Interacting with fans on Facebook is no longer the mystery that it once was, with a majority of brands realising the benefits of posting regular content and engaging in conversations with users.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that engaging with fans is easy.

Wildfire has produced a report that looks into the best ways for brands to interact with consumers on Facebook and generate earned media by encouraging them to share content with their friends.

It evaluated almost 700 brands to understand how they managed their social initiatives and identified six best practices that helped them recruit more brand advocates.

1. Run multiple engagement applications at a constant rate

The report recommends that brands give their fans a variety of ways to engage with them and different things to do when they arrive on their Facebook page.

This can help to increase time spent on the page as well as return activity (depending on the setup of your offer, content, or promotion). 

While there is no limit to the amount of apps a brand can run on a Facebook page, only the first four are visible while the rest are contained in a dropdown menu. 

Therefore it makes sense to prioritise the apps that are most important/appealing and position them accordingly.

Wildfire highlights homebuilder Lennar as a company that makes good use of its apps to create multiple, fun interaction points for its fans.

These include an app that analyses the housing market by region, a sign-up form allowing visitors to subscribe to the company’s updates and a mortgage calculator.

2. Use every available opportunity to stimulate interactions with clear calls-to-action

Relying on users to interact, ‘like’, share, or comment on your brand’s page or with its apps, without expressly asking them to, produces wildly variable results. 

The report recommends that brands explicitly tell their fans exactly what they need to do to interact; otherwise it’s likely that some people won’t know what is expected of them.

3. Images, images, images! 

The new design of Facebook timeline places great emphasis on visual content, so it’s important that all updates include an image.

Brands can take advantage of this opportunity to stand out in fans’ news feeds as well as within their timeline by including images where possible.

A majority of major brands have quickly cottoned onto this fact and it’s rare to see a brand such as ASOS post an update that doesn’t include an image.

4. Keep your interactions seasonally relevant

While one of the benefits of social media is that it affords instant interactions with consumers, the downside is that content can get stale in days. 

The 24/7 nature of the social media cycle means that brand pages need to be constantly refreshed with content that is themed around current events in meaningful and relevant ways. 

This grounds the brand a place and time to which users can relate. We saw a lot of social activity around the Diamond Jubilee recently and the Olympics is central to a lot of brand messaging at the moment.

5. Mix campaign types and create new offers on a consistent basis

Certain marketing campaigns naturally inspire users to broadcast their interactions with a brand.

Wildfire’s research suggests that the types of marketing campaigns that are most entered by users are not the same as the campaigns that are most heavily shared. 

In fact, the most shared campaign types – like quizzes and trivia or other types that showcase a user’s personality – don’t always get the highest participation or entry rates.

Popular campaigns like sweepstakes, giveaways and coupons are proven to get users to enter, with separate research from the Chief Marketing Officers Council finding that 65% of consumers expect that a brand follow or like will gain them access to games or contests.

But entrants are less likely, for example, to voluntarily share the fact that they just entered a sweepstakes. In other words, these campaigns types generate less earned media from each entrant.

“Just as paid media (ad) campaigns should be adapted to drive different types of user activity, so should custom content initiatives.” 

A well-rounded social media marketing program includes a steady drip of varied applications and content designed to influence a range of user interactions.

6. Extend your social communities across a variety of platforms

While the focus of the report is on data collected from social initiatives run on the Facebook platform, the world’s most talked about brands don’t limit their presence to one social network. 

Rather, they take their engaging posts, fan interactions, and community presence to a variety of networks, courting fans and followers (and brand advocates) in all of the places they spend their time.