Any brand participating in social media—and we've reached the point where it is nearly every brand—faces the daunting task of creating and cultivating a community on a near-daily basis. With this constant requirement comes the need for a community manager to consistently provide unique and timely content that entertains, informs and engages.
There's a reason the term "community manager" exists instead of "Facebook page writer." Social media provides a place where communities of people with common interests can congregate, and it's up to the community manager to keep those groups alive and flourishing. For a week, it's no problem. After a month, you're still doing fine. But what happens after a year? Two years? How can community managers keep their fans engaged over the long haul?
Here are five ways community managers can keep content fresh on Facebook:
1. Reward your fans
Your fans don't want to feel like they're just part of the crowd. They want to be recognized for their passion. One common approach major brands like Oreo use is to publicly select a fan of the day/week/month, and feature his or her picture within the brand's profile picture. While it can be very effective, this technique is nothing new and has no barrier to entry. There are now even apps that will automate this process for you.
Instead, consider making a low cost investment, like a $10 t-shirt, and create a contest unique to your page. Fans love being a part of something, especially if a real prize is involved. Put some effort into your contests, and a small investment can turn into major engagement.
2. Improvise on the spot
Because Facebook pages are—or at least should be—living, breathing communities, community managers have to respond to posts by fans. I wouldn't be teaching you anything if I told you to respond to as many fans as possible. Hopefully you already know that engaging with fans is an activity you shouldn't take lightly.
3. Assess and reassess your content mix
No matter what it is—your diet, workout, or even your iPod playlist—the same thing over and over again eventually gets boring. Yes, even if it is as good as the Backstreet Boys' Black and Blue album (not that I would know).
Your fans feel the same way about your page. Make a point every month, or more frequently, to take a step back and asses your content mix. Are you simply posting your blog feed? Are you engaging your fans with questions or polls? Are you posting videos or creating games for people to play? How are you encouraging your community to get involved and contribute?
4. Develop timely content
Our world is constantly changing, and the content that is consumed most is that which is timely and addresses the issues of the day, or even hour. Community managers should have both the authority and the wherewithal to quickly adapt and address issues that arise.
But it doesn't have to be immediate, worldly news either. If you're managing a Facebook community of "Mad Men" fans, what are you planning for the season premiere? Give your community something to rally around and get excited about.
5. Bring your brand to life with live event coverage
One of my favorite uses of Facebook for brands is curating live event coverage. It's not a new idea, but it's used enough. It tends to be more of an afterthought: "Hey, we're a sponsor of that concert. We should go there, take a few pictures, and throw them up on our page!"
Instead, plan to attend events that make sense to your brand, even if you're not sponsoring them, and build a Facebook content plan around with different types of content. Kim Crawford Wines (client) had Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week covered from head to toe with contests, interviews, videos, pictures and custom designed applications.
Chobani also does a great job spanning the U.S. on their "CHOmobile," attending food and health-related events while updating and engaging its community. It's not only a great way to keep content fresh, but gives the added benefit of showing up in real life and putting real faces on the brand.
Remember that communities are unique, just like brands. They serve varied audiences, and thus the needs and wants of those audiences will differ greatly. Take these tips into consideration, but always make your content decisions based on your audience, what it wants, and how it wants to receive it.
How are you keeping your content fresh?
Jon Thomas is the director of communications at Story Worldwide and founder of Presentation Advisors. He contributes to PostAdvertising.com, where a version of this article originally ran.