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How many of your Facebook fans see each and every one of your fan page posts?

Do the math yourself — take the number of your fans and divide it by the average “X number of your fans saw this post” that you see at the bottom of your last three posts.

Frighteningly low, isn’t it?

Facebook’s fan pages are fueled by an algorithm that prevents your posts from being seen by a majority of your fans. A typical post reaches only 16 percent of a page’s total fans.

For years marketers have been trying to crack the code of the “EdgeRank” algorithm and have met with minimal success. Truth is, if you want your fan page posts to reach more of your fans, you need to pay to play. That means paying for Facebook advertising. Here are my tips to give Facebook enough cash to see substantive growth in your reach — while not sucking your bottom line dry.

1. Stay Clear of the “Boost Post” Option

In recent months, Facebook has put a variety of “boost post” options in front of fan page admins. The idea here is that page admins who discover the measly 16% can easily increase their reach by a click of a boost post button.  Here’s my video warning to you about this.

I say in the video that boost post is “fronting” — an urban term for bluffing. While Facebook claims that you’ll reach more people through boost post, they don’t spend much time saying who you’ll reach boost post messages tend to reach more *friends of fans* than your existing fans.

These messages also attract a disturbing amount of fake accounts (bots). So while you may end up getting a boost in total number of fans, you’ve done very little to increase the reach of existing fans you wish to do business with. In fact, this larger fan base bloated with bots might now make it more difficult for you to reach the fans most likely to do business with you.

An easier way to reach your fans is through Facebook’s “Ads Manager” — you’ll also see that phrase around your Facebook screen. The “Create an Ad” phrase also brings you to the Ads Manager. Once on the Ads Manager page, you’ll have the option to “Promote Page Posts” — the healthy alternative to “boost post.”

Facebook has a few default settings on the Ads Manager that can do some damage to your credit card. The next two tips will help you spot these settings and adapt them for your budget.

2. Set an End Date to Your Ad Campaign

For some reason, Facebook thinks fan page admins want to promote the same post for 30 days. So it has set the length of each “promote page posts” campaign for a month. This not only digs through your wallet, but also bugs your fans. Imagine their reactions upon seeing your “Throwback Thursday” post on Monday? Or your Valentine’s Day post in March?

Determine how long you’d like your ad to run and plunk it into what you see in the above image in Ads Manager. (12 hours seems to be the sweet spot for many of my clients.)

3. Target Your Posts

Facebook has an enormous database filled with all sorts of “likes” (and dislikes) of its gazillion users. Advertisers like you can sort through them to target the type of fan you want to see your post. Say you want to make sure fans aged 18-22 in the zip code 01238 who like Mexican food see a particular post — you can do that here. This type of targeting is unavailable with the all-or-nothing approach of “boost post.”

4. Don’t Let Facebook Automatically Promote All Your Posts

Facebook gives you a drop-down option to automatically promote all your posts going forward. While that might seem like a nice “set it and forget it” option, it doesn’t give you the chance to target each of your posts to the right audience.

In addition, some of your posts might have images that contain more than 20% text on them. That goes against Facebook’s image guidelines. Why pay Facebook to run ads that ruffle its own feathers? It’s best to just stay in control of your own ads here.

5. Get Daring with the Power Editor

If you think the Ads Manager has great targeting capability, wait until you discover the Facebook Power Editor! It’s a dashboard set up by Facebook to get even more granular with who you want your post to reach. You want to reach those Harvard students mentioned above — but only when they’re engaged with Facebook on their mobile device? You can do that with Power Editor.

Power Editor only runs on the Google Chrome Internet browser, so if you’re not ready to change browsers or are overwhelmed by the options you see there, go back to the happy medium of Ads Manager.

Now while Facebook has all these paid methods to deliver your posts to your fans, the onus is on you to make the promoted posts worthwhile. Make sure your posts are engaging enough for fans to like, comment, share, or click through — or a happy combination of all these actions.

Do you have a great cost-saving promoted post tip? Share it in a comment!

Photo Credit: Flickr CC / jmrosenfeld

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Earlier this month, I sat on a keynote panel at the Geek Girl Tech Conference where I was asked the following question: “What is the biggest mistake that businesses make on Facebook?”

How do you think I answered?

1. Reliance on likes

This was my first response — the disproportionate focus companies spend on getting Facebook page and post likes. Facebook success should be measured by the percentage of page and post likers who demonstrate an increasing interest in your company’s products and services, not an increased interest in your kitten meme photos. UNICEF Sweden has said it best in its recent video campaign.

UNICEF Sweden has told its fans, “Likes are great, but donations are what we need to eradicate polio around the world.” What keeps YOUR business afloat — donations, purchases, event signups — or likes?

2. Contests that violate Facebook rules

Since I recently wrote an ebook on Facebook contests, I had to mention another toxic mistake made by so many businesses. Ironically, businesses often run these types of contests to get post likes (instead of more sustainable goals such as growing an email list or gaining market feedback).

As of August 17, 2013, only the second example violates Facebook rules. You cannot “share” a post in order to be eligible for a prize. 

Luckily, great companies like Shortstack or Offerpop offer many affordable, Facebook-compliant contest options that occur as a fan page app (a “tab” for you old school Facebook page admins) that offer you the option to better brand your contests and capture emails for future mailings.

I ended my answer to the moderator’s question there, but let me offer two other mistakes I frequently see.

3. Cover photo full of text

Facebook gives businesses 851 x 315 pixels for their fan page cover photo. That’s a nice piece of real estate. Many companies take that space to announce promotions, mission statements, and contact information. New visitors to a Facebook fan page typically take seconds, not minutes, to decide whether they’re going to like it. Why slow down new visitors’ ability to immediately hit the “like” button by covering your image with a whole bunch of messaging they have to wade through?

A picture really is worth a thousand words here. So woo potential likers by selecting an arresting image and letting it shine unencumbered by text.

4. Posting without a plan

It’s surprising to me how many companies — I’m talking both mom ‘n’ pops AND the big kahunas here — who don’t use an editorial calendar to organize their messaging on Facebook. I guess it comes back to the question, “Is your company after likes or new business?” If it’s the latter, mapping out appropriate posts throughout the month is key for you to achieve that goal.

All four of these mistakes require some time, effort, and money to rectify. But once fixed, you should see your bottom line benefiting from these changes.

Was this article helpful? If so, share it with a friend!

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC / eggrole

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I spend two of the five weeks of my “Social Media for Marketing Small Businesses” course working with students on building an editorial calendar. I share best practices for Facebook engagement, Twitter listening, and social conversion too — but without spending time on mapping out when these activities happen, why they should happen, and how they should be measured, my students will not get the results they seek.

Not convinced that an editorial calendar is for you? Let me lay out other business-savvy reasons for using and implementing a calendar for your social media efforts.

See the forest for the trees

By placing a grid of the entire month before your eyes, you’re able to see two key rows– Saturday and Sunday. These days are sadly underused by brands in social messaging. It’s ironic since that’s when most demographic sectors have more leisure time to scroll through news feeds, isn’t it? Take advantage of the Saturday and Sunday rows and place appropriate messaging there. (By scheduling tweets and posts, you need not be by your computer on the weekend.)

Your calendar can help you plan for a variety of messages. Take message type for example. Photos are hot for engagement and they’ll continue to be so.

How do you currently decide to post photos — when you read an article on “photo power”? When you see a competitor post a funny image? Stay on top of things by mapping out a healthy mix of photos, simple status updates, videos, and links.

Strengthen your social team

Making a group editorial calendar facilitates collaboration among coworkers and crossfunctional teams. Will you need screenshots of a new product from a teammate in two weeks? Put the due date on the calendar and add their name to a “responsible for content” column.

In addition, a calendar that tracks messaging and metrics to follow are great to show the boss when her palms start to sweat over social ROI or she asks, “So what are you guys doing on Facebook these days?”

Internal calendars are also critical in times of national crises. If a natural disaster or terror incident occurs, your team can easily see pending posts, pins, and tweets and make decisions on modifying, postponing, or deleting such messaging.

Feel empowered

With a completed calendar in hand, you can rest assured that you have the upcoming month chock full of messaging that will engage fans and help you hit your business goals. The social age-old question, “What should I post today?” also disappears.

Your calendar can take any shape that works well for you and your business. Although I suggest a shareable calendar (such as a Google Docs spreadsheet) for teams, smaller groups can use a whiteboard or paper calendar to map out and revise social messaging.

How do you map out your messaging on your social media channels?

Headline Cover Photo: Flickr CC / joelanman

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What is your business’s goal behind posting videos on YouTube? Is it to “get the word out?” To go viral?

Unless you have the magic of Martin Scorsese behind your camera, aim for something more reasonable and quite possibly more profitable: driving viewers to your Website to conduct business with you. Here’s a list of six ways to combine your video content with a call to visit your Website or landing page.

1. End of video. If your viewers have made it to the end of the video, they’re probably interested in you. So why not conclude their viewing experience with a path for them to get more information?

HVAC YouTube video with call to action

In this example, HVAC company Maeser gives a directive to call for more information. But most savvy consumers use the Internet to research large purchases like tankless water heaters. It was smart of Maeser to also list its Website URL here.

2. Clickable annotations. YouTube viewers lead busy lives. Only the most compelling (and usually brief) videos keep people engaged for their entirety. (A quick glance at your YouTube Analytics will tell you this sad fact.) So catch people while you still have their attention by using clickable annotations that float on top of your video.

B2B YouTube Video With External Clickable Annotations

Tech blogger Amit Agarwal created this video on how to see the digits of your blocked out passwords. He also wrote a related post on his Webpage that people can print and reference at their leisure. About 10 seconds into the video, he placed an annotation that gives viewers a chance to get to his site for that additional help in viewing password digits.

3. Video description. YouTube gives you about 65 characters in the first line of the description to talk about the video. Use that real estate to share your Website or landing page with viewers. Be sure to put an “http://” as part of your URL so that the link can be clicked open in a separate tab.

See what I did in the video below? My hope is that if people like my talk and want to hire me to speak at an event about social media best practices, they have an easy way to do so.

Social Media Speaker Lisa Kalner Williams YouTube Video

4. One Channel banner. The new YouTube One Channel allows businesses to place clickable links in its custom header. Geico used its header as an opportunity to drive channel viewers to customized “get a quote” landing page.

Geico YouTube One Channel Banner with Call to Action 

5. Overlays. In fairness to nationwide insurance companies who use animals as mascots, let me explain how Aflac drives Web traffic with its featured videos.

It uses the call-to-action overlay feature. This video follows the rehabilitation of the injured Aflac duck. If viewers want the latest on his recovery, they can click the yellow link in the overlay.

Aflac Insurance YouTube Video Call to Action Overlay

Think about what’s compelling enough in your video to make people want to get more information on your Website. Then follow this YouTube tutorial on how to create a call-to-action overlay for your video.

6. Make a video that viewers will love. If your video doesn’t resonate with your viewers, no one will feel motivated to click through for more information about your business. Remember: It’s not about what you want to say in your videos — it’s about what viewers want to hear.

How does your business use videos on YouTube to drive traffic to your Website?

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/lingaraj

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Over the past six months, we’ve faced devastating events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Newtown Massacre, and the Boston Marathon bombings.

Does your business have a plan in place to handle communicating with the public during times like these?

Your plan of action can be simply a simple one-page document that is shared with all employees. At a minimum, it should address scheduled activities, messages of support, and ways to help the impacted communities.

When tragedy strikes, be sure to first review your scheduled activities to determine if they are still appropriate for your audience.  Hangouts and chats might still be socially acceptable if you tweak them to address the crisis. For example, if you run a Twitter chat on parenting, you might change the theme of the chat to be, “How do we explain [the crisis] to our children?” If you’ve scheduled a Google Hangout with a historian, ask your guest to address comparisons of the current crisis and one of the past.

Once you’ve removed, postponed, or reshaped your scheduled activities, send a brief message of solidarity with those impacted by the tragedy. Write the message about “them,” not “you.” American Apparel learned its lesson when it offered a sale for those without power during Hurricane Sandy. Trust me — you don’t want to be like American Apparel.

But you do want to be seen as helpful. When you learn of ways that the community can help — whether it be information about donations or instructions from emergency agencies, share this news through your social channels.

Hate Facebook? You Still Need This Policy.

Your crisis guidelines should extend to all messaging you share with the public. If you have a noticeable offline presence, be prepared for what to say to customers in person and on your placards.

Let me tell you what prompted me to extend my definition of a “social media policy” to a more encompassing “social policy.” My husband has run the Boston Marathon four times. He didn’t run this year, but after the bombings, I wanted to return to the spot where I’ve most often cheered him on — Coolidge Corner, Mile 24. Three days after the attacks, I walked along the streets intersecting Commonwealth Avenue (the marathon route) and stumbled on two contrasting store easels within mere yards of each other.

What do you want your business to say in a time of national tragedy?

The first one used the entire easel to write a love letter to its community. The message it sent was, “We love you.” Period. It was social in the sense that it gave without any expectation of anything in return.

The second easel drew a powerful image of We Are Boston, but obscured its impact with a call to action to buy discounted women’s clothing. American Apparel flashback, anyone?

Imagine how powerful the easel could’ve been, both aesthetically and socially, if the clothing shop had simply outlined the Boston skyline with the phrase “We Are Boston” — and nothing else?

At first, creating and implementing a social crisis plan sounds like a lot of work, full of legal mumbo jumbo, and headmaster rules. But when the next tragedy hits, you and your employees can be comforted in knowing there is a plan of action to keep everyone on track — without being socially awkward or reprehensible — in speaking with the public.

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/Sierra Tierra

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