I’m often asked how companies can increase the engagement levels of their posts on Facebook. Sadly, there’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution, but there are plenty of studies that show the value of experimentation.
And while it doesn’t offer any universally applicable answers, the infographic below may give you some fresh ideas for what to test next.
In brief: photos work well (as do videos), less is more, spell out your ‘call-to-action’, try simple participation ideas like caption competitions and know when your fans are online.
Facebook’s powerful new “Graph Search” feature is now being rolled out to users. To jump the queue you can join the waitlist at https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.
I’ve written previously about the rich—and sometimes disturbing—insights that the tool search feature will bring, but a new study by Mediative sheds light on how new users are actually using the tool.
Using Tobii Eye Tracking technology, researchers were able to see exactly how people react to the new tool, where their gaze goes first and for longest, and how page scanning patterns may differ from the current search experience.
The findings showed very little horizontal scanning of the search results listing. This differs significantly to the behaviour typically seen on other search engines, perhaps due to the relative lack of snippet data that would be seen in a comparable Google search page. The vertical “stepping stone” viewing pattern shows up very clearly on the heatmap (right) where red spots show the most commonly viewed links running down the page.
The top two results were viewed by almost 95% of study participants and the percentage viewed fell quite uniformly as the viewers moved down the page.
Interestingly, and perhaps due to the generic nature of some of the images in the study, participants looked at the text links almost 50% more than the accompanying image, amounting to 138% more time being dedicated to reading text than deciphering images. Text listings also captured attention 1.74 seconds faster than the images on average—a finding that is contradictory to what we’d expect in general web UI design. It seems in Facebook Graph Search, at least for now, text is king.
Viewing of the content on the right hand side of the screen was particularly interesting. 77% of participants looked at this right rail, typically as the third eye fixation in the study. This suggests that most users are likely to check the first one or two search results on the left-hand side before considering whether to refine the search criteria in the right-hand panel. The filters in this panel proved highly engaging, probably because this is where the real power of graph search can be unleashed for the novice user. This suggests that the average user of graph search is likely to find the experience highly engaging and will refine their search results using filters, perhaps to an extent that other search engines have not yet achieved. The right panel also enjoyed the highest total viewing duration at 4.17 seconds across the study participants, which is 325% longer than the total view duration to the search results in the left-hand panel. How much of this is due to the novelty factor or the actual utility of the ‘refine search’ options will only be proven over time.
Here are my five tips to ensure your businesses listing shows up as prominently as possible in Facebook Graph Search:
Make sure your business information is complete and up-to-date as this is what Graph Search users will see in the left hand search results panel. In your Facebook Page, go to Edit Page, Update Info. There you will find You should complete your business name, address (so people can check-in when visiting), telephone numbers, website URL and opening times (if applicable).
As in any search results listing, being placed in the top two search results is highly valuable. However, keep in mind that Facebook Graph Search results are unique to each user, so don’t fall into the trap of imagining the results you see are seen by everyone.
To ensure your profile photo is working as hard as possible, try to use a distinctive image that complements the text of your page name. Aim for relevance first (be on brand) but also try to be different to key competing pages. For example, if you run a restaurant in Bristol, making sure your profile photo doesn’t look similar to that of neighbouring restaurants could be beneficial.
Your brand is more likely to appear in Graph Search results if it has been liked by users. Growing your reach and maximising engagement levels are likely to remain the key elements that determine your graph search ranking. Facebook has not disclosed how EdgeRank may influence Graph Search results but it would be wise to assume that the same factors will be at play. Optimise your page content for EdgeRank and your presence in Graph Search should improve in parallel.
If your company or brand has a physical location, encouraging check-ins through Facebook has never been more important. A search query for “Hairdressers my friend have been to” will only show your brand if some of the searcher’s friends have checked in while at your establishment. Invite your customers to check-in while with you, offering rewards if suitable.
If you like the iPod page on Facebook you’re probably more dissatisfied with your life than someone who likes Sarah Palin.
That’s just one of the findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge that shows how much of our personality we share through our Facebook Likes, whether we realise it or not.
Using a dataset from almost 60,000 volunteers, researchers have built a statistical model that can predict personal, undisclosed attributes like sexual orientation, ethnicity, intelligence and happiness with unnerving accuracy.
For example, the model can correctly discriminate between homosexual and heterosexual men in 88% of cases. So, without even stating a preference, anyone with access to your Facebook Likes can make predictions about related personality traits and behaviours with a high degree of accuracy.
The researchers have also published a list (open .pdf file) of some of the Likes with the most accurate predictive power, a few of which I’ve summarised below:
Take extreme care when dealing with stereotypes. However, this research shows once again how the information we share openly on the social web can reveal details about us far beyond what we would normally be happy to disclose. And with massive factories now crunching data around the clock, the scope for ‘big data’ analytics of this kind will only grow.
Fascinating, if slightly scary stuff. You can also test the accuracy of the model against your own Facebook Likes at http://www.youarewhatyoulike.com/. But, be warned, by doing so you too will become a small, anonymous part of this great data experiment.
- Paper Abstract: Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior
- Article on The Verge: Facebook likes can reveal private personality traits
Facebook’s new Graph Search (currently in Beta testing to limited users only) will eventually allow anyone to search data across the platform and precisely identify people with common interests. For example, if looking for a a companion for a lunchtime snack you will be able to instantly search for “friends who work at my company and like sushi.” Or a weekend trip to a new city could be improved by searching for “museums my friends have been to in Paris”. Basically, almost any semantic search query you can type in 112 characters or less will soon be enabled.
It’s not yet known how users will embrace this new feature but there’s no doubt this creates many new possibilities to identify specific tribes on the world’s largest social networking platform.
Thankfully, even though you cannot opt out of your data being used in Graph Search, the search results presented will respect each user’s privacy settings at the moment the search is conducted. If your privacy settings state that your activity on Facebook should be restricted to friends, then so too will be the ability to search your data.
I suspect that this may lead to more Facebook users locking down settings to reduce the risk of their personal data falling into the wrong hands. If you haven’t done this already, now would be a good time. And go back through your Activity Log (not your Timeline) and delete anything that you do not want to become instantly searchable.
So, while today many people think it’s relatively harmless to ‘Like’ a Facebook page about recreational drugs or their religious affiliations, once Graph Search is fully enabled, those choices may come back to haunt. Human Resources Managers, for example, could be forgiven for wanting to identify “people who work at my company who like weed.” Already, there are some fairly dramatic examples cropping up showing how this search functionality could be abused, including “Mothers of Jews who like Bacon” or “Married People who like Prostitutes.”
The greatest hope, perhaps, is that the introduction of Graph Search will make Facebook users more aware of how their data can be used, making them more selective in choosing what to ‘Like’ and associate themselves with across the social network. And that, ultimately, is what Facebook wants too.
And to all those companies that have built their Facebook fan base on short term incentives and prizes I’d urge you to be particularly attentive. If many of those ‘friends’ you’ve attracted turn out to be the sort of people who will ‘like’ almost anything online, irrespective of how wholesome or appropriate it is for your brand, the public relations challenges ahead could be damaging.
It’s the business equivalent of going out with your skirt tucked in.
That time when your marketing efforts are so obviously focussed on a single goal, you fail to leave anything to the customer’s imagination.
And instead of joining in, your customers just feel pity that your sorry attempts to steer them towards your business objective have failed so badly.
DeVere Group Hotels seems to be falling into this trap rather regularly. Despite being one of their customers, all they seem to want me to do is show how much I ‘like’ them on Facebook. And if I do I could win a stay in one of their hotels. Or a £50 spot prize every week. Or a prize. Did we mention the prizes?
Sometimes they invite people to complete a survey, as explained on the business cards and billboards dotted around their hotels. But you can only enter the survey after first giving them a ‘like’ on Facebook:
Other times, they send out aesthetically-challenged emails, enticing people in with more special prizes. All you have to do is give them a ‘Like’ on Facebook:
So that’s four mentions of ‘like’ in a single email.
It’s akin to hearing the least popular kid at school pleading for someone to be friends with them.
This isn’t how marketing is supposed to work. Where’s the creativity, where the mystery and intrigue?
When your hidden agenda is glaringly conspicuous, can you really expect those customers who comply to feel good about themselves? Or will they just feel used and abused?
But, maybe it works. If your measure of success is counting the number of people who follow your desperate cries for help, then perhaps it does work. A quick glance at De Vere Hotels’ Facebook page shows a sharp jump in the number of likes, averaging around 2,000 new likes per week, although dipping slightly recently:
That’s nice. And what’s the value of 5,106 likes? Sadly, if they’ve all been collected through short term prize incentives that demonstrate no long-term loyalty or affinity to the brand their value is zero. Nothing. Nada. The square root of FA.
5,106 likes is nothing more than puffery and noise, something for a misguided brand manager to crow about to distract the rest of the business from the fact that they’ve been abusing the trust customers have placed in them.
However well-intentioned, this approach to social media marketing is neither wise nor effective. Yes, there’s a possibility that De Vere Group may have some brilliant plan up its sleeve to ignite this new community into a passionate army of influencers that will transform their business. But, as yet, there’s no evidence of anything more than an ill-judged social networking land grab taking place before our eyes.
Marketing in a real-time, two-way world doesn’t have to be this shallow. If your strategy bears any resemblance to that of De Vere Hotels Group, now would be a very good time to change.
This is a lesson in how not to do social media marketing. Thomas Cook (the mammoth holiday tour operator) was too wrapped up in itself to spot a glaring opportunity right before its eyes.
Read through the following screenshots from Facebook and keep going to the end where you’ll see the stark difference another travel company’s approach:
Who wins? Both Lowcostholidays.com and Thomas Cook (the guy, not the mammoth holiday tour operator).
Need proof? Here’s Mr Thomas Cook enjoying his complimentary Paris holiday, courtesy of Lowcostholidays.com.
I know which company I’d rather book my next holiday with.