When I worked in radio in the late 1980s, one of my early bosses was a blunt character from the north of England. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had a pretty good grasp of social media – even though it hadn’t yet been invented.
He was your typical old-style boss, the I will terrorize you to get you to do what I want type. On two occasions, he burst, foul-tempered, into a crowded room at the radio station and fired everyone there – including some visitors who had only come in to pick up a prize.
But he had some redeeming features, the main one being that he signed my paychecks.
He also knew a lot about audience building – not just what it takes to grow an audience but what it takes to lose one. He had a saying designed to make us think before saying anything outrageous (or just plain stupid) on-air, “Six months to build an audience but only six seconds to lose it”.
Considering this was spoken twenty years before the first social networks, that’s eerily on target for social media audience builders.
Building a Facebook page takes a long time and yet you can lose that hard-won audience quickly if you annoy them. It’s just as easy to un-Like a page as it is to Like it.
Why Facebook Users Desert Brands
Social media marketing company Exact Target surveyed 1,500 Facebook users to find out what made them un-Like, unfollow or unsubscribe from companies for their Social Breakup report.
The reasons are varied but the theme is clear, “Treat me like a person and not a marketing target”.
Clearly, the biggest annoyances are:
* Posting too frequently
* Posting too many marketing messages
* Being boring and repetitive
The simplistic takeaway from this is that if you don’t post frequent, boring marketing messages, you’re already streets ahead.
Ridiculously simple? Yes. Many companies actually doing that? No.
Your Facebook page can be a productive marketing or customer service channel but you need to follow a few rules.
1. People like to talk to a person, not interact with a logo
Make sure some kind of personality comes through – helpful, efficient and human – is a good start.
2. Don’t spew out a press release just to fill up the space
Are you “really excited” that you’ve released a new product? I’m sure you are. But we’re not. You and your new product aren’t high on my list of priorities for the day – unless you can tell me why it should be.
Users need to know why they should care – what’s the benefit to them?
For more examples of wonderfully awful things companies have posted to their Facebook timeline take a look this B.L. Ochman Ad Age piece.
3. Curate conversations around your product
People would much rather hear from a normal person about how useful a product was, than from your over-zealous and under-paid intern.
The admins on your Facebook page need to be like generous hosts at a party – helping people strike up conversations with each other and then fading into the background unless needed.
4. Ask users about your product – don’t tell them
Encourage your followers to tell you how they’re using your product or service.
Again, a review from a fellow Facebooker is more interesting to users than what a marketing person has to say.
Get a negative comment? It’s a fact of life. Respond quickly, politely and let people know what you’re doing to sort out the problem.
5. Have goodies to share
A lot of users join Facebook pages to access freebies, deals and other exclusive stuff. If you can deliver these, you’ll keep them happy and generate some useful word-of-mouth advertising – because deal hunters love to brag about great deals they’ve just bagged.
6. One new post a day
Take into account your product and audience, but one post day is probably the safe area between updating too infrequently to be noticed and too much to be a bore.
As with any social media channel, success comes when it’s less about you and more about them. Generating meaningful discussions about your product between customers and potential customers means you’re generating content that will help potential customers make a buying decision.