Public relations

Public relations: How to get your Facebook fans' attention

Facebook can't grow your business without your help

Contributing ColumnistOctober 31, 2011 

Your company's fans aren't seeing your posts on Facebook. Yes, that's correct. Your business page might have a large number of fans, but a recent study by analytics company PageLever suggests that only 3.5 percent of them see what you post.

It's a disturbing number for businesses that rely on social media to help spur sales and better communicate with customers. So how do you fix it?

It comes down to your page's EdgeRank, an algorithm employed by the social network. It filters posts by things that people find interesting and ranks them. The more users interact with a person or a page, the more likely that person or page will appear as his or her "Top New Story," or until recently, the "News Feed."

Why it is so important? Facebook says its average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups, and events, and spends an average of 15 hours a month on the social network. That's a lot of opportunities for businesses to make impressions on customers.

So how can you be sure your company's page isn't underperforming? Here are some tips from social media expert Brian Carter, chief executive of The Carter Group and author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook.

Have a plan: You must have one that fits with your business goals. You need to ask yourself why your company needs a fan page and what do you want to get out of it.

To increase your EdgeRank, you must post regularly, Carter said. It is suggested that you post daily and at varying times of day. To really get traction, you should post four to five times a day with different content.

Also, people are more likely to respond when photos and video are posted. The more you post as a business and the more people "like" your posts, the more probable it is that people will see your posts.

Be authentic: Many Facebook users have less-than-positive notions about what will happen if they "like" your page. A June 2011 survey by email marketer ExactTarget suggested that more than half of users expect to be bombarded with messages or ads, and 30 percent expect to hear nothing from your brand.

To counter those fears, ensure that 90 percent of your posts aren't about selling products, Carter said.

Remember that the word "social" is part of social media: Put yourself in your fans' shoes. What sorts of things would they like to hear about from your company? Be honest with yourself. This is where knowing and understanding your customers becomes imperative.

Every post should have a call to action: You should move your fans to do something such as "like" the post, share it or go to your Web site. More than 50 percent of your fans expect to gain access to exclusive content or receive discounts or promotions. Give them a reason to interact with your brand.

Build your fan page to be like your fans: Your fan page is selling an ideal. You must build your fan page around what your fans' lives look like using your services or products.

There are some commonalities among great fan pages, Carter said. They have well-written info and landing pages, great interaction through responding to comments, and they use multimedia.

If your business isn't willing to post every day but wants to be on Facebook, Carter suggests instead starting a Facebook group or investing in Facebook ads.

A group is free and allows for interaction; Facebook ads, meanwhile, are targeted and allow you to select from a host of identifiers beyond gender and location. They are reasonably priced and should run a minimum of 30 days. Try various ads and mix it up.

Any kind of business, as long as it has a plan and invests some time, can effectively use Facebook to reach and interact with its customers.

Ann Marie van den Hurk is an award-winning, accredited public relations professional specializing in small businesses and is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations. She proudly called Lexington home, but she now lives in North Carolina. Email her at ann@mindthegappr.com, or follow her on Twitter at @amvandenhurk.

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