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Big Orange Slide

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Over connected, under engaged

January 19, 2012 by Sylvie Chicoine

Illustration by Josiah Bilagot

Editor’s note: It’s also Sylvie’s birthday today. Enjoy her article, and round out your brilliant comments with some birthday greetings!

By now you may have heard the talk about how engagement levels on brand pages on Facebook are steadily declining. Ad Age reported in Q3 last year that engagement on the Facebook walls of leading brands is down 22%; a scary thought for marketers who are finally comfortable with the platform and are investing more dollars into Facebook apps and community management than ever before.

Many theories exist to try to explain this decline. Some say it’s due to inherent behavioural shifts; others blame it on the idea that Facebook users are jumping ship onto the shiny new Google+ platform. The reality is that Facebook activity overall in Canada is not declining. In fact, Canadian brand pages get 70M+ new fans each month, according to a source from Facebook Canada. So what’s the problem here?

The problem is that many community managers (the person or people responsible for the daily maintenance of the Facebook brand page) are not truly communicating with their fans; many community managers only respond to fans when spoken to and they don’t take advantage of what fans are really saying to them and to each other. This kind of flaky relationship with a brand on Facebook is what leads to declining engagement rates and, eventually, what will cause a brand’s fan count to go down. To reverse this trend, community managers can put an end to superficial dialogue and mine their fans for relevant content.

I’ve seen many brand pages move towards a more effective communication style on Facebook by ending the wall-as-broadcast-channel method and instead using more relevant and relatable wall posts. For example, moving from “[ExampleKitchenBrand] can solve all of your kitchen problems” to “what is your favourite meal to make for Sunday dinner?” Asking fans about what they like and what matters to them in a context that connects to the brand is one way to build a better relationship with fans and should naturally lead to higher engagement.

Another way to maintain or increase engagement levels is to put an end to superficial dialogue. I often see community managers responding directly to fans’ wall posts on brand pages only when it involves answering product-related questions or as a general “thank you” for leaving a comment on the page. This kind of speak-when-spoken-to conversation is superficial and can hardly be considered as proactive communication. The community manager for ExampleKitchenBrand, for instance, can build stronger relationships and a stronger community by making recipe recommendations to individual fans who they know like gourmet nachos or by connecting a group of fans who they know are all interested in cheese graters. These are just a couple of examples of how really knowing your community and putting an end to superficial dialogue can give your Facebook page a boost.

Being that connected to the community also allows community managers to put what their fans are saying to better use. Community managers have a key role as the person with the closest relationship with their best, most loyal customers. Community managers are uniquely positioned to listen to what fans are saying, identify trends, and act on that information. For example, the community manager for [ExampleKitchenBrand] may notice that there is a lot of chatter about pancakes on the wall, identify a trend with flavour infusions and berries, and filter that trend back to the content creation team who can start developing new pancake recipes. This kind of activity allows the group to develop content and messaging that truly meets the needs and interests of their fans and, in turn, increases engagement levels on the brand page.

When it comes down to it, community managers need to treat their fans like they would treat their friends and do more than simply hear and respond. They must become active listeners, interpret and evaluate what their fans are saying, and give their fans what they want and need. Following some of these basic systems of communication means community managers will never be without inspiration for content and, best of all, the brand page will keep fans engaged.

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