My Digital Soapbox
Facebook Isn’t Working For Brands? It’s Because They’re Doing It Wrong!

Please note: this post was written on Sunday, September 18, before Facebook tweaked their user interface and then “became profoundly changed.” However, the ideas and strategies here remain unchanged for the time being. Interestingly enough on September 23, a thought piece by Brian Solis was published on Harvard Business Review, giving further credence to my thoughts below . 

I recently came across a study stating that Facebook isn’t working for brands (via Social Media Today) and I felt compelled to chime in. 

Facebook isn’t working for brands because too many brands are DOING IT WRONG! Before trying to figure out when to make Facebook posts or how to make them, brands need to step back and understand what motivates someone to engage with a Facebook page.

Without citing any studies, let’s think like a consumer for a moment. Why do YOU visit or engage with a brand or business’ Facebook page? (I’m not asking about why you originally “liked” the page, I’m asking about what makes you ENGAGE with that page). I bet you’ll answer in one of the following ways: 

1) To search for coupons or exclusive deals
2) To make your voice heard about a customer service experience

(note: according to an official study cited in the HBR story linked above, the top two reasons are actually 1) To receive discounts (61%) 2) To make purchases (55%) )

Anyway, you’re probably NOT visiting a brand page to read about the latest marketing initiative written up in a social media-friendly tone and plastered on the wall. When visiting brand Facebook pages, I see FAR too much of that. 

That being said, here are some steps to take to increase your brand’s Facebook engagement: 

  • Immediately dedicate an entire team to manage your Facebook page (along with other important social media channels). The goal is to build a team that will engage in a genuine dialogue with customers who are taking time out of their busy lives to “talk” to your brand using social media. I don’t care if it is an internal team, or an external team. What matters is that the team understands one basic premise - in social media, you’re turning over the keys to your customer base and letting them steer the conversation. It’s scary, but most of the time, the wisdom of the crowds will lead to your business’ sweet spot. 
  • Clearly define community standards for your Facebook page, stating how posts will be moderated, etc.  
  • Define an engagement strategy for the page. To build a community and truly make your customers feel like they’re getting value out of this “social” relationship they’ve formed with your brand on a SOCIAL media site, you should aim to engage with as many comments and posts as possible (positive AND negative). 
  • Define an escalation strategy for customer service issues that can’t be handled by the social media team. Again, this type of engagement and attention takes a TEAM, not a person. It also probably requires a social media management system.  
  • Work with your marketing and promotions team to develop deals that reward people for taking time out of their lives to interact with your brand on Facebook. These deals shouldn’t be recycled, and they shouldn’t be “deals” that are intended to drive a customer to a point of sale where they can be tricked into buying something they don’t need. If you want to form a meaningful and SOCIAL relationship, an exchange of value needs to occur.  
  • Analyze the marketing calendar for the next year and determine which initiatives align with the lifestyle interests of your customers. If a marketing program can’t do this, social media isn’t the optimal channel for it. The goal here is to drive genuine conversations around non-product stories. These lifestyle posts should be graded on level of engagement and on the sentiment of the conversation. This takes creativity and a deep understanding of your brand’s target audience and is not a “quick win.” Even when armed with audience analytics, much of this will be a test and learn - connecting customers around passion points on a brand page isn’t easy work. Learning about new products or marketing initiative via Facebook (or any other social media channel) isn’t valuable for a customer - they can find that information elsewhere. Customers DO get extra value out of a brand’s Facebook page when an interesting post shows up in their newsfeed and allows them to engage in lively conversation with likeminded individuals who just happen to be “fans” of the same brand. 
  • So, when you’re not offering unique deals, timely customer service or engaging in actual two-way conversations with your customers, you should “fill in the blanks” with lifestyle content and programs that connect people around their interests and passion points. 

    One brand that seems to “get it” is Waffle House, and their reward is a community of engaged fans. Waffle House curates galleries of customer and staff-submitted photos, introduces new types of waffles based on customer feedback, promotes fun and engaging marketing programs that encourage social interactions, and regularly posts hilarious and audience-relevant status updates. It isn’t a surprise that Waffle House has a relatively high percentage of core fans according to Skyttle Friends

    What do you think? Did I miss any steps in the process? Are there any brands that you follow on Facebook that seem to follow all of the above steps?