The Key to Success on Facebook in 2013: Engagement

By Barry Hott Nobody wants to read all of your Facebook updates. Facebook knows that all of your posts aren't gold, so when you post on your Facebook page, you reach between 1% and 20% of your fans organically. As users continue to like more pages, they cause the pages to compete more in Facebook's news feed, driving the value of a Facebook fan down. Brands need to find new ways to maximize their reach and ad spend on Facebook.

Facebook's standard ad format is boring, small, and un-engaging. Their simple sponsored page like units ("[Your Friend] likes [Insert Facebook Page]") show some fatigue among users and are very un-engaging, albeit effective at bringing in new fans. Ads on Facebook tend to be either trying to drive immediate sales or develop their brand and brand awareness via page likes. Typically, advertisers are comfortable paying to drive traffic to their site, or get new fans on Facebook, but there has been some resistance to spending money on Facebook's newer ad type: promoted posts and stories.

Promoted posts will be the key to success on Facebook in 2013. They are more valuable than other forms of advertising on Facebook — or anywhere — because users essentially endorse your content, making it more likely for their friends to engage with your content. By sponsoring the right content, you can make a huge impact for your brand even with a small ad budget.

When sponsoring a post and its engagement, it is imperative to be picky. Many of your posts would do fine when you sponsor them, but you'll get the best bang for the buck when you put some money behind a post that has already proven it is organically engaging. Let the news feed be your proving grounds. If you notice a spike in engagement or virality for a particular post, that's your winner.

You're looking for the most engaged posts because Facebook's EdgeRank pits your content against other pages and users for a spot in a user's news feed. One of the keys to EdgeRank is engagement: the more engagement (likes/comments/shares) on a post, the greater reach that post will receive. It's a cycle: engagement begets reach, reach begets engagement. To get organic engagement, you need great content (with great images).

The engagement/reach cycle works similarly with Facebook's ad system. Like EdgeRank, the higher click-through rate (CTR), the more your ad will be shown. Facebook will show an ad more if it gets more engagement, which means that you get greater reach and more engagement for less money than an un-engaging post.

When you have an engaging post, SPONSOR IT.

On a recent campaign, I sponsored a post that already had high engagement and virality.  For $100, the post received 630 likes, 96 shares, and 81 comments, as well as 20 page likes in one week. (Numbers do not include any further viral engagement. For example: if someone shares a sponsored post, any likes on that shared post aren't counted toward the ad stats) While the post was not particularly effective at acquiring many fans, I was pleased to see that even if I ignored the likes and comments, $100 paid for almost 100 shares. Those shares led to an even wider spread of the content for free. The value of that endorsement is worth more (and costs less) than getting someone to like your page.

Some tips to maximize your promoted posts:

  • Try a quote: People love to share things they're proud of or stand behind. Use a quote that people would be proud to share.
  • Include a call to action: An appropriate call to action ("like this if. . .") will increase engagement and your CTR.
  • Use a branded image. If you're going to spend money on a sponsored post, you can make it more valuable by including your logo.

While your page's EdgeRank isn't being punished by not sponsoring posts, you're punishing your brand by not using this valuable tool.

If you had $1000 to spend on Facebook ads, how much would you spend on promoted posts and sponsored stories? Let us know what you think in the comments!