A recent article from NetSquared profiles best practices from environmental nonprofits’ Facebook pages. The article quotes researchers who recommend using photos (with or without overlay text), sharing links to other websites, and experimenting to find out what succeeds or fails.
Here are a few tips from my own experiences with Facebook page management. I maintain pages for multiple nonprofits and am perennially looking for new tools and resources to improve our content and engagement. Since many people are working on building reputations as social media professionals, there are plenty of publications out there on this subject.
- Be inspiring. Consistently, my posts that get the best responses are inspiring. They may be visually striking images or inspirational messages that speak to the imaginations of my audiences. For example, one of my audiences includes people who are in a stressful profession. Posting tips on relaxation and mindfulness caught their interest.
- Ask simple questions. Questions pique readers’ curiosity, but asking people to engage at a high level too quickly may discourage them. Asking questions on Facebook is like dating: would you bring out a diamond ring on the second date? Of course not. Similarly, with social media, you need to build rapport before making major requests.
- Leverage your e-mail list and website. Use e-mail to direct people to your Facebook page by mentioning exclusive content that is only available on Facebook. You can also use your website to point people toward your Facebook content.
- Have the scoop. What information do you know that your audience might want to learn? What resources are at your fingertips – or sitting in your in-box, gathering dust? What tips and ideas can you add to your social media content to make it valuable to readers?
- Be newsworthy. Tie your Facebook content in with current events, major news stories, and local announcements that will be of interest to your visitors. Keep your content timely, interesting and relevant.
Dale Carnegie’s advice holds true for social media managers: if you want to earn the respect, interest and trust of your audiences, be a good listener. Don’t talk about yourself or your organization continually. Talk about other topics of mutual interest. Share other articles. Be a good conversationalist and social media will reward you.
My father could have been a great social media professional. He is over 80 and still does not have an e-mail address. But he is an excellent networker. He keeps index cards with the contact information of people he has met, sends them news clippings that interest them, and engages in long conversations. He does all of this by snail mail and phone after an opening conversation where he learns what their interests are.
This is exactly the same approach one should take toward building connections on social media. Figure out what you can offer your audience. Share stories with them. Develop relationships through communicating about ideas, asking questions, and sharing news. Add value to their lives. Don’t assume that your organization’s updates have intrinsic interest for all your readers. Make your conversation two-way. And don’t get out the diamond ring too soon.