High profile

High profile

These days, almost every brand has a Facebook presence. But that doesn’t
mean everyone’s doing it right. Georgina Guedes looks at the key elements
of social-media success

There is no question that every company should have a Facebook page – not only to have a presence in the space, but also to create positive brand associations and to interact with customers and the general public.

Unfortunately, the near-ubiquity of brand presence on Facebook does not mean they are all doing it right. Every time a company commits a social-media misstep, the story hits the headlines. But, at the same time, the brands whose Facebook pages haven’t been updated since last July aren’t doing themselves any favours either.

Given, then, that the question is not ‘Should we?’ but ‘How do we?’, we spoke to the heads of a number of digital agencies about exactly what brand marketers should be doing to ensure a positive Facebook presence for their organisations.

According to World Wide Worx and Fuseware’s SA Social Media Landscape 2016 study, there were 13 million South Africans using Facebook at the end of August 2015. This is far greater than any other social media channel, and shows that Facebook is not a medium to be neglected. ‘That’s a quarter of the South Africa population – and it shows that Facebook should be a primary marketing tool,’ says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

Make sure you have the right strategy in place

Because it’s not just about doing it, but about doing it right, the experts agree that the first step to having a successful Facebook presence is to start with a strategy – rather than just putting up the page and waiting to see what happens. ‘You have to have a strategy,’ says Maggie Macfarlane, owner of Comoonicate Consulting, a digital media agency. ‘You have to decide upfront what you’re going to talk about, how often you’re going to talk about it and who is going to produce that content.’

‘How often?’ is one of the first questions brands ask when they’re trying to establish a Facebook presence. According to Goldstuck, the simple answer is ‘at least daily’ in order to ‘give a sense that someone is manning the controls.’

Kirsty Bisset, owner of full-service digital media agency Stir, explains that frequency of Facebook posting is entirely dependent on three things: the brand’s strategy and social-media objectives, the size of the community, and the budget (should the brand’s online presence be outsourced to an agency).

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‘To get the most exposure out of Facebook’s algorithm, you should post at least once a day. But do not post for the sake of posting. Go for quality over quantity. If you ensure that your content is relevant, engaging, eye-catching and helpful, it has a higher chance of being seen by your audience,’ she says.

It’s important to have specially trained employees or agencies keeping track of all this for you, because your strategy needs to be adapted in line with what works, according to your readership statistics. ‘Glean your content plan from the results derived from stats and reports to see what’s working and what’s not,’ says Bisset.

Create relevant posts for your community

Many marketing departments express concern that their companies don’t generate enough news to justify daily updates. Again, this is what a social-media strategy helps you to do: to establish your community and the type of content you’re going to produce. It isn’t just about company news at all.

‘We try to steer clear of too much focus on the brand or company, as it can be a bit indulgent and, more importantly, irrelevant to the community,’ explains Barry Tuck, who is the managing director of Paton Tupper Digital. ‘The brands that truly succeed in this
space are the ones that understand about content marketing and create engaging content that is on brand, relevant to their market and in some way adds value. The challenge that we set ourselves as content creators is to entertain, educate, inspire, inform or reward with every post.’

It’s the ‘relevant to the community’ point that requires out-of-the-box thinking from content marketers.

‘It’s imperative that a brand not only focuses on their product or service, but on the interests of their community,’ says Bisset. ‘For example, let’s be honest: nobody is particularly passionate about shampoo. However, they may be interested in hair trends and, consequently, fashion and beauty. Talk to your audience about that! Doing so will position your brand as an industry leader and you will become top-of-mind the next time I’m purchasing a bottle of shampoo.’

Visual elements are also vitally important in attracting reader attention. ‘A post that contains eye-catching visual content, in particular images or videos, is 180% more likely to be engaged with than a post that contains text alone,’ says Tuck.

He points out that people seldom return to a Facebook page, but rather see your content in their newsfeed. ‘If you think about your personal newsfeed, it is rich with content relating to your friends and family – the most important people in your lives. For a brand to be as relevant in that highly personal space requires incredible creativity and insight – and well-designed graphic elements are key to this.’

And, Goldstuck says, with 10 million of South Africa’s 13 million Facebook users accessing the social-media network from mobile devices, your content had better be optimised for mobile as well.

Use the right tone for Facebook and for your brand

Another thing that should be established in your strategy is the general tone of your posts. It is important to remember at all times that Facebook (and any social-media platform) is about engaging with a target audience, not talking at them – so your Facebook page should be friendly and engaging. But, of course, the tone should still tally with the whole corporate image of the brand.

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‘Every brand is different, so every page will have its own unique tone or voice,’ says Tuck. ‘More than anything, this voice has to be consistent with the perception the public has of a brand. Certain brands can get away with being colloquial, informal and even humorous, while others need to maintain a more corporate tone.’

For instance, he says, a youth lifestyle brand such as Quiksilver can get away with saying something like: ‘Yo! Whattup dudes? Who had a rocking weekend?’, but a brand such as Investec probably couldn’t. ‘That said, every brand should engage with its community in a personal way and try not to sound like a faceless corporate robot. You are dealing with real people, with real feelings and emotions, so you’ve got to treat them as such.’

Train your people, get them interacting

It is also vitally important to ensure that the people managing the account are well trained and understand the social-media strategy. Far too many of the embarrassing social-media mistakes we see so frequently happen because poorly trained, young, inexperienced staff members are running the accounts.

‘Make sure that your employees are trained well enough and understand how social media works,’ says Macfarlane. ‘It’s important that they fully understand the workflow – how pieces are approved and who is in charge of approving them before they’re published on Facebook.’

Also bear in mind that these people are not just posting approved content; they could – and should – be interacting directly with the brand’s public. Tuck claims that social-media administrators should interact as much as possible, as long as they have been trained in key fields such as PR and customer-relationship management, and have the social and people skills to handle these kinds of interactions.

‘To me, this is one of the biggest assets of social-media platforms. They provide a forum for a direct line of conversation between a brand and its target market, consumers and detractors,’ says Tuck. Never before have consumers had this power, and it is doing an excellent job at streamlining the relationship between brands and their consumers and making these brands more accountable for all their actions.’

Macfarlane points out that brands are publicly measured for the time they take to respond to comments on Facebook. ‘The platform has a little ticker that states how many customer queries have been responded to and what your response time is.’

It’s simple

The messages from all of the experts are clear – yes, it is essential for your brand to have a Facebook presence, but having a page alone is not enough. A successful page is one that is updated often – with visually interesting content that’s appealing and relevant to your target market and online community – by people who know exactly what they are doing. Simply put, Facebook has proven itself to be one of the most valuable marketing channels available to you, so it’s best you start treating it that way.

Photography: Gallo/GettyImages, iStockphoto
February/March 2016

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