PR News Q&A: Monte Lutz on Engaging a Facebook Community

Monte Lutz

Creating a Facebook page and posting content and promotional copy guarantees nothing but time spent and diminishing returns. As Monte Lutz, senior vice president of digital for Edelman, says, brands must develop a two-way dialogue if they want to truly build and engage with a community. Lutz will elaborate on strategies to build your following and empower advocates at PR News’ Facebook Conference on Aug. 9 in San Francisco. Lutz, along with Weber Shandwick’s Tim Marklein, will speak on the panel “Next Practices for Integrating Facebook Into Your PR Initiatives.”

PR News: What's the most common misconception communicators have about Facebook?

Monte Lutz: It’s easy to launch a Facebook page, but more difficult to build a community. Creating a page is not an end in and of itself. Being on Facebook is not enough; you need to be in the conversation. But the conversation is not and should not be all about you. A guest on Conan or the Daily Show spends five minutes talking about what’s happening in the world and one minute selling their show. The same should apply to how you think about Facebook. If you only talk about yourself, the community will start to lose interest. You need to find commonality between what you are doing, what the community is interested in and what is happening in their lives in order to maintain relevance and encourage participation. Engagement drives updates into people’s news feeds, which in turn spurs additional engagement. 

PR News: Where do companies fall short with their Facebook strategy?

Lutz: First and foremost, companies must understand why they are on Facebook: to generate awareness, build community, empower advocates, sell products or other reasons. The type of content they create, conversations they have and customer relationships they build will vary based on their business goals. Second, companies must be realistic with their goals and specific in how they measure them. You don’t need a million fans to be deemed a success. Also, because of the network effects of amplification and reverberation, it is more difficult to attract your first 1,000 fans than it is to grow a community from 1 million to 2 million. Contests, coupons, targeted advertising and experiences that tie the real world into Facebook can help to attract that first base of fans. 

PR News: What new features on Facebook can be leveraged for PR and marketing?

Lutz: Facebook is evolving all the time and experimenting with new ways for brands and people to interact. From real-time ads to location-based services, there are more ways to customize your interactions with prospective fans. Facebook Places is relatively new, but is already competing with Foursquare in the check-in game. Look for location, including both Places and Deals, to play a significant role in how retailers are relating to their fans on Facebook.

PR News: What's one key tip you'll discuss at PR News' Facebook Conference?

Lutz: Everything you read about Facebook today will need an asterisk tomorrow, but the reason why you should be on Facebook will not change. It’s about people, it’s about relationships, it’s about conversation.

PR News’ Facebook Conference on Aug. 9 at the Westin San Francisco and learn more from top communicators like Monte Lutz.

  • Toby Bloomberg

    Thanks for the great interview. I so agree a community does not magically grow.

    Monte – would love your opinion on how an agency should be involved with a client’s Facebook page. Do you believe that the agency should create the content or is that the job of the brand?

  • Monte Lutz

    Toby – That’s a great question.
    I start with the premise that if companies are on Facebook, they should be prepared for and welcome participation on their pages. It is important for companies to interact with their fans on Facebook: both in how they create content and respond to questions. There are some pages that are launched and then left for dead, with people asking questions that go unanswered for weeks, months, or even years. Ignoring the people who love you is not in any company’s mission statement or business plan.
    Some companies don’t have the internal staff to monitor and actively manage the pages, and respond in real-time or near real-time; therefore, they split duties with an agency partner who is able to do help. The community managers help to understand what the community wants, create engaging content that people are interested in and address or escalate customer service issues, among other things.
    Every partnership is a little bit different, but there are a couple things that should be in place for this to work. The company and its agency should develop and agree on a community guide that articulates the strategy and goals for the page, house rules for what is acceptable/unacceptable, the relationship of the page to other owned social properties, the tone and voice of the page and escalation procedures for customer service or other issues raised on the page. The balance will be different for every company, but the community guide will help to articulate the roles that each plays.
    The day-to-day content should support the approach established in the community guide, while reflecting the changing rhythms and interests of the community. Great ideas can come from the company, the agency or the community. As the community grows and as the company’s goals for social evolve, the community guide and roles will evolve as well. Some companies hire community managers in-house from the get go, others work with community managers at agencies and have no plans of changing that dynamic, while still others start with an agency and then bring the skill in-house. There isn’t, nor should there be, a hard and fast rule. There are great examples of each.
    The ultimate question should be, “Which team structure helps the brand achieve its social and business goals?” Or, as my friend @armano says, “How do you turn a social brand into a social business?”

    I hope that answers your question.

  • Curt Bizelli

    I agree completely with these tips. The only issue I have is keeping the staff dedicated enough to the team’s mission in order to be involved in the community, because myself being CEO with so many other hats: I just don’t have the time.