You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Facebook is the #1 social media platform used by businesses. In fact, according to eMarketer, 41% of US small businesses now use Facebook as part of their online marketing strategy.
Yet, despite its widespread usage, many business owners report that their efforts aren’t as effective as they would like. In a survey of over 3,700 marketers, Social Media Examiner found that only 45% felt their efforts on Facebook were working.
This underlines the need for business owners to understand which strategies and practices are worth the effort for positive ROI. This article will break down the major components of Facebook marketing, giving business owners actionable advice and best practices for each. These components are:
- Optimizing your Facebook page for SEO and likes
- Using Facebook groups to engage with your target market
- Encouraging social sharing through the use of Facebook buttons and plugins
- Getting your posts seen by more of your fans
- When and how often to post
- Using paid options to increase likes and reach
- Best practices for Facebook ads
Optimizing Your Facebook Page For SEO And Likes
Your Facebook page is the starting point for all your Facebook marketing efforts. Ideally, you want it to be ranking both in Google and in Facebook search for your brand name so your customers and prospects and can easily find you. Then, once they’ve found your page, it should be appealing so people will actually choose to ‘like’ you. The following best practices will help you optimize your page for both of these purposes.
Choose a descriptive and memorable username: Sometimes called a vanity URL, your Facebook page username is simply the web address for your page (e.g., www.facebook.com/yourbusiness). By default, your page will be given a random URL comprised of numbers. Your username should accurately convey the topic of your page or your full business name so search engines and customers can find you in Google and Facebook search. You must have at least 25 ‘likes’ in order to claim a vanity URL.
Use descriptive keywords in your About section: Your About section is your primary text-based real estate on your page. Be sure to accurately describe your business and products, using keywords customers might use in search queries. Be sure to include your website URL in your description to encourage clicks through to your site.
Ensure you’ve used the appropriate category for your business: Too often I’ve seen businesses that have improperly set their category. This can be a serious problem, particularly if you want to show up in Facebook Graph Search. If you’re a local business, it’s critical that you select this as your business type, because this will allow people to “check in” at your business. If you don’t typically have walk-in traffic at your business and don’t have a need for check-ins, choosing ‘Companies & Organizations’ may be more appropriate.
Optimize your page images: Your cover and profile photos are what visitors will first see when arriving at your page. Your images should be professional quality, and should accurately reflect the look and feel of your brand. Ensure they meet the optimal size requirements so they don’t appear skewed: your cover photo should be 851×315 pixels and your profile photo should be 160×160 pixels.
Make the most of pinned posts: Research and experience tells us that most people will visit your page wall only once. They will like your page, and then continue to interact with your posts that appear in their newsfeed – but will rarely (if ever) visit your wall. For this reason, your page’s primary function is to get people to click that ‘Like’ button. Facebook allows page admins to pin one post to the top of their page. Ensure that the topic of this post is interesting, unique and contains an eye-catching image.
Using Facebook Groups To Engage With Your Target Market
While pages are the primary tool businesses owners should be using to market their business on Facebook, groups can be an extremely effective add-on strategy in many industries and niches. When used correctly, groups can be an incredible source of traffic, and can lead to increased engagement and authority for your business.
By participating in other people’s industry-related groups, you can help establish yourself as an authority in your field. Offering useful advice and tips can help you become a valued member of the group; and as people grow to trust you, they’ll want to find out more about you (and your business).
Perhaps the most beneficial use of Facebook groups, however, is to create and participate in your own interest-related groups. Groups give you the opportunity to engage with your audience in a much more personal and relatable way, and allow you to become a part of your target market’s day-to-day conversations. Create a group that welcomes conversations about anything related to your industry. For instance, if you’re a contractor, you could start a group where people could ask questions about or discuss home renovations or DIY building projects. For more on this, see my article, How To Use Facebook Groups To Increase Traffic and Engagement.
Encouraging Social Sharing Through The Use Of Facebook Buttons And Plugins
Your website and Facebook page should work together seamlessly. Your marketing funnel will often work at moving traffic from your Facebook page to your website or blog. However, you’ll also want to make sure you give your website visitors a way to like and share your content on Facebook, and to interact with your page.
Ensure each piece of content on your site has a like and share button next to it. You can add these manually, or you can use a third party service like Add This or a WordPress plugin to customize your buttons and make the process of adding buttons easier.
To give your website visitors the chance to like and interact with your page, install the page plugin in the sidebar of your site. When setting up the plugin, you’ll be given options regarding how you want it to look. I recommend selecting ‘Show Page Posts’ so your website visitors get a preview of what type of content you typically share on your page.
Getting Your Posts Seen By More Of Your Fans
A common complaint among page owners is that many of their fans don’t actually see their Facebook posts. Facebook has addressed this concern, stating that falling reach is the result of two main factors: First, because of the sheer amount of content being shared each day, there is simply not enough room in users’ newsfeeds to show every single post. This makes the competition for placement in users’ feeds fierce, and results in decreased exposure for organic posts.
The second reason post reach has fallen is that Facebook’s algorithm is designed to show the most relevant content to users; and relevancy is determined by – among thousands of other factors – how a person has interacted with a page’s posts in the past (likes, comments, shares), the type of post being shared (image, video, link, etc.) and the popularity of a page’s past posts among all users. In other words, the more popular your posts are, the more often they’ll be shown in users’ feeds.
To give yourself the best chance of making it into your fans’ feeds, use the following strategies for your organic posts:
- Use videos as part of your posting strategy. According to research, videos now lead in terms of organic reach. Between October 2014 and February 2015, videos received organic reach of 8.71%, compared to a reach of 5.77% for text-only status.
- Regularly consult your page Insights to see what types of content are resonating with your audience. Your page Insights contain a wealth of data on what types of content are getting engagement with your audience. See which post formats are getting the most traction (photos, videos, links, text-only posts), as well as which topics your audience seems to be passionate about. Also note which days and times, as well as posting frequency, seem to work best with your fans.
- When posting promotional content, be sure to include a relevant and engaging backstory for optimal reach. In late 2014, Facebook announced that they would be limiting the reach of posts they found “too promotional”: posts that pushed people to buy a product, enter a contest or that reused content from ads.
To give your promotional posts the best chance of being seen, make sure you provide engaging content – not just a plea to buy your product or visit your website. Ask yourself, “Will my fans find this post interesting enough to read it and interact with it, even if they don’t want to buy my product?”
For more strategies for increasing your post reach, see my article Why Your Organic Facebook Reach Is Still Falling – And What To Do About It.
When And How Often To Post
I know some business owners who get hung up on posting at the perfect time, on the perfect day for optimal reach and engagement. But the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to post timing. There has been much research done on optimal posting time and frequency, but these are best used as a starting point for your own research. Be sure to consult your Facebook Insights to see whether these best practices hold true for your audience.
Some research has suggested that posting on Thursdays and Fridays may result in higher engagement. Optimal posting times seem to vary considerably, however 1pm and 3pm seem to be good places to start your testing.
In terms of posting frequency, I like Buffer’s suggestion: “Strike the balance between informative and annoying”. I know some businesses that have success posting 5-10 times per day. For other businesses, once per day (or even 3x/week) is more appropriate. Social Bakers found that 5-10 posts per week is ideal: “Typically if you post fewer then 2 posts a week, you will not engage your audience enough for them to maintain a social connection with you, and you will lose engagement. If you post more then 2 per day (as a brand) you will typically lose engagement. That means the ideal number is between 5 – 10 posts per week as a brand, and as a media company, this is typically 4 – 10× higher, as news [is] information people engage with all day long.”
Using Paid Options To Increase Likes And Reach
While it is possible to experience decent reach for your posts using free strategies, you may want to supplement your organic strategies with paid options. Facebook currently offers two main ways to extend the reach of your page posts.
Post boosts: Boosting a post will increase it’s visibility in users’ newsfeeds. You can choose to have your post shown to your page fans, friends of your fans, or to other people who you select through targeting. Targeting options for your posts include interests, age, gender, and location. To boost a post, simply click on ‘Boost’ when creating a new post; you’ll also find this setting on old posts if you want to boost a post that’s already been published.
Boosting posts is a quick and easy way to extend the reach of your posts, but I recommend promoting your posts instead. While it’s slightly more complicated to create a promoted post, the added targeting and control of promoted posts usually make them worth the extra effort.
Promoted posts: Promoted posts can be accessed via your Facebook Ads Manager. To begin creating your promoted post, go to Facebook’s Ad Creator and click on Boost your posts. Note that while this is still called ‘Boosting’, you’ll have more targeting and budgeting options than by simply clicking ‘Boost’ from your page.
When to promote a post
One of the difficulties business owners face is in knowing when to promote a post. Generally speaking, you’ll only want to promote posts that help you meet a specific goal, like getting traffic to your website or selling a product. When you’ve decided on a post that you’d like to promote, I highly recommend using Jay Behr’s STIR strategy. Best practices for promoting or ‘stirring’ a Facebook post include asking yourself a number of questions about the shelf-life (S), timing (T), impact (I) and results (R) of your post, as seen here:
Image courtesy of Convince and Convert
Facebook ads: Facebook offers a variety of other advertising options apart from promoting a single post. You can choose your ad type based on a number of objectives. As we’ve already discussed, one of these objectives is boosting or promoting a post. However, other options include promoting your page (getting more likes), sending people to your website, increasing conversions on your site and getting people to claim your offer.
Once you’ve selected a campaign objective, you can set your own targeting and budgeting options, and choose the creative (image, video, text, link, etc.) for your ad.
Choosing your campaign objective will help you meet your advertising goals.Your ad can have three potential placements: desktop newsfeed, mobile newsfeed, and desktop right column. By default, all three options will be selected. To stop your ad from being displayed in one of these locations, simply click ‘Remove’ next to location name.
Best Practices For Your Facebook Ads
Unfortunately, it’s easy to spend a significant amount of money on your Facebook ads without achieving your desired objectives. Ads can be a very effective way to get traffic, likes and conversions, but there are a number of best practices (some straight from Facebook) that will lessen the learning curve and get you reaching your goals more quickly.
Always use audience targeting: Advertising to a broad, general audience using no targeting is tantamount to throwing your money out the window. As mentioned previously, while boosting a post right from your page can sometimes be effective, taking the time to promote a post within your Ad Manager will usually help you reach your goals quicker. In particular, test out a variety of behavior targeting options, as these tend to be among the most effective targeting options.
Put your most important content first: Users are most likely to see content near the beginning of your ad. For this reason, it’s important to put your most important content (e.g., link or call to action) near the beginning of your copy.
Rotate your ad every 1-2 weeks: Particularly if you’re using specific targeting for your ad (and are therefore advertising over and over to a relatively small audience), it’s important to change up your ad’s image and copy every week or two. Using the same content over and over will result in “ad fatigue” or “banner blindness”, decreasing the chances of your ad getting noticed and clicked on.
Use conversion pixels to track the effectiveness of your ads: If you’re going to be purchasing multiple ads, using conversion pixels will let you know which ads are helping you meet your goals. You can choose from a variety of conversion types when creating your pixel, including checkouts, registrations, leads, page views, and adds to cart. For detailed instructions on setting up conversion pixels on your site, see Facebook’s help page.
Use a strong call to action: Always let users know what you would like them to do. While you don’t necessarily need to be as directive as telling them to click on your ad, you should let them know why they should click on your ad. This could be to take advantage of a sale or deal, to read content, to request more information, etc.
Use different ads for different newsfeed placements: While Facebook allows you to use the same images and copy for all types of ads, it’s important to create separate ads for each. Ads for mobile, desktop newsfeed or desktop right column will likely all have slightly different objectives and will obviously be displayed differently within users’ feeds. Customize your ads for their intended location, and be sure to track their performance as you go long.
Facebook can be an extremely effective platform for finding and engaging with your target market. When used correctly, it can result in increased traffic, reach and conversions. Using the best practices outlined above will get you on the right path to experiencing all the benefits Facebook has to offer. For more insights and tactics to help you develop your social media strategy, grab my eBook, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.
Are you currently using Facebook to market your business? Why or why not?
This article was written by Jayson DeMers and originally appeared on Forbes.com.