Facebook basics: Engage fans

Once we’ve set up our Facebook Page, there are three things we need to do: Post some content, find our first few fans, and engage them so that they Like our Page and interact with it.

Posting some content to your Page

Facebook timeline - Jo Nesbo

An example of a Page timeline. (Click to enlarge image.)

Your Facebook Page has a timeline, just like your personal Facebook Profile. A Page timeline is two columns wide, unlike a personal Profile timeline which is a single column.

The timeline is where you add the short posts, photos or videos, links and so on, and where your fans can interact by commenting and sharing. Posts to your timeline appear in the news feeds of fans who Like your Page.

You add short posts using what Facebook calls the sharing tool. In a later section, we’ll give you some tips on the most effective ways to post.

Get started by adding some content that you think your target audience will like and that will give them a flavor of what your Page will offer them.

Facebook Page status box

Finding fans

Facebook Like

Once you’ve set up your Page, the trick is to get Facebook users to Like your Page. This lets them follow your Page and means your updates and posts will get wider coverage by infiltrating the timelines of your fans (those who’ve clicked the Like button on your Page) and their friend networks.

One thing to keep in mind is that once you’ve attracted 25 fans, you can register a custom username for your Facebook Page. This gives you an easy-to-remember (and potentially more search engine friendly) name in the format facebook.com/MyName, unlike the ugly and difficult-to-remember URL you’re assigned when you first set up your page. You might want to apply for this name before you start printing your Facebook address on any marketing materials.

A Facebook gotcha. In theory, when you post an update on your Facebook Page, fans who Like your Page will also see it in their personal timelines. After all, that’s what you and your fans are signing up for, right? Wrong. In fact, Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm filters all the updates flowing into a user’s timeline so that, on average, only about 1 in 10 updates gets through. There are things you can do to improve this but if you want to make sure all your fans get a message, your only option is to use Facebook advertising.

Note however that, under pressure from users and Page owners, Facebook quietly released a feature that gives fans some control of Pages they want to see unfiltered. When they visit a Page they follow and click the ‘Liked’ button, they can select the Get Notifications option. But Page owners have no control over this and you’ll probably violate Facebook policies if you actively try to get your fans to do this.

Three rules to write engaging posts

Engagement‘ is Facebook’s jargon for getting fans interested enough to interact with and share your Page’s posts. Writing good copy should be easy for literary types but Facebook thrives on a different style and it has different objectives.

Here are the top three things you can do to write copy that will engage your fans.

  1. Keep it short and punchy. Some recent research showed that posts with fewer than 80 words got almost a third more interaction. And as more people access Facebook from their mobiles, this will increase in importance.
  2. Give your readers something to do. Add links, photos and videos, ask (easy) questions.
  3. Ask. It might sound rude, but you’ll get more interaction if you actually ask for it: Comment, Like, tell us, click, watch, post, tag, share, etc.
Caution: Facebook recently announced that it was tweaking its algorithm to penalise posts that explicitly ask users to like, post, share, etc. Its aim is to remove the “spammy” posts but you should take care how you use this time-honored practice and be a little creative and subtle about how you ask fans to engage with your posts.

Most successful posts follow one or more of these rules but there are plenty of other things that work. We’ve listed a few of the perennials below.

More proven tips to help you write effective Facebook posts.

How often should you post?

The answer, of course, is often but not too often? And be consistent. What’s often enough? For most active Pages, there’s going to be daily activity but that doesn’t have to produce a flood of posts. One or two a day will probably be fine.

Amazon added more than 10 million new fans in 2012, posting just once or twice a day or so through much of that period. It posts more often now as its fan count has grown, but that still means just half a dozen new posts a day, sometimes fewer.

How engagement affects the reach of your posts

Engagement is valuable for more than just feeling good. The amount and the types of engagement feed into Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, heavily influencing how many fans — and friends of fans — your posts reach. This is appropriately referred to as the reach of a post.

Reach is a ‘holy grail’ of Facebook posting. Facebook defines it as the number of people — fans and friends of fans — who see your post over a 28-day period. Done well, you can reach many more fans than actually Like your Page.

More engagement = more reach. If a post has a high proportion of engaged fans, it’s more likely to appear in others’ timelines.

By the way, this is a reason to be wary of filling your Facebook Page with marginal fans who have little interest in you. They’ll reduce the percentage of engaged fans and risk lowering your reach.

Next: Stepping it up

That’s the basics. Now we’re ready to give our Page more impact, step up our promotion, and start to make Facebook work for us.


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