Even though it feels like Facebook has been part of our lives forever, Facebook "pages" for business have only been with us for just three years.
Businesses are still learning the most effective ways to engage with fans. The questions often being asked are:
1. How often should we post?
2. What type of posts will drive fan engagement?
3. When should we publish our wall updates?
Research by Buddy Media has the answers. Although the data is taken from user engagement of the top 100 retailers during a six-month period in 2011, some of the lessons can apply to many types of businesses.
Here are the findings:
1. Best time to post: 8 p.m.-7 a.m.
The analysis showed it was best to post when fans were not at work; between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Post during these "non-busy" hours to increase likes and comments.
2. Best days to post: Wednesdays
Although most of the brands posted regularly throughout the week, it's best to publish on Wednesdays and Sundays to boost engagement.
3. Daily posts: one to two
Quality, not quantity, counts when publishing to your wall. Posting once or twice a day results in a 40 percent higher engagement rate compared with posting more than three times a day.
4. Weekly posts: one to four times
Don't overcrowd users' news feeds with too many posts during the week. Posting one to four times weekly produces 71 percent higher user engagement than five or more posts in a given week for retail brands.
5. Length of posts: 1-40 characters is best
Posts less than 80 characters in length receive 66 percent higher engagement than longer posts. More concise posts—those between one and 40 characters—generate the most engagement. Only 5 percent of all retail brand wall posts are less than 40 characters in length, even though these receive 86 percent higher fan engagement.
6. Best way to spark a dialogue: ask questions
Ask questions to get fans talking. Posts with questions generate more than double the amount of comments than non-question posts.
7. Best structure: fill in the blank
One of the most underutilized post techniques is one of the most engaging. Data shows that brand posts employing the fill in the blank strategy (e.g. I like …) generate comment rates nine times higher than other posts. Less than 1 percent of retail brands use this tactic.
8. Best keywords for deals: "coupons" and "$ off"
When it comes to deals, fans look for a straightforward offer. The top 10 sales keywords were analyzed to determine which receive the most user engagement. Posts containing the words "$ off" and "coupon" receive the highest fan engagement. Posts containing "$ off" receive a 55 percent higher user engagement rate, followed by posts containing the word "coupon," which is 39 percent above the average.
Popular words, such as "sale" and "% off," received the lowest fan engagement.
9. Best coupon offer: cash discounts
Fans prefer tangible cash discounts, even if the dollar amount is low. When offering coupons, don't make fans do the math. The data indicates that "$ off" offers generate twice the engagement than "% off." Even small "$ off" discounts—less than $10—receive 17 percent higher engagement than "% off" promotions.
10. Post type: text only
Simple posts achieve the most engagement. The two most effective types of retail brand posts contain a single photo attachment or use only words. Status posts—posts that contain only words—receive 94 percent higher engagement than average.
Avoid more complicated posts, such as those with attached links and thumbnail photos.
Jeff Bullas is a digital media coach, mentor, consultant and speaker. He blogs at JeffBullas.com, where a version of this article originally ran.