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Discover the three best ways to engage with readers on Facebook

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Facebook continues to be the social media giant. It’s funny to look back at Episode 105 eighteen months ago back in May 2010 when I wondered whether recent privacy events could signal the fall of Facebook, and I went through 7 reasons the mighty giant might fail.

Needless to say, they’ve recovered from some of the issues I posed, including privacy concerns and revenue generation. In fact, the New York Times and Wired ran a stories about a group of students that were taking on Facebook with a new product called Diaspora, and it gained some pretty good buzz.

Where are we 18 months later? Well, Diaspora seems to be in alpha release still and in retrospect, was just a tiny fly on the back of a Rhino. And that Rhino would be Google Plus, which Facebook seems to be going head-to-head with and still winning.

Of course by now if you’re a brand, you have already have a robust Facebook page. You’ve updated some graphics, built up your following, and have widgets on your website to drive people to Like you on Facebook.

But now that you have fans on Facebook, how do you engage with your audience?

I’ve been running the Wired Facebook page for some time now, and am also managing Community Managers for four other Conde Nast brands. Needless to say, we are seeing lots of feedback and data, and are constantly trying to glean learnings from our users.

I recently did a deep-dive analysis of 60 days of Facebook posts on Wired, analyzing 250 posts for a theory that I have, which I’ll share with you in a moment.

But what I came up with his week was a fairly obvious observation, but one that I think can still really help The Hopkinson Report readers. When you’re posting something on your page, you need to have a goal.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of this post?

Keep in mind that Conde Nast properties have magazine and websites and are content publishers, so if your business is retail or selling a physical product your mileage may vary, but in general when I looked at all the ways you can interact, three became clear.

The three pillars of Facebook engagement

1. Driving traffic
The first type of post is to drive traffic to your website. For the extreme newbies out there, the steps are:

a) Choose the ‘Link’ option and post in a URL from your website

b) This will bring up a thumbnail option if you have a photo on your page. I highly recommend that you do so that it catches the reader’s eye, and note that if you have multiple photos on your page, you can page through them and select the best one.

c) You can also edit the title and description of the post that is automatically brought in by facebook by clicking on the text.

d) Lastly, you write a description of the article you are posting. It can be the same as the title from the post itself, or you can customize it. It’s a good practice to word your text with a call to action to nudge the reader in that direction.

Again, the goal here is to actually encourage people to LEAVE Facebook itself and go to your website. The reason you would do this is to get them to read an article or view a slideshow (where you have ads that generate page views and revenue) or buy a product on your site.

Wired Product Review team takes a look at the new iPhone 4S. Click here to read their full review on Wired.com.

2. Driving comments
The second type of post is meant to keep people ON the Facebook page and engage directly with readers. Driving people to your website in step one is great, and might be what you ultimately want to do as a business, but if you constantly are asking people to leave Facebook and do something for you, it becomes robot-like.

In order to engage on a new level, it is important to ask questions, respond to your fans, and get fans talking to each other. There are a few ways to do this.

a) Post a link, but ask a direct question. In this model, you are doing Step 1 and posting a link, but how you write your status is much different. To build on the example above, you might say ‘Wired reviewed the new iPhone 4S this week. Do you feel that it is a significant upgrade over the iPhone 4, and how does it compare to the top Android Phones?’

In a perfect world, readers will go to your site, read the article, give you page views, and then return to Facebook to give their opinion. But in many cases, people already have made up their mind about the iPhone, and will go right to the comments and speak their mind. And let me tell you, the iPhone vs Android battle is alive and well.

b) Ask a question without a link. In this manner, you are asking an open-ended question about a topic that your audience is familiar with, and driving people right to the comments.

For example, we might simply say: ‘It’s seems clear that the smartphone race is going to come down to Apple vs Android. Leave a comment below to say why you chose one platform over another.’
The goal of this is to spark a discussion on your Facebook page and get readers interacting with each other. It’s a good practice for you, as the brand, to jump in and stoke the fires a bit and keep things going.

3. Driving shares
Facebook has only recently surfaced the statistic of ‘shares’ on a brand’s page, but it’s a helpful one. This tells you the reach that you are getting BEYOND your immediate audience. If one of your readers feels compelled enough to take your content and distribute it to their friends, then you’ve really nailed a topic that people like.

By sharing content, it has the true chance to go viral, as one person exposes it to their several hundred friends, and then those people might share it again to their several hundred friends.

What drives shares? A great story will be shared. A great question will be shared. And of course, you can be blatant and say ‘Like this post? Share it with your friends.’ But one of the best ways to drive shares is through PHOTOS.

Through the proliferation of cameras on mobile devices, high-end DSLRs, quick blogging services like Tumblr, and apps like Instagram, photos are being shared on the web at dizzying pace.

Photos are eye-catching, evocative, and let’s face it… people have ADD and are lazy. Sure, they can spend a few minutes coming up with an intelligent response about the advantages of Android as an open platform, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to see a killer photo of a planet and share it on their wall.

In my research, I determined that users were:
– 1.5x more likely to comment on a photo
– 2.5x more likely to share a photo
– 3.5x more likely to like a photo

So there you have it, the 3 pillars of Facebook engagement. Depending on your brand and your goals, you should determine what the best mix of posts will be for you. It’s important to keep it diversified, but whether you split them 33% each, or decide to go 70% photos is up to you.

I’m off to go take some photos.

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