Think Socially: Lessons From Big Break

Five small businesses learned lessons on how to use Facebook to engage customers, at none other than the Facebook HQ.
Director of Content Marketing, American Express
September 16, 2011

If you could get advice from the Facebook team on how to use their own platform, what would you want to know? Five small businesses won that opportunity as part of American Express OPEN’s Facebook Big Break contest. Following two days of consulting at Facebook’s offices in Palo Alto, California, I asked the winners what they learned, and then combined their responses with some discussions that occurred during the program. The big takeaway? Think socially.

A recent comScore Study cited that Facebook users are 40 to 150 times more likely to consume content via their News feeds versus visiting a brand’s Fan page. This is important to keep in mind, as Facebook doesn’t necessarily serve all of your content into your fans’ news feeds. The algorithm that serves the content looks to a number of factors, with engagement having the biggest impact. So, in order to increase the likelihood of reaching your fans, you need to publish content that’s highly engaging. Ask for your fan’s opinions on new products, invite them to submit suggestions. It doesn’t have to be every post, but make sure to include some content that encourages engagement.

Also think about what content they’re likely to share, via “liking” or passing along. While a large fan base is valuable, the real word-of-mouth value is in getting them to share with their friends—a network that is on average 81 times as large.* And those potential customers are more likely to trust their friends’—your fans’—recommendations. According to Facebook, friends of a brand’s fans are 3-4 times more likely to visit that brand’s website than the average Internet user.

It’s why Big Break winner Lisa LeFevre of Distinctive Gardens said the biggest takeaway for her was learning about Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and how they give you the  “ability to subtly leverage the innate strength of Facebook, namely to harness the power of the social graph and word of mouth.” Sponsored Stories enables brands to run targeted ads that highlight fans’ interactions with their page, basically using their engagement as your creative.

Another place to think socially is off of Facebook. One opportunity that many have yet to take advantage of is integrating Facebook and other social sharing into their online channels. Big Break winner Mark Carson of Fat Brain Toys, who added Facebook plugins to his online catalog, suggested, “Once you feel like you have the strategy [for your Facebook page] working, then you should look to various ways to expand your fan base, most easily by encouraging likes and adding social plug-ins to your website, blog and other channels.”

It may be this last point that seems more intimidating to some business owners, who might think of themselves as being that technically adept. But in many cases, adding the plug-ins requires little more than copying and pasting a few lines of code into your site’s html. Dawn S. Grosvenor of HOPELights Media said the biggest takeaway from Big Break for her was learning how much easier and cheaper it could be to incorporate key applications into her site. What she thought would take several months and thousands of dollars could actually be done in weeks at a fraction of the cost. “I was not aware of the extensive library of resources available to the common everyday user and this was a big win for our team!”

Dawn shared another takeaway on how to think socially: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. She said, “One can become so passionate about their initiative that they may lose sight of external objective feedback and become narrow-minded on product offerings or other initiatives. Finding the right balance of passion with an open ear to external perspectives continues to be one of the top lessons I’ve learned.” Whereas Dawn found advice from the Big Break winners and the Facebook experts, don’t forget to look at your own network—other business owners, including those here on OPEN Forum, and your fans.  When debating what will work best on your page, look at the data available through your  Facebook Insights. Look at what’s driving the most engagement, and think about how you can build on that. And, as suggested earlier, pose questions to your fans. Ask them what they’d like to see more of.