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Ensuring Face-time on Facebook

BY PAUL QUENEAU
Building a tribe of Facebook followers doesn’t mean they will all see your posts. Here are some tips from a practiced pro on how to get back in front of your readers.
Time was, if you had a business Facebook page, posting on Facebook meant all of your followers had a chance to actually see your posts appear on their feed, assuming followers checked into the site in a timely manner.
Times have changed. Facebook is now charging publications, businesses and even individuals to guarantee every follower can see their posts. That becomes a big deal now that every corner of the outdoor writing profession uses Facebook to connect with audiences and the site has hit one billion users. Assuring a wide-distribution is more important than ever.
This change came as an unpleasant surprise to Carol Sharkey- Blodgett, who had “worked her fanny off,” as she puts it, to build more than 14,000 Facebook followers for her website, Makeitmissoula. com. She gained them by publishing stimulating content from a variety of local Missoula writers and photographers (myself being one of them), and by purchasing ads on Facebook to make sure Missoula locals would find out about her site.
Prior to starting her own publishing company, Carol was director of niche publishing for several of Lee Enterprises’ newspapers, so she knew exactly how important it was to maintain a readership. Facebook remains her No. 1 gateway for linking readers to new content, yet she now faces a situation where perhaps only 2,500 of her 14,000 “likes” can see her site’s new Facebook posts in their news feeds.
“We were desperate to find a solution. We simply couldn’t afford to sit on all those ‘likes’ and not do something,” Blodgett said. So she researched all she could find about strategies for maximizing post distribution. She has since dug up some tricks to making her posts “stickier”:
1. Consider doubling up on popular posts. Blodgett says she sometimes posts in different day parts — similar to broadcast media. For example, she may post a story first thing in the morning to catch the Facebook-beforebreakfast crowd. If an update goes viral and is clearly popular, she will sometimes post it again in the afternoon with an altogether different update in the evening.
“We will hide the original post on our wall, then in the afternoon, we’ll post it exactly the way we did originally and people don’t seem to notice the duplication. We’ve never had anyone complain or even comment that we posted something more than once in day. But by doing that, we sometimes can get in front of 50-100 percent of our audience,” she said. “Now keep in mind we don’t do it frequently — only when we have a story we know will resonate.”
2. Aim for two to three updates per day, but no more. “We’ve done a lot of reading about how much is too much — and we’ve watched our Facebook Insights so we know when people are ‘unliking’ us. The worst way to alienate your readership is to ‘robo-post.’ We generally aim for one post in the morning, one in the evening.”
3. Don’t just rely on the feature image that Facebook automatically pulls off your website. Go big. “Pictures speak 1,000 words with Facebook posts. If you want to draw attention, you want to post an eye-catching photo, not just the automatic thumbnail. And if you can do it with a truly spectacular photo, 90 people might just like it just because they like the image.”
4. Cartoons or humorous text-images can be as powerful as photos: Sharkey-Blodgett says even with something as mundane as job postings, she’s been amazed how many likes can be garnered with a bit of wellplaced humor. “We posted a listing for a fitness instructor, and included an image of a funny little saying, something like ’sweat is your fat’s way of crying.’ It was a very dry job service posting, but it got a huge number of people to read it.”
5. Engage your audience by asking questions, but keep the conversation authentic. “We try to mix it up and carry on conversations to engage readers. But you have to keep it authentic and make sure it doesn’t feeling like you’re spamming them.”
Whether Facebook will be the go-to social network to distribute outdoor media five years from now is anyone’s guess. Until then, Sharkey-Blodgett says she will keep experimenting with it while looking forward to a viable alternative where posts aren’t a pay-per-viewer proposition.
“That’s what is so frustrating about what Facebook is doing with business sites like ours,” says Sharkey-Blogett. “And as of Sept. 19 [2012] Facebook further ratcheted down the number of fans that see posts. If I wanted to ‘promote’ the post to our entire fan base, it would cost me $75 for one post. As a small business, I can’t afford that — especially after I’ve paid thousands of dollars over the last two years to do [Facebook] ads to get my fan base to where it is.” ◊
Have you found other tricks to growing your Facebook following? Go to — you guessed it — OWAA’s Facebook page and chime in at www.facebook.com/owaaonline.
Paul Queneau grew up in Colorado hunting, fishing and backpacking. He started with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Bugle magazine as an intern and is currently the conservation editor. Contact him at pqueneau@RMEF.org.

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