Why Choose Facebook to Grow a Social Following

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Why Choose Facebook to Grow a Social Following?

Hands in the darkness holding virtual people

Facebook is dead, right?

Wrong ... Well ... it depends.

If you are looking for a social media platform with the intent of sharing quick, short-term videos, and keeping up with the latest and greatest from your friends, then yes, Facebook is dead. If you are looking for a great platform for reaching a lot of people in a short amount of time, however, Facebook is one of the best, Social Media platforms out there.

Why is Facebook so good if no one uses it?

Despite people (read: young people) choosing to use quicker, sleeker, and arguably less intrusive platforms to share, Facebook remains a household name. Due to this, people still keep their accounts open on the platform and check in periodically for one reason or another. The sheer number of available people on Facebook at any given time makes it a powerful resource for businesses, advertisers, and anyone looking for reach. This means that your brand can be bolstered on Facebook, and through a page and groups, you can grow your audience which could lead to much greater things.

Facebook Page or Group?

A business entity on Facebook is almost required to have a page. Facebook urges us to be intentional when we use their platform, so if a business uses a "profile" it will be confusing to both people and other companies. A profile is a person, as in a human being, an animal represented by a human being, or a celebrity. A profile or person is necessary in order to create a page, which can be anything that is represented by a brand (celebrities should have pages too). A profile is not a page, and a page is not a profile. You (person with the profile) can be an admin on a page, along with other people (profiles), since the page is the business. Makes sense?

A group, on the other hand, is a collective of profiles. In groups, anyone can post to the timeline and anyone can reply–depending on the moderation. If you are used to the internet and the different kinds of web pages, you can think of pages as official websites for a company, whereas a group is like a forum where the members make the content. Pages can disallow followers from posting, whereas groups can offer restrictions, but by their very nature they are meant for sharing. Groups, like forums, can be open, private, or secret and unsearchable, and the admins can set up rules to determine who can and cannot join.

Pros and Cons of a Facebook Page

Facebook Page - Pros:

    • Insights - This is the SEO of Facebook, and it is an invaluable resource for tracking user behavior, from engagement to page visits. This gives you transparency into your page beyond what a profile or group can.
    • Targeting - You would be loathed to find another advertising platform that is as sophisticated in targeting as Facebook's. With your page, you can not only target fans of your products, but their friends, and anyone else that matches their demographic. The advertising possibilities are endless with these positives, especially if you have the capital to spend.
    • Flexibility - Facebook pages have templates that you can utilize to not only showcase your products but sell them, right there on the platform.
    • Customization - From the various tabs that you can rearrange to adding fully customized pages.

Facebook Page - Cons:

    • EdgeRank - Facebook's algorithm is an artificial intelligence that sorts posts coming to a profile's timeline to pick the most relevant to show up. Chances are your content won't score high for relevancy to your users, which means that your updates will remain hidden unless they actively visit your page.
    • Pay to Play - One of the biggest downsides to Facebook Pages is that they charge you to force yourself unto people's timelines. While your audience is yours, and you have earned their attention, so has all the other pages that they follow. Due to this, you compete for exposure organically, which is an incredibly difficult feat. To get around this, Facebook allows you to, "boost" your posts or make them into ads, which will cost you money.
    • Fans - On a Facebook page your followers are essentially leads, not customers, and not "fans". They like your page and follow you, but you still have to work to get on their timelines or inside their wallets.
    • Engagement - To get five people to like a post is hard enough, let alone the 800 who follow your Facebook page. There is an art to posting timely, relevant, and attractive content to inspire people to share or comment, and many of us cannot guarantee what will evoke this reaction, so most posts are a gamble unless you pay money to boost them.

Pros and Cons of a Group

Facebook Group - Pros:

    • Engagement - Unlike pages, the content from a group will be pushed to a user's timeline unless they opt not to "follow". This makes for amazing engagement, and you are guaranteed that when you post, most of the group will eventually see it, without you having to pay.
    • Community - Where pages are a bit cold, groups foster communities where people are not afraid to chime in, post their thoughts, and interact with one another outside of the owner.
    • Accessibility - Facebook does a terrible job of notifying page owners that a comment has been made on a post, or when someone messages you, or leaves a post (on pages where this is allowed). Poor notifications can lead to you missing questions, which in turn will get you penalized for your lack of engagement. Since groups operate very much as a profile does, when people mention you or post to your group, you get the notification immediately.

Facebook Group - Cons:

    • Moderation - While there are tools for moderating comments and posts, you still have to take time out of your day to make sure that your community is playing nice with one another. All of the issues that plague an online forum will also affect a Facebook group.
    • Professionalism - Since groups allow anyone to post at any time, they can quickly get out of hand if the owner is missing for long periods of time. Strong voices prevail, and they may not be the voices you want to prevail, and if you're not in place to moderate, it can shine badly on you and your brand.

Boosting Posts and Facebook Ads

In the not-too-distant past, likes were Facebook currency, but with their push for making money through ads, they've all but destroyed the values of a like. What matters now is actual engagement, as in people sharing, commenting, and finding value in your posts. The more engagement, the more organic juice you build up, which allows your posts to be seen in the future above anyone else competing for your follower's timelines. Have an engaged audience, and your Facebook page will become a machine from which you can print money. No engagement and your only choice will be to pay for ads on the platform.

It is no longer enough to make an ad on Facebook just to bring in more likes to your page. Now you have to get the likes and then produce content for your page that will get your followers to engage with them. Knowing the personas of your followers can help, since it can reveal whether or not your audience is a specific demographic that can then influence the content that we deliver out which in turn will get read, watched, liked, and commented on.

If you don't have a specific type of audience, and your followers are from several different walks of life, then you will need to experiment initially with posts and then study your insights to see what is clicking. The downside to this is that all of your followers will not see your posts initially, and you may need to boost them to gauge their performance. Once you know what clicks, you will start to see activity on your posts, and some of your followers will be repeat-engagers, and eventually will become your, "top fans." These people are invaluable because they are the spark that can become a viral fire on your page, making popular posts show up to your least active members, thus sparking even more engagement. It's a beautiful thing.

Five Quick Tips to Improve Engagement:

  1. Avoid posting links to external websites not owned by Facebook.
  2. Post interesting photos and videos that are relevant to your page's intent.
  3. Answer questions and mentions as fast as you can. You can set up a scheduled, time of day to log in and do this. Speed matters. No one wants an absentee admin, so take this very seriously to improve your page.
  4. Treat your engaged audience like gold, and monitor what interests them most. Facebook insights will show you what content does best. You can use those metrics to see what you should be posting more.
  5. Don’t post too much. This will not help at all. In fact, you may want to limit it to one or two great posts a day.

Like most social networks, Facebook takes a lot of time and effort to become an influencer. Nothing is easy or automatic, no matter who you are. The things I’ve outlined will help you to get going on your journey to engagement, but never forget that your audience must always come first.

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Gregory is an SEO/SEM Strategist and Technical Lead for the University of South Florida's Health Information Systems.