With more than 750 million accounts, Facebook accounts for 90% of all time spent on social networking sites in the U.S. according to comScore, Inc. Add the 700 billion minutes per month people spend on Facebook updating statuses, perusing newsfeeds, and commenting on posts, and we are talking big numbers. With statistics like these, it is only natural that companies are scrambling to crack the social media code, promote brands, and engage fans with captivating Facebook posts. How to best accomplish this feat is an ongoing question, but Vitrue, a social media publishing software provider, has determined that with the right tools and techniques, the answer may not be as complex as one would think.
The rules are simple. To effectively engage Facebook fans, companies must first start adding a little life to their posts. In September of 2010, after monitoring 100 randomly chosen publisher streams and pages for 3 months, Vitrue found that static images with a text post were 82% more likely to be clicked than a text-only post, but new data shows that presently, video and wall apps resonate most with fans. A video post is now 65% more effective than an image while wall apps are almost 20% more effective. Reggie Bradford, CEO of Vitrue, explains that "the rise of internet video has continued to proliferate, and even on Facebook, video continues to be a very popular application. Consumers continue to be intrigued by video and are consuming more of it in bite size chunks." Though watching a video is certainly a more involved process than viewing an image, users don't seem to mind the extra effort, as long as the content is worthwhile. "As the quality has gone up the consumer behavior has shifted. Marketers are getting better at creating their own content that is compelling and that consumers will click on," says Bradford.
The use of Facebook wall apps has taken the idea of customer engagement a step further. "I would argue that an interactive wall application that is a poll, coupon, or quiz that requires the consumer to participate is more of a two way conversation than just sending them a still image," says Bradford. The popularity of these wall apps is beneficial for markets as well, since, as Bradford notes, there are now "more ways in the toolset for marketers to create compelling applications that go in the Newsfeed, without having to write code."
To ensure a post gets the most exposure as possible, it is crucial to know when Facebook activity peaks. Vitrue's data highlights certain days of the week as being more effective for posting than others. Last year, Friday was the most effective day to publish a post in terms of overall engagement of fans liking, sharing, and commenting, but recent data now points to Thursday as taking that position. The conversation volume is highest on Wednesdays, with fans posting on a brand's page or commenting on a previous post. Not surprisingly, weekend activity dropped significantly, with Sunday being the least effective posting day of the week.
There are also key times, namely 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m. ET, when Facebook users are most active, with 3 p.m. showing the most promise. comScore established that as of May 2011, 27% of engagement on Facebook occurred on the homepage and newsfeed; therefore, pushing a post out early in the morning, no matter what form the post takes, increases the chance fans will see it. "When you get it out there in the morning, that post has a chance to become viral and it continues to proliferate throughout the day as it scrolls through people's Newsfeed or they share or forward that or like or click on it," says Bradford. "That is why morning gives you the best chance throughout the day to continue to have that content or that application working for your brand."
Bradford suggests other tips for creating the most effective Facebook post such as being sure to include a share button with a post and URL shortener branded with your company. In addition, "You want to try and keep your post inside of Facebook. You don't want to necessarily link off to dot com, because you do get a drop off with your post," explains Bradford.
Posting to Facebook only begins the conversation with consumers, but being present to finish that conversation is equally as important. "There is not a homogenous market place where everybody is going to be successful because you put a page up on Facebook. You've got to be there. That is the fulcrum of any brand's communication strategy going forward," says Bradford. "It is not one size fits all." As more users join social networking sites, companies have to consider how to best handle burgeoning consumer dialogues. "We've been saying now for two or three years that community management is going to become a core function of every company of any size. We believe that they will be bringing on somebody in-house to manage this software and manage the Facebook page and use these tools to drive that activity and conversation."
Trying to keep up with consumer Facebook activity can be daunting, but the possibilities of better engaging and understanding consumers with this medium are worth it according to Bradford. "Facebook is the way to humanize the brand. There has never been a medium developed in the history of marketing where you can create this type of dialogue with your consumers. I think that is the opportunity and also the challenge."