At this point, most people know to market their business on Facebook — there are more than 900 million people on the social platform, constantly "liking," sharing, commenting and posting. We've gone over some best practices for Facebook marketing, discussed hot trends and shared customer service tips, so now you know what you should do.
But there are a few things that you shouldn't do. Mashable spoke with Facebook's Communications Manager Elisabeth Diana, Head of Measurement Platform and Standards Sean Bruich and Director of Online Operations Sarah Smith, as well as Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow to learn more about the most common Facebook marketing mistakes.
"There's actually a science behind this — yes, it's an art, but we have found some strong conclusions that there are levers that marketers can pull to be more successful," says Bruich, whose team recently studied 1,200 posts by 23 brands over a month-long period, using quantitative measurements to determine the unique impact of each post. "This is not a black box ... there's a lot of opportunity to understand how to make your marketing better."
Below, we outline 10 of the most common Facebook marketing mistakes. Have you fallen victim to any of them? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.
1. Not Filling Out the Page Completely
This one's obvious, but make sure you're using Facebook to its full capacity and fill out your Brand Page. Businesses should have hours, address, photos and more on their Brand Pages, so users can gather this information quickly. And if you're opening a new location, either list it or (if you decide it's best to create separate Brand Pages for your locations) add a new Page to Facebook. Make sure you also nab a good vanity URL — bonus points if it's also your web URL and Twitter handle.
2. Using an Illegal Cover Photo
The cover photo is prime real estate on your Facebook Brand Page, and it's the first thing consumers notice. Therefore, it ought to abide by Facebook guidelines, which state that a cover photo can not have:
Price or purchase information (including discounts, such as "40% off")
A call to action to "like," share, comment, download, "get it now" or "tell your friends"
Contact information, such as web, email or mailing address
In your cover photo, use something that flaunts your product and captures the essence of your brand — a close-up of food is great for restaurants, a shot of a runway show is perfect for fashion labels and a diaper company could have a few cute babies. Don't forget to switch your photo up every once in a while — you can refresh your image to promote a new or different product, an upcoming event or a new location. More than half of the brands Buddy Media recently analyzed had only uploaded one cover photo, and another 21% had only uploaded two cover photos. "Switch it up to keep things fresh," Lazerow says. After all, the cover photo is pretty much a billboard on your Facebook Page — you should use it to promote your best offerings. Just remember to abide by the guidelines above.
3. Breaking Contest Guidelines
While it's hard to stay on top of the fine print, it's imperative that any Facebook contest you run is legal. Contests always add a layer of complexity, as state and federal laws may differ, so here are a few things you need to know: Contests asking for submissions or votes via comments, "liking" or other Facebook UI functions are prohibited. You as a brand are responsible for the lawful operation of that promotion, including official rules, terms and eligibility requirements. Contests or giveaways must be administered within Apps on Facebook.com — on a Canvas Page or a Page App. Your Page must acknowledge that the promotion is not sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.You cannot notify contest winners through Facebook (wall post, message, chat, etc.)
There are several third-party providers that help brands run Facebook promotions legally, and most have free trials. A few prominent ones are Wildfire, Offerpop and Buddy Media.
Less is more. Facebook suggests that brands start out with one or two posts a week to feel out the platform and see what works. Many brands post once per day, and many find that posting more than once per day can actually have an adverse effect on engagement. Facebook indicates that the averages user "likes" four to six new Pages each month, so your content is constantly fighting for more attention from its fans. It's better to post one excellent item per day instead of two decent ones.
Even if you're only posting a few days per week, you can still keep your Page active on a daily basis. Check your Page and "like" or respond to comments on your Brand Page, and remember to tag the people you're replying to — that's a great and easy way to get people to come back to your Page to engage more. And it can be easily done with the new Facebook Brand Page Manager app. (Facebook says tagging features are in the works for a later version of the mobile app.)
5. Focusing Too Much on Likes
Sure, Likes are important — the more Likes you have, the more people your message is reaching. But Likes are just step one. Step two is to confirm that you're reaching the right audience and keeping them engaged, says Diana. If they "like," comment and share your content in a regular basis, then they have become brand advocates who are pushing your message to their friends.
The post above, from the Book of Mormon Facebook Page, shows solid engagement on all counts — Likes, comments and shares — thanks to a quirky photo and a clear call to action.
It's also important to note that content shares better on certain days — Buddy Media research has found that engagement rates for Facebook posts are 18% higher on Thursday and Fridays. So if you're strategic, you can get more engagement with fewer posts. Using the new posting tools, you can queue up the content you want to share throughout the week and then ride the wave of engagement over the next few days. "Brands that aren't paying attention to their own data and when their fans are engaged will not see the reach and engagement they desire," says Lazerow. Last year, Buddy Media released a more granular study of industry-specific engagement stats, indicating what days and times of day are best for certain kinds of content, which also can be useful for planning your editorial calendar.
6. Too Much Text
Facebook research has shown that posts between 100 and 250 characters — one or two lines of text — get 60% more Likes, comments and shares than ones that are more than 250 characters, says Diana. Buddy Media research found a similar trend, determining that posts with 80 characters or less in length have 27% higher engagement rates. The moral? Like content on Twitter, keep it short and sweet. Of course, your post should be different than your content on Twitter, or else your fans don't have a reason to follow you on both platforms.
One tip for making sure the post is as engaging and short as possible is to remove the link URL from the text field in the post. Once you paste the URL in the field, the page title, a blurb and a thumbnail will populate — you can then delete the URL to streamline the post and cut the clutter (see above).
7. Posting Boring or Off-Brand Content
This might come as a surprise (well, we hope not), but the things you post on Facebook should be relevant to your brand. If you own a company that makes iPhone cases, it doesn't make sense for you to post about a Kickstarter project just because you think it's cool. Being on-brand is a significant predictor of engagement — just because people like your product doesn't mean they share all of your interests, so just give them a mix of content related to the product. Since your fans don't see every single thing you post, you risk wasting their eyeballs on irrelevance and incurring negative engagement on the post.
8. Ignoring Insights
Facebook Insights offer a lot of useful information — it'd be silly to not take advantage of the data. The Friends of Fans metric is particularly interesting, as Friends of Fans typically represent a much larger set of consumers than a brand's Fans. In fact, for the top 1,000 brands on Facebook, the Friends of Fans number is 81 times larger than the fan count, says Bruich. This means there's a huge potential audience that can be tapped into by posting engaging content (because your fans' activity will show up in friends' feeds) and by enhancing this content with other Facebook ad tools, such as Promoted Posts.
Smith says consumers are 51% more likely to buy something if they know their friends did, so capitalize on the army of advocates who have opted in to learning more about your brand.
You should also pay attention to the People Talking About This (PTAT) and reach metrics in Insights to see how your message is faring in the Facebook ecosystem, and create a comprehensive Facebook marketing strategy based off of what works. "That's the kind of media plan that's going to lead to results," says Bruich. In a sense, you can think of your Facebook audience as a focus group and get a grip on what they want to see more of.
Also check out the real-time insights, which help you see the impact of pinning, highlighting and promoting posts.
9. Being Vanilla
While Timeline transformed Facebook into a much more image-based platform, it's important to spice up your content. Too much of anything is boring, and the right mix of polls, questions, photos and video will keep people engaged and excited about your brand. Humans crave diversity, and different kinds of posts drive different kinds of engagement — so a smattering will lead to more well rounded engagement. For example, someone might comment on a question post, share a photo and "like" a video, so it's best to give consumers a wide swath of ways to engage with your brand.
Pro tip: Asking questions is typically a driver of additional comments. The post above by Coffee Bean is a great example of engagement — it's an image that promotes a live Q&A session on the brand's Facebook Page.
If your brand is experimenting with video, Diana has an interesting finding to keep in mind — videos shared from third-party sites (YouTube, Vimeo) generate less organic activity than videos hosted on Facebook.
Regardless of what type of post you're sharing, make sure the tone and voice reflects the personality of your brand. Virgin America is cheeky, Birchbox is feminine and chatty, MTV is casual and approachable. What's your brand's voice? A Facebook user should know it's your content in their feed without seeing your brand name next to it.
10. Not Making the Most of Facebook's Ad Options
Not all businesses have the budget to employ Facebook Ads in their marketing arsenal. But brands that do could benefit from Bruich's advice about what makes a good ad.
He says the ad needs to be well branded. If it's not clear and obvious who and what the ad is promoting, then consumers will be less likely to recall the ad and the brand. It's also important to have some sort of reward or "payoff," as ads with a reward tend to be more influential over purchasing decisions. Also, try to have the creative in the ad have one focal point — with everything else happening on Facebook, a focused creative unit helps fans recall ads.
Can't figure out what your ad should be? Dig into Facebook Insights and turn the most engaging content into a social ad. "Your content and ads are one and the same," says Lazerow.
You can give your recent content an added boost with Promoted Posts, which extend the reach of your post and are easy to do. Sweet Cheeks Diaper Company, a brick-and-mortar and online store in Maine, saw a 49x return (tracked via the unique URL) after promoting a photo on its Brand Page, says Diana.
Facebook marketing is a crucial way to build a fan base and spread word about your business. But a successful campaign doesn't have to be a drain on your time or your wallet. A few minutes a day and a strategic plan can have an immense impact on your brand's Facebook presence, as long as you avoid the mistakes above.