New research about how to have more engaging Facebook posts

We’re all looking for quantifiable data for our social media efforts, right? That’s why I wanted to share with you the findings of a recent study by Buddy Media. The study is fairly straight forward with recommendations on making the most of business Facebook efforts.  Here’s my one caution about these findings: don’t rely too heavily on them as your results may vary. As you may (or may not know), I’m a big fan of defining metrics for social media efforts. Everyone’s metrics will be different, depending on your goals and how you funnel and track leads. Regardless of their value, having stats like this is no excuse for not tracking and managing your own Facebook Page Insights.  However, I think its interesting to have a baseline from which to compare your own business’s efforts. In some cases, Buddy Media broke the information down into certain categories like media, entertainment and retail which helps puts the results into context.

So here are some of the interesting highlights from the study.

Before we get started, some recommended best practices from another Buddy Media Study:

Tabbed Views: Because you have a choice of where new fans may land, tabs play an interesting role in Facebook. Having a custom landing page within Facebook is a great way to welcome and immediately provides an opportunity for engagement tracking. Many businesses offer a white paper, a coupon or a video welcome in this space. Its even possible to have your initial landing page capture emails.  Tracking tab views can give you insight as to how your fans are using your Facebook Page and what content they find most appealing. Having unique tabs is a way to keep ’em coming back for more…and we all like that, don’t we?

Additional tabs provide you with multiple engagement opportunities such as click-thru’s to your website or promo content like quizzes or promotions. Video can play a role here as well, if it works, use it. Video is the next frontier of content development. Even as a writer who loves to read, I absolutely eat up video – bet you do too.  Buddy Media compares engagement on these tabs to “Add to Cart” on a typical website – I love that analogy, I think its a great comparison.

Another great example within the study shows how travel companies use pages as a metric for their reservation funnel. By offering the customer the opportunity to book online, they make the page more effective and a better customer service AND sales tool. Then then add in some other click thru with unique URL’s so they can see how those links compare with other funnels as well. This is a fairly easy thing to do on Facebook and Hawaii’s tourism businesses could easily incorporate this concept. Now would be a great time to see that happen as we brace for the potential drop in visitors from Japan. We already know that US Mainland travelers love to use the web to research and you know what we say in social media – go where your customers are! You can have a page like this developed for a surprisingly reasonable price.

You can also integrate “sharing” opportunities on custom tabs – sharing opportunities are the holy grail of Facebook. BUT, you have to give your visitors something worth sharing. The best I’ve seen give your fans an opportunity to express themselves through the share option, after all – Facebook isn’t really about the brands, is it? Its about the people and what do people want to talk about? Yep, themselves, especially in social media. So, this is definately one for the creatives – find a way to send a strong brand message that enables people to brand themselves.  That’s a fun brainstorming session – I love those discussions (look at that, there I am, talking about me. Huh)!

The study also found that if you plan on using your tabs or your wall for contests and promos, stick with “softer” keywords like “events” and “winning”, fans are not “fans” of words like “contest” and “promotion” again, I’d say this is a case of “stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a human.” People don’t enter contests to help out marketers, they enter opportunities to win..and especially on Facebook, fans HATE to be sold. Notice that the traditional “call to action” words just don’t work on Facebook. One of the most interesting “unsuccessful” terms is “Become a Fan” so again, make it about the fan and not about you and you’re likely to have a better response.

Now we get to the nitty gritty: what is the magic formula for Facebook posting? How often? How long? What days? What time? Again, I sincerely recommend that you test this out with your own page because getting to know YOUR fans is much more important than knowing what other people’s fans are doing. None the less – here are the deets:

Generally speaking, shorter Facebook Posts do better. Posts with less than 80 characters do the best (what?! we really DO live in an ADD world, don’t we?!). Posts between 1-80 characters had a 27% higher engagement rate, yet accounted for only 19% of total posts.  I also found it interesting that link shorteners don’t do well on Facebook. I generally don’t recommend link shorteners on Facebook because you often miss partnership opportunities by doing so, but, turns out, Facebook users like to know the source of the content BEFORE they click. In fact, engagement rates were 3X higher with posts that used a full length URL. That’s pretty amazing. I’d be interested in hearing your results on that! And here comes the data that businesses don’t want to hear: brands that posted outside of business hours had 20% higher engagement rates. I’ve definitely seen this with clients of mine, in fact, in some cases it was up to 50% higher. Think about it, people have time to engage with brand pages when they aren’t at work. Be akamai about the times you post and watch carefully for trends. Days of the week vary wildly depending on industry (see below), but generally speaking user engagement peaks, up to 18% higher on Thursday and Friday…you know, the days when people don’t really want to be at work and are letting their mind wander a bit on Facebook.

You’ve probably also heard that ASKING for engagement on Facebook works and this study bears that out as well. To quote “Fans follow instructions well. The simpler, the better.” Asking a direct question and asking for a response is highly effective as well. Its amazing how few businesses do this though. Fans also respond to active key words, “Like” “Take” “Tell Us” “Comment”.

Best time to Post on Facebook Pages (I’m posting highlights here, if you are in a particular industry that you don’t see represented, send me a note, and I’ll add my thoughts to the data they’ve collected (entertainment, automotive, media, fashion are all included).

Food & Beverage Industry

The F&B industry is one of the most active on their Facebook postings over the weekend. But it turns out that engagement rates actually peak on Tuesday and Wednesday and then again on Saturday. So, if you are in the restaurant biz, use those midweek dates to promote your weekend activities, specials or engagement opportunities. Of course, restaurants should be monitoring other social media opportunities on the weekends. Since we’re talking about opportunities for restaurants here: allow to step onto the geolocation soapbox for a moment:  checkins are an opportunity that restaurants are still missing, particularly with high-end restaurants, its amazing to me that hostesses don’t monitor check-ins and give some kind of high sign to wait staff as to who is there and where they’ve checked in. Monitoring Twitter is an easy way to do this as well, since most of those services (besides Facebook) allow (and encourage) posting of checkins on Twitter. But Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, these are all opportunities to thank your most vocal visitors – and track repeat customers too!

Travel & Hospitality Industry

For the tourism industry, the best engagement days are generally Thursday and Friday and the stats show that hospitality companies pretty much “get” that with Thursday and Friday being two of their highest posting days. However, Monday is the highest day for posting and yet, its a very low engagement day, although the least successful engagement day is Wednesday. Be creative and save your strategic postings for later in the week. Again, travel and hospitality can be monitoring check-ins using the geolocation services.

So that’s the scoop in a nutshell. Tell me what YOU think about this data and what experiences you’ve had. What say you? Agree or disagree? You can comment or tweet your replies. I usually retweet the replies so everyone can share in the conversation!