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Trends in social media marketing on Facebook

Facebook has debuted changes over the past month that are altering the way marketers use the social media platform. However, it seems that users haven't kept pace. A study from Simply Measured, covered by Marketing Profs, indicates that 20 percent of posts from the Interbrand Top 100 Brands use hashtags, but found hashtags have no measurable impact on engagement. Facebook users are simply not yet employing hashtags to find branded content. Marketers may want to take note of this and adjust their strategies accordingly, though with the feature still in its infancy this may change.

Simply Measured revealed other trends in its research that can help inform the way marketers interact with Facebook. Online marketing strategies should evolve based on recent trends, and this study captures many of them. What's hot on Facebook can help brands get noticed by new fans and engage more successfully with those they already have. Below is a selection of findings from the study with advice on how to integrate them into any social media marketing strategy.

Photos are the most engaging type of content
Photos represented 74 percent of brand posts during May and June, and received 95 percent of total engagement. This indicates that visual content is extremely worthwhile for brands and appealing to users. While many marketers consider sites like Pinterest and Instagram to be the ideal locations for photos, this data shows Facebook is equally receptive to visual content. It is easy to integrate posts from Instagram, for example, into a Facebook feed, which companies may consider if they maintain a presence on both platforms.

It's particularly necessary for brands with a niche B2B product that may not have the strongest visual appeal to get creative about sharing photos. Pictures of a business' office during a usual workday or a special event might be relevant, as well as photos taken by employees that relate to their work. A strong brand image allows for more lateral thinking in photo posts, as well; if a brand is associated with a particular feel or lifestyle, photo posts can include content that relates to that image rather than to a product directly.

The ideal length of a status update
While status updates lag behind photo and video posts in engagement rates, they are still an important component of Facebook. User interest in status updates indicates an average length will bring engagement – posts that are too long or too short are not ideal. Instead, the study indicates that posts between 50 and 200 characters are most effective. Anything shorter may not catch the interest of viewers or present enough context to engage them, according to Simply Measured. Longer posts may not fit with the way people use Facebook to gather short pieces of information or answer brief questions.

Of course, content is as important as length in status updates. While the study did not quantify what brands tend to post about, the general principles of online marketing apply here. Even though they are quite brief, Facebook status updates are still a form of content. Content marketing dictates that everything a brand publishes should be informative, entertaining or both. The unique interaction capacities of social media also open the way for marketers to pose questions to their Facebook audiences. Facebook is also an ideal medium for curating content for followers.

Allow user interaction on brand pages for higher engagement
Twenty-nine percent of brands that Simply Measured followed disabled follower wall posts. These brands averaged 15 percent less engagement. The clear takeaway from this finding is that it's important to give users the opportunity to shape a company's Facebook page through wall posts. Many Facebook users will give feedback and even seek customer service help through a business' page, and the inability to do so removes many people's reason for following a brand in the first place.

With user wall posts enabled, it becomes a company's responsibility to address each one. Whether it's a request for help or a comment on a product or service, every user who reaches out to a brand should receive a response. If there are resources that can answer a question a user has, the brand should link them. Even a quick note of thanks for positive feedback can be effective. User engagement with brands should be rewarded by a response, or there will be no incentive for further interaction in the future.

Optimizing Facebook for engagement
With these insights, marketers can alter their social media strategies to increase user engagement with a brand. Everything a company does on Facebook is in essence promotional, whether or not it is presented as such. Therefore, it's important for a business to always show its best side – this includes creating content that people want to see and interacting with followers in a pleasant way. Common sense underlies many of the findings of this study.

Marketers who feel uncertain about their ability to manage a social media campaign should contact an interactive marketing agency with experience in the area. A little bit of guidance and advice can go a long way.

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.