By Doug Schumacher published October 2, 2012

Which Brand is Top Dog at Creating Engaging Facebook Content?

creating engaging facebook content - cover, CMIWe’ve been taking a look at what’s working on Facebook across different industries, and this week we’re going to drop in on the pet food category. We’ll analyze six top pet food brand pages for a three-month period to determine what types of posts are driving engagement, and what marketers from any industry can take home from it.

The brand pages we’ll be analyzing are: Milk-Bone, Pedigree, PurinaOne, Iams, Beggin’, and ALPO.

For a content analysis like this, I like to start with the 10,000-foot view you get from an industry leaderboard. It gives you the benchmark data points and an idea of where the given competitors rank. Take a look at the industry leaderboard on Chart 1.

creating engaging facebook content - leaderboard, CMI

Firstly, note the industry-wide high engagement rate: .3 percent. (As a reference point, in our report on Facebook Page Data Averages across nine industries, the highest industry average in that group was .2 percent.)

High engagement rates like these are typically associated with emotional product categories, and the pets category certainly qualifies there.

Also, note the correlation between the rankings in the engagement rate and posting volume columns, indicated by the orange highlight over the two columns. The general trend is that higher posting volumes are associated with higher engagement rates. This would indicate that there’s considerable interest in content from these brands — especially quality content.

In fact, there are really only two pages with a noticeably low posting volume: Pedigree and Alpo. It’s worth noting that one of those has the lowest engagement rate, and the other is the only page with a negative growth rate — neither being good indicators of overall community involvement.

PurinaOne is the obvious leader of this pack, with an average engagement rate that is almost two times greater than the industry average. Besides engagement rate, notice in how many other benchmarks it ranks highly, as indicated by the darker blue shading of PurinaOne data.

The media type behind this level of engagement

After getting a benchmark view from the leaderboard, I like to consider how the posting is spread out across different media types, and how those media types are performing. This Media Type analysis, in Chart 2, provides added dimension to all the engagement and posting volume data we just viewed.

creating engaging facebook content - media type, CMI

Note the dominance of photos — not only in posting volume, but also in engagement rate. Like the positive relationship between overall posting volume and engagement rate from the leaderboard, we’re seeing a similar trend here — the brands posting a lot of photos are generally getting the better engagement from their pics.

It’s been known in advertising for years that pictures of dogs drive ad memorability. Clearly, pets have a big ”cuteness” component. Thus, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why photos of dogs and cats would be driving high engagement on Facebook pages.

Photo posts more than just pretty pictures

Chart 3 is a topic cloud of all the subjects posted by brands, ranked by both the number of mentions and the engagement rate those topics generate (the larger the font the more mentions; the darker the color the higher the engagement). I’ve set this chart to only show subjects that are driving an average engagement that is at least 25 percent above the industry-wide average.

creating engaging facebook content - topic cloud, CMI

A couple of things pop out. First is the term ”story.” We’ll explore this more in a minute, but it’s notable to see that emphasized when so much of the content would seem to be photo-driven. Sure, pictures tell stories, but when they explicitly mention story, it tells me there’s something much bigger going on.

And speaking of stories, notice that when you look at the various words that appear in the tag cloud, the topics seem to read like a story. They feel like the action words from a whole series of stories about pets, their owners, and the adventures they’ve had together.

Let’s dig further into the use of this high-performance topic, ”story.” Take a look at Chart 4, which is a subject analysis breakout of how the brands are using the topic of “story” in their content.

creating engaging facebook content - topic "story," CMI

First, note the mass usage of the term itself: 52 times! That’s more than 10 percent of all posts during this three-month period. And a .9 percent engagement rate average per post is three times the industry average. Together, those are some very impressive stats.

Looking to the upper right section of chart 4, on the right-most pie chart, you can see that the media type for “story” is almost entirely photos. Not really a surprise, given that we know that they’re posting a lot of pics, and that pics are driving the highest engagement. But in the pie chart just left of the media type, you’ll see these posts are also generating very high levels of sharing. These photos are having a strong viral impact. While engagement is a great goal for a Facebook page, sharing is a particularly potent form of engagement, and that’s what’s happening with these story-based photo posts.

Moving down to the Posting Calendar, you can see that PurinaOne is driving most of the posting activity on this subject — and it’s doing it very consistently. As I outlined in a previous article, creating content themes that are posted at regularly scheduled dates and times is a great strategy for building up a content expectation, the same way TV and radio programs have done for years.

Shorter isn’t always better

Now that we’ve seen that PurinaOne is leading the industry in engagement, and is doing so with photo posts, and we know there’s some sort of a story going on around those photos, let’s take a look at exactly what they’re doing to drive these impressive engagement levels.

Chart 5 features the three most engaging posts by PurinaOne during this time period.

creating engaging facebook content - most engaging post, CMI

I find it pleasantly surprising to see posts with this much copy driving this level of engagement on Facebook. And notice how consistent and campaign-like the posts from PurinaOne feel. Even though the individual stories are written about very different situations, they’re all coming from the same brand voice.

Chart 6 is one of the specific posts from PurinaOne. In fact, it’s the single most engaging post in this industry during the entire three-month period. You just have to read it to appreciate the crafting of this story.

creating engaging facebook content - best post, CMI

That’s what good content is about. Telling interesting stories.

Engaged fans translate to active fans

Not only are the fans in this industry engaged with brand content, they’re also posting some interesting content of their own. Given their passion for their pets, it’s not surprising they’d be taking photos of them.

Chart 7 shows the most engaging fan photo posts from the PurinaOne page — some more amusing, quality content.

creating engaging facebook content - best photo, CMI

I’d be surprised if brands in this category haven’t had fan-submitted photo contests in the past. And given the range of images fans produce, this should be a content source brands can go back to again and again, perhaps even generating a regular series of content around it.

Takeaways for content marketers

So what can we learn from this content exploration — whether we’re in the pet food industry, or something else altogether?

  • You need more than just an interesting subject: Having a product category that’s interesting isn’t enough to drive high engagement rates. PurinaOne’s content combines a powerful content category, but the execution really takes it to another level. The photos are well-edited, and the copy keeps you reading right to the last word. Spend the money to ensure you have good images and well-written copy.
  • Consistent content types build interest: We’ve seen regularly-scheduled content like this before, and I think it’s a strong trend. There are so many positives. It gives the content creators a chance to get into a groove. The brand can more easily build out its content calendar, with more accurately anticipated production costs. And, when the content is good, the audience begins to look forward to the brand’s marketing messages.
  • It’s good to be brief, but it’s better to be good: In general, shorter marketing messages seem to work better than long ones. I’ve found this to be true across most media (certainly in outdoor, but in TV, print, and banners, as well). However, PurinaOne is clearly demonstrating that longer-form content will beat everything when that content is very good. The other way to view this is that while most brands are probably trying to keep their posts short, PurinaOne has followed the proverbial “zig when others zag” approach. Short messages may stand out — unless everyone’s creating short messages, in which case creating longer messages may help you cut through the clutter.

It’s great to see content like this performing well on Facebook, and I think it speaks to both the maturity of brand messages on Facebook, and that brand content on Facebook can deliver on a strong, emotional level.

It’s perfectly legitimate that the Facebook news feed is a mix of messages from friends, news organizations, brands we own, entertainers we like, political organizations we support, etc. Those are the things we’re interested in.

As legendary ad guy Howard Gossage said years ago, “People don’t read ads — they read what interests them, and sometimes it is an ad.”

Brand messages can fit perfectly into the news feed, as long as they don’t forget that key point Gossage made. Thus, the key to success for brands on Facebook is finding out what their fans are interested in and acting on it.

Fortunately, the data we can get from Facebook enables us to understand their interests at an unprecedented level.

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Author: Doug Schumacher

Doug is Co-Founder of content strategy tool Zuum. Prior, he was founder and creative director of new media marketing agency Basement. Originally a traditional copywriter at DDB, TBWA/Chiat/Day and BBDO, he’s been developing digital marketing solutions since 1995, for brands including EA Games, Nissan, Activision, Warner Bros, Pepsi, California Lottery, PayPal, Bank of America, Disney, and Travelocity. Follow Doug on Twitter @MemeRunner.

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