Surprise! Timeliness Boosts Engagement On Facebook

Lane Bryant interaction feedback rate correlationWhen a brand posts in the middle of the day, it’s the greatest opportunity for east and west coast audiences in the U.S. to participate, there’s the greatest amount of feedback. But what’s not so obvious is that the interaction curve is super steep on Facebook.

We might have posts that get 500 interactions within five minutes of us posting a status update, but have only 1,500 interactions in total.

Get Timely

The bigger the brand is, the steeper the curve. Our analysis across the top pages on Facebook shows that 70 percent of interactions occur within 60 minutes of the post.

Thus, timing is quite important for big pages, those with over a million fans. As shown below, interactions, feedback rate, and impressions are linked together.
Interactions vs News Feed Coverage

Correlation is not causation, true — but it’s hard to deny that objects which are highly engaging are more likely to pull in the friends of fans who comment and like.

After all, for each user who sees your update but doesn’t interact, that’s 310 of their friends that don’t get the benefit of what your fan did. Think about the impact of this.

Now consider that your fan base is not some homogeneous blob, but active micro-communities of users with different interests and needs. How do you interact with them such that your communication can be as timely and relevant as that of their friends? This is quite a high bar.

So it’s no wonder that big brands are struggling to have one-on-one relationships at a large scale. They’re just not equipped to personalize the outbound communication and they are definitely not ready to handle the millions of potential inbound contacts. Yes, your users will talk back in social advertising — this is not one-way TV advertising.

Brand In Real Time

Your friends are real-time with you, so why isn’t your brand?

The good news is that if your social media team is just you or a couple folks trying to take on millions of users, you likely already have the solution, but don’t realize it. It’s your call center and store-level employees. These are your eyes and ears– folks who are already dealing with your customers on a day-to-day basis.

Are you equipping them with the tools to deepen their relationships, or are you trying to manage centrally in an artificial, incomplete way? Perhaps you don’t have the infrastructure, process, and training to allow these folks to function as mini spokespeople for your brand.

Nobody has software or process yet to handle social yet, despite what the sales people will tell you. But with a combination of some simple tools to listen (our company does have this), a process on your end, and a hand-selected group of enlightened folks across customer care and marketing, you can be successful here!

Is your Facebook fan base stale? Try this 60 second exercise!

Ready? Post this on your wall right now:

Fill in the blank: What I love most about my dad is ____________.

Take a screenshot in 60 seconds and let us know how many comments and likes you generated. We do this type of exercise on new clients get a barometer of whether they are getting traction in the News Feed. If your fans don’t respond to a direct question like this, then they’ve gone stale, much like an email list that hasn’t been tended to for months.

We tried this exercise before Mother’s Day, using the phrase, “What I love most about my mom is_______.” Here’s how this panned out on Lane Bryant after 60 seconds:

Screen shot 60 seconds
We posted this at 5 pm pacific standard time on a Saturday — not the most active time on Facebook, but good enough. It received 41 comments and 16 likes, which is 57 interactions and about a 2.5-to-1comment to interaction ratio; healthy.

Here’s the page after 11 minutes:
Screen shot 11 mins
Now it’s just over a 3-to-1 comment to like ratio. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm gives greater weight to a comment than a like. And when friends of fans see a comment, they too are more likely to comment than like. Here’s 28 minutes after the original posting:

Screen shot 28 mins

The comment to like ratio is verging on 4 to 1, with 290 comments and 80 likes. That’s 370 interactions in fewer than 30 minutes.

Some pages can generate a thousand interactions in a couple minutes, while others get perhaps only a trickle. Do you know why?

News Feed Coverage

Look at how many impressions you get per post on average and divide by your fan base. Are you less than 50 percent? Then Facebook is telling you that your messages are not social enough to show up on the homepages of your users. News alert: contrary to popular belief, not everything you say gets displayed to your users. You could be shouting in an empty room.

Your Posts Are Not Social

Questions are better than statements. Shorter posts are better than full paragraphs. Videos are better than just text (usually). Keeping them on Facebook is better than sending them to a link. Being interesting is better than promoting your stuff (we believe you shouldn’t post a promotional item more than once per day). Learn how to resonate by creating irresistible desire.

Your Fans Are Off-Audience

Did you run a contest last year to give away an iPod or some other item? Most of those people became a fan of your page for the incentive, not because they are actually interested in your brand. If you’re opening a high-end Italian restaurant, you wouldn’t invite all the neighborhood bums get free food at your grand opening — so don’t do it on Facebook.

Time Of Day

If you’re a national pizza chain, you should be posting mainly between the hours of 4 pm and midnight local time. Be there when your audiences are, which might not correspond to normal office hours.

Sponsored Stories

If you’re not taking advantage of this amazing new ad product from Facebook to stimulate your existing fans, then you’re missing out.

Underlying all this is EdgeRank, Facebook’s algorithm which measures the connectedness between you and your fans– but that’s another discussion unto itself.

So how did you do in our exercise? Scorecard: Takes a count of likes 60 seconds after you post. Let’s say you have 100,000 fans and you got 50 comments. Divide 100,000 fans by 50 and you get 2,000, which according to the legend below is super-engaged. Congratulations!

  • Super-engaged: at least 1 interaction for every 2,000 fans.
  • Healthy: at least 1 interaction for every 5,000 fans.
  • Inactive: less than 1 interaction for every 5,000 fans.

If you’re not doing so well, it could be because of items mentioned above. But it could also be because of your category.

It’s usually harder to get engagement if you’re a business-to-business software company versus a popular NBA sports team. Banking, healthcare, and insurance are tough, but we’ve seen great success from companies in these categories when they create social content.

If you found this helpful, let us know in the comments below, and forward this post to others who might need it. If you want to argue, feel free to voice your opinion, too.

Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.

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