Facebook marketing got tough.
Businesses all over the world are staring at their reach and engagement stats and wondering if it’s time to give up on Facebook altogether.
Can small businesses still succeed on Facebook in the age of the strict algorithm?
Louise McDonnell, author of ‘Facebook Marketing – The Essential Guide For Irish Organisations‘ thinks we can if we get our content right. I talked to Louise about the algorithm, what makes a good (and bad) Facebook post and Facebook Live.
Louise McDonnell on Facebook Marketing
This is part 2 in a series on getting better results on Facebook:
Part 2: It’s Not Facebook, It’s You – Should You Give Up On Facebook Marketing? – With Louise McDonnell
When I saw you speaking at social media summit last year you started by talking about how much you loved Facebook. Where did your love of Facebook start?
When Facebook came out I decided that I had no interest in it but then my brother in law went travelling, this must have been 2006. He asked would I mind going on Facebook because he could stay in touch and I could see where he was and share it with his brother. So I joined and I absolutely loved it and now he’s allergic to it.
I just love the fact that you can connect with people that you’re living near, that you might see regularly but when you’re busy having kids or working you still get to see people. It’s a handy way to stay in contact.
I love the fact that I’m connected to my first cousin in Canada who has twins and I have twins. We have that connection but I’ve only met her twice in my life. We regularly chat and we have a relationship that spans continents because we’ve made that connection on Facebook.
I like the fact that I have my friends from college who I’d never see except through Facebook. I love the fact that it’s a social network and you invest in all the different relationships. All the cousins in the UK that you may not have known and now you are great friends and you arrange to meet each other. That’s what I like about Facebook and that’s why I started using it.
Early on I was mentoring for Failte Ireland and there was a real need for businesses to learn about the network to reach customers and potential customers. I started working on showing businesses how to use Facebook back in 2009. I’ve been on a journey ever since and I’ve been learning how to help them become better. Everyone is learning all the time on Facebook because it’s always changing.
A lot of businesses are beginning to think Facebook marketing is a waste of time. Is it something we should still be investing a lot of our time in?If you've got a good message and you're targeting it at the right audience you can achieve a lot without spending any money and even more by just spending a little bit wellClick To Tweet
I think that Facebook is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to small businesses.You don’t have to be a multinational, you don’t have to have a huge budget, you just need to know how to use Facebook cleverly.
If you’ve got a good message and you’re targeting it at the right audience you can achieve a lot without spending any money and even more by just spending a little bit well. So yes I absolutely think small businesses should use Facebook.
At the beginning of this year, I did an analysis of 30 business pages that I had access to. I assessed 10 of the most recent posts that they created.
I looked at:
- The number of Likes they had on their page so I could see the potential organic reach if they reached 100%
- The organic reach that they achieved
- The type of post: awareness, social, sales?
- The quality of the post; was the content good?
- How they pushed it out, was it published in a way that I thought would perform well?
Then I looked at other factors:
- The time of day
- The frequency of the posts on the page
- How close posts were together
- If it was an original post or shared post
I used an excel sheet to record all these figures. I got average reach and wrote notes under posts that didn’t perform well and why I thought that was. I did the same for those that did perform well and why I thought that was.
I found that yes, lots of small businesses are giving up on Facebook but there’s lots of really poor quality posting and poor quality pages that won’t perform well. In 2018 with all the changes with the algorithm they actually will perform less well in the future.
From my analysis of the 30 pages I found what doesn’t work.
1. Good content badly presented
You might have good content that is interesting to your target audience but if you don’t use good images, videos, if you don’t think of the time of day you are posting it won’t work. If you post a good post but it’s 10 minutes after another post. If it’s content from another page that you’re sharing on your page. None of that is going to work.
2. Bad content well presented
You might have a beautiful image that captures attention or a video that really stops you in your tracks but if the content behind it isn’t any good that’s not going to help you either.
3. Good content shared more than once
If you put a post on your page and two weeks later you share that exact post, if you don’t even create a new post with that content but share that exact post. That won’t work, it won’t get good reach.
If the Irish Times had a headline on the front page and it worked really well and it sold loads of papers that day they’re not going to use that again in 2 weeks time. It won’t work.
4. Good content, well presented but the audience didn’t engage
If something is not working, don’t repeat it. Sometimes you think something is going to work with your audience, you think they are going to be interested in it but they’re just not.
5. Repeating what just does not work
If you find something isn’t working, stop it. Draw a line in the sand and move on.
I can see that lots of businesses are falling out of love with Facebook but it’s still the most widely used social network in Ireland. 2.3 million people every day are using Facebook here. That’s more than Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat combined.
If your customers are consumers, they are on it every single day of the week and there are plenty of examples of businesses who really do well on Facebook.
You have to have a strategy and you have to have content that is going to engage with your target audience, you’ve got to present that content well, you’ve got to think of the time of day. There’s a lot of work.
You gave us some broad strokes there but what’s the anatomy of a really awful post?
First of all, producing a text-only post. No image, no video. Or a post with a really poor quality image.
How would you describe a bad quality image?
Bad images are those that are pixelated, that are out of focus. Sometimes you see pages sharing images and they still have the copyright watermark.
Sometimes people use an image too frequently and the audience doesn’t realise it’s a new post.
For Live videos, sometimes people will be at an event and they take the video from halfway down the room of someone speaking at the top of the room. That’s not going to work because the person needs to be in the frame.
Sometimes you’ll see people posting an interesting image with no description. Posts like that tend to get less engagement and less reach. That’s like me handing you a piece of paper and not telling you why I’m handing it to you.
Make sure you’re telling people why you are sharing this image or video with your audience.
Even if you are sharing a link to an article and the description is coming through with the article you still need to tell people why they should read it and why you should share it.
6. The timing of posts
You need people to start engaging with the post straight away. So if you post during a dead time of day, posting in the middle of the day and your audience don’t have time to engage or aren’t even on Facebook at that time of day those posts won’t do well.
7. Overuse of hashtags
This can sometimes look really spammy on Facebook. It’s important to use hashtags on other social networks but not really on Facebook.
Posts with bad grammar or poor spelling.
Oh yes you know I’ve just discovered there are certain post types that won’t let you edit after they are published.
I found that myself. I did a Facebook Live and I embedded the post on my site. Once I’d embedded the post I couldn’t edit it.
Earlier on you said something that I think will pique people’s interest. You said that you can get results for free without paying for ads?
What I recommend to people is to look at the content that they produce on their page and they link it to the sales funnel:
- Awareness content
- Consideration content
- Sales content
- Advocate content
Awareness contentYou need to think of yourself as a TV producer or a radio producer. You need to have an eye and an ear for an opportunity to push out content on your page that is different and quirky.Click To Tweet
This is social content, you’re not trying to teach anybody, you’re not trying to teach anybody, you’re not trying to give them tips, you’re just trying to be social.
That type of content, depending on how you push it out can be really successful on your page.
You need to think of yourself as a TV producer or a radio producer. You need to have an eye and an ear for an opportunity to push out content on your page that is different and quirky.
If you think about it, when you tune into a radio show or a TV show the producer has had to sit down and think about the content and lined up that content. The way they encourage you to stay for the show because a feature is coming up that you are interested in.
If you can come up with content like that on your page, organic reach can be really good.
This is where you are giving advice or helping somebody. I’ve lots of examples in my book of this sort of content performing well.
There’s a girl who showed people in a one minute video how to do reflexology on a teething baby. It was perfect because it was useful to her target audience. They not only watched it, they tagged it, they shared it on. She had 600 Likes on her page but she reached 12.5 thousand people with that video.
So it is possible but it’s hard. You really need to tune in to what people want.
This isn’t quick content to create?
Actually she just shot it on her phone. She put it on selfie mode, it took a minute to shoot and up it went. What was good about it is that it tuned into her ideal customers.
Think about what’s going on in your customers lives right now? How can you make their life easier? What problems can you solve for them?
You need to think about what you know that can help people or entertain people and that’s the sort of content that will perform. In fact when that performs that’s the type of content you should boost. Turn it into Facebook ads.
Facebook ads are structured in the same way by awareness, consideration and conversion.
Advertise awareness content from your page to cold audiences that have never heard of you but match the fit of your ideal customer.
Advertise consideration content to cold or warm audiences.
Show sales content to warm audiences. These are the people who have Liked your page and seen your content umpteen times. Or people who have visited your website or watched your videos.
Let’s go back to the example of the girl who produced the reflexology video. I think about 7 or 8 thousand people watched that video. She can now create an audience of people who have watched her video for 3 seconds, 10 seconds or 25%, 50%, 75% or 95%. She can then re-market to those people because she knows that they are more likely to buy from her because they’ve watched her video, she’s warmed them up.
There is a lot to think about for your strategy. It’s not surprising that there are businesses out there that give up on Facebook. Some businesses think that they can give the Facebook task to the most junior person in the team. They’ll give them no budget, they’ll give them no time and then they’ll expect them to go out and get fantastic results.
We know that it’s becoming harder to get people to click links on Facebook. Is there a way around that?
We know the algorithm is always changing. At the moment posts with links in them don’t seem to be performing as well.
What bloggers need to do first of all is to tune into their insights. If there’s a trend away from links that’s happening at the moment you need to stop doing the thing that’s not working.
Try and produce some posts without the links, maybe produce posts with the Facebook notes. They had a facelift a year or two ago, you can now add a cover image, text formatting and images throughout the text. It looks to me that the note is becoming closer to a blog. I’m expecting to see Google indexing them separately soon. When they do that part of your strategy might be deciding what goes on your website and what goes on Facebook.
The other thing that you can do is that you can create a video about the blog and why you need to read it.
Of course, you could also boost the post. There are some posts I just accept on my page you have to boost.
I don’t have to boost my awareness and consideration posts as they tend to perform well. I accept that I have to boost my sales posts where I am trying to drive someone to my website.
I choose my advertising audience really wisely because I know the people who are more likely to click. That means I end up spending my money wisely too.
One more thing because you’ve touched on it already. Facebook Live, is it something every business should be doing?
I mentioned earlier on that people need to see themselves as producers of a TV or radio show. Facebook live is an opportunity to broadcast. We know the algorithm is skewed in favour of this kind of post. When you are live it appears three times higher in the newsfeed. We know that Facebook will try and build an audience for you, it will tell people that you are live and drive traffic to your live show.
Even with Live, the content still needs to be good and the description needs to be good. Think of the TV presenters. When you tune into a show they’re saying ‘stay tuned if you want to see x, y and z’. There’s always something that you want to see halfway down the show and you hang on because you want to see it.
You want to think tactics like that as well.
If you are going to go live you need to invest a little bit of time trying to drive an audience to your live show yourself. If you’ve got an email list email them to tell them you are going to go live. If you’ve got a linked group or if you are part of a group maybe post there. Even if you feel you are going to be annoying people remind them that you are going live in 10 minutes. Send them another email or another post.
Be very careful to avoid ‘engagement baiting. There was an update to the Facebook algorithm at the end of 2017 about it. Engagement baiting is any form of encouraging engagement on your posts, whether that’s reacting, commenting, sharing, tagging. Be very careful about the wording you use in your descriptions to encourage people to watch. Using these tactics can get your page blacklisted if you do it all the time.
Live is a fantastic opportunity but it’s down to how it’s presented, how you drive audiences yourself and how you use it afterwards. You’re bloggers, can you embed that video afterwards on your blog? The link juice from Facebook back surely has to count for something.
Find Louise online:
Facebook: Louise McDonnell
LinkedIn: Louise McDonnell