Every page on Facebook is in competition for space on users’ news feeds. With the changes in Facebook’s algorithm (commonly known as EdgeRank), pages have to work harder or open up the checkbook to get into more of their fans’ news feeds. At the AllFacebook Marketing Conference in New York, an expert panel discussed how to see what the competition is doing and draft a Facebook marketing strategy. However, don’t assume that just because your competition is spending the big bucks, they’ve succeeded at marketing.

As Seth Lieberman, the CEO of SnapApp, pointed out, there’s no one answer to solving Facebook marketing. The situation is different for every page, so marketers have to take a step back and look at the big picture, examining how content performs on Facebook, the web, and mobile channels, before they can start to draft a solid plan:

There’s no silver bullet. There’s no one person, product, company, or service you can buy to make everything magically better.

The main thing that brands have to understand is that users’ news feeds are a finite space. Say you’ve got an ice cream shop. You’re not just competing for space with Baskin Robbins and Cold Stone, you’re competing with whatever your fans have liked, whether it’s Sears, Nike, or the bakery down the street. Brian Carter, CEO of The Carter Group, talked about how this same problem that faced search engine optimization marketers is now at the forefront of Facebook.

Dennis Yu, the CEO of BlitzMetrics, told conference attendees that there are myriad tools and ways to gather information for marketers to use. By tracking metrics such as competitors’ people talking about this (PTAT), a brand can see what is most important to their competitors’ fans and see how it matches up with their own goals. The pages just have to actually get their hands dirty and use this information:

Think about Facebook not as a website, but as a database of everything that’s out there. There’s IDs for users, events, pages and for every type of interactions. You can actually pull down the users IDs of people who are saying certain things about your brand.

Carter talked about how brands need to take an offensive approach to get into their fans’ news feeds by engaging with them. A few weeks ago, Facebook explained to a select group of reporters how the news feed is sorted. Pages that have a lot of positive engagement (likes, comments, shares) move to the top of their algorithm. Pages whose posts have been hidden, reported as spam or ignored are dropped lower. Carter talked about how, much like an employee would talk to a customer in a brick-and-mortar store, potential customers have to be talked with on Facebook:

If you’re not doing a good job interacting with your fans, you’re losing visibility.

But, as many page admins have pointed out, they already churn out great content regularly, but are getting into fewer and fewer news feeds. So spending lots of money is the only way to truly market to fans, right? Wrong. As Lieberman pointed out, just because a brand is investing a lot of moolah into a marketing campaign doesn’t mean that it’s working:

Just because somebody is buying a ton of advertising on Facebook or Google, that doesn’t mean they’re getting a positive response from that.

Lieberman also noted that the most important metric isn’t likes, shares, or people talking about this (PTAT), it’s sales. Lieberman and Carter talked about how pages have to understand what kinds of content will get people to like the page, then engage, then discover your products outside of your Facebook page, then buy your product, then come back:

The only metric you guys should reall care about is customer sales, whatever you’re trying to drive. … Have to get people off of Facebook. We’re big believers in likes to leads.

Though in the past, companies did whatever they could to get likes en masse, engagement is king for pages, and Lucy Jacobs, the Chief Operating Officer of Spruce Media, used Sprint as a hypothetical. Sprint, which has roughly 940,000 Facebook fans, could use that number to talk about how awesome Sprint is, or they could motivate their fans to spread the message about the benefits of Sprint. It’s obvious to see which is more powerful — recommendations and talk from fans, not the brands:

What pages should be more concerned about, rather than sheer number of fans, is the engagement.

Readers: How do you stay ahead of your Facebook competition?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.