Facebook can be a hard place for brands. It’s a lot like a wedding: friends and family gather to have fun, catch up and talk to each other. Brands need to be careful on Facebook that they don’t come across as a salesperson or a work bore at the party.
Moreover, as Facebook increasingly favours paid-for content from brand pages, public sector organisations can find it hard to get people talking to them and sharing posts on Facebook.
It works differently to Twitter. On Twitter, all your followers may see your tweets in their homefeed if they’re looking at the right time. On Facebook, an algorithm is set up so that only a portion of people who like your page will see your posts. The people who do see your posts are those who engage with your page most. So the more people click, like and comment, the more people will see your posts and you can build on your success.
Here are my seven tips for public sector organisations to make Facebook posts that aren’t dreary.
(This was first published on the Guardian website in late November.)
1. Be interesting
It sounds obvious, but do we really expect people to get excited about a corporate press release about the organisation? Facebook isn’t your website and you don’t have to post everything there. Only talk about the things that will interest your audience, or that are about your audience. Talk about the things you do that your community already talks about.
For instance, councils on Facebook can talk about subjects that affect the largest groups of people. Bins, dog poo, teachers, parks, potholes – these are the everyday things we all have an opinion about. Don’t bore us with cabinet reports.
2. Don’t just talk about yourself
This post from Bron Afon is not about services they provide. It’s an appealon behalf of a popular member of the community, encouraging people to share and help.
Social media doesn’t favour the organisations that are me, me, me. It’s important to gain trust on Facebook by talking about the issues that your community care about and showing support, not just asking for it.
Posting popular content ensures more people will see your posts in the future so by getting engagement on a post that doesn’t directly meet your objectives, you’re increasing the potential audience for later posts.
3. Add a photo – it gets more attention and tells a story
In nearly all studies an image of a person, particularly a close-up of their face,increases the success of a webpage.
Use photographs of people where possible, and tag people or organisations in your images and link to their profiles. This means you are highly likely to get engagement from at least that person or organisation. You also increase the chance that their community will see your post.
I call this the ‘Hello mum!’ effect. When I’m mentioned somewhere in a favourable way, I proudly share it with my friends and family and they like to see and comment on it.
4. Show behind the scenes work – use staff
Make an effort to get your staff engaging with the Facebook page and post behind-the-scenes contentand photos.Not only does this humanise and explain your organisation, but your staff will have friends who want to see and comment on the post. Often, friends of staff are the people we serve in local government.
This simple trick will increase the number of people who view your post organically, so regular efforts to do it can be very effective in the long term.
5. Identify what emotion you want people to feel
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” said Maya Angelou.
People don’t share stories, they share emotions. This study about online viral content finds that people share the content that triggers the most arousing emotions, whether positive emotions such as awe, or negative ones such as anger and anxiety.
It found that emotions that were not arousing, for example sadness, did not trigger sharing of content. So public health information may be shared more if it provokes feelings of anxiety rather than sadness.
Social media is made up of lots of humans with feelings. What’s the emotion of your post? Decide it and express it: “wow”; “does this make you angry?”; “this made our chief exec laugh out loud” or “seriously thought-provoking”.
6. Post content directly to Facebook
When you post a video to Facebook directly, it begins to play as soon as people see it and captures attention without the Facebook user having to click.
Try to let people on Facebook stay where they are, and not have to follow a link to YouTube or your website. Your aim isn’t to drive traffic to your website but to connect communities.
At the recent UK government communications conference, EU officials said video posted directly to Facebook was far more effective than linking to YouTube.
7. Call to action
If people have seen your post, tell them what you want them to do next or they may just move on. For example: “Tag your friends in the comments if they would like this”; “Book now”; “Tell us your experience in the comments below”.
This post from Coventry city council has a clear call to action, getting people to sign up to an email list. This then takes people off Facebook to email where the communications can be more direct.
These are just things I have found effective – I’d love to hear your take on what does and doesn’t work. Leave a comment below or tweet me to share your tips.