June 23, 2011

Your Facebook cheat sheet

Part 1: Your Facebook cheat sheet

Facebook. One out of every 13 people on earth is on it. More than half of all social media traffic in the United States comes from it. It’s no wonder that it has become a component of every good PR strategy.

But unlike traditional media outlets, with their long histories of best practices and protocols to follow, Facebook and other social media outlets change the rules often by the day. The whole process of setting up a page, recruiting fans and interacting with them — not to mention making the whole thing valuable for the client — is new territory for many PR professionals.

To address this, PR News (an online public relations resource) recently hosted more than 300 public relations specialists for its first-ever Facebook Conference. The day-long, sold-out event brought together everyone from advertising industry thought leaders to overworked one-person communication “departments” for small businesses. All were seeking advice on the same subject. How can I build a successful Facebook page?

Sessions provided a crash course in everything from “How to Get People to ‘Like’ Your Brand” to “How to Manage Employee Facebook Activity for Optimal (and Safe) Results.” At the end of the day, 300 new Facebook experts returned home, armed with new terms such as “like-gate” (requiring users to “like” your page before viewing content) and “EdgeRank” (Facebook’s top-secret system for News Feed rankings).

Those two terms, and the following themes, repeated throughout the day’s sessions. Think of this as your Facebook cheat sheet:

Be authentic. Facebook is not the place to sell or be overly commercial. Think of it as a blind date — you want to look nice, ask questions, and show interest in what the other person is saying and doing. Brag a little, but not too much.

Resist the “me too” urge. Many companies rush to sign up for a Facebook page for the same reason: their competitors are there. A successful Facebook page launches only after the account team has thought through its objectives, strategy and measurement methods. Social media should be just one component of a comprehensive marketing plan. Remember — plan first, act second.

Social media is a team concept. The ideal Facebook team includes PR-driven content, with input from design, measurement and strategy — and an overall community manager to keep the whole thing in check. But no matter how large or small the social media team, it’s important to make sure everyone speaks with one voice so that the page stays consistent and on message.

Finally, a word about posting: The best time of day to post is before or after working hours. This ensures you will be at the top of the news feed for people logging on first thing in the morning at work, or in the evening before bedtime. There are various theories on the best day of the week to post, but the consensus seems to be Thursday.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Facebook strategies for small budgets.