The Holy Grail of social media outreach on Facebook is "engagement" -- going beyond broadcasting to interact with your fans. While some businesses might use Facebook to drive traffic to their own websites, the more that people are "Liking" and commenting on your posts and sharing your content with their own networks, the more brand loyalty you can build.
Facebook uses its "Edgerank" algorithm to measure fan engagement and to determine which of your updates appear in the News Feeds of your fans. Your Edgerank score goes up when fans "Like" and comment more on your updates which, in turn, means your posts will be seen by more people.
While there's no tried-and-true formula for everyone to maximize engagement all the time, outreach on Facebook doesn't have to be like blindly throwing darts at a board. Here are three questions to ask yourself to make sure your Facebook posts are prompting maximum engagement:
1. Will this add value to the people I'm trying to connect with?
Social media is a "soft-sell medium," says Mark Evans, a social media consultant. That means you should be trying provide your fans with some kind of value instead of hitting them over the head with a sales pitch.
Nevertheless, one of the goals of social media outreach, as with other types of marketing, is to spark conversion. The way to achieve this on Facebook is to come up with "educational and entertaining wall posts and promotions," says Todd Newman, founder of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based online social media agency SummaSocial. For example, one of Newman's clients raffled off an iPad 2 to fans of his Facebook page -- and gained nearly 1,200 fans as a result.
2. Will this update seem fresh to my fans?
If all your updates sound the same, your outreach can grow stale and your audience might stop engaging. "You can post links to interesting articles, photographs and videos," Evans suggests. "You can create contests and polls."
To help keep your updates fresh, and fans coming back to your page, Newman recommends this weekly posting schedule, or something similar:
Mentor Monday: Share videos and posts that educate your audience.
Trivia Tuesday: Encourage fans to engage and share their opinions.
Watch Us Wednesday: Publicize in-office events and community involvement.
Thankful Thursday: Offer an incentive and play up your strengths.
Fan Friday: Feature and reward your star fans.
The goal, Evans says, is to create "a content potpourri that keeps people coming back, because they don't know what to expect."
Related: 3 Ways to Supercharge Fan Engagement on Facebook
3. Is this post in line with my metrics?
To understand what types of updates resonate with your audience, use the administrator panel on your Facebook page to monitor your metrics. Page Insights can be especially crucial, providing a weekly breakdown -- by age, gender and geographic location -- of who likes your content and who's talking about it.
For instance, if you've been posting U.S.-related content but discover that nearly half of your fans live in India, you might consider rethinking your approach. You could post special updates and promotions on major Indian holidays such as Diwali in addition to Labor Day and other U.S. holidays.
What tips do you have for boosting engagement on Facebook? Let us know in the comments below.