The (almost) definitive guide to Facebook for brands

From dealing with Legal to determining what to post, here’s what brands need to know about their Facebook presence.


The way in which brands approach Facebook is similar to that of Twitter: Steer clear of both social networks if you’re not going to do it right. But if you absolutely must launch your company into Facebook, or if you’re looking to take your page to the next level, here is a definite guide (of sorts) to the social network:

First, a word about dealing with Legal.

If your company’s Legal department has to approve every nuance of your Facebook approach, run away—or at least push back.

It’s tough to skirt the lawyers, and the general lack of precedent in Facebook legal cases has many corporate attorneys playing preemptive defense. No one wants to be the first to get dinged. Of course, a Legal department’s recommendation is just that—a recommendation. Make your case to legal by showing them other brands taking certain risks and succeeding—especially if it’s a competitor.

(A mandate is something different altogether, and I can’t help you there.)

There’s nothing wrong with being a risk-averse businessperson. There’s plenty wrong with being a risk averse social media marketer. If you’re constantly hamstrung by the folks in Legal (or your C-suite for that matter), and they continually prevent you from making the content moves outlined below, forget Facebook. Ditch the legal headache and dedicate your resources elsewhere.

Now back to that (almost) definite guide.

Fit the platform to the goal, and begin with the end in mind. Wait—we’re supposed to have goals when it comes to social media marketing? Yes, friends. If you don’t have clear-cut goals of what you want to accomplish with Facebook, you’re going to have a tough time selling its return on investment.

Those goals don’t have to be sophisticated. They could be:

• We want 10,000 fans in a year;
• We want to listen to our fans, and have those ideas inform our marketing strategy;
• We want to dominate Facebook and create content with a high degree of virality.

All of these are viable goals, because you know what needs to happen to achieve them. Whether the means to achieve them are within your budget is another story.

However, as long as you enter Facebook with a clear vision of the future of your content stream and community, you should be in good shape. At least you’ll know on an almost-daily basis whether you’re succeeding or failing.

Know that strong imagery wins in Facebook.

A successful Facebook presence starts with great content, plain and simple. The most-clever pieces of content will continually succeed and be shared beyond its originating page. Dull, promotional content (and copy with no imagery) will die.

Create ownable content.

Remember this: “Likes” are lame; conversation is contagious.

Any brand can hop on Facebook and post something that reads, “Like this post if ________.” Fill that blank with anything that everyone loves—ice cream, puppies, Raymond, whatever—and you’ll get “likes.” That’s cheap. It’s junior varsity at best. What you want is content that sparks conversation and sharing.

The way you do this is by creating ownable content—pieces of content that no other brand could make because they don’t share your voice, tone, world view, and assets. Trust me, it’s easier than you think.

RELATED: How to create ownable content

Focus on the fans you have rather than the fans you don’t have yet.

If you focus on the fans you have, the fans you want will come. Still, it’s important to have enough people who “like” your page to constitute a strong community. And a strong pay-per-click (PPC) spend and strategy will help you achieve that.

There’s no magic number of fans for a brand page. Every brand is different, but the tendency by page managers is to get hung up on the numbers—how many fans did we gain this week?

The fans you want are those who regularly engage with your posts. Gaining those fans is a matter of putting out excellent content and adding value to their day.

Put your PPC dollars behind your strongest content and your calls to action.

There’s no reason why anyone should consider Facebook to be a free marketing tool anymore. There are some brands that will inspire heavy engagement without a PPC spend, but your brand is probably not one of them.

Sponsored stories are a great way to increase your reach on your best posts, including those pieces of content that are ownable to your brand alone. Also, if you’ve got a call to action—maybe you’re trying to get fans to post photos on your page—it’s tough without a PPC spend and incentive.

Test, measure, and optimize—constantly.

Take risks with your content. Try to bust out of the pattern of looking at what other brands are doing and saying, “How can we do that?” You’re not going to come up with the next Daily Twist, so stop trying. Your question should be, “What’s next?” Your challenge is to do something that no one else has done with the platform.

Rest assure, there’s no such thing as a social media expert.

I’m always surprised when I meet a social media expert. Because they don’t exist. There are only people who have been working in social media marketing slightly longer than others. And the key to social media is to learn something new every day.

RELATED: The (almost) definitive guide for brands on Facebook

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