Simple Marketing Steps to Make the Most out of Facebook
Facebook’s reputation took quite a beating last year. In October, a whistleblower testified to Congress about how the social media giant placed company profits above public safety.
Yet for all the bad press, Facebook remains the most popular social media network in the world — with almost 2.9 billion active users. For associations looking to improve their marketing outreach, that’s just too many people to ignore. But, unfortunately, that’s exactly what many have been doing.
“With digital and social media, associations have been left behind, and they need to play catch-up,” says Neal Schaffer, a digital marketing consultant, speaker and author.
On Facebook, the catch-up game begins by engaging with its two main mechanisms: pages and groups. Every association should have both, Schaffer advises. The page acts like a website’s homepage, where anyone can get a quick overview of the organization. Pin a post to keep it at the top of your page, ensuring it’s the first thing the public and your members see.
A Facebook page is simply table stakes. Two-thirds of Facebook users say they visit the Facebook page of a local business at least once a week.
A Facebook group gathers a community of like-minded people with a shared interest. “It’s a virtual 24/7 networking group,” Schaffer says. Each month, 1.8 billion people use Facebook groups, and more than half of all Facebook users are members of five or more active groups. An association should use its Facebook group — which should link to its page — to engage its members and find out what they want and need from the association.
“Facebook Groups can be incredibly powerful for building a fiercely loyal community,” Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith said in an interview last year with SocialMediaToday.
But creating your page and group is just the first step. Associations need to “feed the beast” of social media, as Schaffer puts it. And the beast craves content.
Instead of feeling they have to generate all the content themselves, associations should take a page from consumer brands and leverage user-generated content. Post your members’ content and encourage them to create more.
“It all starts with excellent content that your audience craves, that they find tremendously valuable and that they feel compelled to share with their own audiences,” Smith said. Organizations also should engage with their members by acknowledging their shares and replying to their comments, she added.
Critically, identify the influencers — the people, whether members or not, who hold sway within your association’s community and can attract more eyes to your page and group. “When you create content, focus on the people with more influence and on brand ambassadors who are more active on social media and can spread the word,” Schaffer says.
Associations also should take advantage of Facebook livestreams on their group pages, he recommends. That could involve one-on-one interviews with notable association members or influencers, perhaps on a weekly basis.
But Facebook groups shouldn’t be left to their own devices. Associations need to take a leadership role in their online groups. “The most successful Facebook groups contain robust, deliberative and often contentious discussions about topics of importance to their members and therefore require strong moderation to manage,” according to “The Power of Virtual Communities,” a recent report by the Governance Lab at New York University.
The NYU report also drew a conclusion that association leaders should note: “Online groups play a surprisingly important role in people’s lives.”
Here are five additional ways associations can make the most of their Facebook posts:
1. Bond with your members — especially your influencers.
Don’t just copy information from your newsletter and paste it into Facebook. Reach out to your members through your Facebook group, and find out what interests them and what content they want that you can provide. Form relationships with the influencers within your association and your larger industry.
“For marketing, it’s critical to have that relationship, that member advocacy,” Schaffer says. “That’s what will determine how successful you are or how big you fail.”
2. Take a tip from TikTok.
When it comes to creating content that social media algorithms prefer, short-form video is king. “Think video first,” Schaffer says. “It’s not a fad. It’s a mainstream way to communicate with other people on social media going forward.”
Start by imitating others. Look at short-form video created by other professional organizations. “Take notes, and try to replicate it,” Schaffer says.
Video doesn’t have to mean a recorded, professional-quality production. Try a short live-streamed video, which can deliver plenty of marketing punch: In the U.S., Facebook Live’s viewership jumped 50% in 2020.
Associations also can use Reels, which Facebook launched last year as its answer to TikTok. You could create a talking-head video lasting just half a minute with an association leader or member, then simply add some music in the background. “That’s the type of content that social networks crave and give more visibility to,” Schaffer says.
3. Don’t see it as a one-and-done proposition.
Live-streaming videos on Facebook gets the best organic engagement, according to Smith. “But the key here is to be consistent,” she said. “We have to ‘train’ the algorithms by broadcasting live on a regular basis — for example, once a week for a month — and then the organic reach will start to increase significantly.”
4. Rethink the LinkedIn/Facebook divide.
True, LinkedIn overall tends to be more professional while Facebook is more personal, but that distinction isn’t as strong as it once was, Schaffer finds. Associations could tweak the tone of their LinkedIn content and make it more personal when posting it onto Facebook — and vice versa. But keep in mind that LinkedIn members have been publishing more personal images and videos. Similarly, associations’ Facebook posts can blur the professional-personal divide.
5. Test an idea — then look at the data.
Start by posting the same content on both LinkedIn and Facebook, look at the analytics to see what content performs best where, and then use that to inform your choices. “Until you experiment, you don’t know,” Schaffer says.
With Group Insights, administrators of groups larger than 50 members can see real-time stats — like the number of members joining your group, the times when members are most active, who your top contributors are and what posts most interest your community. By taking a data-driven approach, you can adjust your Facebook strategy.