ImageWhat happens if you put a bunch of marketers in a room to talk about Facebook brand pages? They are bound to criticise the social media giant for not getting enough return on its buck, the changes to the Edgerank and reduction in its fan reach. But at a recent conference AllFacebook Marketing I attended, I found the insights surprisingly refreshing, with the speakers sharing best practice and tested methods to get the most out of Facebook brand pages.

Shared insights included:

  • Facebook has de-prioritised brand posts
  • Brands are being penalised for posting up external links away from Facebook
  • Promoted posts are not proving to be successful as the reach is bigger but more fan complaints and same engagement level
  • Brands must post high value and engaging content that is relevant to its fans
  • Apps generate stories, but the challenge is what is the story that gets users engaged
  • Brands still focused on fan acquisition instead of engagement levels
  • CEOs and the key decision makers still only understand high level metrics
  • Changes in EdgeRank on Facebook has caused some brands to up their game in advocacy and engagement

There were two presentations that stood out for me. The first was by Ruben Quinones from Path Interactive. This was the first time that I ever heard someone give practical lessons on how to extrapolate key data from Facebook Insights. I’m sure we’ve all downloaded the excel file from Facebook Insights and produced nice stats and graphs from them. But what do they really mean and are you using the right ones?

Insights into Insights

According to Ruben, the most important figure to look for is the lifetime post consumers. This is the key metric that tells you how many engaged users you have. Facebook’s official definition for this metric is “the number of people who clicked anywhere in your post”. What Ruben recommends is that you manually insert a column and call this ‘themes’. Then next to each post write down your theme.  So for example, across our clients we typically have 5-8 themes to generate our content from. Here’s a screen grab from his presentation showing you the extra column:

Then by manually sorting your content themes, you will be able to know which type of content is getting the most engagement. When the content is sorted as demonstrated below, it can work out the total number per each theme and show you what is resonating well with your fans.

The million dollar question is always when should I post my content up to get the best levels of engagement? Well Ruben has the method to help you work this out for your own page.  You need to use the lifetime post organic reach figure. Manually add in a column and write down the time when you post up your status update. If you want to just put in time segments ie: morning, afternoon, evening rather than specific times, then you can. And once you sort through this data matching the time next to lifetime post organic, you can find out the best time for you to post specifically for your page.

Using this formula you can also work out the best day of the week as well. By using the same method as above put in a column and specify which day of the week you posted up your content. The manual inputting of the data to work these figures out is a chore it’s true – but if you can have real meaningful stats for your pages, it’s worth the number crunching. And while these stats should be showing all the positive engagement levels, don’t forget to look at the insights for hidden, unlikes and unsubscribes. To see Ruben’s presentation, you can view on Path Interactive’s Facebook page. Personally I think this is well worth the read.

ROI and working with Facebook Edgerank

The second presentation I wanted to look at it in more detail was by Vincent Sider, Vice President of Social Media at BBC Worldwide. I have to declare eModeration’s interest here as we do work with BBC Worldwide, but that isn’t why I chose to write about it. I liked Vincent’s openness to share ROI stats and what the recent Edgerank changes have meant to BBC Worldwide. Let’s look at how BBC Worldwide chooses to demonstrate ROI for TopGear.com. Simple mathematics showed that social generated £950,000 in traffic. Sider revealed that TopGear.com received 100 million visitors,with Facebook driving 38% of this traffic and with total ad sales of £2.5m. If only all companies could demonstrate this.

Sider also revealed what happened to its website traffic since Facebook made the changes in Edgerank. He said the company first noticed it in May when using external links in status updates. Figures showed that visits to its website were down 27% compared with the previous quarter; however ,engagement levels doubled from 8% in May to 17%  inJune.  Sider worked out that the company would need to increase its gross margin by £160,245 in order to enjoy the same levels of reach before the changes in the Edgerank …

Here’s how Sider worked it out.  In July (Q2 start) the average daily total reach as a percentage of fans was 38%. In October (Q3 start) average daily total reach as a percentage of fans was 14%. So the loss of revenue contribution at the end of October was £139,755. Therefore BBC Worldwide would need to invest £2540 per post on Facebook to achieve the same levels – effectively £10,000 per day. Incremental revenue from that activity would amount to £139,755 minus cost of sales to maintain revenue levels =30 x £10K=£300,000 so the overall gross margin fell to £-160,245.

But Sider was quite philosophical about the change and is going to alter BBC WW’s social media strategy to reflect this change. The first is to look at other platforms and not rely solely on Facebook. And here is some good news for its Community Managers: it is going to produce more bespoke content for its social platforms, use more content from its live events and use its existing apps to create more user generated content.

Here are Sider’s views on how brands can work with Facebook:

  • The ROI of social is not to be found in Facebook but with Facebook and by sticking to its rules
  • Using Facebook as a page/post mechanism is not 100% right any more. You’ll end up paying more for maintaining your reach level
  • As Facebook moves from being a page/post platform to an app platform, key focus should be on apps and these apps should provide enough value to provide stories in fans newsfeeds
  • Facebook can’t solve ROI issues if your apps don’t have a business model to support them. The ball is in your court to find your business model and expose it through Facebook
  • Facebook still remains the best platform to activate an audience through apps

What Sider says makes great sense. Facebook has made the changes to its Edgerank and whether you agree with the changes or not, if you want to include Facebook as part of your social media strategy, you need to look at better ways, more engaging ways of working with the social network. As Matt Peters of Pandemic Labs, said: “So you need to be better and smarter than anyone else. Your content has to show engaging pages and your community will look better and more engaging.”

All the speakers and audience agreed that brands are not competing against other brands in the quest to be seen in the Facebook newsfeed but content from your friends in the newsfeed.

There were other really interesting presentations and lots of panel discussions, but these two presentations I found the most insightful. You can see the highlights in twitter using the #allfacebookconf including a few snippets from myself. Plus there is a blog by Richard Delevan of Betpond, who also shares some of his thoughts from the conference.

I’d be interested to hear from other marketers and community managers on whether some of this resonates with you and what you are experiencing on Facebook. Do you agree with the figures that Ruben recommends we measure our fan engagement on? How has the Edgerank change altered the way you approach your strategy with Facebook?