Jun152012

Facebook: Why Engagement Trumps Likes

Entrepreneur Matt Winn
Matt Winn
Volusion
Social Media Manger

written by MO.com Subject Matter Resource Matt Winn

Managing a Facebook strategy can be a rat race when your main objective is to gather more likes. Between launching Facebook advertising and adding plug-ins, many of us are chasing a magic number of fans to please our clients and upper management. Of course, once that number is hit, the goal is moved even higher and we find ourselves starting the race all over again.

Fortunately, there’s a darn good reason to stop spinning your hamster wheel: your number of Facebook likes doesn’t matter anymore.

 

Why Likes Are Becoming Irrelevant

The #1 objective for your business is to increase sales, right?

Facebook’s primary role in meeting this objective is to help create positive word of mouth from your loyal fans. This positive word of mouth, in turn, leads to higher brand awareness and sales.

But in order for you to build this type of loyalty via Facebook, your fans need to see and interact with your content first. Unfortunately, your like count doesn’t contribute toward this need.

Here’s why:

• With Timeline, users can see your content without having to like your page

Overall fan growth is slowing due to the nature of timeline

• Even though people like your page, they’re likely not seeing your content

This final point is particularly important, especially since the overwhelming majority (>95%) of fan engagement occurs in a user’s newsfeed instead of on your timeline.

The content that appears on your fans’ newsfeeds is determined by a Facebook algorithm, called EdgeRank. While no one is exactly sure how EdgeRank works, we do know that the algorithm largely depends on how much and how often individual fans interact with your content. For example, if a fan comments on your latest post, Facebook will recognize that your page is more important to that user than to someone who has never interacted with your content. This means that the higher your EdgeRank for a specific user, the more likely your content will appear in their newsfeed.

So what does all this EdgeRank business mean, anyway? In a nutshell, a large community doesn’t contribute much to your objectives, unless that community is actually seeing your content. In other words, bigger doesn’t always mean better – quality trumps quantity.

How to Boost Facebook Engagement

Now that you understand why engagement is more important than community size, it’s time to discuss how to boost engagement.

There’s just one problem, though: engagement must be earned, whereas likes come easy. In fact, less than 1% of fans of the 200 biggest brands on Facebook actually engage.

This is why Facebook is putting so much emphasis on engagement – they want to challenge us marketers to provide content that users care about. Thus, it’s time to shift your strategy from just churning out content to creating materials that actually provide utility.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

Encourage fans to leave comments. When it comes to EdgeRank, comments outweigh likes and clicks, which means that you should facilitate more fan comments. One great way to do this is to ask simple questions like, “What’s your favorite thing to do with our product?” or provide fill-in-the-blank content such as, “If I were to win $1 million, the first thing I’d do is _______.”

 

Post more pictures and videos. Pictures and videos are inclined to appear in your fans’ timelines due to their interactive nature. For an extra boost, add a call to action that encourages users to click on the photo and add comments of their own. One fun idea is to ask fans to create a caption for the image, enticing them to do so by offering a reward to the winner.

Give the people what they want. The main reasons why customers follow you on social media are to receive discounts and learn exclusive information about your brand. While I don’t recommend blasting fans with discounts every day, it’s a good idea to provide sneak previews and behind the scenes glimpses into what happens inside company walls.

Run contests and other interactive campaigns. One of the best ways to boost engagement in a flash is to launch a contest that encourages fans to upload photos or write essays. From there, you can encourage entrants to share their content in an attempt to gather votes – this is a perfect way to attract new eyeballs to your Facebook page while engaging current fans.

At the end of the day, the rat race of gathering likes is useless – what’s the point of having a big community if no one shows up to the town hall meeting?

After all, a community isn’t defined by its size. It’s all about the level of connection between its members.

About the Author

Matt Winn is a Social Media Manager at Volusion, an industry-leading ecommerce software that powers online businesses for over 35,000 clients. Serving as the chief blogger for Volusion’s blog, The Ecommerce Authority, Matt has written hundreds of articles on all things ecommerce, ranging from social media to usability. Join him each week on Volusion’s YouTube channel for Two Minute Tuesdays, where you’ll receive two minutes of ecommerce advice to bolster your online success. You can also receive ecommerce news and tips on Facebook and Twitter @volusion.

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