By Katie McCaskey published November 26, 2010

Content Marketing Using Facebook

Content marketing using Facebook remains shockingly bad.

Everyone uses light switches. Yet, thankfully, not everyone automatically assumes they know how to wire them. Why? Well, it can be dangerous. The same can be said for using Facebook. It’s deceptively easy. It can also be amazingly dangerous to a brand if those managing the page don’t understand the nuance, strategy, and yes – social skills! – required. 

A lot of Facebook discussion focusesontools. As a practical matter, tools are important. The real discussion, however, should focus on how you’re developing a unique blend of content that conveys your brand in a one-to-one way.

Fail this, and no tool will salvage your Facebook content marketing efforts.

The following are lessons I implemented while managing social media for three AOL properties. However, I’ll be sharing specific examples from GeorgeBowersGrocery, the specialty food business my husband and I own. This demonstrates that you don’t need to be a massive media company to benefit from Facebook content marketing practices.

For this post I’ll share three common misconceptions many people have about using Facebook to market their business. I’ll also share three savvy remedies that will strengthen your brand as it is perceived on Facebook.

Misconception #1: More Fans = Better

Growing a fan base is important. Many marketers make the mistake of salivating over the incremental increase in “likes.” It’s easy to measure. However, what you really want are active fans.

Active fans are the folks that give you thumbs up and regularly comment on your content. You want to build a small number of genuine ties over a large number of loose ties. Loose ties “like” your page and disappear. Active fans “vote ” your content up their wall and in front of others to the coveted place of “Top News.”

How to do you nurture active fans? At GeorgeBowersGrocerysFacebookpage we do the following:

  • Respond to or acknowledge every comment at least once.
  • Liberally tag fans and other businesses so that they know we’re talking with/about them. For example, we regularly tag our artisan cheesemonger. (Admins must be connected to the fan or other business to create a linked tag.)
  • Regularly say “thank you” when people show up to live events — simple, effective and overlooked by most.

As Allan Young writes at Seth Godin’s SixMonthMBA: “Think of Facebook groups. Permission in these groups is fortified by social proof. Every time a member of the group interacts with the message or the organization, that interaction can be made public for all to see. This strengthens the group and its bond with the organization or product it is attached to.”

Misconception #2: Content Must “Go Big” or “Go Home”

“Going big” on Facebook content is frequently misunderstood. Typically, it means flooding your fans’ walls with complicated sweepstakes, sales messaging or product announcements. Or, those with rudimentary appreciation for the content marketing power of Facebook typically make the mistake of connecting a Twitter account in a one-directional way and #HashtaggingTheHeckOuttaEverything. Neither do much to enhance your brand.

More critically…

If the majority of your fanbase aren’t active and if your page doesn’t have a tight, inter-connected collection of active fans, your content marketing message is unlikely to be seen at all. It will be buried.

Microcontent – status updates, questions answered and links shared – are all “little” efforts that build into a coherent brand over time.

To be successful you’ll need to commit to consistent updates. You’ll also need to keep it interesting by varying the media. We incorporate a changing but regular mix of:

  • Links to relevant, curated news content
  • Photos of product and people, sent in real time via our iPhones
  • Video from in-store events
  • Facebook event invitations
  • Shout-outs to specific people, organizations and fellow businesses

Mistake #3: Acme Comin’ At ‘Cha

Faceless businesses and organizations do not win. To win, you must show emotion. In short, you must be human. Generic messaging is simply ignored. While your fans aren’t paying you literally for Facebook content, they are paying you with valuable time and attention.

That’s why smaller outfits demonstrating basic social skills can out-maneuver large companies afraid to put persona into their brand.

Here are some ways George Bowers Grocery demonstrates “being human” on Facebook:

  • We mostly talk about others (instead of ourselves!) and remain upbeat and positive throughout. You won’t find endless product descriptions, unmanned Twitter streams or 24/7 sales pitches.
  • We aren’t afraid to share occasional “wins.” For example, recently we passed an annual Department of Agriculture inspection. That doesn’t seem so exciting, does it? Yet, more than a dozen fans gave us a “thumbs up”. Why? We suspect fans look for ways to pat you on the back if you’re doing the same for them. Your content marketing strategy should build a tight, loyal group who want to share your wins.
  • We vary our “mood” occasionally, too. Whether it’s reminiscing on music playing or, allowing last century’s “original proprietor” (George himself) get on Facebook and rail against aspects of modernity, we keep the content fresh. The latter idea was sparked by a popularblogpost. Note neither have anything to do with food.

Results: 200% increase in fans since the beginning of 2010.

In short, effective content marketing using Facebook requires:

  • Commitment to and clarity of your brand’s human voice
  • A creative approach to messaging that is predominately fan-centric
  • Direct interaction with and regular recognition of your fans and community (literally and/or figuratively)
  • Curation of relevant, rotating and shareable content
  • Demonstration of basic social skills (please, thank you) for fans’ valuable time, attention and recommendation to others

Woe to the business that underestimates the power of the ‘status update.’ The person or team managing your Facebook page shouldn’t be the person who simply understands how to update a page. Rather, you should entrust this extremely valuable task to the person or team who understands how to build a brand using content marketing.

Author: Katie McCaskey

Katie McCaskey is Content Director of SixEstate, a content marketing firm powered by professional journalists and editors in New York City. Connect on Google+ or follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCaskey.

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  • Don Metznik

    Great guidance in only 3, concise points.

    • Katie McCaskey

      Thanks, Don. Appreciate it!

  • Anonymous

    Enjoyed the post (even though it’s got me thinking about work on a holiday)! We’re currently ramping up a few different facebook pages, and there’s some valuable advice here, reinforcing some of the strategies we’re already using. As someone relatively new in the field of digital marketing (I just graduated from college last year) I find myself continuously amazed at how in social media, the best strategy to succeed is helping others succeed–tagging others in your posts, thanking others, and reaching out to others in general. People won’t come pat you on the back unless you’re doing it first. I feel lucky to be in an industry where nice brands finish first.

  • jeff_molander

    Hi, Katie…
    Some respectful disagreement. I ask, shouldn’t the “real discussion” focus on business outputs rather than “developing a unique blend of content that conveys your brand in a one-to-one way?”

    I recognize conveying a brand as a tactic. Not the end goal. I respectfully think we should consider aiming guns at leads, sales and increased loyalty — driven by our content… right?

    If we were to ask George Bowers if he’d rather have more fans though being “more human” or more frequent visits to the store due to a health/wellness promotion that didn’t discount his products which do you think he’d be more interested in discussing?

    Because this is precisely the kind of thing companies like Hy-Vee and others in the grocery industry are taking action on — or at least contemplating.

    Just a thought for you to chew on, please. It would be great to hear more about how we can use Facebook to prompt customer behavior — not just changing the image of the brand — using content. Thanks for considering.

    • Katie McCaskey

      Jeff, good points. I agree the role of marketing is, as you say, to generate leads, sales, and increased loyalty, and, surely when we’re discussing content marketing the avenue is through content itself.

      My point here is to emphasize the social-ness foundation of these efforts. It is my experience that these efforts *do* prompt customer behavior. Almost weekly someone comes into the shop, makes a purchase, and continues a conversation found on our page or mentions he/she saw a particular shared article, etc.

      Granted, this is a small sample. We aren’t Giant Foods!

      Still, I think in a way you can *also* see these efforts as an extension of customer service, and, that is relevant to companies of all sizes.

      • jeff_molander

        Hi, Katie…Thanks for your thoughts, again. I guess I’m pre-disposed toward believing less in social-ness grounded in advertising. Because that’s how I see your description of how customer behavior is being/should be prompted. I simply don’t believe that telling customers things — things making them aware of or even to prefer a brand — is reliable. That’s why I’m so big on building in actual calls-to-action. I’m finding that businesses that use content marketing more successfully than others use direct calls to action — and direct response. Rather than using content marketing as they would advertising (gunning for awareness and preference) they’re using content to actually prompt behaviors — in obvious, deliberate ways. I should say… I’m discovering this success formula as part of the research I’m doing for my new book.Thanks again.

  • Chase McMichael | InfiniGraph

    Katie nice post and very on point. We’re doing a great deal of this @InfiniGraph regarding using the Content Consumer Graph to determine the most relevant trending content being shared and interacted with as it relates to the brands consumers are connected too. Its crowd sourced so you know its what the consumers find most interesting and brand like @ComplexMag and @AXE are doing well integrating content to drive social interaction. Jeff point about “aiming guns at leads, sales and increased loyalty — driven by our content” is a good one and what we talk about in this post “Influencer, Content Intelligence and Social Engagement”


  • Katie McCaskey

    Hi Chase,

    Thanks for sharing the link. I like your point about only 1% of fans being the ones that share your content – your brand ambassadors. I think there is a lot to learn about these folks…certainly, charting their influence would be a valuable exercise. Can you share more about how you “crowd source” the brand data?

  • Jim Steiner

    Hi Katie, I really enjoyed this post. Especially your pointing out the current the tendency to focus on tools vs. what is being said and how you interact. I would like to post a link on our blog and newsletter.

    • Katie McCaskey

      Jim, thank you – please feel free to link to this in your blog and newsletter.

  • Mark Ramaley

    Enjoyed your article here even more than the link to the original article on using facebook for content marketing. Have tried a trial series of posts on a fan page for my lawn service but without Google it really was not worth the effort there is not much of an opportunity to build a community around mowing grass. Wonder how well the community would scale-up in larger numbers just like the big guys. What are the limits to growth.

    • Katie McCaskey

      Mark, thank you for your comment. As it happens, one of my clients is building a community around…drum roll please… mowing grass. Here’s a post about reusing this client’s existing content which might get the ideas flowing:

      I’ll be sharing some thoughts to help you and others in an upcoming post – stay tuned!

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  • Ali

    Good work Katie