Facebook's Marketing Foibles

As a marketing tool for a retailer or pool builder, Facebook is becoming more complicated.

The beauty of Facebook was its simplicity. Yes, I said was. Once upon a time the social networking site was free from ads, spam and countless company pages asking users to “like” them. This pure simplicity of Facebook was summed up perfectly in the hit movie “The Social Network,” which, for those of you who missed it, depicts the creation of today’s Facebook empire.

“Facebook is cool,” Sean Parker, Facebook Inc.'s first president, says in the movie. “You don’t want to ruin it with ads, because ads aren’t cool. You don’t even know what the thing is yet. How big it can get, how far it can go. A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

If a billion dollars is cool, Facebook is certainly very cool today. When Facebook went public in 2012 it was valued at $104 billion dollars. Although the problems with its IPO were well-publicized, in 2011 alone, the social networking site generated $3.7 billion in revenue—yes, billion with a "b." That’s nice if your name is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder. But for those in the pool and spa industry trying to use Facebook as a marketing tool (we are called “brand page managers”, in the parlance of social media), Facebook is becoming increasingly less cool.

As the site grew from an idea in a college dorm room to a global phenomenon, so did its business plan. Facebook now has more streams of revenue than ever before. Outside advertisers, Facebook brand-page advertisements, promoted posts, games, apps—you name it, Facebook is finding a way to charge us for it. And this complicates the way we use the site to promote our companies and engage with our customers.

Gone are the days when a small spa retailer could quickly compile a large number of fans and reach them all at once. Instead, Facebook is now ruled by an algorithm called EdgeRank that determines which Facebook users see which of your posts. Maximizing your Facebook page’s effectiveness starts and ends with understanding EdgeRank. 

Users Put on Edge

In an article featured on EdgeRankChecker.com, a Facebook ad representative described EdgeRank like this: A person's Facebook "feed is optimized to show users the posts they are most likely to engage with, where engagement is defined as clicking, liking, commenting, or sharing the post — or in the case of offers, claiming the offer."

Facebook will tell you EdgeRank is meant to improve users’ Facebook experience. It shows users more content they tend to engage with and less that they don’t. But this is hurting our pool and spa marketing efforts. Depending on where you look, the number of people an average post reaches is down anywhere from 25-50% since the launch of EdgeRank. You can no longer post something on your page and expect a majority of your fans to see it. If a person hasn’t engaged with one of your posts recently, your content may no longer be appearing in their news feed at all.

The only way to guarantee reaching all of the people who “like” your page is by promoting your post, which costs money. 

Keeping Up Appearances

Despite EdgeRank’s suppression of non-promoted posts, there are some things you can do to ensure your Facebook page stays relevant. Keep in mind that ideally, you’re reaching people in their news feeds and not relying on your fans to visit your page itself. Studies show that up to 96 percent of fans don’t return to a brand’s Facebook page after initial engagement.

In order for your posts to reach more people, first concentrate on generating engagement for those that are seeing your content. Engagement is defined as “clicking, liking, commenting, or sharing the post.” The more engaging your content, the more likely others are to see it. Additionally, EdgeRank assigns a different “weight” to each post. The higher the weight, the more likely a post is to show up in someone’s feed.

Here are some tips to boost your page’s engagement numbers. It’s important to remember that different things work for different pages. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of posts, posting time and posting frequency to see what works best for you.

Post photos: Research shows photos get as much as 20 times more engagement than other posts. Especially in a visual industry like ours, showing your fans beautiful aquatic products, installations and experiences rather than telling them is a great way to draw more attention to your content. You’re proud of your work. Don’t be afraid to show it off. 

Create photo albums: If a picture is worth a thousand words, think how many words an entire photo album is worth. Facebook is a visual medium. Take advantage of it by posting not just one photo, but an entire album. Complete a new project you’re particularly proud of? Take a few pictures and post them to a “Project Album.” When people see an album in their news feed, they are drawn to the visual and more likely to click on it to view other pictures in the album. When someone clicks on one of your photos, they are boosting your engagement.

Posting frequency: Global communications agency Ogilvy and Mather suggests “Two posts per day of sound, sight or motion (audio, photo, video). Brands doing a text-only post at 10 a.m., and then another text-only post at 1 p.m. are not using the new algorithm to their advantage. Posts in this timeframe and delivery method cannibalize one another by overlapping.” Too busy to be on Facebook every day? Schedule posts in advance on Facebook by clicking the clock icon in the bottom left of the box where you post content. Or set up scheduled posts through a free service like TweetDeck, HootSuite or Buffer.

Get creative: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some of our most popular posts on our AQUA Facebook page are cartoon images we’ve created on www.someecards.com. The site lets you pick one of hundreds of images and add your own text.

As Facebook continues to change the way it works, companies will have to continue to adapt to stay relevant. While there is no guaranteed route to Facebook success, these tips will help your Facebook page rack up more “likes” and comments, and thereby raise your store’s profile and sway customers toward your brand.

Remember, you have to hunt customers where they are, and like it or not, they’re on Facebook.

Michael Gaio is the social media manager for AQUA magazine.

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