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Facebook Content Marketing Lessons from Large Brands

Facebook is, in many ways, a very local platform. Most people’s friends are from their geographic areas, and Facebook’s own moves into Places indicates that it sees a lot of opportunity there. While most marketers on Facebook wrestle with the never-ending issue of what they should be doing on their page, this is particularly true of small, local businesses — many of which are in the earlier stages of Facebook marketing programs, and don’t have the staff or production resources that larger businesses have.

The goal of this article is to explore the differences and similarities between small and large businesses sharing the same industry. In particular, what can the small-business marketer learn from its large-business counterparts.

While I focus on the automotive industry in my examples — comparing what’s working for local auto dealerships (small business) to what’s working for large auto manufacturers (large business) — the insights are likely applicable to any business that’s looking to grow its Facebook community through its content efforts.

Two industry groups, one shared goal

If you’re marketing on Facebook, one of your primary concerns is creating the right content to engage your community. This problem will never go away as long as you have your page. So let’s start by taking a high-level look at engagement levels on the pages of our two auto category groups.

The auto dealership dashboard. All Facebook data captured from Jan 1 2012 to Jan 31 2012, unless otherwise noted.

 All Facebook data captured by Zuum.

The auto manufacturer dashboard. All data captured from Jan 1 2012 to Jan 31 2012, unless otherwise noted.

The first thing that jumps out is that both groups have the same average engagement rates. You can see this in the engagement rate and fan count data for the pages within each group. This is impressive for the manufacturers because, as a rule, the larger your fan count, the more difficult it is to drive high engagement.

Another big point of curiosity here is how the Nissan corporate page is performing so much better than its dealership’s pages, as they’re both selling the same product and, as I mentioned, the manufacturer’s larger fan count makes achieving a high engagement percentage more difficult.

Let’s see if we can find content areas that are working better for the dealers, and tactics they might be able to pick up from the main brand page.

What topics and conversations drive the most engagement?

No matter what marketing medium or tactic you employ, your messaging decisions are always key. Facebook Pages are no exception. So let’s start by taking a look at the topics covered and the different types of posts created as two reference points for what’s working.

The two following keyword clouds depict the words that each group uses most frequently in its Facebook posts.

Nissan auto dealers’ Facebook Pages


Nissan’s brand Facebook Page

You can probably see that the manufacturer is using much more product-specific keywords than its dealers. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should just be all-business with your Facebook content — even off-topic content can perform quite well if it’s crafted correctly. So let’s further qualify this by taking the engagement rate of these keyword terms into consideration.

Conversation themes by engagement rate – Dealers.


Conversation themes by engagement rate – Manufacturer.

Comparing the two charts above shows us that manufacturers may be driving their higher engagement by using more active and exciting keywords. Words like “revealed,” “unveiling,” “promised,” and “coming” indicate the brand is doing a good job of building suspense and interest around brand and product news. Looking at the dealers’ 20 most engaging terms, we can see that they’re both less industry-oriented and more scattered in terms of content continuity.

Next, take a look at the most-engaging posts from the two groups, focusing on the top 5 from each. 

Most-engaging posts – Dealers. Total of 114 posts, average of 38 posts per dealer.


Most-engaging posts – Manufacturer. Total of 50 posts.

The manufacturer’s posts include much more auto-related news, and they’re offering it with some gusto. You can also see that posts with much longer copy are getting the highest engagement.

Key takeaway: To increase engagement, small businesses should find a way to post relevant content in a way that ties back to the role they play in their fan’s lives.

One very simple way an auto dealership could do this is by monitoring a group of automotive Facebook pages to identify which posts are overall most engaging, and then sharing or reposting those links on their own page.

While we’re on this chart, consider the media types being posted. For both the brand and its dealers, the most-engaging content is richer media — such as photos, videos, or links — rather than simple status updates. There might be something more behind this trend, so next we’re going to take a look at overall media types to see how that might relate to engagement.

What media types lead to more engagement?

Media types employed – Manufacturer.


Engagement rate by media type – Manufacturer and Dealer.

The manufacturer is posting far more rich media content that the dealers. Is it working? Most certainly, as the second chart reveals.

I asked Erich Marx, Director, Interactive & Social Media Marketing / Public Relations for Nissan, for his POV on how the brand approaches content development for its Facebook page. “It’s important to mix it up media-wise when it comes to being a socially interesting brand. Experiment with videos, photos, third-party links, and quotes,” he says, adding, “Don’t be a one-trick pony. There are too many other choices for people to go in this space.”

Key takeaway: Small businesses should consider increasing the percentage of rich media they’re posting if they want to increase engagement.

One more thing to consider is what type of engagement each group is generating. The position that “not all engagements are created equal” is gaining popularity, as many social media experts feel that someone who takes the time to comment on a post is more engaged than someone who simply “likes” something. Similarly, the consensus is that when consumers share your brand’s message through their personal social network, you’ve achieved the highest-possible level of consumer engagement.

So, going back to the top 5 most-engaging posts, you’ll see something even more interesting than the manufacturer’s lead in engagement rate: Consider the percentage of engagements that involve content that is “shared.” These are people who see the post and say to themselves, “This is something I have to tell my friends about.” That’s a pretty powerful premise. And on some posts, the Nissan brand has almost 30 percent of its engaged fans doing exactly that.

Key takeaway: The exciting way that bigger businesses deliver industry news drives a higher percentage of sharing.

What times work the best for posting?

Reviewing engagement rates by the days and times that content is posted, I’m not seeing any major standout data points — with the exception of Sundays.

Engagement rates by day of the week.

Sundays are performing very well for the manufacturers, and that makes sense. It’s a time when people are probably more inclined to flip through Facebook, and are more likely to have the extra time to view and engage with content. And cars are, after all, an emotional product category for many people — a topic they might likely explore as entertainment on the weekend. So dealers would likely benefit from trying to increase the amount of Facebook content they post on Sundays.

Key takeaway: Smaller businesses should consider increasing the amount of Facebook content they post on Sundays, or during other business “off-hours.”

The takeaway round-up

The success of Nissan’s main brand page indicates that there’s a lot of upside for its dealers in terms of engagement if they redirect their focus.

Let’s recap our findings:

Bring cohesion to your messaging. What role does your business play in the lives of the people who have “liked” you on Facebook? It’s probably more than their daily dose of cute jokes. But I’m not saying drop those entirely — nobody wants to follow a boring stream of company sales speak.

But small businesses like dealerships should aim to post content that connects their industry to human-interest topics, such as local traffic information, suggestions on the best weekend road trips, or even the occasional discount offer. Think about how your audience might relate to your business in their personal lives and you are almost guaranteed to find content-worthy points of intersection. 

Try posting more rich media. Firstly, it’s getting the highest engagement, by far. And secondly, it’s more likely to be shared. Ask yourself, would you be more likely to share a status or a photo? For most people, I think photos have a tangible quality that induces sharing.

Rich media can be expensive to produce, but there are also cost-effective alternatives. Try using content from the main brand’s assets. There’s also aggregation, or content curation. You could look for someone within the company who possesses both a decent camera (doesn’t have to be a pro) and an eye to match. You could even ask consumers to get involved. Activating the community to generate content would kill two birds with one stone.

Try posting more content during non-business hours. Part of content strategy involves understanding what mindset people are in when they read your content. And someone sitting around on a Sunday afternoon might be in just the right frame of mind to read about how remarkable a new model is that just arrived. It could even get them off the couch and up for a drive to check it out.

Understanding what works is an ongoing process. People’s interests can change over time and, with many product categories, even by season. Fortunately, social media has made it easier than ever to gauge what’s of interest to a target audience. And the more you know about what interests them, the more likely you are to create content that tightens the relationship they have with your brand.