April 11, 2012

Lesson 1: What Makes a Good Facebook Post?

A disclaimer from the start: No one has the all-encompassing, definitive answer to this question. Social media is organic, fueled by fickle and whimsy of its users. Sometimes video of a cat chasing a laser dot will go viral; other times, it’s Kony2012, a short film detailing the exploits of a Ugandan war criminal.

Nevertheless, data over time can tell us the types of posts that engage people.

You should start with your own data. Look in the insights module of your organization’s Facebook page. I spent some time yesterday looking at the data for my diocesan Facebook page, which we just switched to the new timeline format.

First the renewed efforts to post several times a day paid off. Our “weekly total reach” – the number of unique people who have seen content from our page – shot to 1,600 – up 450% from the week before. Also on the rise is the number of people talking about our content – that is, they “liked” it, responded on the page or shared it with their own social network. 

One great thing about the Facebook Insights is that you can dig as deep as you want into the data. For instance, I wanted to see which posts attracted the most interest. The bishop’s Easter sermon and prayer requests both snagged some attention. A repost about the winner of the (nearly viral) Lent Madness contest was even more popular. 

But the post with the highest interest and reach? One about how the staffs of the diocese, cathedral and Forward Movement celebrated baseball’s Opening Day with a picnic. 
I think this post (and the subsequent statistics) highlights a critical element of social media: People respond when it’s something to which they can relate. There’s a casualness to a group of people getting together for a baseball game. It’s accessible and familiar. And sharing it with our audience creates a connection that some of our stuffier, “administrative” posts do not. 

So lesson 1: Write about what you know. And what your audience knows. Use a friendly, casual tone and don’t be afraid to share some of the lighter moments. Building virtual relationships is not unlike the first steps in building face-to-face ones: Find your common ground, talk about the weather and sports and other topics as you feel each other out. 

And most importantly, have some fun with it. If it’s a drag for you to post, it’s probably a drag for people to read.