So, what’s the best way to market your brand on Facebook? According to Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist with a hearty background of marketing and consulting under his belt, the answer is actually pretty easy: “Sharing for the sake of just hearing yourself talk is pointless.”
Yes, the key to doing more is doing it with less. With all of the changes that have been implemented among Facebook Brand Pages within the last year, from the end of Facebook Discussions and Reviews in October to the roll-out of Timeline for Brands this spring, it’s hard to keep track of what’s actually working for brands on Facebook. The most recent numbers actually indicate fan growth slowed with the Brand Timeline switch. But thinking smart transcends those changes — and never goes out of style.
“You want to engage your audience and make sure that they feel like they’re apart of something — not just being marketed to,” Shankman explains. “Then they will do your PR for you.”
Shankman’s experience with brands runs deep. The former journalist and founder of Help A Reporter Out has written two books on marketing and customer service in the social media world — Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World and Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work — and Why Your Company Needs Them. He’s also frequently globetrotting to consult and speak on PR and social media, and has worked with major companies, such as American Express and Disney. through his company, The Geek Factory.
Mashable spoke with Shankman about the inner workings of Facebook marketing and what users really want to see on your brand page.
Want to Lose Followers? Be Repetitive
It’s really true that in life, one size does not fit all. The same can be said about your social media networks, too. Shankman says that nothing bothers him more than seeing brands post repetitive content on every social platform available — including their Facebook Brand Timeline.
“If you’re pushing the same crap onto your Facebook, you deserve to get your ass kicked,” he says.
Instead, Shankman advises to place special content onto your Timeline that can engage users in a unique way — not just spamming the same information over every platform available. That way, when fans know what kind of content to expect from your page, they will know to return to your brand site for specific engagement instead of clicking the back button.
“Let it be something your audience wants to see, that they’re excited about,” Shankman explains. “When you have those kinds of things, that’s when you want to share.”
Nothing Smart to Say? Don’t Say It at All
Shankman says that the best way to produce smart content is to engage in a conversation with your fans. Asking questions about the quality of the brand or polling users about what they want to see from a service are always more engaging than just pumping out promotional material.
“You have to engage and you have to respond,” Shankman says. “It can’t just be about posting ‘Hey! 10% off for the next five minutes!’”
But even a careful and thoughtful dialogue on a Brand Page won’t yield rainbows and sunshine all the time. Shankman admits that every brand will have its haters or vocal fans who have had a bad experience with a service or product. But, don’t just ignore and delete the complaints of your naysayers just because your Timeline is a finite medium. He says that mistakes are often best received by fans when they’re approached head-on — and with transparency.
“Work with them,” he advises. “Be honest and say, ‘Hey! We didn’t do this right and we’re trying to make it better.’”
Keep it Simple, Stupid
So what content actually works for brands? Shankman advises that content should be tailored to your audience, not just the things that you find interesting about your own brand. He adds that it’s also unwise to attempt to treat your Brand Page simply as a satellite to your company’s blog or website.
“Facebook is an entirely different animal,” he says. “You can’t just repopulate your entire website onto it.”
So if promotional material can fail and the copy you already have can fail, what do you have left? Shankman says that no two brands are alike, so there’s no panacea for every Brand Page on Facebook. In fact, the easiest way to find out what does work on your company’s Brand Page is to ask the fans that frequent it.
“The best way to give information to your audience is to find out how your audience wants it,” Shankman says. “You’ll never go wrong with that.”
Shankman says that, in short: It’s not about you, it’s about your audience. Shankman says the biggest mistake that brands make is self-absorption — if you make your content for yourself and not for your fans, you’re going to motivate them to click the back button and maybe remove you from their feed entirely. Instead, treating Facebook like the unique medium it is can help your brand’s social media reputation in the long run — and perhaps motivate your fans to evangelize your product and influence their own circles. As Shankman says, “Give them reasons to want to be there and to want to talk to other people.”