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Facebook Engagement Tactics: A Subject Analysis that Will Help You Discover Emotional Triggers

facebook engagement tactics trucks category, CMIWhat will improve a Facebook page’s engagement rates? It’s something most content marketers spend a lot of time thinking about, because knowing this information enables them to activate the community, adding to the page’s value. And evaluating social media properties is an inevitability in this industry.

Assuming you’ve gathered a relevant fan base, the key drivers of engagement are going to be things like what, when, and how much you post — things defined in your content calendar. While these are important factors, they typically don’t change radically, outside of periodic promotions or special content. 

The question of what to post covers a lot of territory — the subjects and themes of the content, as well as the specific execution of that strategic direction. What you post is imperative to delivering the brand story in a relevant way.

If you can answer the What question, you’ll have a better sense of what types of posts should populate your content calendar, and how to present topics that you’ve already deemed important.

So let’s take a look at some examples of how subject analysis can give us a better sense of what’s working on Facebook for a given industry, in this case, the automotive industry, and specifically, the category of trucks.

We have six brands whose Facebook pages we’ll be looking at, reviewing the content that each posted from March to May of 2012:

  • Dodge Ram
  • Ford trucks
  • Land Rover
  • Jeep
  • GMC
  • Chevy Silverado

Which pages succeed at driving engagement?

To discuss engagement, we need some definitions. We’ll define it as the number of “likes”, comments, and shares a post gets. For engagement rate (ER), divide that figure by the page’s fan count.

Engagement rates vary considerably, often by industry and page size. According to a report Zuum Social published on Facebook engagement rates across 10 major industries, average engagement rates per post for 10 different industries ranged from .02 percent to .47 percent. Even among the 6–10 pages within each industry, average ER per post could range from .03 percent to .19 percent.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our truck industry leader board (Chart 1). A quick glance reveals a solid 0.17 percent industry-wide ER — there really aren’t any brands doing horribly, and we are seeing the typical inverse relationship between page size and engagement rate. 

facebook engagement tactics truck strategy, CMI
Chart 1: Leaderboard of Facebook postings for the automotive “Trucks” category. (All Facebook Data Captured by Zuum.)

As for posting volume, the weekly average is 92 posts, with a high of 123 posts, and a low of 55 posts. Not a huge variation here, although I’d say posting three times per week is on the low side for what most brands should be doing. This is especially true when you see examples of brands posting in high volume and generating good engagement rates. When this happens, your audience is essentially telling you they’d like more content, and the more you post, the more activity you’re going to generate. And that, of course, increases the odds your fans and the friends of your fans will see your content.

As most social media experts will agree, the big objective on Facebook is engagement — getting your fans involved with your content.

The Leaderboard (Chart 1) also shows the Dodge Ram and Ford Trucks pages are generating well above the average engagement rate of 0.17 percent (keep in mind that different industries often have different goals for engagement rates, so it’s important to view this data relative to similar pages).

With this foundational background, we’ll look at the specific type of posts that are driving engagement. While there are a lot of different views of the data we could take from here, I’ll start by looking at the most engaging subjects these brands are talking about.

Finding the hot topics

My goal with subject analysis is to find content topics that consistently perform well in a given industry. It’s essentially research into your target’s wants. And knowing what your audience wants will help you better understand them — and can also help generate content ideas you can use for your own page.

Consider Chart 2, below, a cloud of keywords used by all pages in our truck category.

In reviewing the subjects posted about, there are several things to consider: Not only is it important to look at how engaging each topic is, but also how often it is used, and how many pages it is used on. It’s one thing for a subject to get great engagement when used once; it’s another thing entirely when a subject consistently performs well, post after post.

On Chart 2, I’m restricting the terms to those in which all posts with those terms had an average engagement rate over 20 percent above the industry average of .17 percent.

I also want to start by looking at terms used at least five times, which indicates more consistent performance. Lastly, to focus more on broader industry terms and less on product-oriented ones, I’m going to view terms used on at least two pages.

facebook engagement tactics most engaging, CMI
Chart 2: Most engaging subjects on “Truck” pages, filtered for engagement rate and number of mentions.

Reviewing a term cloud like this, I’m looking for terms that indicate a certain content type; perhaps product news, contests, and promotions, community recognition, and so on.

An obvious term leaping out here is “contest.” A lot of pages try to run contests to activate their community, so if that’s one of our most engaging terms, I’m curious to see how it’s being used.

So let’s break down how “contest” is being used.

Chart 3 (below) is a subject analysis of the term “contest.” You can see the term was used 15 times in three months — a very high count — yet still pulled an average engagement rate over 200 percent higher than the industry average. The Posting Calendar chart shows it was used by Ford every Tuesday for 10 weeks and running. That’s a clear indication of a content series.

facebook engagement tactics subject analyzer, CMI
Chart 3: Subject analysis of the term “Contest.”

Chart 4 is a sample of some of the posts Ford is publishing on the “contest” theme.

facebook engagement tactics contest posts, CMI
Chart 4: Ford’s “Caption Contest” drives ongoing engagement.

I think serial content — content themes that run over and over, typically at consistent days and times — is a great goal for brands.

When you hit on a content type that is genuinely engaging across multiple uses, it can help you populate a content calendar quickly and effectively. It also helps you clearly estimate your content and production needs for that content slot weeks, and even months, in advance.

Serial content also creates positive anticipation, which is a benefit that shouldn’t be underestimated. Think of your favorite TV show or magazine, and how much you look forward to seeing it become available. Brands that create that sense on any level have truly captured some content magic.

Exploring categorical emotional triggers 

Going back to our topic cloud, remember that we’ve already set up filters so that all the terms featured are performing well above average in engagement. Given that, I’m seeking terms that are used in higher frequency. I’m also searching for related topics — engaging subjects that might work together collectively to give me a sense of the emotions or attitudes common among truck owners.

Two that both fit well together and have a high number of uses are “mud” and “snow.” Together, these terms represent an emotional quality that logically resonates with truck buyers: ruggedness, toughness, man vs. the elements.

Combined, those three terms were used over 14 times by these pages, with an average engagement rate over 45 percent above the industry average. Because “snow” was used the most broadly — 9 times by 4 pages — let’s see what types of posts about “snow” drove this engagement.

facebook engagement tactics "snow" posts, CMI
Chart 5: Posts addressing the topic “Snow.”

Looking at the posts on “snow” in Chart 5, you can see this is giving the brands a good opportunity to reinforce the ruggedness of their vehicles — a way to flex their brand muscle, if you will.

Each of these brands would do well to explore similar themes of toughness throughout the year. It’s clearly an area the fans are interested in.

Other brands can take note that most industries have similar subjects that resonate with fans, and finding the best ways to create stories around those themes should improve their overall page activity.

Engagement power of different media types

I believe subject matter is the single most powerful view of what’s working, but it’s certainly not the only important variable. For some industries, the type of content, or even the time or day it’s posted, can be a major factor in how well it engages.

I always like to view content by media type — e.g., status update, links, photos, videos, etc. Each of these types of content has a different user experience. And different user experiences can definitely lead to different engagement rates.

facebook engagement rates media type analysis, CMI
Chart 6: Engagement rates and posting volume by media type.

Chart 6 shows the number of posts from each brand for each media type, as well as the average engagement rate for those posts. Given Ford’s overall high performance, it is not surprising that Ford is getting exceptional performance on its photos. (Its videos are doing well too, but Ford has only posted four of them in three months, so the data’s a little thin.)

This makes me curious about what additional photo posts Ford might be using that generate good engagement. Chart 7 is a list of Ford’s photo posts, ranked by engagement rate.

facebook engagement tactics ford photo posts, CMI
Chart 7: Most engaging photo posts from Ford.

Interestingly, three of Ford’s top four photo posts are part of a photo series, “How filthy is your Ford?” These are all placed in a photo gallery, and Ford simply adds new photos every time a Ford owner submits a photo.

This is a good way to show fans some brand love, while keeping fun, fresh content on your page. It also adds another form of serial content for the brand to pull from.

The takeaways, for content marketers in any industry

We’ve just assessed the top subjects working on Facebook pages in the automotive category of trucks. While there’s certainly more research that goes into a content strategy, and even within subject analysis, we could take a number of additional views of the data, what we’ve just reviewed gives a clear indication of the insights you’ll find in doing subject analysis.

Let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered.

For one, we’ve discovered a simple contest tactic that one brand is using to generate a highly engaging content series.

We’ve also uncovered several strong emotional drivers that are working on numerous pages across the truck industry.

And we’ve seen how to create a fan-submitted photo series, based on some of the emotional drivers we’ve discovered in our brand posting analysis.

How can marketers from any industry use what we’ve learned here?

  • The value of competitive analysis: It’s important to analyze the other pages in your industry.  It gives you a better understanding of your target audience, and can expose some of your competitors’ most effective tactics.
  • Don’t just look for engaging terms: Look for high use, too — terms that are used a lot and still generate engagement are more likely to produce engagement in future posts. Of course, you can wear any subject out, but that’s something you can keep tabs on as you go.
  • Engaging content doesn’t have to be complicated: Even for large brands, content ideas don’t have to be overly complex. It’s always good to have a mix of content types.
  • Aim to create a content series: Combining a highly-engaging theme with a content theme published on a regular schedule can both create a content expectation among fans, and make the scheduling, creating, and producing of that content easier.

Smart content is strategic and creative

What I think this data demonstrates, more than anything, is that good, engaging content is not an accident. It’s the result of a calculated strategic and creative process; a process that starts with understanding what types of content really drive fan engagement on pages in your target industry. The posts rising to the top of the engagement charts are the result of people who understand what their fans want, and reciprocate by publishing that type of content in fresh, interesting ways.

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Truck image courtesy of dave_7