I had to climb out of my car and walk up to the other person and tell them how sorry I was. One instance I was a young driver in circumstances that even an experienced driver would have a difficult time avoiding the accident. In the other, I was a young driver who just did something stupid. I didn't make excuses or try to fob off responsibility.

Anyone who's worked in communications for very long can probably name off a string of infamous public relations nightmares. In most of those examples, the criticism often focuses on the response to the backlash. Was it appropriate? Was it timely? Did they make amends? All of these are important to customers. Just ask any company who's taken a hit to their bottom line after poorly handling such incidents.

The end of the year is a time many of us use to reflect on what we've been doing and think ahead to what will come. If your journey on the road of social media has been bumpy, think about changes that can be made to smooth the road ahead into 2012.  Focus on quality, reducing the noise, engaging without parameters, communicating clearly and taking responsiblity and you'll have a great start to the New Year.

I hope everyone out there has a fantastic holiday - whatever you're celebrating!

Facebook: The updates and the furor

someecards.com - Glad the Facebook redesign helped distract you from everything actually wrong with your lifeYesterday, "English UK" was trending on Twitter. Why? Because masses of people, upset by the latest Facebook updates were advising others to change their language to English UK to go back to the old settings. The first time I saw a tweet, I replied to the tweeter something along the lines of, "Isn't that just delaying the inevitable?" They didn't respond, so I guess they didn't appreciate the point I was trying to make.

I've grown used to the inevitable backlash whenever Facebook does an update. I've even had frustrations with their updates myself. But this one? I actually like what they've done. Okay, the top stories part...that's not my favorite, but you can "train" it to do a better job of picking top stories for you. Besides, in the Web version, I don't find the top stories to be all that cumbersome - mobile is a different story. (Facebook doesn't do mobile well, but I'll save more on that for another post.)

The site, AllFacebook.com posted SIX stories throughout yesterday blasting Facebook for the latest updates - either by criticizing them or telling users how they can circumvent them. A seventh story covering a feature that hadn't received much attention still took its fair share of digs at the changes. One new feature that's got people in an uproar is the ticker in the top right of the page.

Really? I actually find it's useful. I don't get all these little updates in my newsfeed about who likes what anymore. It's tucked away in the ticker AND I get to see real-time updates that I can click and comment on. And if I don't want to use it? It's really easy to ignore. I really don't see the problem.

The top stories being added to the top of the newsfeed have been the biggest item of controversy in yesterday's change resistance (let's be honest; that's what it is - people HAVE admitted to it). While I've never been a fan of the top stories Facebook chooses, the way it's implemented now gives me a clear way to manipulate what I see.

Facebook enhanced their list functions, but it's still as clunky and un-user-friendly as ever. The smart lists are great, but if you want to build and maintain lists, it's slightly better than creating Twitter lists. As much as I like the filtering capability of lists, I'm not a fan of going through hundreds of people to do it. (Quick side note: Google's circles are just as difficult to manage when you have hundreds in them. The best thing they have going for them is drag and drop.) Speaking of drag and drop, that would have been a great feature for Facebook to add. Alas, they probably didn't want G+ to claim they're copying. So, they made enhancements, but left it in the classic Facebook style for the most part.

  • I like that I can approve tags now.

  • I like that I can share public statuses. (It's important to note that limited statuses are not sharable - has Facebook finally learned its lesson on the importance of privacy?)

  • I like that I don't have to constantly click on the "most recent" link to get to the most recent stories.

What is all the fuss about?

Change. One little word that has huge implications for people. A lot of people don't agree that Facebook is making its interface better. That's a subjective conclusion and it will be different for everyone. I like a lot of what Facebook has done, but I don't think all of it was a homerun. I'm certainly not going to leave as some have threatened.

Here's the fun part: It isn't over. More changes are coming. As for the writer's suggestion that Facebook allow users to convert back and take time to adjust? They've done that before and it doesn't make the transition easier; it just delays it. I say rip the bandaid. People will adjust.

My RSS reader pretty much exploded with Facebook stories today. Here are a few more with slightly less biased views compared to the All Facebook stories above:

Hubze Blog - Hate The New Facebook Newsfeed?

HubSpot - Facebook Enhances Newsfeed and Introduces Ticker

paidContent - With Update, Facebook Is Aiming To Be More Social

GigaOM - Facebook wants to be the newspaper of your dreams

What did YOU think of the latest Facebook changes? If you didn't like them, what is your biggest problem with the update? If you did like them, what's the best part of the update?
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Facebook Part 1: To Page or To Group?

There are at least 1,836,972 “experts” out in the world to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do on Facebook. Strategy is important, but it’s not one-size-fits-all, so I’m going to focus on a few tips and tricks in this series that anyone can do to help improve your Facebook experience – for you and for those who follow you.

Should you set up a Profile, Page or Group for promoting content on Facebook?

 Facebook profiles are for individuals. Anyone who is representing an entity shouldn’t use them. Profiles are limited to 5,000 friends, so if that’s the route you take, you’re automatically setting a limit on your Facebook reach. Sure, it may take a while to get to 5,000 fans if you’re not Starbucks, but dream big! What you have to say is valuable, so don’t sell yourself short by starting out with a profile. Facebook recently added functionality to convert profiles to pages and friends are supposed to transfer, but I’ve heard of cases where they don’t so proceed with caution, i.e., read instructions carefully.

That’s reason enough not to have a profile for an entity, but there’s more.

Profiles can see private information about “friends” that Pages and Groups cannot. Facebook already has so many privacy issues that many users will balk at “friending” an entity. So, by creating a profile for your entity, you’re once again limiting your reach for those who are concerned about privacy.

Now that we’ve established that profiles for entities aren’t a great plan, the biggest question now is whether your content is best presented by a page or group.

Pages are good for broadcasting messages. You can use apps like Networked Blogs or RSS Graffiti to syndicate your blog content via RSS feed to a page automatically. Depending on the content you generate and questions you ask, lots of discussion can be facilitated through a page. However, your page followers will not receive notifications of new content on a page. The lifespan of your content can be minutes or hours depending on how many other pages/friends your followers have whose content goes into their feed.

Groups are well-suited to discussion. They can be “open” with all content accessible by anyone – member or not or a group can be “secret” and various levels of restriction in-between. Your RSS feed can also be automatically posted to any group in the same way they’re posted to pages. The difference is that group members will receive notifications of new posts. Within a group, members can set up and edit documents that all members can access. This is particularly useful if group members are adding to a collection of resources for all to use. Facebook just recently added group chat to Group pages, so any online members can all chat with each other in real time. There is rich functionality in groups that, used wisely, can be incredibly helpful for facilitating high levels of engagement in group members.

So which one is right for you? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you selling a product or service?
  2. Will you be generating your own content to disseminate to followers?
  3. Do you want to control – as much as possible – the information that followers see?

If you answered yes to these questions, then I would generally recommend going with a Facebook Page.

  1. Do you want followers to be able to post content for other followers to see?
  2. Is the content community-based and of interest to a wide audience?
  3. Are members actively engaged in supporting the followers as a whole?

If you answered yes to these questions, your content may be well-suited for a Facebook Group.

Put simply, Pages are ideal for information dissemination and Groups for discussion and support. While it may be tempting for every entity to want to tap into the engagement power of Groups, it is best to think about how you envision the flow of information. Will it be community-based or primarily one-sided? Now that groups are becoming more prevalent (again) on Facebook, entities from blogs to businesses need to carefully evaluate how they choose to promote their content before actually jumping in. Why? Pages and Groups can’t be converted, so switching mid-stream could mean losing followers.

What are your thoughts about the Page versus Group decision?