Small businesses that use Facebook to get the word out and promote their companies should check out a new report from Buddy Media, a social ad-management software provider. The report is drawn from the company's analysis of 200 clients' Facebook posts over a two-week period, in addition to the comments and "likes" spurred by those posts.
The report contains a number of good takeaways, including its findings on post length. It found that Facebook posts containing 80 or fewer characters had 27 percent higher engagement rates than longer posts. (You're not the only one who struggles to be brief: Just 19 percent of all posts analyzed were that short.)
Here are some other lessons and advice gleaned from the report.
Use brand-specific URL shorteners. URL shorteners may provide an easy way to keep your post length down, but you may sacrifice effectiveness. Engagement rates are three times higher for posts that use a full-length URL, the report found. Why? Shortened URLs, such as "tinyurl.com/yhlw3c6" or "ow.ly/yhlwc3c6" don't tell a user where he or she is headed after the click. If you do need to shorten, use a brand-specific one. The report's example, of course, is "bddy.me/1f8M."
Post after hours. Brands that posted (or scheduled posts) outside of business hours had 20 percent higher engagement than those that posted only during office hours. (About 60 percent of the posts the report analyzed went live between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST.) Posting outside business hours, said the report, "reflects the importance of having a Post appear at the top of fans' News Feeds during the times of day they are most likely checking their Facebook pages. By posting within business hours, brands miss the critical opportunity to get the visibility they need for maximum engagement."
Try Thursday and Friday. Across all industries, engagement rates were 18 percent higher on Thursdays and Fridays compared with other days of the week. Engagement rates were 3.5 percent below average for posts published Monday to Wednesday, and Saturday was worst of all: 18 percent below average.
Pay attention to industry-specific engagement times. According to the report, retailers should "take a look at Sunday, think twice before posting on Friday," whereas the healthcare and beauty industry did best on Thursdays. (The one exception to the "Saturday is bad" rule is the food and beverage industry, whose engagement peaks on that day.)
Keep things clear and simple. If you want a Like, ask for it directly, as "outright requests worked most effectively," the report said. If it's comments you want, ask a question and say you'd like a response "Ask fans to 'post,' 'comment' or 'tell' you something." Avoid creative synonyms for Like and "post."
Use the right wording. If you're running a promotion, use a softer sell. Fans are more likely to respond to "events" and "winning" than the more direct words "contest" or "promotion.” The words "win" or "winning" give fans something to get excited about "rather than the feeling they are being sold to," noted the report.
Ask a question? Posts with question words have a 15 percent higher engagement rate. Stick to "where," "when," "would," and "should," which had the highest engagement rates. (The word "would" is particularly effective in spiking likes; the report speculated that this is because fans use it as a way to vote "yes.") The worst word: "why," possibly because fans may perceive it as intrusive or challenging.
What have been your most effective Facebook posts, and what characteristics do they share? And can you please Like this post?
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