Facebook Marketing Expert Mari Smith On Utilizing The Social Network's New Features

Chris CrumBusiness

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Over the past year, Facebook has crushed the organic reach of the posts published by many Pages. It's harder than ever to get exposure in the News Feed without paying for it. Still, Facebook has launched new features, including tools specifically for Pages, which do create some potential for new opportunities.

Which of Facebook's recently added features do you find most helpful? Let us know in the comments.

We wanted to get some thoughts on some of these from a true Facebook marketing expert, so we reached out to Mari Smith, author of of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day.

Search

Facebook has made some big improvements to its search experience, adding keyword-based search to bring up post results, among other things. You can now find who has said what about any given topic. Are there opportunities for businesses here?

"The ability to search for posts seems to be rather buggy and needs much improvement," Smith tells WebProNews. "So far, despite a myriad of search tests myself, I’m not finding it terribly useful. Over time, however, as refinements are made, businesses will be able to surface any post created by users on their personal profile, shared with public. Ideally, we’ll also be able to surface posts made by Pages, too."

Asked if she sees Facebook's search feature becoming more of a go-to destination for users in light of its improvements, Smith says, "Not yet. Facebook’s search has a long way to go. It will be interesting to see just how widely users have taken to the new tabbed design of the search results page. It’s not that obvious, at first. And, it’s not even that obvious how to search and surface items such as friends’ photos, places, events, etc. My guess is most users simply use the search bar for looking up other users’ profiles. Facebook would do well to provide further education/tutorials on how to optimize search."

We also spoke with Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin about Facebook search recently. He doesn't see Facebook search becoming very significant anytime soon either in terms of being a place where users regularly go to look for information.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked a bit about search during the company's earnings call last week.

"So, our view on this is that there is a lot of unique content that people have shared in Facebook, a lot of personal content, recommendations from friends that you can get that you just wouldn’t be able to get through a traditional web search service or other app," he said. "And we’re on this multiyear voyage to basically index all the content and make it available to people and rank it well. We started off by launching graph search which I think included more than a trillion different connections in the first system."

"And the second round of the search progress that we just started rolling out at the end of last year was post search, which now has indexed more than I think a trillion posts, which I mean the sizes of these corpuses are bigger than anything in a traditional web search corpus that you would find," he added. "So it’s an interesting and fun challenge to make this work. We’re seeing that people immediately understand how they can use this and find content that they’ve seen in News Feed before or that they’ve posted with just a few keywords."

In terms of what types of content might work best for Pages when it comes to visibility in Facebook search, Smith tells us, "Visual wins the game for organic, paid and search results – whether images or video. Our brains process images, especially containing real people, much faster than words. Plus, our attention spans have reduced, so the quicker businesses can communicate their message in a visual manner, the better. Videos under 60 seconds are ideal, with a blend of informative and entertaining, if possible. Notice when we do a search on Google, the row of YouTube video thumbnails always stands out!"

As you've no doubt heard, Facebook video is booming. Facebook has been promoting that fact throughout the new year (it was another big theme of the earnings call).

“Shorter, timely video content tends to do well in News Feed," Facebook says. "Keep in mind that auto-play videos play silently in News Feed until someone taps to hear sound, so videos that catch people’s attention even without sound often find success.”

Trending

In December, Facebook made some big improvements to its Trending feature. For one, it became available on mobile. Secondly, it added new sections for different types of content. Whereas before, it was basically a jumble of news stories with varying degrees of personal relevance, the experience is now split up into: Articles, In the Story, Friends and Groups, Near the Scene, and Live Feed.

The Articles section shows coverage of the topic from various news organizations. The In the Story section shows posts from people who are actually part of the story. Friends and Groups shows what people in your network are saying about the topic, and the Near the Scene section shows you posts from people near where the story is unfolding.

"Regarding the ‘Trending’ feature at the top right of our desktop News Feed, similarly to Twitter’s trending topics, it does seem to have reasonable usefulness in terms of seeing what the majority of users are discussing," says Smith. "Personally, I’d also like to see Trending broken down into locations and possibly friends vs. public."

"Also, in yet another News Feed ranking algorithm change, Facebook introduced a feature that gives more priority to posts that receive comments, likes and shares promptly after the post was published," she adds. "The speed at which users respond is a signal that it could be a hot, trending topic. Pages would do well to pay attention to the response time of their posts, tracking the types of posts and subjects that generate the fastest response."

Small Business Marketing

Due to the aforementioned decline in organic Page post reach, many businesses have grown frustrated with Facebook marketing.

Asked if she still sees Facebook as a viable platform for marketing a small business (especially one with a low marketing budget), Smith tells us, "Yes – I would recommend that low budget be allocated to what are called 'dark posts.' That is, ads in the News Feed that look like a Page wall post, but don’t actually appear on the Page. With very granular targeting to reach the exact target market, small businesses can do exceptionally well using Facebook. In addition, making use of custom audiences is a must. This is where a business can upload its own email database, or segments thereof, and place ads in the News Feed to that target group. Plus, using website custom audiences helps a business to retarget its website visitors with Facebook ads."

"Facebook recently introduced a new ad feature called 'Conversion Lift Measurement' to help advertisers track better ROI, especially offline sales," she adds. "Although the new metric is only available to select large advertisers, this is great news for small businesses when the feature eventually becomes available."

More on Conversion Lift Management here.

"In addition, we’ll soon see the rollout of Facebook’s 'Atlas' advertising product that allows retargeting and tracking via mobile devices," she adds. "Retargeting typically works via cookies; however, cookies don’t work on mobile. The way Atlas works, is advertisers can then place ads to remarket to visitors whether they view on desktop, mobile or tablet. In other words, reaching the exact audience no matter what device they’re on."

"Page owners may wish to try out the new organic Interest Targeting feature to see if that helps create a greater reach," she says. "Prior to publishing a piece of content, admins can pre-select subsets of their fanbase. Another recent change is the ability to create a Post End Date – this stops a post from showing in News Feed at the specific time/date that you wish. Handy for, as Facebook states, 'a publisher can use this to remove yesterday’s weather report from News Feed.'"

We talked more about these features in an article here.

Do you agree with Mari's analysis? Do you have anything to add? Share in the comments.

Image via Mari Smith, Facebook

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.