Taking control of Facebook

Picture the digital scene: You’re checking out your friend’s new offspring on Facebook, have just posted a witty comment and you’ve still got a couple of minutes to spare.

You spot that a friend has liked a brand you know and you trust so you think ‘I’ll do the same’.

You take a look at the page, see the brand name and hit ‘like’ without really thinking. But you then take a closer look and you’re not very keen on what you see. Fear not, it’s not going to interfere with my newsfeed…or so you think.

You see, the brand regularly provides new content. And a feed has been created to populate the brand’s Facebook page. And those updates are beginning to dominate your newsfeed.

The first part of the above is probably very easy to imagine; the second part probably not so because it’s not what brands tend to do on Facebook.

Our Facebook pages were drab. We’ve added cover photos – some chosen by our Facebook audience – to prove that we’re taking them seriously.

However, it is actually what our brands within Archant Anglia (except for the odd exceptions) were doing.

No manual posts, no engagement with a considerable audience – well, I would count 20,000+ across our Anglia titles as a considerable audience – and, worst of all, not even any checking or managing of the pages.

It wasn’t good enough so we set about making changes.

I have now taken a number of our offices through a Facebook presentation which details stats on usage of the platform – things like 1 in 6 page views in the UK being on Facebook, a time spent on site per day of 22 minutes (as of end of 2011) and it being the second biggest referrer of traffic behind only Google.

Across our Anglia platforms, Facebook – with very little activity on our part – accounts for about two-thirds of our social media referrals. This surprised a number of staff.

Because Twitter fits into a journalist’s workflow much easier, more of our activity – a huge amount more in fact – has taken place on Twitter so a lot of staff made the assumption that it would drive a lot more traffic to our sites. Not so.

With a bit of Edgerank explanation – and the excellent Steve Buttry does a much better job than I ever could of explaining the importance of getting that right – and a few examples of good practice, I then set the teams off on their merry way.

All staff have genuinely been enthusiastic and willing to learn a lot more about what they can do for their Facebook audiences.

This is one of a series of photos taken of a van on fire. It’s just one example of how we’re trying to increase engagement with our audience.

As I see it, there are four main reasons for not only running Facebook pages alongside our websites and newspapers, but managing them and using them wisely:

1. Driving engagement. This is the most important one for me. We want our audience to play a major role in what we do and that doesn’t mean just giving them the opportunity to comment on a web story. It means valuing responses, genuinely wanting to listen and facilitating conversations around our content. Our audience can – and should – make our journalism better.

2. Increasing referral traffic. Pretty straightforward but we are looking to increase our traffic and our Facebook pages can support that strategy.

3. Brand presence. We want to have a place in the world’s biggest social arena.

4. Customer service. Providing access to us via Facebook pages allows our audience to ask us questions, interact with our content and tell us when something isn’t right. All hugely important to us.

The result is that our approach to our Facebook pages has changed. We’re seeking engagement and interaction, we’re listening, we’re providing customer support and, hopefully, we’re steadily building communities that can talk to each other.

Next time: How we’re connecting with our audiences via our Facebook pages.

Do you agree with the above? Have you got other techniques that work? Please feel free to leave your comment below.

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