Facebook revealed last week that there are over 28 million users who log on every day in the Middle East and North Africa. That's a large number that brands can target in the region. And about 15 million of them access the social platform via mobile. So, how do brands and their fan pages hope to succeed in reaching this large number, finding the right fans and engaging?
From having worked with several leading brands on their Facebook strategy, here's what I think works towards building successful fan engagement on Facebook in the region.
1. Be Visual
This is the best trick in the Facebook-in-the-Middle-East book. For me, this is the holy grail. I've worked with clients' brands who can't figure out why on certain days, they hardly get any Likes on their posts, and actually get drop-outs and 'UnLikes'. If you look at the insights provided by Facebook and check back, you'll quickly find the visual connection. Posts without visuals – no matter how strong on copy – hardly ever work in this region. So, post photos. Each time, every time. Specially as we recognize how many fans out there are accessing their timelines via mobile, photos are king.
2. Ask Questions.
This too works like magic. Ask fans what they want to wear. What they like eating. Which are their favorite ways to use your product. Leave room for comment and answers and engagement just seems to go sky-high via responses, Likes and shares. The questions aren't tough ones, and they don't always have to be about your brand or product – simple, everyday engagement can be had with easy, quick questions which people want to answer, where they feel their opinion and vote is important.
Again, like Questions, Contests work in the Middle East like magic. Facebook users, specially women, love to participate in contests – regardless of reward size. If the mechanics are simple, they will join in, they will engage. Contests have accounted for some of the most successful Facebook marketing campaigns, so look into having some on your fan page.
4. Ask for engagement
Start with a "Share this..." statement. Post a Fill-in-the-Blanks, drop in a poll, ask fans to comment. Have a clear engagement strategy which will quickly grab attention and then create a simple way for fans to engage. Start with an arresting visual and then ask for the next step – have a clear call to action.
5. Go far. Go wide. With your content.
Really, you should be talking about a wider range of topics than what your product or brand does, or your next sale. Open up and engage fans with what we call peripheral topics – have fun with these and keep it human. Facebook in the long run may be your marketing tool, but its a dialog and an engagement first, and you won't get two-way if all you talk about is you.
6. Be human. Have a voice that is recognizable as human. And be precise.
As mentioned, while going wide spectrum with content scope, be human in your approach. Be personable, approachable, real. Facebook is not advertising. So it's not about a sell. It's about how one fan used your product in a special way. Or about how you as Community Manager enjoyed the movie.
Keep your posts short. It's now pretty obvious that shorter posts (around 140c or less, just like twitter) work more in your favor than a long story.
7. Utilize Insights.
Thats what Facebook Insights are there for. Most early Facebook Social managers didn't bother with analytics, they went with gut. Fine,m but with such real time information available today, you can adapt on the fly. React, reward, run fast and quick. Check out which types of posts are working, check out what are good days and bad, good times to post for your audience – and the best part have a clear understanding of who you are talking to and engaging with. Then start over if needed.
8. Have a great visual impact with your Cover Photo and your Profile shot
That's your first impression so, make that count. Fans usually come to your Page just once or twice – make sure you create a fun, memorable impression. And your profile shot, is what they see over and over. Make sure it's clean, recognizable and is memorable.
9. To hashtag or not to hashtag?
Well, every one wants to bring social under one common voice - so they're using the one uniting hashtag (#holygrail) across all the media like twitter, instagram etc. That's OK, but Facebook isn't really a quick in-the-now, search-on-a-tag kind of medium like twitter. So, use the # only when you feel it's going to add value, when it will help fans participate and when they work with your post. Limit # usage (rule of thumb is one #) and never ride on hijacks.
Today, anywhere in the world, but specially here in the Middle East, one SURE SHOT way to grow your reach, improve your fan-base and engage is via Facebook ads. You simply cannot without using ads. Invest in Faceook ads, and you are bound to see returns. One client's posts went from 12 Likes to 9000 Likes per post with a simple ad strategy. Pay to play.
There are a few other simple things that help increase your Facebook fan page engagement quickly and easily. Because only around 10% of your fan base will ever see your ads, posting a few times more than what you would like is one chosen path. Other barnds seem to like posting Links to useful sites, infographics, How-Tos etc. Some succeed with precise Time-of-Day strategy. If you'd ask me what I would absolutely do for a brand?
I would post beautiful visuals (like Pinterest), keep my posts short (like Twitter), and have questions, how-to-use and make it funny (like YouTube). You Like?
Tom Roychoudhury is chief innovations officer at MCN (Middle East Communications Network), one of the largest advertising, marketing, media, PR and social agency groups in the region.