More articles by Jay Hawkinson
Staying Local on Facebook is Vital for Brands of All Sizes
In Facebook’s infancy, large brands could create a single corporate Facebook page and appease their many fans across the globe, but as Facebook and the expectations of its users evolve, so too must the businesses that use it. And make no bones about it, businesses should be using it. Recent updates to the social network show Facebook beginning to position itself as a local search tool; so now more than ever businesses with a single brand page miss out on many of the benefits of having a page for each physical location.
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One of the most notable recent updates, Facebook’s unveiling of Graph Search, has tailored the Facebook search tool to return extremely personalized results based on a variety of factors, including the searcher’s location and recommendations from people in their personal network. If a user were to search for “buy a new TV,” Graph Search would return results for local stores selling televisions which the user’s network has endorsed by being a fan of the business page. If a large national retailer doesn’t have a Facebook page for their local store, odds are it won’t be returned in the search results.
Similarly, Facebook uses a particular algorithm known as “EdgeRank” to determine relevant content to display for each user. Facebook’s “EdgeRank” algorithm takes into account three things:
- Affinity: Determined by each user’s relationship with the object/action in the news feed. Facebook evaluates the relationship based on how much interaction the user has had with the person or page that created the object (liking posts, visiting the page etc.).
- Weight: Determined by the type of object (photo/video/link etc.). For example, photos tend to generate a lot of engagement on Facebook; so they carry more weight.
- Time: Determined by when the object or action happened. The older the object the lower the value.
The impact of “EdgeRank” may not seem as obvious as that of Graph Search, until considering that for a variety of reasons local Facebook pages perform better than corporate pages. Local business pages offer customers a more personal experience, enabling interactions with local representatives more likely to be tuned in to local issues. Imagine a large insurance company with thousands of agent locations; consumers would of course prefer to interact with their local agent who manages their policies rather than an unknown person in a large corporate office.
Similarly, pages maintained locally provide fans with more relevant content to share, such as events and news from their neighborhood. This engaging and relevant content drives the success of any Facebook page but can be exponentially effective at the local community level. Because users relate better to a local page and tend to engage more often, local pages also have an edge when it comes to the news feed. A local page may have fewer fans than a corporate page, but its higher engagement rate makes it more likely to show up in fans’ news feeds.
So how does a local business maximize the inherent value of its Facebook page? Many approaches can work, but some simple tips consistently provide big dividends.
Use Facebook Advertising to your advantage
A number of companies have had a lot of success using Sponsored Stories and Sponsored Page Posts to both grow a fan base and direct traffic to a website. Companies don’t have to spend a lot of money to see good results with Sponsored Stories on Facebook.
There’s also the possibility that Sponsored Results ads will integrate into the Graph Search results and become even more impactful. Sponsored Results ads currently show up when a user searches for a specific page on Facebook. The ads can target competitors’ pages or other content relevant to a brand such as blogs and publications. When a user searches for these pages or content, the Sponsored Result ad will also appear. Facebook could also expand the targeting capabilities of Graph Search to include targeting by keywords or phrases.
Have a content strategy and schedule
The inherent “anyone can do it” nature of Facebook can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, anyone can sign up and create a business page, but the moment a page goes stagnant, fans will look elsewhere for their content and engagement. Two of the most important elements of a successful social media and online presence, creating a content strategy and sticking to a schedule ensure something relevant and useful always exists for fans. This content could include community happenings, events the business is hosting or participating in, bios about employees, specials or promotions, or daily tips on how to make the most of the businesses’ offerings.
As Facebook evolves to become a local search tool, it’s critical that businesses (large and small) create and maintain active business pages for each physical location. While this effort requires some commitment, it also has the potential to deliver significant return on investment.
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