Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yahoo Social Guru Offers Engagement Tips for Facebook

I saw Patrick Albano, executive director of social and mobile sales at Yahoo speak at Adweek DC recently. I thought it was one of the best presentations I’d seen in a long time. So I’m sharing. I’ve also added some thoughts of my own.

The evolution of social

If you go to a party and just talk about yourself, you will be the least popular person there. That’s how most organizations approach Facebook. But that can damage all of that brand loyalty you've worked so hard to build.

Albano discussed how social media has created a major shift in how we approach branding. For decades marketing and advertising was focused on convincing people that The Brand Cares about Us. Remember the Pepsi Generation, Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, or You are in Good Hands with Allstate?

But in Yahoo’s post engagement analysis of its Facebook pages, it determined that the most effective approach is to convince individuals that The Brand Cares About Me. The emotional connection now has to be made on an individual level.

Back to the Future

Believe it or not, Albano, who is well under 40, suggested reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written by Dale Carnegie in 1936, it offers six steps to getting people to like you, which are as relevant today in social media as they were in sales then.

1. Become genuinely interested in other people
2. Smile
3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests
6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.

Remember when people answered their phones, and the customer service rep was a person not a voice mail or computer help list designed to not have you talk to anyone? When a human being was on the other end of the line, actually voiced concern, and a real connection was made. That’s two-way communication.

But today, the vast majority of business Facebook pages repackage information that’s been approved, sanitized, etc. from other sources. Often they are from another form of media, like a press release, and read like one. The goal of these Facebook pages is to search well, to have some sort of a presence. But just having a Facebook page doesn't do much, except improve SEO to some degree.

It’s All About Caring What I Think

Albano pointed to research which found when advertisers asked people questions around content sales jumped by 12%. Ads that ask questions are 4x more engaging than those that don’t.

If you troll Facebook pages, as I often do looking for ideas, you will see a lot more questions. Some work and some don't. Albano points to the contrast of the traditional Oscar experience on the Web where experts tell you who will win and why they think so compared to weighing in on who wore that dress best.

Sports is in a question mode too – not just in social but mobile. Teams and commentators are asking fans who they think will win the game and giving real time stats on what everyone thinks.

The Art and Science of Questions

The best question example Albano gave was State Farm’s Fallen Firefighters’ video posted on 9-11, and created for its 10th anniversary. Called “Empire State of Mind” and directed by Spike Lee, it runs six minutes and tugs at the heartstrings while revering the firefighters. The question State Farm asked – What did you feel that day? The responses were overwhelming.

PBS has about half a million Facebook fans and is a master at asking engaging questions. Here are a couple of recent ones that sparked conversation:

• What do you hope President Obama talks about? (reference was to an upcoming news conference)
• Do you have a favorite Steve Jobs moment or quote?

I also took a look at some of Yahoo’s Facebook sports questions:

• Which NFL team has surprised you the most this season?
• The NBA players are willing to miss games. Do you think there will be any games at all?

Of course, it's not just the questions, with any marketing approach you must have a sound strategy behind your page. And from that strategy, your questions will evolve more easily.

So what questions can you ask on your Facebook page?

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