Facebook has made it ok for brands to chat to their online fans as if they were old friends, but new research from the social media site itself has suggested that this conversational strategy falls short when it comes to true customer engagement.
In a recent study, Facebook monitored over 1,200 posts from 23 brands over a period of one month. When it came to winning likes, comments and shares, a distinct pattern emerged. "By far, the biggest predictor of engagement was that the post was on a topic relevant to the brand," explained Sean Bruich, Facebook’s leader of measurement platforms and standards. The research revealed that keeping content brand-focused was the most effective way to gain likes and shares, after all, “people are seeing the content because they liked the brand, and it makes sense that content about the brand will get them engaged."
That doesn’t mean you should completely ditch your conversational posts with customers. While Facebook’s research indicated that non-brand related content was significantly less likely to encourage engagement, these kinds of posts can still work as a “nice change of pace” from purely commercial content, Bruich said.
The research also revealed that requesting likes for a post did indeed gain more likes, but it was less likely to encourage all-important shares and other types of engagement. Shares are considered more valuable than likes because they suggest a brand is reaching out to the huge friends-of-fans network that’s at the forefront of Facebook’s marketing potential. The key to winning more shares, advised Bruich, is not to ask your fans questions – which only seem to increase commenting - but to post more photos and videos.
Facebook marketing best practices have also been explored in-depth by Buddy Media, an analytics company that helps brands to maximise their social media presences. In a soon to be reissued 2011 paper, the company found that fans are more likely to comment when asked a specific question, particularly if the question starts with the words “where”, “when” “would” and “should”. Interestingly, Buddy Media advised that “why” questions got less comments and likes and could be viewed as pushy or challenging.
Posting brand relevant content is the best way to engage your online fans, while posting videos and photos is a valuable way to gain more precious shares. Are you doing all you can to maximise customer engagement on Facebook? How many photo’s have you taken and shared on your Resorts Facebook page this week?