How to get people talking about you on Facebook
The picture that changed everything for Emma O’Connell (left) was of a tree made of stone. Since May 5th, when the 35-year-old farmer and entrepreneur posted that offbeat image on her Pick-a-Pepper Facebook page, it has drawn 1,941 “likes,” 191 comments, and an astonishing 4,226 “shares.” In short, pure Facebook gold. Culled from a favorite blog, the photo helped turn O’Connell’s page into among the very few that has almost as many people “talking about it” as it does “likes.”
It also cemented a strategy O’Connell has been experimenting with since she launched her local food guide last fall. She switched from strictly farm-based images – animals, produce, and pleas for taking local food seriously – to a set of quirky, crafty natural phenomenon, such as chickens crossing a river (above), or objets d’art in natural settings, like chairs made of stones or a still life of heirloom tomatoes. “I’ve learned to give people what they want,” says O’Connell, who lives in Rocheport, Missouri and now saves her political comments for her personal page.
In search of chat sessions
Every business is trying to figure out how to get noticed and Facebook doesn’t make it easy. Gathering page “likes” is hard and most brands rely on advertising to help do it. But even well-liked pages only show up in their fans’ newsfeeds an average of 16% of the time. Getting people to engage in posts – “talking” about them - makes it much more likely they’ll be seen. Thus the pressure to connect.
O’Connell’s success in getting her fans to chat it up on her Page is even more impressive when you consider she’s not only the sole proprietor of Pick-a-Pepper, she runs Red Buds farm, takes care of two very young children, ages two and three, and has zero marketing budget. No childcare either.
How does she do it?
And has all that action on Facebook helped her business grow? Here’s what she’s learned.
Concentrate your action. One way to manage marketing when you’re seriously strapped for time is to focus on one or two media networks. For O’Connell the decision was easy. “I’m interested in visuals so I picked Facebook,” she says. (She also blogs or reblogs a few times a week.) She links her Facebook posts to Twitter, but that’s it. “I just don’t have the time for anything more,” she says.
Be prolific. She posts several times a day and says frequency matters. “I was on vacation last week and only managed a few posts,” she says. Her “likes” dropped sharply.
Keep it light. She keeps her business page “pretty zen.” “People like positive messages and inspiration,” she says. “They also like to laugh.”
Blogging helps. Linking to a blog on Pick-A-Pepper brings people to the website and often results in new vendors or customers, says O’Connell.
Find good content sources. She has bookmarked “several hundred blogs, flickr streams, and websites” (!), which she checks in with frequently. And no, she wouldn’t share her favorites – though she does source the photos on her page.
Be generous. That’s my phrase - generosity isn’t a strategy for O’Connell. It’s just the way she is. She freely dispenses “likes” and comments on other people’s posts because she wants them to know she’s read them. The happy byproduct is that people often reciprocate. “I’m always surprised when I hear that someone liked something and didn’t hit the “like” button,” she says.
Is it worth it?
Has her Facebook success attracted more business? Sure, but…O’Connell can see she’s getting a lot of traffic from Facebook and some of that is translating into sign-ups. Her content is engaging but it’s not exactly a hard sell for her local guide and she wonders if adopting a more aggressive strategy might be in her future. “Facebook is great and all but I need to make sure it benefits the site,” she says, “and is worth all the time I spend on it.”
She’s hoping a grant she’s applied for will give her a chance to try new marketing strategies, such as underwriting community radio stations. But for now she’ll continue to deploy her instincts for content on Facebook and wish she had just a little more time. “I feel as if I don’t do as much as I should,” says O’Connell, in true entrepreneurial form.
-Clare Ellis, Media Chief, Good Food Media Group