Your Facebook Audience: How to Convert More Than 2%

Remember When Google was the New Kid?

If you were a webmaster back then, it was relatively easy to get your website onto the first page of Google search results. If you were thoughtful about your copy, included logical meta-tags in your site header and perhaps got a few decent-traffic backlinks…

…Google would serve you up like a delicious dish of pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant.

But as the volume of websites expanded, those darn Google engineers kept going to work every single day. And dang it if they weren’t constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of search results.

It didn’t take them long to realize that just because a site had the right “keywords” and meta-tags and a few good links, it didn’t mean the content on that site was really what the searcher wanted.

So, as frustrating as it was for website managers, Google kept tweaking their algorithm. Given their value proposition, this only made sense. Their goal was to be THE place people went when they needed information about any topic on earth. And the better the content they could serve up, they knew, the more people would come back.

Maintaining the quality of search results is a never-ending quest

  • Google’s fight to maintain and improve search result quality is akin to anti-virus software companies that constantly work to detect new threats.
  • The economic value of showing up high in Google search results is just too significant not to attract outside developers trying to manipulate the algorithm.
  • Consider companies with valuations in the tens of millions who’ve been driven out of business due to a change Google rolled out. Today, successful websites still employ SEO experts, but now they work closely with content marketers as well.

They understand that in order to show up high in search results, they need to serve up content that provides real value: engagement.

What Does This Have to do with Facebook?

Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, history might not repeat itself but it rhymes. Today, we take Google’s constant quest to improve search results as a fact of life. Heck, we appreciate it!

But over at Facebook, we’re experiencing the end of the “early days” and have entered a new era of increased scrutiny by the company around which page-content to show to which Facebook users.

Back in December they posted this to their Facebook for business blog:

“People are connecting and sharing more than ever… competition for each News Feed story is increasing… For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality.”

“Ultimately, what’s good for people on Facebook is good for the businesses that use Facebook to reach and engage them. One of the ways we maintain a good balance between the two is by making sure News Feed is as interesting and timely as possible.”

Facebook is a public company that focuses on one product: their end users’ eyeballs!

Just as website managers find new ways to add value in order to show up in Google’s search results, Facebook managers add real value for a Facebook audience in order to show up in their News Feed.

Rest assured that Facebook’s quest to improve its filtering and selection of content is only going to intensify.

In fact, on April 10th Facebook announced a number of tweaks designed to “Clean Up News Feed Spam” that provides more evidence of their increased battle to improve News Feed content quality.

We’ve all heard the outcry from page managers complaining that Facebook is no longer delivering their posts to “their fans”. I certainly understand the frustration from organizations that invested in building fans must feel.

  • Facebook created the whole “like this page” thing as a way to let end-users inform Facebook that they care about certain pages.
  • Liking is a pretty simple way to tell Facebook this kind of stuff.

But what we like one year becomes spam the next… Once someone starts receiving News Feed content , they have a very powerful way to tell Facebook they don’t care anymore…

They ignore it!

There’s nothing louder than silence on Facebook…

And, the smart Facebook engineers have learned that with 1500 other possible stories to choose from at any given moment, it’s wise to select one from another source. One that a Facebook audience interacts with and that tends to bring them back to the site and keep them hanging around.

When a Facebook audience chooses NOT to engage with content time and again, Facebook hears something like this;

“Hey Facebook, I still like this page, but their content isn’t of interest to me and won’t really keep me coming back to check my News Feed or spend more time in your glorious walled garden.”

It’s time that Facebook page managers with 2% organic reach accept the fact that the reason their content is failing to land in many people’s New Feed is not because of some big Facebook conspiracy.

It’s because they’re failing to create content that people engage with; that adds value to their audience’s life; that they care about!

Here’s a Secret…

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.

Here’s Another One…

Facebook’s paid reach products have become quite good over the past year.

Here at ActionSprout, many of our customers measure the ROI of their Facebook efforts in terms of page engagement rates and email acquisition costs.

So, if you focus on creating great content that your Fans engage with, you’ll find Facebook really can be a highly effective channel for reaching, engaging and capturing supporters.

Just ask organizations like OurTime.org and DailyKos.org who continue to enjoy remarkable delivery rates even as other folks are crying foul.

If you want to directly reach people on your terms without paying, you need to focus providing content that keeps them engaging on Facebook day after day. If you want those people to impact your mission, you need them to engage beyond Like, Comment and Share! And today, that often starts by them joining your email list.

We built ActionSprout to help nonprofit organizations find and post more engaging content, deepen relationships with their Facebook audience and capture email and other information so they can evolve their relations beyond Facebook’s walled garden.

6 principals of effective Facebook Ad Imagery

Facebook released an ad image cheat sheet that seemed to list general advice on images. This caused more than a few folks to be disappointed, as they were expecting to see technical advice and image specs. What we should keep in mind though is this: Facebook ads have their own algorithm that can either work for you or against you. Similar to the News Feed algorithm that can hurt our organic reach, ads can become more expensive to run when running counter to what the algorithm wants.

This cheat sheet from Facebook is a look inside what they, and their ad algorithms are looking for from your ads. If your ad images follow these guidelines, you should expect to run less expensive ads that engage and reach more of your intended audience. With this in mind, here’s what Facebook has to say on ad images:

Facebook’s Ad Images Cheat Sheet

  1. Show the interesting part of your business. Grab people’s attention with images of your people, products and environment.

  2. Avoid distracting image elements, like bad lighting. You want people to pay attention to your image, not your image quality.

  3. Match your image to your message. Your image and words should individually convey your message but also complement each other.

  4. Use images that incite emotion. Emotion is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience.

  5. Use images that reflect your brand. Include your brand’s color or products in your images.

  6. Stay consistent. Ad images should look and feel the same across channels so that customers recognize your messages.

Refresh your images. Ad campaigns fatigue over time, so review performance and update your images when you see ad performance dip.

What about Nonprofits?

I know the language from Facebook focuses heavily on brands and for profit organizations, but these guidelines can totally be applied to nonprofits and causes as well. Let’s go through the points in more detail and look at how nonprofits can succeed.

  1. Show the interesting part of your nonprofit or cause. Grab people’s attention with images of your team, supporters and work. People support your organization because they are interested in you and your cause. Feed their interest with images of your team hard at work in the field! This will engage them further and feed their curiosity.

  2. Avoid distracting image elements, like bad lighting. You want people to pay attention to your image, not your image quality.This one is true for anyone. The problem is you can’t always help the lighting! Never fear here are some guides that will show you how even in low light it’s possible to shoot good photos.

  3. Match your image to your message. Your image should strengthen your message, not confuse it.

  4. Use images that incite emotion. Emotion is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience. There is a fine line between enough emotion to move someone to action and too much where they begin to shut down. Therefore it’s important to always use one emotion, one call to action and one target focus.Emotions should be positive and optimistic on Facebook. Even if the cause looks bleak, inspire hope that your supports can make a difference if they act now.

  5. Use images that reflect your nonprofit’s brand. Include your brand’s color(s) or logo in your images. Yes, even your nonprofit has a brand. It may not be the typical corporate brand we usually think of but it’s a brand no less. Anything that gives your nonprofit its sense of unity or personality is your brand. These are things like logos, colors, style and tone, image subjects and more.Chances are your nonprofit already has a brand, you just haven’t thought of it that way. Here’s a good example of five nonprofits who maintain a consistent brand to give you a better idea.

  6. Stay consistent. Ad images should look and feel the same across channels so that supporters recognize you and your cause.This is true for anything you do, not just ads. Similar to branding, this is important to build and maintain so that supporters can recognize you and your cause across different platforms. This is becoming increasing important as we use more and more platforms for interaction and out reach.

Bonus

  1. Images + text are a winning duo. Similar to memes, these have the power to engage and reach tons of people you normally may not have. Put a little ad money behind it and they are even more powerful. Just keep in mind that Facebook ad images can only contain 20% text so don’t get carried away. Facebook supplies a great tool that you can use to make sure your images meet the mark.

  2. Actions make for great ad content. If you have an action that is doing particularly well it may be worth putting some ad money behind and giving it an extra boost. You can do so by choosing to “Promote a Post” inside the ad manager then picking your Action post.

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You can download or bookmark Facebook’s full pdf here.

While choosing images for your ad is both an art and science, these general best practices are definitely worth following. Have fun, experiment and listen to your audience. They will lead you in the right direction.