http://d251fh4ppw9sot.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/28150047/risk2.jpgrisk2 When I was very young the most exciting part of my day was waking up in the morning, jumping out of bed, and checking the messages on our home phone to see if my best friend had called while I … "/>

Want More Facebook Fans? Perfect Your Content Strategy

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When I was very young the most exciting part of my day was waking up in the morning, jumping out of bed, and checking the messages on our home phone to see if my best friend had called while I was sleeping. If she hadn’t I would wait impatiently for 10 AM, which was the earliest her parents wanted me to call. I’d give them a ring right at 10, say hi when her mother picked up the phone, and eventually get passed over to her. We’d then talk about school or whatever else.

Now I just roll over, power up my smartphone, and click on the Facebook App. Oh, how times have changed.

Social media is a major part of most people’s everyday lives. This is particularly true for younger people, who consume new forms of media at an absolutely ferocious rate. As of December 2012, 67% of adults with access to the internet used social networking sites, and this number jumped to 83% for the 18-29 age group. Needless to say, social media platforms like Facebook represent an enormous opportunity to reach out to new fans and engage your following.

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I love the smell of opportunity in the morning…

Having a clear strategy for social media content has become a must for any brand, and is particularly important for those looking for maximum bang for their buck. Advertising your brand through a well-curated Facebook page can be effectively free, but there’s a catch. People have to be sufficiently interested in your brand, and particularly the content you post to your Facebook, to want to sign up organically. It’s a true survival of the fittest situation; the brands that create the best, most engaging, and most value-adding social experience will rise to the top.

Filling your Facebook page with high-quality, interesting, engaging content is an incredibly effective way to populate your brand with real followers that genuinely care about you, and can ultimately lead to a significant boost in business. The worst thing you can do is go about the process willy-nilly, it’s incredibly important to have a great content strategy to guide you on your way to social media domination. Here are the five steps to a rock-solid content strategy:

1. Create An Executable Game Plan.

I’m of the opinion that most marketing campaigns succeed or fail during the planning stages. Regardless of execution, the lack of a clear and well-thought out game plan will almost inevitably doom an operation to failure while a carefully mapped out strategy will almost always result in some benefit.

This is perhaps even more true of social media content, which requires a clear understanding of your brand, identification of your core audience, and a few well-defined goals:

- Understand Your Brand:

Knowing who you are should be a given for anyone seriously considering entering the business world, but it’s doubly true when it comes to social media. Simply put, Facebook is crowded and having a clearly defined and differentiated brand is ultimately what’s going to put you ahead of your competitors and stand out from the crowd. Outside of all of the brand building basics that you’re likely to be familiar with, here are two specific questions to consider for your social content:

  • What’s your voice online?

    The specific words you choose and overall “vibe” of your brand needs to be matched intuitively with the services you offer and the audience you’re going after. Facebook often plays best with a more casual, fun-loving energy as it’s highly consumer-focused. In general, leave the corporate brochure jargon at home and make your presentation as clear and approachable as possible.

  • What kind of content matches your brand well?

    Put another way, what are most of your posts going to look like, and how do they match the services you offer? In some cases this will be quite intuitive, if you’re selling cameras you’re probably going to have a lot of pictures! But matching services with content medium can be a bit more complicated. Images and videos tend to play well online, so make sure that you have a healthy number of non-text updates and offers. Of course, you’ll always want to have your content writers produce thought-provoking and brilliant content.

- Identify Your Audience:

Regardless of industry, it’s critically important to have a strong sense of what your core customer demographic is and who you’re offering your brand to. This information will help guide a multitude of decisions down the line, and will help you position your content effectively and with confidence. Do some background research into social media users in general, and match that with the information you likely already have on your customer base. By marrying the two you’ll likely arrive at a strong view of who these people are and what they’re looking for. Facebook analytics on your page can sometimes help with this, as they often offer a breakdown of your followers by age and other identifying information.

- Have Clear, Reachable Goals:

Goals can be a tricky thing. We always want to set our sights high and push ourselves towards real greatness, but excessively optimistic goals can leave us feeling pretty down if we estimated incorrectly and ran into some speed bumps. You never want your goals to be a downer!

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A great rule of thumb for goals

Personally, I find clear goals to be an incredibly motivating and important part of the planning process. Without them I tend to procrastinate more and perform less. What works best for me are what I call “effort based goals.” These are goals based around the overall quality of my work and the effort that has gone into the process rather than the results of it. Reward yourself for building a great schedule and sticking to it; be happy when you produce and deliver really great content on a consistent basis. Have attainable goals around follower growth, but prioritize things like having a high percentage of your following interacting with your page or a large percentage of people messaging you saying they love your stuff! These goals are both more consistent and more rewarding, and it’s this sort of grind-it-out mentality that will lead to the lightning in a bottle moment where your business takes off.

2. Understand how regular users on Facebook see your content

An awful lot of people view Facebook’s post ranking system as a semi-magical process that rewards chanting and incense as much as anything else. But the reality is that it’s based on a fairly straightforward algorithm called “EdgeRank”, and understanding how this process works will give you a leg up. The vast majority of engagement you have with your fans will actually take place through their newsfeed rather than from visits to your page, as 96% of fans don’t go back to a brand’s page after initial engagement! This makes it incredibly important to build posts that are EdgeRank optimized, and therefore more likely to show up on newsfeeds.

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Looks scary, but it really ain’t that bad

EdgeRank is the system Facebook uses to make sure that people see the posts they want to see. It’s somewhat similar to Google PageRank in that they both prioritize content that is most likely to be relevant or interesting to you based on your activity on their site. It’s built from three key parts:

- Affinity:

Affinity is a measure of the strength of the relationship between an individual user and one of their connections, whether Facebook friend or corporate page. Affinity is calculated based on the number of interactions a user has with that thing. This is why engagement on Facebook is so important, having followers who interact with your content through viewing your page, liking it, or commenting on a post will be far more likely to see your content in the future. If someone likes your page and never visits it again your like number goes up, but that individual is fairly unlikely to see any of your future content.

- Weight:

Weight is the value, or “weightiness,” of a certain story as determined by Facebook. It’s based off of an algorithm that counts and assigns different levels of importance to likes, comments, shares, and other clicks. In general, comments and especially shares are prioritized over likes, which is one of the reasons that visual content is king on Facebook. Visual content is significantly more likely to be shared, so it’s far more visible on average. Working with a professional content writer or developer is a great way to maximize the weight of your posts!

- Time Decay:

Time decay is the “freshness” of the post, or a measure of how much time has passed since it was posted. It is fairly straightforward, and is the reason why your newsfeed isn’t clogged with old content. By posting new content on a regular basis you can keep everything fresh and at the top of people’s newsfeeds.

3. Stay on Schedule

Now that you have your plan and are starting to post content that’s built to crush EdgeRank and really engage your following, the next step is to stay on schedule. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but it’s crucial for social media success. Consumers are touched literally thousands of times a day by various forms of advertisement, and it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd. Just as important as great content is reliability, by consistently showing up every day in their feed you’ll establish yourself in the minds of your followers and increase their likelihood for engagement.

I’d suggest having two big calendars for your social media content: an editorial calendar and an activity calendar. An editorial calendar is a map of when you’re going to post what, and should include both summaries of the specific content you’ll be posting and the exact time slots during the day when you’ll be posting it. This calendar needs to extend out at least a couple of weeks into the future, and should include posts every day! Keep in mind that EdgeRank prioritizes fresh content, so you can’t fall behind. If you’re having a hard time developing enough content, professional content writers can absolutely give you a hand.

An activity calendar is one that schedules out your tasks throughout the day, and keeps you on track the same way an editorial calendar keeps your content on track. Take the time to map out your long-term activity and marketing plan, and build a consistent schedule that you can follow throughout the day. This will optimize your time and maximize your performance!

4. Know Your Enemy

Establishing a brand on Facebook is difficult, there’s a lot of competition out there in almost every industry. As you’re entering the space it’s wise to do some serious scouting. Start by researching who the major players in your space are, and take a look at their social content. Ask yourself the following questions:

- What are they doing right?

Most brands that have achieved success on Facebook have at least one area where they’re very strong. Is their voice a particularly good match for their audience? Is their content reliable and engaging? Regardless of what it is, understanding what they’re good at will give you a sense of which part of their following is least likely to abandon them, and some potential ideas for good content of your own.

- Where do they have room for improvement?

Nobody’s perfect, and if you’re entering the space it’s likely because there’s some opportunity there. Try to identify specific areas where they’re lacking good content that could appeal to their current audience as well as yours. By hitting current weaknesses in the market you can set yourself up for success.

- What does the audience want?

This dovetails nicely with all that planning you did earlier. Who is that brand’s core audience, and what do they want? If the brand in question is currently not fulfilling their audience’s core needs, there’s a pretty good chance that you can step in and give them a highly viable alternative.

5. Stay Current

I could not emphasize this more strongly: be current. Stay on top of trends and understand what’s going on in the world that could be of interest to your audience. You’re vastly more likely to get engagement and interest if you piggy-back on the most cutting-edge information and stories that have already achieved a high degree of visibility.

One of the best ways to stay current is to incorporate the new hashtag features on Facebook into your marketing efforts. Mixing in popular hashtags is a great way to stay current and open up your posts to a potentially wide audience. See if you can find ways to link your products and services to ongoing events that are topically relevant.

6Poor Mark…

Right now hashtags are off-limits for purposes of advertising, as most posts on the network are private rather than public. But Facebook is encouraging marketers to start to incorporate hashtags into their promotional efforts, and will likely boost the impact of hashtags on their post ranking features in the near future. It’s quite possible that getting into the mix early will yield future benefits.

Another important area to consider is how best to leverage Graph Search, Facebook’s new-ish search function. Graph Search turns the Facebook search function into something a bit more Google-like, and uses a similar algorithm to EdgeRank to prioritizing the pages that show up in it and the searcher’s likely interest in them. Your searchability will naturally increase as you add content and grow your following, but a little search engine optimization never hurt anyone. Consider the kinds of terms people are likely to search for, and be sure to include a few in your about section.

More than ever, social media users are expecting the brands they like to deliver real value in exchange for their attention. Social media can’t be approached haphazardly, a carefully designed content strategy is key to any brands success online. By establishing your game plan, optimizing for EdgeRank, staying on schedule, researching the competition, and focusing on highly relevant content you’ll maximize your chances of building a massive following!

What are your thoughts?

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