Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to run your own Facebook Page - an entrepreneur's perspective : Part 3

This is the last post in my three-part series on How to run your own Facebook Page. In Part 1, I discussed the basic thinking and objective-setting that you need to do before you start. In Part 2, I discussed the nuts and bolts of execution and daily posts. The current post will discuss how to manage your page, monitor, and course correct.

1. Keep a reasonable response time and stick to it

It's obvious that you need to respond to all comments or questions within a reasonable time frame and I am sure that you will.  But take a call, depending on the nature of your business. what that time frame is. As a consultant, I do not want to give the impression I am on Facebook all the time. I do respond to business queries on LinkedIn instantly. However, if you are selling products or services then it does make sense to address queries immediately because customers have a deadline to buy or order, and may go elsewhere if you do not meet it. Whatever it is, figure out a time frame and stick to it - response within 1 hour, within a business day. It will become a ritual for you, and customers' expectations will get set.

2. Observe page etiquette

As a page owner, you need to be careful about etiquette - avoid tagging people on posts unless they are really your close friends. Avoid tagging people as a page admin, switch to your own (personal) ID and then tag your friends on a post. Aggressive tagging may at worst lead people to  boycott your page - at best, it may lead them to think you are pushy and desperate for business. Facebook offers enough advertising methods which are reasonably priced and if you really need to promote an event or product, use this route rather than riding on friends to get publicity. If you do not want to spend on advertising, then don't focus on numbers, instead focus on the quality of content. Your best content WILL get shared, and appreciated. 

3. Monitor your statistics

If you are serious about using Facebook to promote your business, then you must check your page statistics regularly. Even if you do not run paid campaigns on your page, you must still stay on top of your page performance and ideas to improve it.

This comes from personal experience. I have had a blog page for a long time - but until I started looking at the statistics, I was not motivated to publish regularly, or try out what worked. I am a data driven person, and one of the reasons that Facebook is so popular with marketers is that it offers best-in-class analytics to business users, free of cost.

While there are many different statistics that you can monitor, at different levels of sophistication, here are some simple measures that anyone can look at:

a. At an overall level, you need to measure reach (how many people your page is reaching daily and weekly). This is dependant to a large extent on how many people are liking, sharing or commenting on your posts. 

b. From a long term perspective, you need to be aware of how many 'likes' or fans your page has and whether this figure is increasing or no.

c. At a post level, you need to form an idea of what types of posts work better than others and why this happens, so you can create more of the same type of content. Let me give a simple example. I noticed on my Facebook Blog page that technology specific posts (eg. phone reviews) get lesser hits than those that talk about technology and its impact on people, behaviour and pop culture. I fine tuned my content curation, gathering interesting posts on Social Art, how parents are using technology to monitor kids activities, the newest fads of coffee preparation etc. And I saw that this helped increase my reach hugely. So much so that I modified my page description to read 'Curated content at the interface of people, culture and technology.' 

If all of this seems too much to do, at least keep track of reach at a macro level, and the posts that work best at a micro-level. It's hard to go wrong if your content is good.

Here is a tip to increase your reach. Whatever you post to your page, share it again from your personal ID. It will increase your reach hugely because  Facebook treats posts from individuals more generously than it does posts from pages.

This concludes my three part series on managing your own Facebook page. There is plenty more material on the net, from people with more expertise and experience. Reading has helped me hugely. I continue to learn a lot by what others share, which has prompted me to also put up my own experience.

In case you have any questions, shoot them and I will be happy to answer!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to run your own Facebook Page : An entrepreneur's perspective - Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I listed out the spadework that should be done before you launch your Facebook page - basic things like defining your objective, your target audience and your brand. Once this is done, the strategic foundation is laid for your FB page. It's not cast in stone and you can always go back and review it. The next step is to put the strategy into practice. This is where there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip. There is only one solution. Plan. Plan. And plan :) Every successful long term strategy, be it for weight loss or a Facebook page, requires long-range planning. So let me tell you, based on my own multiple slip ups, what exactly you need to plan.

1) Make a content strategy

This is the first step to translate your social media objective towards execution. Content strategy is a buzz word these days but it's not some black box. Practically, it can be as simple as a google doc where you expand on each objective you set initially - adding content ideas and making a calendar of posts accordingly.

For example, if you sell confectionery/bakery items one key objective is to announce new mouthwatering goodies each week, to keep interest levels high. You need to plan your calendar around specific times of year (festivals, seasons) when the offerings may vary. And you need to keep announcing your regular offerings like birthday cakes, cookies etc.

So you create a content strategy saying that you will do 1 post a day, and every week you need to cover 1)  2-3 cakes 2) chocolates 3) 1-2 healthy goodies 4) cookies 5) 1-2 breads 6) 1-2 eggless dishes.  Notice that the number of ideas are more than the number of posts you will put up in a week and that's a good thing. You need to put down an exhaustive list of all the types of posts that you would make in a week and then decide the post mix. You should not be featuring only cakes and neglecting breads. But maybe during Christmas, you make a conscious decision to only cover cakes, and feature 1-2 types of cake - like plum pudding. 

At the end of this exercise, your excel sheet should have three columns - date, rough content idea for that day's post and rough draft of the post. You can also keep a column for the visual. It's extremely important to maintain this record and keep checking it, so that you know that you are not being repetitive. The daily nature of the medium makes memory an unreliable guide. You have done so much each month, you will forget what you did last month. 

Initially, do this planning for one week. As you get better organised, start doing it for a month at a stretch.

2) Create post and image banks

If you think that Facebooking absorbs a lot of time, maintaining a page requires even more! You need to think through your posts, check grammar and facts (especially prices!) and most importantly, have great visuals.

So this is a continuation of the planning point I made earlier - plan visuals properly in advance. To continue the cake example, shoot your creations regularly. Build the time for this into your routine. As a strategy consultant and blogger, I mostly share interesting links that I know my clients would like to read. And I add my own perspective (which is sometimes at variance from the writer of the article). So I need to keep 1 hour of pure reading time and I use both Pocket and Evernote to save anything interesting I read, at a click, on any device. My point is that you may not need original content or creatives - but you should do your content creation in advance.

I am going to stick my neck out and say one thing. Even if you do not create original content, start doing it. Or at least start thinking about it. This applies more to people in consulting/ marketing/ media business. We are often diffident about our writing skills and as a rule we do not get the time or bandwidth to sit and write. But in the long run, people remember you for your original content. If you want to write posts, that's good. If you want to create a blog and post from there, it's even better. Remember that original content can be disseminated from a variety of platforms beyond Facebook including LinkedIn, Google + and Twitter. 

3) Be consistent and keep to a schedule

Entrepreneurs are busy people and often do everything themselves. In case you have a busy day, a breakfast meeting or a presentation deadline, the first thing that gets dropped from your job list will be the Facebook page. But consistency is key to sustaining your page. Decide a frequency - initially it can be as low as once a week, or as high as 1-2 times a day. This decision depends on how much time you are willing to invest. It also depends on your category. If you are in the garment business, then you are also in the fashion business, and you may have daily tips to share on global trends, make-up and fitness tips. But if you are in the tax consulting business, you may not need to post everyday. Laws do not change everyday. However, a tax consultant might want to increase the frequency of posting around the times tax returns get filed.

It's also important to know what time of day to post. Facebook insights will tell you at what time your fans are online. Keep posting time aligned broadly to this. In case you will be busy, you can use the scheduling feature on FB to schedule and line up multiple posts at a time. They will get automatically published at the time you specify.

In the next post, I will share some basic pointers on managing your page, monitoring results and course correction.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to run your own Facebook page - an entrepreneur's perspective : Part 1

As I posted on tumblr some time ago, entrepreneurship brings its own benefits. One of them is learning to do new things everyday. And one of my favorite new things is assuming the role of a page admin. I have been doing this job for our own Facebook company page and my blog page, and recently for a few others as well. In this series of posts,  I will share how to create, streamline and run a self administered Facebook page efficiently. And I have learnt from my mistakes, as well as from projects where I have been fortunate enough to work shoulder to shoulder with seasoned professionals. I will keep updating this series, as I learn more. 

Part 1 deals with the thinking that you need to do before you start a Facebook page.

1) Define your objective

This is an obvious one - but whether you run a blog page, company page or brand page, it's important to define why you are there and what you want to accomplish. The more specific you can be, the better.

My Facebook blog page exists not to drive traffic to my blog, but to share my passion for technology. I blog just once a week but I read lots of more interesting stuff which I have a perspective about. 

Our company page exists to keep us salient in the eyes of our ex-colleagues and potential clients. We aim to keep ourselves and clients updated on the latest developments in digital marketing.

An NGO I work with uses Facebook in a very interesting way - to showcase and acknowledge their growing volunteer network.

Notice that all of these are 'soft' objectives. It is tempting to use social media to drive conversions and sales but the fact is that it is not a decision making medium. It can aid decision making - at either an early or later stage, depending on your product category. But it is ideally suited for 'sharing' - information, news, well written articles - and then leaving people to decide. 

2) Define your target audience

Again its an obvious one - but it's worthwhile to spend a few minutes doing this exercise simply because it will help you to decide what you write and why. Don't arrive at a simplistic decision in a hurry (the big temptation is to define your user base as current and potential customers - and then you may end up becoming a customer service page - unless that is what you want.)

Think tangentially when you define your TG. In social media, you must think in terms of multiple target audiences. the Geek Afterglow Facebook page does not target people who read my blog. It reaches out to my larger circle of friends who are not interested in hard core tech stories but still appreciate interesting updates eg. technology that ensures safety of kids. Smart helmets. A new way of making coffee. 

The target audience of my friend's NGO is volunteers and their social networks. Volunteers are key influencers to bring new people into the fold, and they are bound to share updates which recognise what they do. This in turn facilitates them to introduce their work to interested friends and recruit them for the cause.

3) Define your brand 

This is a luxury that entrepreneurs often do not have time for. We spend time working, re-working and tailoring our credentials deck for each prospective client. We agonise over defining the perfect elevator pitch. In the case of my own company, my partner and I have created dozens of brand positioning statements and run Vision and Mission workshops for clients regularly. But we never got round to doing the same for ourselves.

If you are not going to be on mass media, it's still important to define your brand. And if you are going to be on social media, then it becomes necessary. At Bright Angles, we hold the view that a brand on social media needs to be three dimensional, like a human being, because people want to connect with other people, not brands. We have a digital branding template which we use to bring a brand to life. Even if you choose not to use this, you should answer some basic questions about your values, personality and tone of voice. It will help you to develop a consistent brand identity. It will guide the way you write (formal or casual? Funny or serious?) It will also help you to take decisions like which pages to follow.

The next post will be about the mechanics of running a Facebook page. Stay tuned!