Organizations continue to pour resources into persuading people to “like” their Facebook page, even citing the number of “likes” as a metric.
Likes, however, are worthless if a sizable number of those people don’t return to the page to interact. Most of us have liked a page to access some piece of content and then never returned.
Fan engagement on your organization’s page increases the likelihood that your fans will see your status updates in their news feeds. Commenting, uploading videos and photos, participating in polls, and other interactions count far more than a like in Facebook’s EdgeRank alogirithm
. A fan liking your page is your invitation to engage him.
Organizations that understand this employ all kinds of tactics to encourage fan interaction. They introduce contests, solicit answers to questions, ask for feedback on product plans, and offer coupons.
All of these tactics are fine, but they overlook an approach that can produce more sustained, long-term fan interaction on your page: routinely integrating your page into your communication and PR strategies.
In dealing with its lost-cat episode, American Airlines posted a Facebook note
, which to date has drawn more than 1,200 comments. Most of these comments are critical of the company, but American Airlines no doubt expected that.
The strategy, it seems, was to give people a place to express their outrage. American was willing to take its lumps. And by moving the conversation to Facebook’s note function, the company also shifted the criticism away from its wall where it would have been visible to random visitors. Plus, all of the interaction on the note feeds the page’s EdgeRank score.
Encouraging the discussion on the Facebook note may have been a decision made in isolation from other PR activities around the cat episode. Or it could have been part of a larger PR plan for addressing the situation. The company issued no press release on the incident, but if they had, it could easily have listed the URL to the note, driving far more than 1,200 people to the page.
Not only would that have shown a greater willingness to accept the criticism the company deserved for its failings, but it also would have driven the EdgeRank score even higher. As a result, other status updates—ranging from fare specials to information on the company’s recently filed bankruptcy—would be more likely to appear in the news feeds of those who have taken the trouble to like the company’s page.
Any organization with a Facebook presence should factor it into their ongoing communication efforts. A crisis isn’t required to drive stakeholders to share their views. Looking at recent press releases issued via some of the leading distribution services, it’s easy to see how an existing Facebook presence could be built into a communications plan.
Here are a few examples and an explanation as to how the companies could be driving people to their Facebook pages.
• Madonna to Perform During the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show on NBC: Bridgestone could invites fans to its page to vote for the song they’d most like to hear Madonna perform.
• San Francisco Landmark Buildings Turn Red for World AIDS Day. The San Francisco Aids Foundation could invite locals to submit their photos of buildings displaying the red lighting.
• The Baby Center Unveils Top Baby Names foor 2011. The Baby Center could ask if you named your baby with one of the top names and to share what motivated you to select that name.
• Atlas Energy, L.P. to Present at the Wells Fargo Pipeline, MLP and Energy Symposium. In this business-to-business example, the company could invite questions for the speaker to be interspersed with those asked by attendees.
• Be Aware of Phishing E-mails that Appear to be from the IRS. This release from Liberty Tax Service could invite people to share the tax-related phishing scams they’ve seen, or the repercussions from those to which they fell victim. They could even set up a note just for people to share new phishing schemes they’ve identified.
• Balzac’s Coffee Roasters Gets “Leafed” for Sustainability. Fans of the five-chain coffee house could be asked to share why sustainability is important to them.
Clearly, you can find a reason to invite interaction on your Facebook page for nearly any topic you share in a press release. But press releases are just one channel of communication to keep in mind.
The point is, when a company is going to communicate something through traditional channels, adding Facebook as a place (or the place) for people to engage over the news will automatically influence the EdgeRank score. It’s a considerably easier process than thinking of a one-off engagement scheme unrelated to the company’s current activities.
When added to special, one-time opportunities to engage, it will help ensure that status updates appear in your fans’ news feed. That’s why you want Facebook fans in the first place, isn’t it?
Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. He blogs at a shel of my former self, where a version of this story first appeared.