Facebook: But suck which and see?

Facebook: groups or pages?I’ve been asked by Ausdance WA to give some tips on Facebook for their members. Ausdance WA is a not-for-profit membership organisation providing support and advocacy for all forms of dance, so I will be using examples specific to the WA dance industry and to some core activities within the industry.

My answers will be summarised and appear in their next dancewest magazine, this post is an extension and expansion of the interview questions as it’s important to make the rationale behind some of my answers more transparent both to Ausdance WA members and to you.

Much of what I discuss are fundamentals which should guide any activity that any creative SMB undertakes, or may want to undertake on Facebook. So this post should give you a general introduction and overview of some of the things you need to consider before you create any online presence for your business/brand using Facebook.

We will cover decision points, opportunities and risks, case studies and critique in later posts but this will serve as an initial introduction, examples covered should be applicable and/or adaptable to your own activities and industry.

Questions submitted by Ausdance:

  1. Group v Page
  2. What and how often to post?
  3. Letting other people post on your page
  4. What not to post
  5. Handling public criticism

1. Group v Page

The correct answer is actually: It depends

It really does depend on what you are intending to do on Facebook and how it aligns with Facebook’s taxonomy of groups and pages.

Note – we are not discussing an individual account here. If the facebook presence for your business is an individual account (so you have friends instead of Page Likers or Group Members), then you have already allowed a village idiot to make a decision that is going to need to be resolved before you can progress on to take advantage of the capabilities and opportunities Facebook presents. There are good reasons why people like me get paid to analyse your business and your objectives and then help you execute all the steps to your online presence in the best way possible.

It is really important that the online presence for your business and its activities on Facebook in terms of individual account, group and page capabilities align with how Facebook sees those capabilities being used, because Facebook can, will and have arbitrarily make upgrades to those capabilities.

As part of the upgrade Facebook can, will and have introduced barriers to prevent online presences which don’t fit within the taxonomy for the upgrade capability. So anyone who is using a particular capability for activities which don’t align with Facebook’s taxonomy are presented with impediments that make it difficult for them to upgrade their presence to the new capability, compares to those whose use of the capabilities is in line with the taxonomy.

Some Background

This was recently demonstrated in recent changes to Facebook’s group functionality where groups were only migrated into the new format if they met the criteria for groups according to Facebook’s taxonomy:

If your old group has enough recent activity to make it a good candidate for a new group [my italics], you will see a message at the top of the group with the option to upgrade. Members of the group will see the option to ask the admin to upgrade. If you are an admin, click “Upgrade This Group” to upgrade to the new groups format. Note that it may take a few minutes or more before the content from your group is converted to the new format.

Keep in mind that the new groups format was designed to help you share with the small groups of people in your life. If you’ve been using your old group to promote your business, we recommend you create a Page instead.

(Facebook Help Centre, Old Groups: Can I convert one of my old groups into the new design?, Accessed 5 July 2011)

Yes, groups pre-date pages and it could be considered a little unfair that anyone who did set up their business presence in group format but who did not migrate into a Page format at the time of their introduction is now effectively being forced to, but those are the breaks.

Although changes can be a surprise to many people barring the most avid of Facebook-watchers, at the end of the day we use their channel entirely at their discretion. We do need abide by the terms of service and ensure our take up of capabilities is in line with Facebook’s manifesto for them, if not we will have to deal with the consequences.

Consider the fact: when Facebook introduces new features and upgrades (when they introduced pages in 2007, when they upgraded groups in 2010), it does generally seem to be to ensure that our usage of the capabilities align with the core activities Facebook define for those capabilities.

The purpose of pages and groups according to Facebook:

  • Pages enable public figures, businesses, organizations and other entities to create an authentic and public presence on Facebook….every person on Facebook, can connect with these Pages by becoming a fan and then receive their updates in your News Feed and interact with them.
    Authenticity is at the core of Facebook. Just as profiles should represent real people and real names, so too should Pages for entities. Only the official representatives of a public figure, business or organization should create a Facebook Page.
  • Groups are the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion. Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content.

(Facebook Blog, Facebook Tips: What’s the difference between a Facebook Page and Group, accessed 5 July 2011)

For an arts specific translation, you might also want to read Kate Foy’s post on the connectarts blog: Facebook: Pages vs Groups

And the end of the day, Facebook is Facebook’s playground, not ours. And when you play in their playground, you have to abide by their rules about what play equipment you use and how you use it or you will face time out in the naughty corner.

What next?

With that in mind, you need to identify your planned activities and assess which capability, group or page, those activities fit into.

This should be something you do before you set anything up on Facebook to ensure you focus your energy on the most appropriate Facebook capabilities for your intended activities and outcomes.

I would suggest this needs to be done as part of a future-proofing proces to ensure you are positioned so that your online presence will transition gracefully when (not if, when) future additions, updates or developments are made to any of the Facebook capabilities.

Use of one, does not preclude use of another

Keeping in mind, that I am specifically writing this post to answer some questions for Ausdance WA’s dancewest publication; organisations and businesses within that industry tend to have a complex set of different core business activities:

  • A dance school may want to engage with its parents and students (and perhaps recruit new students) as a brand but they may also want to separately nurture and support students within specific streams of dance within their school (classical, spanish, contemporary…etc)
  • A dance company will want to recruit future audience members to its performances and attract potential sponsors but internally they may want to set up a place where the dancers, choreographers, costume department and  musicians , either involved in a specific project/performance or across the company at large; can communicate and share content online that relates to that project/performance but is not at that point for public consumption

If we consider the online presence for these two examples, we see that that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t serve either set of activities well.

Yes, each company in the example above needs a page presence, to represent the public facing components of their brand and activities.

However there may also be scope/need/opportunity for a group or set of groups that serve their internal audiences. In terms of the example above consider the opportunities which may open to each business if, in addition to the public facing page aimed at recruiting audience/student/sponsorship prospects, they also:

  • (the dance school) set up group(s) for each dance discipline, where dance students in that particular stream and their teachers can share information and interact around their specific dance practice – extra practice opportunities, ad hoc suggestions and tips, reminders and even links to youtube videos that might assist some of the students in the class
  • (the dance company) creates a group(s) to support and faciliate its internal community of dance and performance practice, where dancers, choreographers,  musicians, set and costume designers can share content relating to the development of  a project(s)/performance(s), storyboarding ideas and content along the way

Obviously as the organisation/business in question, you will have a greater understanding of both your public facing activities and your internal facing ones, but this will hopefully serve to whet your appetite and start you thinking about which of Facebooks capabilities you can leverage and how…

2. What and how often to post?

Leaving aside groups as they are an internal community where anyone can post (I would still suggest you should identify a designated interal “manager/mentor” who oversees the interactions of the group, takes up any commentary that needs to go elsewhere, ensures content meets your legal/company guidelines and obligations and who may add content not covered by group members), let’s look specifically at Facebook pages in relation to this question.

I would suggest that “what, how often and when to post?” to Facebook is probably a better question in that respect.

What?

The accepted rule of thumb (examples explaining: 1, 2 and 3)is that 80% of posts to your page should be on message to the requirements of your fan base. So they should specifically serve the reason why your Likers have liked your page (not your business, your page).

These posts can be a mix of:

  • functional to meet your Likers’s needs (not to your business): content about performances, events and your business that your Likers specifically want to see
  • fun/communal/inspiration/imagination: content that will incite interest and interaction, inspire and add value to your Likers but which doesn’t translate into an immediate value to your own business activity

This has quite a good summary of the different types of content you can post within that 80%.

The other 20% of your posts can be utilitarian to your business in that these posts specifically targetted to meet an identified business goal, activity or need; such as recruiting new students or audience members, reminding parents of correspondence they should have recieved and need to act on, advance notifications of term start dates, changes to pricing/class times and etc.

You should also take advantage of the great work of people like Dan Zarella who drill down into the science of posting and sharing on social media. He examines posting to Facebook at a granular level, to identify even the words used in your post which may mean your content is more likely to be shared (engaged with) and what words may mean it is less likely to be shared.

In all instances, you should be setting yourself up to measure the effectiveness of each of your posts specific to the audience you are talking to. You can do this by measuring comments on posts (the number and the sentiment, +ve or -ve), people who liked the post and click throughs on links provided.

This is how and where you see what content you post is effective and successful in meeting the needs of the people who liked your page and what they want from you.

Furthermore, if/when you see that one type of content or post is being engaged with more by the Likers on your page, then you should be writing/sharing more content that is similar and, in so far as it is possible, adapting your functional and utilitarian content to reflect the popular c0ntent style.

Something to consider: Consider people who like your Facebook page (Likers) in relation to that age old sales rule: out of 20 prospects you might get 2 purchases.

In which case the amount of Likers you have on your page may potentially translate into a dollar value in the real world in terms of increased audience/student numbers, class sizes and etc.

Furthermore, how you effectively energise those Likers may actually weight the likelihood of their attachement to you translating into a dollar value beyond the sales rule norm, either directly or indirectly.

How often (frequency)

Dan Zarella suggests pages who post every other day get more Likers, with the accepted rule of thumb being:

  • no less than 2 posts per week but no more than 5 posts per week (there are outliers)
  • no more than two posts per day

This is informed by data measurement and analysis (1 and 2), but there are outliers and as users’ behaviour patterns change, the rules of thumb may/can/will change.

Remembering that you want your Likers to interact with your content and share your content,with the ultimate aim being to grow the number of people who like your page, who are likely to be potential dance students/audience members/sponsors.

At the end of they day, the rule of thumb may not be reflective of the specific needs of your page Likers or potential Likers, so it is important for you to monitor and measure the frequency of your posts and what affect it has on your page audience (are they no longer commenting/liking/sharing posts, have they opted to unlike your page?)

Facebook does provide an analysis tool for page admins, Facebook Insights, to facilitate this and to inform your activities on your pages. Mashable has an excellent beginner’s guide for Facebook Insights.

When (Timing)

The timing of when you post is also important. Again,  Dan Zarella has measured and analysed posts and timings to identify the times of day and days of the week when it most effective to post content. Obviously, the point I made when I discussed frequency of posting also applies here: as users’ behaviour patterns change the rules of thumb may/can/will change.

Although Zarella’s posts are a fantastic guide and make the importance of things like frequency and timing apparent in very real and very simple terms, you need to remember that other factors can affect this at your level. Other contributing factors may include:

  • regional differences: there are differences between a global/US audience and a local/Perth/WA audience
  • industry/customer base differences: the sharing behaviours and uptake of your own Likers has to potential to differ to those of different industries and/or companies

Again, it is really important that you start measuring the effectiveness of your own postings based on frequency and timing, to narrow down (and eventually identify) times of the day and days of the week when it is most effective to post content that you really want your fan base to read.

3. Letting other people post on your page

If you didn’t want to interact with people, you wouldn’t be on Facebook. Accept that your Likers are going to post on your page and embrace it. If you don’t want that then you should have set up a website, not a Facebook page.

Facebook pages facilitate you developing an amazing sense of community and engagement you can develop as an organisation with your internal and external stakeholders.

Part of that sense of community is an understanding and respect for the reciprocity of that process – just as you can engage with your stakeholders, they can engage with you. This isn’t a threat or a bad thing, it is an opportunity.

Over time, you may find:

  • Amazing advocates and champions of your work that you were never aware of
  • That your Likers are able to post answers to common questions, taking some of the workload off you
  • That the content of your page acts as a tool to deal with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) so you are able to use your time and content more effectively, rather than answering the same queries over and over again
  • You may find amateur photographers and reviewers who are eager to celebrate what they like about your work and share their content, to inform your community

To ensure you are respecting that reciprocal process and engaging with the people who really want to engage with you (not just like your page, they want to talk to you), I would suggest you make sure you have:

  • set your page preferences to display both your own posts and those of others so everyone can see them
  • a customer relationship structure in place to answer questions or acknowledge comments and content put to you by your Likers.
    That means acknowledging any commentary preferably within the same day (could be something as simple as liking their comment) with a 24 hr maximum  turn around on all queries
  • a crisis management scenario in place to address/act on/respond to/deal with negative commentary. Chances are you have already dealt with crises offline, so you should be able to brainstorm or workshop possible issues and develop a set of processes/outcomes for each.
    Hopefully you won’t ever need it, but if you do ever need it then you do not want to have to spend time when it will be at its most precious trying to work out what to do next as opposed to following a process or example process that is as idiot-proofed as you can make it.

4. What not to post

Anything that breaches copyright, privacy, intellectual property or trade practice laws and this duty includes monitoring content that is posted on your page by your audience.

Offline laws apply online too

A recent case by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd for misleading representation, which included testimonials written by customers on the company’s Facebook page and Twitter, was successful.

Addison Lawers have summarised this case, the outcome of the case and suggested future actions for anyone with an online presences within social media in a Focus Paper (Accessed 5 July 2011). In summary they write:

This case serves as a reminder to businesses which market via social media such as Facebook and Twitter, that social media is also regulated by consumer protection laws and that all representations made via a branded Facebook or Twitter page, even those made by members of the general public, come under the scrutiny of the ACCC and can potentially amount to breaches of the law.

(Addison Lawyers Competition and Trade Practices Update March 2011, accessed 5 July 2011)

More generalist content-to-avoid guidelines

Whatever you post should reflect you are part of a conversation, it should not be a PR release. I’d suggest also reading a post I pointed you towards earlier in terms of the 80/20 rule of content and that there’s a book about content and interactions called Social Media Is A Cocktail Party: Why You Already Know The Rules Of Social Media Marketing. [Disclaimer – I am trialling Amazon Associates so that link take you to Amazon where you can buy the product, but it will also earn me a teensy amount for referring it.]

In terms of general content rules:

  • there are words and types of posts which mean your content is less likely to be shared. Again Dan Zarella is my go-to resource as he has measured at the least shareable words on facebook
  • anything not on brand in terms of: unprofessional posts or negativity. This is your company page, not an excuse for a pity party
  • anything that breaches netiquette (all caps = SHOUTING)
  • any abbreviation you haven’t first checked in urban dictionary. Here is an example of someone posting without checking and why it would have been good to check. Thatis someone’s personal status update which has been circulating and they have had to live down since 2008.

I would also suggest looking at your own friends status updates and identify what you don’t like about their posts and avoid sharing content that is similar.  You will probably find different examples dependent on your tolerance levels and friend demongraphics in your own streams 😉

I would suggest content to avoid would include:

  • Passive aggressive posts: you don’t want to deal with it in real life, why would you want to deal with it from a business you follow?
  • Constant poor little me posts: the friend who wants to tell you how terrible their life is in every single way in every single post. I don’t want to know how terrible your life is, especially if the topic may change but the attitude is always the same – if complaint is the constant, that says to me the problem is you and not the situation you are currently posting about. If I have reservations about attending your pity party as a friend, why would I want to come to your pity party for your business?
  • Constant chain letter posts: the friend whose every other post calls for you to “Post this in your status because your socks are red/today is tuesday or some other empheral reason”. Fine, well and good if it is a one-off post for a social/community campaign…but constant calls to share? No thank you.

5. Handling public criticism

At the end of the day, your  facebook page gives people who come into contact with your business or its activities another place to make commentary or have a conversation about your business and those activities – either with you or with other consumers of your business.

It’s important to note that this is commentary/conversation that they would already be having about you via other means – face to face / phone / instant messaging / in their own feeds and so on.

Yes, you could create a website that doesn’t allow commentary and avoid having to deal with the conversation for now, but the act of creating a website doesn’t take you out of that conversation. It simply enables you to continue the beautiful illusion that conversation about your business activities is not already happening around you.

The golden rule of dealing with criticism

In terms of how you react and deal with criticism or negative commentary you receive – you need to handle it actively, positively and sustainably:

  • Actively: do not bury your head in the sand or avoid it, you have received this criticism for a reason, now it is time to acknowledge it, address the causes for it and respond to it as appropriate
  • Positively: ensure that you handle it objectively, without heat and without aggravating the situation – it is possible that the person submitting the criticim is not the only one who feels this way, although they may be the only one who has expressed so far
  • Sustainably: your likers don’t need to be made to feel the uncomfortable third wheel in an argument and if you shut the commentary down when there are more people who are dissatisfied then you may create a lightning rod situation where more of the express their dissatisfaction.

You do need to address any criticism in a way that does not turn off any of the other people who like your page and you will need to behave with reference to the fact that every single one of your fans can see this criticism and your response(s) played out on the page.

The ROYGBIV of criticism

Generally, criticism and negative commentary or sentiment can be split into the following  spectrum:

  • Subjective: personal opinion based entirely on taste (given that it is subjective, you might find other members of your fan base shut this down or provide alternative contributions which ameliorate it)
  • Warranted: based on a flaw or issue that does need to be acknowledged and addressed (by you)
  • Whinging: you will never please them, but chances are they will never go anywhere else
  • Trolling: baiting you to see if you will bite (you will have to proactively manage your page 7 days a week if you have one of these posting to your page)

I use the word spectrum because it is possible for commentary to have tints of some of the other colours in the commentary spectrum.

It is also possible that, over time and with the guidance you provide in your reactions to negative critiques that you educate the whingers and shut down the trolls [you…or some of the more active and engaged Likers on your page (mischevious smile)].

Anyone can accept a compliment, not everyone can accept criticism

You might find that criticism your likers submit for your consideration is not directed at your business nor your business activities – they like you enough to engage with your page, after all. Instead you might find that the commentary is a result of the landscape you conduct your activities within: lighting, seating arrangements, pricing or somesuch.

Chances are, what you experience with criticism online is what you already experience after a performance, class, term or other event. You probably already know the personalities of your critics and some of what they will say, it’s just now they can say it to you online, in front of many other people who may (or who may not) share their opinion.

Take a teaspoon of concrete and…

To respond to criticism actively, positively and sustainably, you will  need to consider developing a taxonomy for commentary and criticism in order to become resilient and objective to commentary.

In some cases you may need need to grow a thicker skin. You are inserting yourself into a conversation that is already going on around you and engaging with it, you don’t get to call the shots and you don’t get to control what is said – your jurisdiction and control begins and ends with the following:

  • your business
  • your business activities
  • how you engage with
  • how you respond to and deal with (and in some cases rise above) criticism

There are strategies and methods for monitoring bandwidth on your business (positive or negative) which can assist in identifying and planning for times/activities where online commentary may amp up (e.g. pricing changes, venue issues and etc) and for dealing with criticism but these will have to wait for later posts.

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  1. […] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd case mentioned in Facebook: but suck which and see? where misleading representation included testimonials written by customers on the company’s […]

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