I am one of the 22M ZARA fans (22,747,034 at the time when I am publishing this post). With more than 2000 stores worldwide, brand value over $9.4 billion as on November 2013, Zara is known for its ability to develop a new product and get it to stores within two weeks, while other fashion retailers take more than 6 months.
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But I get amazed when I see their Facebook posts in my newsfeed. I get amazed because even a company of this size and so much resources seems to be struggling when it comes to publishing consistently good Facebook posts for their over 22 million fans.
What’s wrong with this post? There are many things that don’t look quite right to me:
- There is no image caption, but a mess of hashtags
- There is no brand logo in the picture itself
- Poorly moderated comments
- The ‘thursday’ text will not be visible on a small Smart Phone screen
- Non branded Bitl.ly URL
The above Zara post may be good for those who’re blind in their love for the brand and want to take every opportunity to publicly express it. But that’s a minority group. Most Facebook users are not like that. An average Facebook user likes more pages than his/her capacity to consume the information that flows into their news feed from the pages they like. There is always a lot of content that’s streaming in to their newsfeed shouting for their attention and even the best content can get lost in so much noise.
So I thought it will be worth my time to put together a list of best practices that online fashion retailers can follow to publish the kind of Facebook posts that breed engagement and exposure for your brand on Facebook.
How Facebook’s Newsfeed Works?
Edge Rank But before we talk about best practices, let’s talk about Facebook EdgeRank. If you know what edge rank is, feel free to skip this paragraph. But if you don’t, please don’t kick yourself for all time and effort you have spent in promoting your brand on Facebook without knowing how Facebook works. And btw, I know Facebook doesn’t uses the word EdgeRank (no it’s not dead) anymore, but for lack of a better word and since it’s still an algorithm, let’s just continue calling it EdgeRank.
Facebook uses this algorithm to only show relevant content to a user in his / her newsfeed. It’s because of this algorithm, a brand’s future visibility on Facebook depends on its current engagement levels –
- comments, likes, shares on the current posts
- user’s past interactions with the author
- user’s interactions with that post type in the past
- reactions from other users for that particular post
- complaints or negative feedback on that post
Because of EdgeRank, the amount of exposure that Facebook gives to your post depends on user’s response to the current and previous post. There is another thing called randomizer that makes sure that occasionally we see content from someone, we haven’t spoken to for years. It keeps randomizing the content and helps Facebook keep its fresh, surprising and valuable to its users.
What does it take to build an engaging Facebook audience? Conventional wisdom says – hire a creative team that can produce high quality content on an on-going basis and you’re all sorted to build an engaging content. ’High Quality Content’ is obviously an important thing that you need to create engaging content but not the only thing you need. Let’s talk about things you need to produce stories that are engaging and give your brand real exposure on Facebook.
1) Let’s not consider it just content I see a problem with using the word ‘content’ in the social context – the problem is that it’s too generic. In social media, a piece of content is either engaging or nothing. I believe you should start using the word ‘story’ more often as you talk about social content. Why the word story? Because:
- stories are interesting
- they make us think
- they’re memorable
- stories are unexpected
- we can relate to them
- we feel compelled to share them with others
And that’s what your content needs to be to do well on Facebook or any social platform. So next time, when you’re discussing your social strategy with your team, try to use the word ‘story’ more often.
2) Use Self explanatory photos This Wishpond’s study says that photo posts on Facebook receive 120% more engagement than the average text / link post, and if something that’s shared with compelling images in photo albums get 180% more engagement. Infact, photo posts account for 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook. Another study suggests that get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts.
3) Keep it real People use Facebook to stay in touch with people they know, and can relate to. Thus as a Fashion brand, it’s extremely important that you post pictures that your fans can relate to. If you’re only posting pretty-pretty faces, you will not get as much engagement as you would with images of your real people, your customers wearing your clothes.
And stock images are a big no no. Our eyes today are well trained to figure out if it’s a real or stock image. Just remember that a thoughtful picture taken by your customer from her average smartphone will create more brand value on Facebook than a perfectly shot and edited stock image.
4) Optimize your image sizes to generate great previews On Facebook, you should use images that are at least 1200 x 630 pixels for the best display on high resolution devices. If it’s a really small image, you should use images that are at least 600 x 315 pixels to display link page posts with larger images. If your image is smaller than 600 x 315 px, it will still display in the link page post, but the size will be much smaller.
In case of link page posts, the aspect ratio for images is the same across desktop and mobile News Feed. Try to keep your images as close to 1.91:1 aspect ratio as pouch as ossible to display the full image in News Feed without any cropping.
5) Use Logo in your Facebook visuals Using logo in your Facebook visuals is debatable. In my opinion, putting your logo on your Facebook page is ok but the only downside of it is that it commercializes the story.
If you’re not putting your logo in the image, it’s fine; people can still see who posted the picture. And if you absolutely have to do it, make sure your graphic designer does a great job with it. The rule of thumb here is that your logo should look as part of the visuals and it should be embedded in the image in a way that the primary focus should always be on the image and then on the logo, not otherwise.
How does a perfect Facebook Post description looks like?
Does’t matter how compelling your image is, if the image description / caption doesn’t makes sense to the user, it will not generate the kind engagement that you would expect from your Facebook post. People want to quickly know the story behind the image and if you can’t do it in the shortest amount of time, they will scroll over. The ideal Facebook post description is the one that supports the image / video to generate curiosity to know more and entices to click on the call to action.
6) Keep your caption small (under 250 characters is sweet) Writing smaller posts isn’t just helpful on Twitter. Studies suggest that shorter posts get 23% more interaction. Keeping your posts below 250 characters can get you as much as 60% more engagement than otherwise. And the engagement can go further up to 66% more, if you cut your text down to less than 80 characters.
Having said, it’s not a hard and fast rule. If you know that the story is compelling and will make people read on, feel free to use longer posts. But in case of longer post, you may want to place the call to action link at the beginning instead towards the ending.
7) It’s OK ‘not’ to use Hashtags in every post We saw in the Zara example at the start of this post that sometimes brands tend to carried away with hashtags. Their caption is nothing but a mess of hashtags. Hashtags are great but they don’t guarantee more exposure for your brand on Facebook and using too many hashtags, especially the less relevant ones can make you look unthoughtful and desperate for attention. So, I’d suggest that you should take care while using hashtags that you don’t over do them.
8) Use a branded call to action There should be a clear message in your post, a clear call to action. What is that you want your customer to do as he or she looks at the post. You can increase the click through rate of your call to action links by showing your fans branded short URLs, instead of a standard Bit.ly URLs, for example: ASOS: http://asos.to/WbeBuj, Burberry: brby.co/1j3, Nastygal: http://nsty.gl/ etc. To create a branded short URL, you can follow these simple steps in your bit.ly account.
9) Use emoticons in your posts Emoticons can help you optimize the engagement level of your Facebook stories. According to AMEX OPEN Forum infographic, posts with emoticons not only get 33% more comments, they also get shared 33% more often and receive 57% more likes than posts without emoticons.
10) It’s not only about your brand Perfect story is created from a brand’s heritage, competitor’s history, what’s going on in the world and what your customers want to talk about. However, what many retailers don’t realize is that their social content doesn’t only revolves around their brand. If you look at their timeline, their posts are like – ‘about us’, ‘about us’, ‘about us’, ‘about us’…‘about you’, whereas what’s required is that the social content should be – ‘about you’, ‘about you’, ‘about you’, ‘about you’, ‘about us’. If you start talking more about content that’s geared towards your customers and less about yourself, you will notice that more fans will start listening and responding.
11) Engagement rates on Thursday and Friday are 18% higher If we believe this Buddymedia’s study, engagement rates for Facebook are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays. Although they did vary, most of them sat around the end of the week, from Wednesday-Friday. Apparently no industry has users that are engaged on Mondays or Tuesdays! – “the less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook.”
12) Start posting more posts in question formats The other way is to trigger engagement on your Facebook posts is to ask questions in the image captions. As per this another study by Kissmetrics, Facebook posts in question format get 100% more comments than standard text posts. Having said that, the following study from HubSpot suggests that Facebook posts in question format often gets fewer likes and shares than other post types. Here are the question words that trigger more comments – ‘should,’ ‘would,’ ‘which,’ and ‘who.’
13) Gamify your posts – make them compete This report suggests earlier that as much as 35% users like Facebook pages just to enter into contests. Thus you can expect more fan engagement, if you publish contest related posts and solicit interaction by asking for people to enter into the contest. For example, ’caption this photo’ type of contests bring in 5.5 times more comments than other Facebook posts. This data from Socially Stacked suggests that 42% of Facebook users like a page in order to get a discount coupon. Giveaways and sweepstakes are other format of posts that can engage your fans. As per this Buddymedia’s report, Facebook users pay a lot more attention when your post contains words, such as winner, win, entry, contest, enter, promotion etc.
How to create killer Facebook posts?
14) Know the typical habits and behavior of your fans As an online retailer, you need to have a deep realization that every social platform is unique and is used by unique set of people for unique objectives. Content on Social Media can never be universal. If a GIF gets thousands of reblogs and likes on Tumblr, it doesn’t mean that the same GIF will produce same engagement on Facebook. GIFs don’t excite people on Facebook as much as they do people on Tumblr.
To be able to create a winning Social content strategy for any platform, including Facebook, it’s extremely important that you first understand the user’s behavior, habits and psychology of the users when they’re using that platform.
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself:
- Why are users using this social platform?
- What kind of content people like on this platform?
- When do they use it most?
- What are the other things they may be doing while using social platform on their mobile – watching TV, traveling on the road, working in their office etc?
- What is the tone of voice that’s more appreciated on the platform?
- What is the core objective of most people who use the platform – shopping discovery, to know what their friends are doing, to know what’s happening outside their own network, to know what’s trending, to look for reasons to laugh etc.
- What is the speed at which they consume information on the platform?
- Is your typical fan a mom, daughter, both, a student, likely to work at 9-5 job? etc
We usually know the answer to the above questions. For instance, we know that people use Twitter to stay updated with the news & trends on the move and that we use Facebook to know what people in their personal network are doing, how they’re feeling, what’s influencing them etc. But we’re not using this data / understanding of the user behavior when we publish posts on various social networks.
For example – when scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I mostly don’t click on a video that’s longer than 2 minutes. However, if it’s a quick 15 sec. video, there are increased chances that I will watch that video. And now when I share a 5 minute video about my brand with my Fans on Facebook and if people don’t engage with it, I shouldn’t be surprised about it.
And since most of the people on Facebook are like me (they’re using Facebook mostly on their mobile and don’t have time to watch longer videos) and engage with smaller videos, Facebook’s algorithm automatically gives 15 sec Facebook videos more visibility in its news feed. And on the other hand, when I go to Youtube, I like to watch longer videos.
So, as a brand, you will show smaller videos to your Facebook fans and longer videos to your Youtube subscribers. Thus, you may hire the best creative team in the world and produce really awesome story but if you don’t understand the social platform and customize your story as per unique nature of the social channel, the content will not generate its highest potential engagement.
How to Promote a Facebook Post / Story?
Promoting a Facebook post as a sponsored story is a great way for you to expose it to a wider audience outside your fan base. The way Facebook works is that it makes engaging content cheaper to promote and the un-engaging content expensive. Facebook does it by rewarding great content in terms of organic exposure for the value it adds to the Facebook’s newsfeed section for its users.
For example, If you promote a post as a sponsored story about the dresses you sell and a Facebook fan whose name is Emily likes it, next time when you post another story about dresses, since Facebook knows that Emily likes dress related content, it will automatically show more dresses related stories from you to Emily with out you having to pay extra dollars for it.
When you decide to promote something on Facebook, it decides how much the competition is willing to pay for the same audience. You won’t necessarily pay that amount though because if your content is engaging, Facebook might decide to show your ad more than your competitors because it’s more engaging.
15) Target your audience, test and then promote While posting stories, many Fashion Retailers don’t use Facebook’s targeting feature, they show everything to everyone. While this is fine if your story is generic for example – company announcement; but if it’s only relevant to a particular segment, it’s better to only show it to them.
An engaging Facebook post may require hours of experimentation and observation. Before you invest in sponsored stories, it pays to test the story with your existing fans. For example, if you have posted a Facebook story about handbags, it doesn’t make sense to show it to someone who is 50 years old man who visited your website to buy a leather wallet. By only speaking to a target audience for a story, you can achieve higher engagement and ensure in the longer run that that your edge rank remains up.
You have to keep on experimenting and creating new ways of storytellings and testing it with different subsets of your audience. You might need to experiment with slangs, timing, how does same image works with different taglines, did it make any difference when you used hashtag, does an animated gif create more engagement, etc. With testing, you can figure out which copy, which visuals will work best for which audience. If you have enough fans, you can test your post with your existing fan base. If you don’t have sufficient fan base for testing, you can use Facebook dark posts to test 2 to 5 version of the same post to make sure which performs best.
And then, when you know which posts is creating most engagement, you can pour in more money into promoting that post and get the biggest bang for your buck.
The best part of Facebook is that it doesn’t lets you spend more than what your content is worth. If people don’t engage with your post, it will let you know and ask you to make changes in it to make valuable to the Facebook users.
Let’s look at some examples now:
(click on the image to enlarge) What we like about this post:
- The image caption is in a question format
- Small and Crisp text in the caption
- They’re listening and responding to almost every comment
- It’s product centric post
- They have tagged the shoe manufacturer in the post
- Small 46 sec video
- Crisp description on the right hand side
- Keywords – ‘discover’, ‘behind the’ are generating curiosity
What we didn’t like about this post:
- What is a fan supposed to do after watching the video? A call to action link is missing the in the description
- It’s a Small 9 sec video
- Small & crisp video description
What we didn’t like about this post:
- There is no call to action
- Poor comment moderation
- Product images are uploaded in an album to maximize engagement
- Crisp caption
What we didn’t like about this post:
- They have used non-branded Bit.ly URLs instead of a branded short URL
- They’re among few Fashion brands on Facebook who are actively inserting their logos in all their images
- With image caption, they’re asking a question / seeking opinion
- Same image is there on hm.com home page sliding banner
- All the comments are responded by H&M in the same language
What we didn’t like about this post:
- H&M has also used Bit.ly URLs instead of a branded short URL
- They have mentioned two names and it’s not very clear whether it’s name of the models in the pictures, designers or someone else
To be able to publish engaging posts on Facebook you need to first develop a deep understanding of the behavior, habits, likes and dislikes of your fans as they engage with your brand on Facebook. Once you do that, you can then use the tips and tricks in this article to create and publish engaging posts not only for your fans, but also to reach a wider audience outside your fan base.