How to Increase EdgeRank and Add Fans in the Facebook Timeline

by Nate Riggs on Jan 17, 2012

Historically, social marketers have widely accepted that once-per-day posting on Facebook was the right frequency of distribution to use to engage their Facebook fans.

A recent study conducted by bit.ly makes us think twice about this assumption,  finding that the average shelflife of an update on Facebook is 3.2 hours before it  disappears into the timeline and is no longer visible to users.

Another study conducted by PageLever found only 3% – 7.5% of fans ever see any given status update published to a fan page. To make things more challenging, similar research from Buddy Media shows that peak fan engagement times vary across days and times of day, making the timing of your updates more critical than ever.

Paid Media VS Organic Fan Base Growth

Similar to the way that businesses have leveraged Google to be found by customers, Facebook fan base growth can also be achieved in a paid versus organic fashion.

Paid Media – First, Facebook’s beefy advertising platform allows you to target based on demographics, geolocation, intent and consumer preference. With the right insights and use, it can be extremely effective in generating the targeted fan growth that supports brand awareness and loyalty.

Organic Growth – Similar to organic search engine optimization in Google, the second approach leverages Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm to add fans organically through what can be considered as peer referrals, by having your Page status updates redistributed into the personal Timeline of as many of your fans as possible.

Organic fan growth in Facebook operates on the principle that fostering deeper engagement among your existing fans will actually help to add more fans through more viral updates, lending itself to be a sustainable, long term strategy.

Case Study — Bob Evans Farms

For the past three months, I’ve been working with Bob Evans Farms, a public company that operates a chain of more than 550 family dining restaurants throughout the midwest and distributes grocery products in tens of thousands of supermarkets across North America.

The Bob Evans Facebook Page is in it’s infancy when compared to larger competitors like Olive Garden, Applebee’s and IHOP, we’ve been able to grow our Facebook page membership by more than 45,000 new fans in less than 90 days, and for less than $15,000 investment into Facebook advertising campaigns.

Here are the four key steps we took to develop and execute our growth strategy and achieve those results.

1. Determine Meaningful Content Windows for your Brand

For any community manager, it’s critical to show the relevance of Facebook to your senior management in a way that aligns with the objectives of the brand.  For Bob Evans (and for lots of other consumer-facing businesses), this means first looking at the fiscal calendars where the most important events, promotions and business drivers are planned.

When your planning Facebook content and updates, make sure to look at things like your:

  1. Annual sales and marketing calendar
  2. Event and conference calendars
  3. Seasonal promotions and email marketing calendars
  4. New product and service launches
  5. Public relations and corporate communication calendars
Mash all of these different schedules together and determine when fans might have the highest propensity to engage with your brand. Chances are, awareness will be supported by other media and if so, you’ll discover potential high-traffic periods for your Facebook page.

2. Analyze and Understand Your Peak Fan Engagement Times

Using two different Facebook tools, we were able to determine the peak times when the fan volume for our page was high.

The combination of EdgeRank Checker and PageLever provides us insights that tell us the peak times that allow us to get our updates in front of as many fans as possible at the times they were logging on to check Facebook.

Doing this by testing your own single posts, tracking them in a spreadsheet and times/days they were posted is possible, but these tools speed things up quite a bit.

3. Design a Consistent Content Distribution Plan

Using the data above, we were designed a distribution schedule that was easy for a community manager to execute in our Context Optional dashboard. Context Optional is a great tool for monitoring Facebook pages, escalating fan comments across departments and blocking inappropriate language and spam bots.

When designing this schedule, we faced a three-fold challenge.

First, we needed to make sure our community managers were paying attention to our business objectives while not turning off our fans by being too promotional.

Second, we knew that a combination of media elements like images and video would be critical to keeping fans coming back for more.

Finally, we determined that simple questions timed at the most relevant times of day were highly effective in causing fan interactions such as likes and comments.

facebook-distribution-schedule

4. Meet Every Fan Interaction with a Reaction

One of the biggest challenges for bigger brand page community managers is responding to the influx of comments, Likes and questions from fans.  With the above distribution in hand, this task became much easier in that we now had a framework to be able to anticipate interaction.

Likewise, responding to fan interactions within the 3.2 hour window with comments and Likes from the page administrator also works to boost the original objects’s EdgeRank score even higher, thus causing greater distribution of the objects across the news feeds of additional fans.

Facebook-question

Build Your Very Own Broadcast Network

As opposed to established media networks like Fox, NBC and ABC that have spent decades fo time and literally billions of dollars building out the distribution channels that lights up our living rooms with programming, the responsibility of building the distribution channel of your brand’s Facebook page lies on your business.

Working first to grow your fan base increases the effectiveness of that network in communicating brand messages and promotions, and gathering insights from the people who buy your stuff. Remember that each fan you add creates an opportunity to add more fans, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that your company will need to increase their Facebook advertising budget.

Spend time first thinking about how to increase the EdgeRank scores of your updates and the size of your fan base, and the effectiveness of your business promotions will soon follow.

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Post Author

Nate Riggs is a leading content marketing strategist and community manager, who leads the social business division at The Karcher Group. For the past 10 years, he has advised organizations like Bob Evans Farms, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bayer Animal Health, Imgur.com,...

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  • http://twitter.com/MrSheffey Arman Sheffey

    Great article! Thanks.

  • Chelse Benham

    Brilliant! Thanks for thisw article.

  • http://www.newedge.co.uk/ Kelly

    Thanks for this post, really helpful!

  • http://nateriggs.com nateriggs

    Thanks for reading, Chelse :)

  • http://nateriggs.com nateriggs

    Appreciate that you read, Kelly :)

  • http://nateriggs.com nateriggs

    Glad you checked it out, Arman :)

  • http://twitter.com/mickthornton Mick Thornton

    Nate, great article and oh so timely.  My collegues and I have been working on the same sort of anlysis but for the insurance industry. I like point #3 and the idea of a table of when and what to do (based, i’m sure on analytics) and adjustable as the situation may change over time.  Yes?

  • http://jandjjewelersocala.com/ Cary

    So many of these strategies are priced out of the Mom and Pop range, because of the sheer cost of the analytics and content generation, I would love to see a small guy solution.

  • Barb Brian

    I would love to see what you come up with for the insurance industry.  Finding material to post is my challenge.  What to post, how to engage our very small fan base in order to grow it organically.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sociallyvisible.me Miqui Russell

    Small guy solutions are all the same. FB ads until you have a decent fan base and then apps for the closer. FB ads and apps combined is your counter to global reach. Right now my ads cost me .18 per click and my apps of course are free because i make the suite. I only have two big clients right now who i set up their ads, Both campaigns are hovering around .29 cpc because of the broad target scope they demanded but the app price is never changing.

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