Managing Facebook comments

9 steps to managing Facebook comments like a pro

Facebook is a social network. We all know this, but sometimes we need a reminder. Facebook is not a broadcasting tool or a soapbox—it’s a community with real people. Using a Facebook page means signing up to interact with both your supporters and your critics. When people comment on your page or send your page a message, they often expect a reply. Replying to comments is one of the most important things your nonprofit does on Facebook—if not the most important!

If you’re a nonprofit, it’s likely you want two things:

  1. More supporters in your cause
  2. More supporters doing more for your cause

Comment management plays a big role in both of these. Building an engaged community of supporters requires being part of the conversations that take place around your cause. The majority of these conversation are taking place on your Facebook posts.

In short, every nonprofit on Facebook needs to be an active participant in these conversations in order to grow a community of active, engaged supporters for their cause.

The problem is replying to comments isn’t always easy! It’s both an art and a science. It’s PR, community management, customer service and interpersonal relations all wrapped up together. And as your community grows, the number of comments grows with it. It becomes important to know about and deal with the most important comments first.

Don’t worry! We’re here to help. Once you have a plan, managing and responding to comments really isn’t too bad. The following will help you create that very plan.

(If you would like help on the technical side of managing comments, please see our technical guide to Facebook comments.)

1. Establish your ground rules.

To effectively manage your page comments, you’ll want to start with a firm foundation. Establishing a set of ground rules for your page is your first line of defense when wading into the flow of Facebook comments. These rules should outline what you wish to see on your page and what you don’t. Frame up what you hope for your page and its community. Paint an image of the ideal state.

Now, boil this down into an actionable set of comment policies. Here are some things to make sure you include:

  1. What is the mission of this Facebook page? (Not your overall organization, but your Facebook page. What does success look like?)
  2. What does encouraged behavior and participation look like? (How does this link back to your greater mission and goals for your Facebook page?)
  3. How should supporters treat one another? How is that monitored and enforced?
  4. Clear list of what is not acceptable
  5. Clear procedure to deal with unacceptable content (Deletion? Three strikes? Banning?) What’s the evaluation look like?
  6. Are supporters encourage to help police the page? Should they report comments to your team
  7. Who should supporters contact if they have a problem?

Once finished, plug your comment policy into the About section of your page and as a Note.

Here are some awesome examples and resources to help you. First Mashable’s guide to Facebook comments, example from Travel Oregon that takes advantage of the Notes feature, similar example from ActionSprout and lastly Facebook’s community guidelines.

2. Enforce your rules with no exceptions.

Letting go of something small may not seem like a big deal at the time, but it sets a bad precedent. If something big happens, you don’t want the perpetrators pointing at times when you didn’t enforce the rules. You don’t want to be accused of playing favorites or being unfair. The rules apply fairly to everyone on the page or no one at all.

3. Do not delete all negative comments.

It can be so tempting to delete those negative comments about your organization or cause. You must fight the urge, however, if the comments are not:

  • Breaking the rules you’ve established for your page
  • Offensive or profane
  • Illegal in any way
  • Posted by a troll

The remaining comments, while negative, should be productive in some way. Use this to your advantage as a teaching moment. Try to be polite and come at the conversation from an educational viewpoint. How can I listen to them and really hear what they have to say? How can I respond to this in a constructive, meaningful way? Where are the “openings” in their thought process?

You are not here to fight them, start an argument or convert them against their will. Simply hear them and respond in a way that gives value. Can you address their concerns or questions? Can you post an educational link? Can you bring up a new way of looking at the situation they may not have thought of?

Maybe you’re the one asking them questions to better understand them and their stance.

Most importantly, know when to stop. Know when the conversation has ran its course and there is nothing left to say. This usually happens when the conversation starts to repeat itself or lacks the ability to go anywhere new.

4. Do not engage trolls, ever.

According to Wikipedia, an internet Troll is:

“a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement. This sense of the word ‘troll’ and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment.”

The general advice to not engage with trolls is a widespread, accepted best practice across the Internet as a whole. It is often stated as “Don’t feed the trolls.” Just don’t do it.

5. Involve the larger team.

Your core team of folks assigned to manage and monitor the comments on your Facebook page should be able to handle the day-to-day demands of the job. But there will always be times when comments have the potential to get out of hand and become unmanageable for this core group.

In these situations, you should have extra folks on your staff that are trained and able to jump in as backup when needed.

Usually, these situations should not come as too much of a surprise. That breaking news story broke, the campaign won or failed, a big decision was made, etc. You should be able to see the comments come flooding in from the horizon line. At these times, an extra set of helping hands should be prepared and ready to go.

The worst-case scenario is that the spike in comments was unexpected, and your team will need to be as ready as possible and jump into action. This brings us to the next point.

6. Train your team.

Make sure your team is trained and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Give them the tools, knowledge and ability well ahead of time so they’re ready to jump in.

This means making sure they have a copy of your comment policy and in house guidelines for responding and making sure they understand it. Keep in mind responding to comments isn’t for everyone. Choose your team with care.

7. Consider whether the commenter expects or needs a reply.

Let yourself off the hook; you don’t have to answer every single comment on Facebook. Some comments just don’t require a response. When trying to evaluate whether to respond, try putting yourself in the shoes of the commenter. Are they expecting a reply? Is liking their comment enough acknowledgement?

Users on Facebook commonly comment on a post to show others in their network that they care about this issue or wish to talk to the fellow commenters on the thread. In these cases, they are not expecting a reply from you or the page that posted the piece of content.

Establish some rules of thumb when it comes to responding so that the team is on the same page. When in doubt, go with your gut.

8. Consider whether a question should be moved to a private message.

There are times when commenters start conversations that just don’t belong with the Facebook comments. They might talk about sensitive subject matters or require care that doesn’t make sense for the comments section. Decide where to draw the line ahead of time, and do your best to practice it.

When responding to a comment on Facebook, there is the option to respond as a comment or direct message the user. This is the easiest way to move the conversation to a direct, private message. Once moved to a direct message, Facebook indicates to other users on the thread that the comment was dealt with in a direct message. This way, other supporters don’t mistake this action as the page ignoring a comment.

9. Get the help and tools you need for the job.

Managing Facebook comments is no small job. Get comfortable with your internal capacity and receive outside help when you need it. This could come in the form of extra tools and software or hiring outside help.

A small, well-organized team armed with the right tools can absolutely get the job done! It will just take some time to set up and get the system running smoothly.

Comment management is essential to having a successful Facebook page that meets your larger organizational goals and missions.

Check out our brand new comments inbox, and really take comment management to the next level

Integrating with Google analytics

Integrating with Google Analytics: more supporters for your cause

If you use both ActionSprout actions and Google Analytics, you’ll want to set up the Google integration between the two.

The integration will begin to pull in page view data for each unique page of your action. Thus, just like your website, you’ll begin to see which pages are working and which ones are not. You’ll be able to identify weak spots in your actions and improve upon them (more on that later on).

Google Analytics is an amazingly powerful tool to shed light on otherwise mysterious situations. Tapping into this function will empower you to better convert supporters to contacts and gain new donors through Facebook.

If you’ve spent any time with us here at ActionSprout, you know we say everything depends on Facebook and it’s all trial and error. While that’s all true, Google Analytics integration minimizes that to a certain degree. Paying attention to the data will allow you to cut some of the guesswork and optimize the trial and error stage.

Action URLs

Each step of your action has a unique URL. Therefore pageviews on these URLs can tell you where your supporter got to in the process. If the “thank you” page has a lot of pageviews, that means a good portion of your supporters are fully completing the action. If, for instance, only the first page of your action or donation page have page views then you know they are getting stuck in that portion of your action and so on.

You get the idea!

Reading your action URLs

Unique Identifiers

Each action has a unique identifier baked into the URL. This appears as the 6 digits appearing immediately after .io/ :

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 2.42.20 PM

This is how you’ll find your different actions in Google Analytics:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.05.43 PM

Loading the action landing page

Action URLs that end in /initial indicate that the full action was successfully loaded on the supporter’s device:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.13.48 PM

This supporter was one of two groups:

  1. They continued on and completed the action
  2. They stopped here

The best way to tease out which group is larger (and thus if the first page is a weak spot) is to compare your page views here against your page views on the thank you page (described in full below).

If you have more page views on /intial than you do on the thank you page, this is a sign that too many people are getting stuck on the first page and not completing the action.

The thank you page

Action URLs that end in /thanks indicate that the supporter completed the action and any additional information you asked for. This includes completing a donation:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.16.32 PM

Additional data page

Action URLs that end in /metadata indicate that your supporter made it to the additional page of your action:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.21.51 PM

This means they completed your action by successfully sharing their name and email address with you. When presented with the next page, asking for additional data they left.

Special Situations

  1. Sproutlets follow the same URL rules as “normal” actions.
  2. If you’ve included a donation form at the end of a non-donation action, the URL to indicate they reached this form end in /thanks
  3. There is no URL indicator to tell you a supporter clicked on a donation button. This action launches a separate Stripe payment window.

Learning and improving from the data

Now comes the fun part! (or less fun part if you’re not a data nerd!)

Ideally you’d want your numbers to be heavy on the /thanks URL indicating most people completed the action. If that’s the case with you, congratulations! You have a great action. But for the rest of us, we don’t knock them out of the ballpark every time. (I’m including myself in this group!)

There’s usually always a spot or two to improve on, no matter who you are. Looking at the data should quickly tell you if you have weak spots in your action that are preventing supporters from finishing it. Too many page views on /initial or /metadata and too few on /thanks is a common pattern.

So how do we make this right?

Improving your action landing page

First of all, the fact that your supporters even saw this page is huge. Your post on Facebook was attention grabbing enough that they stopped scrolling and took notice. Kudos to you!

Let’s look at what we can do to improve this page to convert more interested people into full on, contactable supporters.

Review your call to action and button

Your call to action should be urgent, crystal clear and actionable. Your supporters should have no question what you’re asking them to do, and/or why or what difference it will make. The button on your action should match that sentiment. It should be short, simple and clear.

Review your description

The body of your action should walk your supporters through the problem, solution and action of your campaign. This should be concise, to the point and persuasive.

Review your agreement text and privacy statement

Depending on your audience’s privacy fears you may need to rework the agreement text and privacy statement that appears on your action:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 4.07.18 PM

This example displays the default messages for each. If you feel this may be a concern for your audience, try reworking these. It can make all the difference.

Improving follow through

If your weak spot seems to be the addition data page there are a few things you can try to improve this.

Review the additional data you’re asking for

Best practice states that you should only ask for the data you absolutely need, which means cutting everything else. This is true for many reasons, but in the application of Facebook actions the key is time and effort.

Your action should be the simplest it can possibly be because the majority of your supporters are completing your action from a mobile device. They could be sitting on the bus, walking to work or killing time before a meeting. They don’t have the patience or desire to complete a long form of additional questions.

Asking for data because it’s interesting or would be nice to have comes with the cost of lower form completions, so keep that in mind.

Review if your additional data would be offensive in anyway

Depending on your audience and areas of cause, certain questions may come off as offensive. Common areas of concern are gender and age.

Put yourself in the shoes of your supporter base and see if this might be the case.

Improving donation forms

Your donation form can appear in two places, up front in a donation action or on the thank you screen in a non-donation action. Depending on your situation improvement may look a little different.

Donation actions

This one is similar to the action landing page outlined above. Your Facebook post convinced them to stop and view your action but they didn’t complete the donation. To improve this page, you’ll want to review the same points as above with just a few tweaks.

Review your call to action and donation buttons

Your call to donate should be urgent, crystal clear and actionable. Your supporters should have no question what you’re asking them to do, why or what difference it will make. Language like “pitching in” or “chipping in” tends to persuade more donors to give.

In addition, review the donation amounts you provided. It’s entirely possible you started to low or too high. Finding your sweet spot will take trial and error:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 4.45.57 PM

Review your description

The body of your action should walk your supporters through the problem, solution and action of your campaign. This should be concise, to the point and persuasive.

Review your agreement text and privacy statement

Depending on your audience’s privacy fears, you may need to rework the agreement text and privacy statement that appears on your action:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 4.46.53 PM

Non-donation actions

If your donation form appears on the thank you page of an otherwise non-donation action, (petition, poll or demand) you’ll want to review the points above in addition to the overall action and cause you’re tying this donation form to.

Is this the appropriate action to include a donation form on? Are the people who are likely to complete this action the folks who are also likely to donate? How you set the stage in the first half of this action will influence the success of this donation form.

Conclusion

We hope you’re now ready to take full advantage of the power of Google Analytics for your ActionSprout actions. If you have any questions feel free to chat us. We’re always here to help.

Facebook reach

10 Easy Ways to Increase Facebook Reach and Engagement

Has your reach been declining? Have you been getting fewer likes, shares and comments? That’s when you need to channel your inner Rocky and bounce back in the later rounds. You truly can do it! It just requires attention, consistency and a bit of persistence. Let’s dig in.

Be Yourself

Remember to let your personality come through. Also remember to use guidelines to direct your responses to comments. That way, you show that you are a real person who is passionate about your mission while retaining a certain level of professionalism and consistency.

Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) compels your supporters to act. Asking them to perform an action gives them something to do other than walking away after consuming your content. Facebook has given nonprofit Pages a donate action for this very reason.

Use Images and Videos

Facebook is a visual place for storytelling and, just like movies and picture books for kids, nothing tells a story quite like imagery. Text matters for sure; images and videos, however, grab attention as your supporters are scrolling through their News Feeds.

Behind the Scenes

Social media is super popular for a reason, because it shows what goes on behind the scenes. There’s no need to ham it up—what you’re doing is interesting even if you don’t think so. Show the steps to your next great event, or the drama as you save a puppy.

Stay on Topic

You’re trying to highlight your mission and work. Your efforts should get people enthusiastic and inspired to pitch in, in any way that they can. Make sure that your content maps back to what’s important every time. And, remember to have a little fun too.

Curate Content

You should be sharing content from your fans, related organizations, media and thought leaders. You should even be reacting to your opposition. Sharing content raises all ships and make your Page the source of great news. Don’t forget to tag like this: @Org Name.

Keep it Simple

Overthinking and overwriting lowers engagement, period.

Schedule Your Posts

Scheduling posts allows you to set posts up and double check the copy before it launches. This gives you the chance to come back with fresh eyes so that you can catch that missing comma or flip folpped word. It’s also an opportunity to set up posts for the weekends and holidays.

Timing

If a post appears on Facebook and no one is there to see it, does it make a sound? Nope, so post when your supporters are online. Otherwise, your content vanishes into cyberspace. Look at your Facebook Insights or use the ActionSprout.com Smart Scheduler to help you.

Develop Evergreen Content

Having evergreen content in your back pocket for the lean times is always a great idea. This is content that never gets old (hence the name). Can’t think of what to post today? Pull out an evergreen post and repost it. Done!

Notice anything?

Did you notice something about this list? Each section is the average length of an optimized message on Facebook. Facebook will truncate any message that appears after this point, so the first few lines matter a lot! But see how much information you can pack into such a short message? Try it out yourself the next time you post 🙂

How to Grow Using Facebook? Do it with Purpose.

There is a lot of chatter about Facebook for businesses, particularly small businesses like local bike shops. Large organizations have money to hire creative staff and digital media managers, but an LBS, club team or cycling advocacy group will often struggle from a lack of experience, resources, time and money. We plan to change that.

We’re not going to discuss ads here (that is for a later article—and yes, they do work). A little bit of effort is required, but it’s only a little and the basic tool, Facebook, is free. The goal here is to smooth out your Facebook strategy and give you some tools to throw the hammer down on a very, very powerful marketing platform.

But first, a few starting points. You may not know it, but this is the foundation of your Facebook strategy:

Set intentional and serious goals for your efforts. It’s just like going on an interval training ride; approach it with purpose and you’ll see results. Facebook is a platform built for sharing and telling stories, of which you have no shortage. Images and video rule the landscape. Be a part of the community, off and online. Same as the weekly ride, if someone from the shop isn’t leading the ride, it will fizzle out because you aren’t taking part in it. Like anything, cycling included, if you don’t take it seriously, your level of performance will be low. That doesn’t mean you need to work really hard at it. In fact, it’s a lot easier to lead the pack on Facebook than it is to close the gap after being dropped.

8099007915_369dffe613_k

Goals

Broadly speaking, as an LBS, cycling advocacy group or club/team, you want butts in saddles and rubber on the roads and trails (or track, if you’re lucky enough to have one). That means more people on weekly rides, commuting and so on. To get there, you need a community that is energized about riding. And you need to be the source of that energy.

Without going too far into marketing theory, what you need is inbound marketing. Inbound marketing doesn’t mean being an annoying, interruptive salesperson. It means giving people what they want—sometimes they don’t even know they want it!—and letting them come to you because you’re the place for more great content. As it turns out, this type of marketing is longer-lasting and creates a stronger loyalty base.

This raises two questions: 1) What do they want? and 2) How do we deliver it?

They want stories, tips and tricks, new tech, and fun times. Look to some of the organizations that are doing really well on Facebook already: see the scorecard here. Start by following them and sharing their content (more on that in a moment).

For the delivery, Facebook is the way to go. There are nearly 2 billion users and they spend an average of an hour every day to get away, relax and share stuff that they care about (like cycling, of course). What this means is that Facebook is something that you should be taking seriously.

So let’s meet them where they are and give them what they want, in a way that they can understand and enjoy.

The-Path-Bike-Shop-ride-with-the-Kona-Pros

Content

Your shop, advocacy group or club/team should be sharing content from every cycling-related organization that it can, three times a day, every day—at the very least. Follow Pages like GCN, Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, Velosurance, Bicycle Magazine, Slow Twitch and others. When something is awesome, share it, say something about it in the post, and tag the source and anyone else who may be interested.

This part of the strategy is called content curation, and it’s an easy way to hit the three-a-day minimum without a ton of effort. And to make it easier, we’ve put together a scorecard of nearly every bicycle-related Facebook Page, here.

You should also be making your own fun and informative content. This is called content creation. And it doesn’t have to be a big, expensive production. In fact, we often see an inverse relationship between the amount of time put into the production and the result. Just take fun pictures or a video with your smartphone on the weekly ride and share them. Use a bike-mounted camera and grab some great action video. Take video from around the shop—maybe have a mechanic do a quick tutorial. Host a spin session, record it and share it as an on-demand workout. Take a note from GCN and do some local Top 10 Videos; Top 10 Routes; Top 10 Pit Stops, Top 10 Hills, etc. The ideas are endless, and you’ll probably be able to come up with some more. If not, let us know and we’ll lend a hand!

GrandPrix2

Community

You take part in the local rides―maybe you host one or two already—or have an annual race. This is the start of a great community. Offline, you should be helping people, especially youth, who can’t get into the sport for whatever reason. Be an advocate in your community for better roads and a better relationship between cyclists and drivers. The bigger your community gets, the more drivers will be cyclists or, at least, know someone who is.

Online, you should be taking part in the community too. Engage with people in the comments, share and like posts, and make a few comments yourself. Use ActionSprout to take action in your community with polls, petitions and donations to grow your cycling community and improve roads, or to build that velodrome you’ve always dreamed about (that’s a personal goal for me). Facebook is basically a continuous conversation and you should weigh in on things now and again to show that you are real and listening to your community’s concerns.

gettyimages-479433684_custom-5b28b32a258c6b8662651ddb91988c25494059d0-s900-c85

Effort

Facebook, like cycling, is often a slow build. You may get a bump right from the start, but then things will level off and grow more slowly. The trick is consistently posting interesting and good, quality content. If you slack off in the winter, you’ll feel it in the spring when you’re getting dropped. Facebook is no different; it can be discouraging at times but there is help. Use tools like ActionSprout to stay consistent on Facebook. It’s just like using a trainer to stay tip-top all winter.

This part is where we come in. We have free tools so that you can find the best content every time, among other things. Sign up for a free account here. Once inside, you can follow your favorite Pages in the Inspiration tab (like those in the scorecard mentioned earlier). Then all you have to do is share three posts a day. Look for the ones with the highest above-average performance percentage—the higher, the better.

The Final Sprint

Facebook is a serious marketing tool. Our job is to help you to use it. Keep an eye out for a free training session in the next couple weeks, where we’ll go into the mechanics of all this. It’s one thing to say that you need to do this or that; it’s another thing to know how to do it. In the meantime, set up a free account and have a little fun with it!

How can Radio Broadcasters use Facebook better?

For most broadcasters Facebook is a black box of sorts. It’s something that requires participation and engagement in order to be successful. Yet, it can be hard, if not impossible at times, to know if the effort is on track. Below are three points to get you on your way to success, as well as how to measure it (we’ll dive deeper into measurement in another article).

Post Frequency

Try googling “Facebook post frequency,” and you’ll get around 159,000,000 results. Clearly, there are a lot of conflicting opinions about frequency! Some claim that you can post too frequently and spam your audience. Some say you just need one or two posts per week.

Facebook themselves have said that the statistically optimal posting frequency is three to five posts per day. This has been corroborated by our own data.

However, that is a very general statement and is intended to be broadly useful. The truth is that it depends: it depends on your sector, it depends on your content, and it depends on your audience. This number is simply a place to start and anchor your activity.

Here’s a little data to consider before we move on. The most engaging NPR stations (with an Average Engagement Per Post of 60 and above) post an average of about 33 times per day. Other news media organizations post from 14 to 45 times per day, averaging 29. That’s an average of 198 posts per week!

Why the discrepancy between the optimal suggested frequency or three to five and what news media outlets do in practice? Well, as a news outlet (sector), the readers (audience) expects that you will be frequently posting articles (content), of which you have no shortage.

As for the idea that you can spam your audience by posting too frequently, you cannot. The premise of this argument is that all of your audience will see all of your content, all the time; or, that your audience is making it a habit to manually check your Facebook Page a few times a day. This is not the case.

To keep the explanation simple, Facebook’s algorithm shows each post to a random sample of your fans; and, if the post is well received, it goes out to more, and so on. The more someone engages (liking, commenting and sharing) with your content, the more Facebook assumes they want to see your content, and thus more is delivered. Also, no one actually checks your Facebook Page. They see your content in their News Feed.

This is an extremely simplified explanation but, simply put, don’t worry about spamming people with too many posts.

Curation

As a broadcasting organization, you should be posting great content, frequently, seven days a week. Yes, that’s a lot of content, but let’s consider the 198 posts per week in the average mentioned above. This is where curation comes in. Original and local content is very important, and yet there are news stories all around from reputable media sources, which are often passed by when they should be shared.

Facebook is a place for sharing stories. Full stop.

Not only does your news/media team not have the time to write that much original content, but your team might also not have the expertise in-house to write about this or that topic. Additionally, it is a great way to piggyback on another organization’s reach on Facebook; don’t forget to tag the original source like this: @NewsSource (@NPR for example).

Timing

Timing matters. Again, this is an area of gross generalization. The statistically optimal time to post is 3 p.m. The truth, again, is that it depends on your audience. The ActionSprout audience responds really well at 6 p.m. Other organizations have found that early morning works.

As a broadcasting organization, it is best to have a post scheduled every hour from early morning to early evening. To determine what’s right for you, you’ll have to look at your Page’s Facebook Insights.

Goals and Measuring Success

As a broadcasting organization, your goal should be engagement; fundraising (we have a tool to make fundraising quick and easy, but that’s another article) will be a byproduct of engagement. The metrics you should focus on are: Engagement Score, Average Engagement and People Engaged.

How the Facebook algorithm ​really​ works (and why it’s not against you!)

If you manage a page on Facebook, you’ve probably had a rant (or few) about the Facebook algorithm. The algorithm is complex, keeps changing, is never transparent and you never quite know where you stand.

If you research strategies for how to grow your page and increase engagement, you’ll find advice that is all over the map. Post more; post less; only post images and videos; only post in the morning; tell people to “Like or Share” on every post; never include “Like or Share”; run contests; don’t run contests; keep posts under 20 words; longer posts are the way to go, the list could go on and on.

The one thing you’ll hear over and over again is, “the algorithm has changed again.” What worked yesterday isn’t working today so you’ll need to change your strategy again.

This can be frustrating to say the least!

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this complicated or confusing?

Sure, Facebook will make changes to the algorithm, and some strategies will work better than others, but keeping up with Facebook and keeping your audience engaged doesn’t have to be difficult.

This guide will put to rest some of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding Facebook. We’ll learn what the algorithm is all about and explore the reasons why Facebook does the things it does. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a better understanding of how Facebook functions and how you can make the most of it.

Facebook wants you to succeed on the platform. Let’s look at how to make that happen.

Table of contents

  1. What is motivating Facebook when they change the algorithm?
  2. How Does Facebook Filter the News Feed?
    1. Previous Interest
    2. Post Performance
    3. Your Page
    4. Type of Content
    5. Recency
  3. Serve your audience, not yourself
  4. Posting Secrets
    1. Repost what works
    2. Hard to spam
    3. Supporters don’t look at your page
  5. What this all adds up to

What is motivating Facebook when they change the algorithm?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Facebook is their intent. Many bloggers and social media trainers hold the belief that Facebook is against nonprofits. They believe that Facebook throttles the reach and engagement nonprofits receive on the platform to make them pay money to reach their fans.

This thinking is not only incorrect, but unfortunately, it also leads organizations to take a defeatist attitude towards Facebook.

What is true is Facebook is very loyal to their user base – as they should be! Facebook’s number one goal is to have its 1.5 billion users keep coming back to Facebook and spend more and more time on the site each day. In fact, their goal is quite similar to your goal. You too, want supporters to keep coming back to your content and spend time with it each day.

To do that, Facebook works incredibly hard to give their users the best content possible – and so do you! Giving users the best possible content is the algorithm’s job and understanding how it works and why Facebook continues to hone this system is essential to getting the most out of Facebook for your organization.

Does the algorithm do its number one job? Yes. If you look at Facebook usage numbers, you will see each month its users are coming back more often and staying longer. Does Facebook always get it right? Of course not, they’re human. But their intentions are good.

How Does Facebook Filter the News Feed?

Understanding how and why Facebook makes changes to the news feed is the key to getting better at creating content that will help you accomplish more on the platform.

First off, it’s important to note that if it were not for the algorithm, your news feed would be completely overwhelming. Currently, Facebook can show roughly 300 posts in the user’s news feed each day. But due to the number of friends people have and pages they follow, Facebook has to choose from roughly 1,500 possible posts from that person’s network to show them.

That means the average post is only seen by 6.51% or less of that page’s fan base.

The algorithm has over 100,000 highly personalized factors that it uses to decide which users see what pieces of content. Luckily you only need to understand five concepts to understand the algorithm overall:

Previous Interest

The algorithm measures a user’s past interest by paying attention to what each user engages with over time. In making decisions on what content to include in a person’s newsfeed, Facebook wants to know whether the user has ever engaged with posts that are similar to the new one.

The more a person engages with your content on Facebook, the more your posts will show up in their news feed. This cycle helps pages build real relationships with Facebook supporters. Facebook makes these previous interest calculations for each user based on every post they have ever engaged with. So, your content strategies must take the interests of the individuals’ you aim to engage with into account as well.

Two of the most important questions you can ask yourself each time you post are “why will the people who see this engage with it?” and “what value will they get from engaging with it?”

There are a number of reasons people engage with content, but one reason dominates them all. People engage with content on Facebook because they want their friends and family to see them engaging with. For your posts to earn engagement, the act of engaging with it (liking, sharing and commenting) must provide value to your supporters.

Post Performance

Post-performance boils down to one maxim – the more users there are that engage with a particular post, the more likely other users will do the same.

When you post something that earns good initial engagement, Facebook takes this as a positive sign and will share it with even more of your audience’s news feeds.

In fact, early performance of a post might be the best predictor of whether other users will want to see and interact with your content.

Your Page

If other users have engaged with your previous posts, Facebook will be more likely to show users your current content. Facebook’s algorithm is continually judging your Page and the more your audience likes your stuff over time, the more likely Facebook will share all of your content more broadly.

One key strategy to help your page succeed in this way over time is to focus on sharing highly engaging content on your Facebook page. Some organizations have trouble doing more than press release-style posts, and that will hold them back the one time they have a great post to share.

Be sure to build off successes. Repost high-performing content.

Type of Content

There are several categories of Facebook content: status updates (simply text), links, photos, and videos. The algorithm makes a note of the kinds of content a person regularly engages with and then shows them similar content.

For example, if you, as a user, have engaged with a lot of baby photo posts from your friends, you will likely see a lot more photos (and probably baby photos) in your news feed in the future. If you get a lot of your news by clicking on link posts and going to the articles, Facebook will show you more link posts.

Different people like different types of content, which mean your job is to post a variety of content types. You want to engage all of your fans, no matter what type of content they prefer, so don’t be afraid to try all different types of content.

Recency

Some people think this refers to how recently the content was posted, but that’s not exactly the case. What the algorithm takes note of is the recency of post engagement. For example, a post may not get a lot of engagement right away, but as people start to engage with it more, the algorithm notices this, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of the engagement cycle takes over.

No one can tell you how often to post or even how many times to post each day. Generally, more is better, but it will take some experimenting. The best way to determine this is to make use of the data Facebook provides in your page insights and use that to guide your posting behavior.

Serve your audience, not yourself

If I told you that Facebook is a social network, you certainly wouldn’t argue. But the truth of the matter is that Facebook is a platform* of* social networks. Users come to the site to connect with people, organizations, and content they care about. In short, to succeed as a page manager, you must serve your audience, not yourself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of serving yourself as a page manager rather than your audience and supporters. What does this look like? Well, it looks a lot like using your Facebook page as a soapbox, talking* at* your audience, not with them.

Facebook is not a broadcasting tool; it’s a community tool.

To protect against this, bake your supporters into your content and posting strategy. Asking yourself these questions will help you head in the right direction:

  • What subjects do they care about right now? What are they already talking about and sharing that pertain to my cause?
  • What types of content do my supporters enjoy the most? I.e. Images? Videos? Articles?

These two simple questions will keep you in the right headspace to fully connect with and engage your supporters on their terms, where they are currently at.

The best way to answer these questions and keep a pulse on your supporters is to use the Inspiration and Timeline tools offered inside of ActionSprout. These tools quickly show you what your supporters are currently talking about and in what form(s) they consume their content.

Posting Secrets

Now that we understand the philosophy of using Facebook let’s look at some tangible ways to post better.

Repost what works

When you notice one of your posts over performing, repost it! We suggest reposting a piece of content as long as the reach and engagement are growing or the same as the original post. Once reach and engagement start to drop simply stop reposting.

Why repost?

When you repost a piece of content, it will reach, and, therefore, engage, a different slice of your audience than the first time you posted. In this way, you are increasing the reach and engagement of that post without having to spend a penny on ads.

When we say “reposting” we don’t mean deleting the old post and posting it anew. We simply mean resharing your very own high performing content like you would from another page.

Hard to spam

Now you may be thinking, “Isn’t this the same thing as spamming my fans?” No, it is not. It is actually relatively hard to spam your followers on Facebook. The Facebook algorithm is sophisticated enough to know that the content you are reposting is the same piece of content you posted before. Therefore instead of delivering it to the same audience as last time, the algorithm will look for new folks in your fan base that would also enjoy that piece of content.

As we said up front, Facebook’s number one goal is for users to keep coming back to Facebook. Delivering them spammy content is not a way to do so. Therefore, Facebook doesn’t want to spam your followers as much as you do.

Supporters don’t look at your page

The next question is usually, “won’t it look strange to have multiple of the same post on my Facebook page?” The answer is, yeah it might, but no one will visit your page to notice. The thing is supporters don’t spend time on your Facebook page. In fact they rarely, if ever, visit it.

Users spend most, if not all, of their time on their own news feed. That is where they see and interact with your content. And by reposting your high performing content multiple times you ensure that more of your supporters will see your content in their news feeds.

What this all adds up to

We’ve covered a lot of material! Hopefully, you understand Facebook a little better and have some new ideas and strategies to try. Let’s wrap this up with the core idea: Facebook wants you to be successful. Your success means more great content on Facebook. Great content is good for users, and it’s good for business!

I’ll say that again: Facebook wants you to succeed at creating great content. Their entire platform depends on having good content they can use to fill countless hours of their 1.23 billion users’ time.

So, if you focus on creating and posting great content that number one serves your audience, you’ll find Facebook really can be a highly effective channel for reaching, engaging and capturing supporters.

3 Reasons Why Every Nonprofit Should be Curating Content

As a page manager on Facebook, you’re facing three large hurdles every day:

  • The need to post quality content
  • The desire to engage as many fans and supporters as possible
  • The frustration over the organic reach of your posts (or lack thereof)

Fortunately, there is a content strategy that will address all three of these daily challenges. It’s called Content Curation.

Content curation is the practice of sharing other’s high performing content on your own Facebook page. Sometimes this is merely sharing a funny video or image that you think your fans would like as well. Or it’s sharing a trending, breaking news story that relates to your cause. (This strategy is also sometimes called “newsjacking” or “piggybacking”)

Page managers that practice content curation can post more quality content to their page and thus, reach and engage more of their fans and supporters. (We like to see pages posting two to five times a day so this will help you get to that target)

This strategy hinges on the fact that this content is already proven to engage users on Facebook. In turn posting this content on your page is low risk and highly likely to engage your fans as well. Think of it as a vetting system for content!

At this point, folks usually push back on this strategy. They’re concerned the approach feels too much like stealing, plagiarism or being dishonest to supporters.

“How can we be expected to take other people’s content and pass it off as our own?”

1) Facebook does not follow classic communication rules

The first thing we have to do is reframe the way we think about Facebook. Facebook is not a broadcasting platform, it’s not a soap box, it’s not a one-way communication tool. As such, classic communication rules don’t always hold up. In some instances, they are even flat out wrong or harmful to use on Facebook.

What Facebook is, is a social network. It is a community, a place for public conversions, a place for back and forth communications between your organization and your followers.

As such sharing content from others is not stealing, plagiarism or being dishonest.

2) Sharing content is normal and expected on Facebook

It’s time to reframe the sharing of other’s content, not as stealing, but as taking part in the social, community aspect of Facebook. Everyone does it, users expect it, so to be successful on Facebook you’ll need to become comfortable with it.

This isn’t just something for users either, most of the top pages on Facebook share other page’s and people’s content on their page.

In fact, some pages even thrive on only sharing other’s content. This is good news for organizations that struggle to create original content or struggle to create an enough of it on their own!

The fact is the majority of Facebook pages should have a mix of curated and original content. A rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule. 80% of your page’s content should be shared content and 20% your own original content.

3) Not sharing content could actually hurt your page

Reach and engagement aside, the fact that your page is not sharing others’ content could create ill will and negative feeling with your fans and supporters.

If your page is not taking part in this practice, it’s possible some users will notice it and get the wrong idea about your page and organization as a whole. They may think of your organization as being boastful, selfish or too good to take part in the Facebook community.

Moral of the story

Sharing content on Facebook is normal, expected and not taking part could hurt your page in the long run.

Making a point of sharing top performing content that relates to your cause can significantly increase the organic reach and engagement of your page. It also allows you to post more content to your page and fill in the holes when original content is not available.

The New Profile Image Campaign Builder from ActionSprout

We have seen Facebook profile overlays used to support a variety of causes and used to show solidarity is the face of tragedy. These profile campaigns are a great way for people to show their support to the world. Now you can create your own profile image campaign for your organization, mission, event and more!

How is this possible? With the new Profile Campaign Builder in ActionSprout Labs!

Check it out now at Profile.ActionSprout.com.

What’s more, it’s super easy. We have included a set of images at the bottom of this post for you to follow along, if you like.

Let’s create a campaign! The Tool The tool itself is relatively simple. It consists of four parts: the Profile Overlay, Share Info, Preview and Share Link. Let’s go through them in turn.

The Profile Overlay

Profile Overlay

This section consists of two parts. First, the header; this part is not included when someone applies the overlay to their profile. It is only a “banner” of sorts to make the application page look snazzy (customized to your needs) when your supporters see it. It can be your logo or a banner about the purpose of the overlay. Whatever you do here, make it specific to your organization and your goals, and make it fun! If you are following along, click “Choose File,” and select the “Banner.png” file.

The second part is the overlay itself; this is the part that will show up as your supporter’s profile picture. It is a square (450px X 450px), and it is where you get to show your creativity. Keep in mind that this is a situation where simpler is often better. A busy overlay looks cluttered and, worse, you may not be able to distinguish the overlay from the original image. If you are following along, click “Choose File,” and select the “Star overlay.png” file.

Profile Campaign Files added

The overlay has two additional features: grayscale (just for aesthetics) and an opacity adjustment. The opacity adjustment is, by default, set to 50. For the moment, leave it there—you can use it to fine-tune in a minute.

The Share Info

Profile campaign share options

This part is specific to sharing on Facebook. These are the elements that will pop up in the Facebook post when you share the link. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.

The Share Title and Description are as they sound. Make sure that your title is short, catchy and lets your supporters know what’s going on. The description is where you can add a bit more detail, such as what the mission is and why it’s important.

The Share Image is the image that pops up when you share the link on Facebook, next to the title and description. A good idea here is to share an example of what the final profile image will look like, or the overlay image alone. You can add whatever you like, but showing the finished product is an excellent way to add a bit more context. If you are following along, click “Choose File” and select the “Share Image.png” image.

Profile campaign share options files

The Preview

Profile Campaign Preview

The preview shows a generic avatar silhouette with your overlay. To see an updated preview, click the blue “Save” button. If you are following along, now is a good time to save.

Campaign Profile Example

For a more contextual preview, click the “Share Link” above. A new tab will open and show the overlay on your current profile; this is what the page will look like when your supporters click the share link. Your profile won’t change until you click the “Update Profile” button at the bottom of the page and the “Confirm” button on the next page.

Profile Campaign example

If you want to make changes, close the tab, make the changes you like (different images, grayscale, opacity), click “Save” and try the share link again. Repeat until you’ve dialed it in.

The Share Link

Share link example

To share your new and awesome Profile Image Campaign with the world, copy the share link and paste it into Facebook, Twitter and email—have a skywriter scribble it in the clouds if you like! Want to see what it looks like as a post? Paste our test into Facebook and have a look.

Done!

Technical specs: Use .png or .jpeg files Banner dimensions: 1028 x 180 Overlay dimensions: 450 x 450 Share image: 1200 x 628

Need design tools for free? Try these: Canva.com Pixlr.com

Assets (right click then “Save Image As”:

Banner Star overlay Share Image

Facebook doesn’t have to be so overwhelming

The nonprofit sector is full of good people and good volunteers who are passionate about their causes and feel overwhelmed. There may have been a time when good will and hard efforts could change the lives in your community. And never before have we had such powerful means to communicate our message. But that message seems to fall on deaf ears. To make things worse, social media companies like Facebook, are always changing. For better or for worse. Though often it feels for worse.

It feels like that scene from I Love Lucy. She was working at the chocolate factory, and she just couldn’t keep up. What did she do? She became overwhelmed, started jamming chocolates in her pockets, bra, and mouth, and it made things worse. Why? Because she couldn’t keep up, and she didn’t know how to keep up. Right as things start to go downhill Lucy says, “Ethel. I think we’re fighting a losing game.” She knows what’s coming she knows that it won’t stop.

With the conveyor working against you, you can walk away or take a few minutes to reassess. Amy Breyer from The Animal History Museum in Los Angeles decided to reassess, and to learn from the success of others, and to leverage and build new relationships.

Let’s start with the outcomes. The Animal History Museum had no physical space. The purpose of having a Facebook audience was a proxy for having a real audience, which is now over 16,000.

Their posts would usually engage 50-150 people, often much less, and occasionally top 200. Now, three months later, their posts easily engage over 2,500 people and as many as 40,000.

How did the folks at The Animal History Museum work within the boundaries of the environment rather than get abused by them?

They reached out to larger organizations with related missions.

Without being spammy. Do a little homework. Find organizations that are large enough to help you by reposting your content. But not so large that they wouldn’t give you the time of day. Go to their website, search on Linkedin, find the social media manager and write them a nice, short, email. Tell them your story. You’re a small and plucky nonprofit trying to do great work in your community. You need to give them a reason to buy in. Just like you need to give your followers a reason to buy in.

It’s physically easy for them to repost your content. And it is frustrating when they won’t. But it only takes a few reposts for this strategy to be successful.

Use tools to make things easier.

Amy uses the Inspiration tab in her ActionSprout account to repost content that is performing well.

“Inspiration works very well for us,” Amy says. People are engaging with the content by liking sharing and even commenting much more. Posting great content has increased the brand awareness.

On top of that, The Animal History Museum is becoming a much more popular place to be.

Keep you audience in mind

One key strategy for The Animal History Museum is not using the Facebook page as a soapbox. When they designed their strategy they kept in mind why people are on Facebook to begin with. People use Facebook for leisure. People use Facebook to get away for just a few minutes. And no one wants to be preached to on their coffee break.

They understand that there will be other opportunities to be more museum-like, but now it’s time to give the audience what they want. The Animal History Museum knows their goals and moves slow toward them. They know that success on Facebook depends on how you define success. They know that Likes are a vanity metric, but Likes sway the board and donors.

Put everything aside. We are here to do good. We are here to complete a mission, to serve, to save. It can be overwhelming. Often we can get caught up a competition for attention. But we need to have confidence that other organizations are willing to lend a hand. Whether it is a teachable moment or a simple repost, our collective mission is to do good.

You can do it. The tools and the experts are here. You just need to ask for help. Our core focus is to help address your needs. So reach out.

Facebook Mistakes

We are all human, and we make mistakes. A majority of the time when you make a mistake on Facebook, you know that goofy post that was entirely off topic, nobody will see it. Thankfully. No harm no foul. A one off mistake isn’t going to come back to bite you unless it was particularly egregious.

The mistakes that will hurt you on Facebook are systemic, and it is easy to fall into these traps.

Content

Content rules Facebook. It is a science; it is an art.

The biggest issue nonprofits struggle with is using their page as a soap box. No matter how right your are, or how important your issue is, doing this is off-putting.

That doesn’t mean you should eschew self-promotion.

If you have a great success story, share it! That’s what Facebook is all about!

Secondly, some organizations try too hard; too hard to be controversial; too hard to “go viral”. Therein is the fetid smell of desperation. And no one wants to hang around the person who’s trying too hard to be popular.

What’s more is that this leads organizations to create and share content that is going to hurt their reach and engagement because it is deliberately controversial or way off brand.

PR

Bad PR happens sometimes; we all hope it doesn’t, but some things are out of our control. How you respond can either fan the flames of controversy or douse them with water.

Responding too quickly may seem like a good idea, a fire is burning after all, and your fight or flight instinct kicks in and the response is often impulsive and irrational. The tone could be off. Or worse, you could use a word or phrase that adds a bucket of leaf litter to what was a tiny smoldering shrub, and now the forest is engulfed in a blaze of hellfire and brimstone.

Instead. Take a breather, take a little time to compose your response. And it’s a wise idea to have a guideline in place to help you craft a response that is appropriate. Community Management Facebook is all about community; it is a social media platform, keyword “social“. Some page managers don’t participate in the community at all, or worse, some respond with canned responses unless they are talking to an influencer.

Community

Taking part in the community is critical. It doesn’t require a lot of time and effort either. Often, liking a person’s comment will do the trick. Other times a reply, in real time, is needed. Again this is an opportunity to have a written guideline to help direct you. Just keep a positive sentiment or at the very least a neutral one. If confronted with a hater, don’t engage, you can even block them too.