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:
- Annual sales and marketing calendar
- Event and conference calendars
- Seasonal promotions and email marketing calendars
- New product and service launches
- Public relations and corporate communication calendars
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.
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.
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.