PR News Q&A: An Audience-First Approach to Facebook Engagement

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Tim Marklein

For the many PR pros challenged by finding new and engaging ways to attract Facebook likes, Tim Marklein, practice leader, technology & analytics for WCG, offers a glimmer of hope: put your fans (or “likes,” if you prefer) in the driver’s seat—let your fans drive your strategy. Marklein will discuss community building, engagement and more at PR News' Facebook Conference on August 9 in San Francisco. Marklein, along with Edelman’s Monte Lutz, will speak on the panel “Next Practices for Integrating Facebook Into Your PR Initiatives.”

PR News: What are the essential components of an effective Facebook strategy?

Tim Marklein:
First and foremost, define and understand the role Facebook plays (and other social channels) in your overall marketing mix. Set clear goals upfront so you can measure progress, but be prepared to adjust them as you learn what works and doesn't work. Use data and analytics to listen, learn and optimize often. Approach your strategy with a fans-first approach—if this is just another channel to broadcast your marketing messages, you're missing the point and that will frustrate your fans. Feature your fans and make them the stars. And last but not least, be your brand — but don't be a shill for it.
PR News: What are some strategies to keep your Facebook followers engaged?

Ask questions and seek out opinions. Give them special insider access and exclusive opportunities—that's typically the main motivator for following a brand. Answer their questions and solve their problems (or enable them to solve each other's problems), which is another main motivator. Finally, entertain them or at least make it fun and interesting (a la Groupon emails).

PR News: What is the optimal frequency for posting new content on Facebook?

Marklein: Optimal frequency varies by brand, but typically comes out somewhere between one and two times per day. This should be tested and tweaked by brand. Again, don't be afraid to ask your fans what they prefer. You'll get a range of opinions that will help shape your content flow and engagement rhythm.

PR News: What are the key metrics to consider when measuring Facebook activity?

Marklein: Isn't it all about number of likes? Of course not, but we see too many companies pursuing that very simplistic path. What's more important is evaluating the level of engagement and advocacy around your brand, and ultimately how does that tie into the business outcomes you're trying to achieve.

Surveying your fan base is also key to understanding how fan engagement translates into increased awareness, loyalty, advocacy or even sales for your brand. The exciting and challenging thing that's happening here is a fundamental, long-term shift in the marketing landscape from an impressions-dominated past to an engagement-driven future.

PR News: What's one key tip you'll give to our audience at PR News' Facebook Conference?

Marklein: Ninety percent of the online conversation can be anticipated. Take steps to have the entire discussion about the brand in social channels—the good, the bad and the unimaginable, and coach internal teams to expect the full dialogue and engage in human, conversational ways (avoiding corporate-ness or defensiveness). Managed well with the right mix of passion and humility, social channels can become your ultimate, highly responsive feedback loop to grow both your fan base and your business.

PR News' Facebook Conference on August 9 in San Francisco and learn more from PR thought leaders like Tim Marklein.