Facebook posts are not all created equal. If you're in business, and you're using Facebook to develop a community of long-term customers who will bring you repeat business, you've got to learn to make posts that, well, mean business. I spoke with Jeff French, CEO and Founder of LoudDoor, to learn more about the concept of "EdgeRank" and how it influences whether or not your friends will actually see your Facebook posts.
You may not realize it, but the Facebook posts you see in your news feed are only the ones labeled by Facebook (using the EdgeRank formula) as "Top News." Unless you click on "Most Recent," you'll miss some recent posts, which might come from family or friends, but which have a lower EdgeRank. For a marketer, one important task is to understand EdgeRank and use it to get more posts fall into the "Top News" category.
LoudDoor discovered how to use EdgeRank not only to build followers, but to more effectively market businesses on Facebook, by creating a series of 30 niche Facebook pages since the company was formed by French and co-founder Dikran Yacoubian in 2008. "We wanted to be the Conde Nast of Facebook," explains French, referring to the magazine publisher. LoudDoor certainly proved it could attract large numbers of followers. Together, those 30 Facebook sites have 20 million fans. MakingBirdies, a site for golfers, has 262,000 followers. Being Mommy, a site for mothers, has 683,000 people who "like" it.
Those numbers seem impressive, but the figures that really matter, French emphasizes, are the numbers of customers who will spend regularly and generously on your products and services. Using the knowledge gained from those niche sites, LoudDoor provides consulting to Fortune 1000 companies on how to market themselves more effectively using the world's most popular social networking site. It provides a "newsfeed optimization platform" to make posts deliver more customers, better customers, and hopefully, more purchases. (LoudDoor focuses exclusively on Facebook, but will expand to LinkedIn in 2012.)
While EdgeRank appears to be as complex and secretive a formula as Google's PageRank (the algorithm used to determine placement in Google search results), much of what LoudDoor does involves tried-and-true business practices: identify your brand message, identify your ideal customers, and take that message to those customers.
"If we can build them a Facebook page that has more qualified buyers, and if we can make a higher percentage of their audience match their desired customer, that improves the company's ROI," says French. "We take the Facebook ROI challenge head-on."
LoudDoor focuses on bringing the best customers to the business, rather than tailoring the message to the customers. "We don't focus on tailoring the content to the customers. Companies already know what they want to say. We take the message they already have, and use it consistently in Facebook posts. The focus is on getting your followers to talk to one another, to be a tight-knit community, because this has an effect on EdgeRank."
Here are some specific tips French passed along on how businesses can improve their Facebook marketing:
Should a company spend its marketing resources on driving people to their website or to Facebook?
If you want to sell to a customer one time, it is better to drive them to your website. If you are looking for repeat business, drive them to Facebook, where you can have constant communication. The best one-two punch is to make them a Facebook fan, then encourage them to go to your website.
How can small online sellers design a Facebook post that will get lots of comments?
Getting people to talk about your brand is good. Getting people to feel a connection about your brand is good. But we don't stop there. The question is, does your post translate into more dollars? Find the message your ideal customer will resonate with. You don't want the guy who will buy once and never engage with the brand again. You want the guy who will spend $500. Tell people how your product helps them enjoy their passion.
If I were to give one tip to people on a limited budget, it would be to take a data-driven approach to how to improve their Facebook marketing. Think about Facebook Sponsored Stories. The important thing is to the friends of your existing fans to "like" you and get involved."
Note: Facebook Sponsored Stories include "sponsored likes" and "sponsored posts" - content that can be sent to narrowly targeted groups of people, such as the friends of your existing fans. If someone "likes" you, for instance, and you've signed up for Sponsored Stories, Facebook places a post in the News Feed of all of that person's friends. In addition, a mention of the "like" goes in the right-hand column of those friends' Facebook pages.
What are one or two things marketers need to know about EdgeRank?
EdgeRank gives you an opportunity to engage more people. Engagement is more important than just a person who is getting comments on a post. Getting 200 people to comment on a post is not enough. It's getting those people to engage with their friends.
Also, marketers need to acknowledge that EdgeRank is difficult to achieve. Brand expectations have to be scaled. Not all posts will get in Top News. It is a matter of moving from one percent to 5% of posts in Top News.
You can get ideas from checking the Facebook posts of LoudDoor's clients, which include GM, Activision, and Bridgestone Tires. On the Bridgestone site, you have to click "Like" before you gain access to any content. Many posts point viewers to the company website. There is a Facebook contest. And many of the posts come not from Bridgestone, but from its customers. Bridgestone responds to all questions and comments on virtually all posts, creating dialogues with its fans.
Jeff French sees Facebook as transformative, "the most disruptive channel since the telephone. It changes the way people consume information. For marketers, if you don't participate in social media, you're going to get left behind. Every marketer will face these challenges; we think we are closer to having the answer than anyone else."