Pelland Blog

Highly Effective Facebook Posts

March 8th, 2016

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is an age-old philosophical question. While pondering the answer to that question, let me present a very similar question: If you post to your Facebook Page, but Facebook only allows for a small percentage of your followers to see the post, are you totally wasting your time? Almost anybody can quickly answer that question with a resounding ‘yes!’

Most people know that, unless you promote (in other words, pay for) your posts, only a small percentage of the people who have “liked” your page and want to see your posts will actually get to do so. Facebook claims that, “Pages organically reach about 16% of their fans on average. To make sure your fans see your stories, sponsor your posts to increase the reach of your content.” That claimed statistic (which everybody suspects is steadily falling, but that Facebook has not updated in nearly 4 years) is called into question by third-party analytics that actually calculate a far lower percentage in many if not most instances. We also know that engagement with the chosen few who will actually get to see your posts will be increased if your posts contain video or photos.

How to Beat Facebook at its Own Game

I would not advise businesses to cave in to Facebook’s financial demands. What I will advise is that businesses think smarter in order to gain the greatest benefit from this social media giant. Let’s presume that posts from your page are seen by 16% of the people who have liked your page, as Facebook suggests. Metric studies have also shown that, on average, about 35% of Facebook users see posts from their friends (as opposed to your page.) The actual percentage will vary, following a complex algorithm called EdgeRank that determines to what extent Facebook will filter any specific posted content that users will get to see. The bottom line is that, if over twice as many people are likely to see posts from their friends as they are from your page, you can substantially increase your reach if you offer people incentives to share your posts.

A Case Example

My family was recently involved with hiring the services of one of the leading wedding photographers in the local area. Toward the end of the year, the photographer ran a very clever yet inexpensive promotion on Facebook that was certain to generate a remarkable amount of traffic, exposing many new prospective customers to her services. Here is how it worked:

  1. The photographer confirms in advance that couples are willing to allow their photos to be used for appropriate promotional purposes.
  2. She then created a Facebook album that consisted of 35 photos, one from each of 35 weddings that she had photographed during the recent nuptial season.
  3. She then shared that album with each of the 35 couples, encouraging them to, in turn, share the album on Facebook with their network of friends, asking their friends to vote (with a “like”) for their photo.
  4. The couple whose photo garnered the most “likes” would win a dinner for two (valued at $60.00) at an area restaurant that is located within a frequent wedding venue.
  5. In order to “vote”, each person is also supposed to “like” the photographer’s page and the page of the wedding venue (although this would appear to be an unenforceable rule.)
  6. The dinner certificate was almost certainly provided by the wedding venue at no charge, in exchange for the promotional value.

The total cost to the photographer: Zero. By the end of the contest, there had been a total of 865 “likes” of the various photos in the album, each an indication of a person who most likely viewed what is essentially a portfolio of the photographer’s work. The photographer’s Facebook page currently has about 4,400 “likes”. Based upon the 16% average that Facebook claims, about 700 people would have at least seen the link to this album when it was posted. Adding in the 865 people who interacted with the album in response to the links that were shared by the 35 wedding couples, you can clearly see that this was a very effective promotion.

Using a similar degree of imagination and creativity, there are certainly opportunities for your park to benefit from a similar promotion. An idea that immediately comes to mind would be a contest to choose your campground’s three nicest seasonal sites, with the winners getting $200.00, $150.00, and $100.00 discounts toward their seasonal site renewals fees for the following year. Every person visiting the album will be impressed by the quality of the sites that they see and may be a likely prospect to become a seasonal camper themselves. Another shorter-term promotional idea (and with smaller prizes) might determine the best decorated site (or the best individual costumes) from your Halloween weekend. Get the idea?

With a bit of ingenuity, you can easily multiply the impact of social media like Facebook upon your business, at little or no cost and without paying for the privilege of promoting your posts.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Facebook: Three Important Insider Secrets

October 14th, 2015

You probably know that, taken collectively, the social media can represent a double-edged sword. If not handled carefully, it is very easy to inflict self-injury. Facebook, by far the biggest force within the social media, presents several opportunities where customers may either positively interact with a business or where a business might allow itself to be publicly humiliated by disgruntled customers. Be aware of how to tip the scales your favor by adjusting three settings for your Facebook Page.

1
Facebook Messaging

Allow visitors to your page to send you private messages, and then respond to those messages in a timely and professional manner. Of course, if you run a campground, you might prefer that people initiate their reservations by using the online reservation page on your website; however, you do not want to turn away business because potential customers might prefer to contact you in another manner that they may consider to be more intuitive in their instance. If you are heading into a slow weekend and somebody messages you on Facebook, asking if you have two adjoining sites available for the upcoming weekend, you can immediately reply (answering in the affirmative and providing them with both your telephone number and a direct link to your online reservations) or you can kiss that business goodbye (and look at those two empty campsites all weekend long). To ignore this opportunity to allow customers to engage with your business is like telling people that you will only allow them to pay with a credit card, and that you do not accept cash. That would be pretty foolhardy, wouldn’t it?

Here is how to do it: Logged into Facebook as admin for your Page, go to Settings > General > Messages. Enable private messages by checking the box that says, “Allow people to contact my Page privately by showing the Message button.” That is the first step. For the next step, go to Settings > Notifications > Messages, and choose the option that says, “Get a notification each time your Page receives a message.”

The most important part is to respond to your private messages as quickly as possible. Your Response Time is the key measurement. Your response time is visible to the public in the “About” section of your Facebook Page. Your goal should be for that to show as “Typically replies in minutes”. By setting up notifications in the previous step, you should have no excuse for not responding in a timely manner. There are tools that will help you to respond to messages, particularly when you are away or when your office is closed. Go to Settings > Messaging and consider adding a personalized “Away Message” or an “Instant Reply”.

2
Visitor Posts

Part of the beauty of the social media is the ability for businesses to interact with their customers, particularly in instances where the customers are the ones to initiate that interaction. On Facebook, be sure that you have enabled visitor posts.

Here is how to do it: Go to Settings > General > Visitor Posts. Choose “Allow visitors to the Page to publish posts”, but check the box that says “Review posts by other people before they are published to the Page.” That last step is critically important. If you have somebody who was unhappy with their experience with your business, has an axe to grind or simply would like to humiliate your business in public, this is one of the first places they will turn. In fact, some people specifically “like” a Page so that they can post negative comments. By moderating those posts, and determining which ones you allow to be publicly visible, you are protecting your business for being harmed in this manner. Even if a negative post is only online for a few minutes (until you have been notified that it exists), hundreds of people may be exposed to that post and its potentially harmful content.

3
Reviews

Reviews on Facebook are consistently the source for the greatest potential harm to a business. If your reviews are all positive, congratulations! You need to read no further. However, if your business has ever been the target of even a single negative review, you have probably been frustrated with the inability to delete any such reviews that appear on your Page. By default, all you can do is “like” or comment on a review; however, comments with a negative reviewer tend to lead to nothing but a shouting match on your own turf. People who see the negative review generally do not know the author, but your responses can make you look defensive, argumentative, or dismissive … none of which are good business characteristics.

I have worked with several clients whose businesses have been the targets of negative reviews. In the instance of campgrounds, these 1 star reviews are generally written by a camper or group of campers who had been evicted or reprimanded for misbehavior during their stay. They typically recruit their friends to write their own negative reviews or to comment on their reviews in order to ensure that the snowball keeps growing. Of course, they will usually first try to post to your Page; however, if you are moderating posts by others or have banned a user from posting to your page, they will often turn to the review process.

The problem with reviews is that you cannot get individual reviews removed, unless the reviewer has resorted to the use of profanity, character assassination, or another narrowly-defined violation of Facebook review policy. Reviews will appear on your Page whether you like them or not, and they seem to linger forever. For example, Normandy Farms Campground is one of the leading campgrounds in the United States by anybody’s definition. Their Facebook Page shows 778 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Of these, 92.5% of their reviews include either 5 or 4 star ratings, with fewer than 2% being 1 star reviews. The problem is that the review summary that is visible to anyone who visits the Page shows two reviews: an example of a 5 star review and an example of a 1 star review. Clearly, this summary is not an accurate representation of the reviews for the park by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully, anybody visiting the Page will quickly recognize that negative reviews are the exception to the rule and are written by people who lack the credibility of the majority of the reviews.

Nonetheless, that review summary is a problem for many businesses on Facebook, particularly if the negative review is compounded by comments and copycat reviews by the reviewer’s friends. What can you do in this instance? Follow these instructions to prevent reviews from appearing on your Page. Just remember that this is an “all or nothing” solution; however, if you have a bad review that is giving you migraines, you are better off having no reviews appear on your Page.

HideReviews

Here is how to do it: This tip is slightly trickier to implement because it will not be found in the Facebook settings. Go to your Page’s “About” tab, and then choose the “Page Info” option on the left. Hover over your business’s address in order to make the “edit” link appear. Click on that edit link. This will bring up information where you are able to correct your address, and it also shows a map of your location. UNCHECK the box that says “Show map, check-ins and star ratings on the Page.” Click “Save Changes” and the reviews that have been haunting you will have now disappeared from your Page!

As I have said, Facebook and the social media in general can work for or against your business. Implement these tips to give your business the upper hand on what might otherwise be an off-level playing field.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

The Fine Art of Handling Negative Reviews

July 16th, 2014

Not all reviews are negative. The negative reviews are simply the ones that most deserve your attention. Some negative reviews are worse than others, but the worst negative review is the one that was left unanswered.

In most instances, I find that small business owners cannot be objective when handling criticisms of the businesses which are often extensions of themselves. That is understandable, but it is important to put subjectivity aside and recognize that, in the vast majority of instances, a negative review is providing valuable input regarding improvements that you should consider making.

In other instances, a negative review might provide insight into a situation that requires urgent action; however, if you are unaware of the review, the situation is likely to continue and the viral power of the online review will only multiply. Let me share an example.

I recently did a search of Google for the name of a business, hoping to find its correct mailing address. At the absolute top of the search results (#1 on page #1) was the following review that has been online since January of 2012. I have changed the names and any other identifying information, but the point is clear.

“While driving on Eastern Avenue (near Spring Street) today (01-11-12) at 2:05 PM I was tailgated by someone driving a truck (license plate RVJ-524) from Acme Enterprises. I was forced to pull over because the driver was driving too close. When I pulled over I was given the finger and when I continued driving the driver doubled-back to actually chase me! I’m a member of the [a local business association] and I will certainly be sending an email blast to my fellow members to ensure they avoid this organization. I took a picture of the driver and have it on file.”

Wow! Can you imagine this being at the top of the search results for your business for 2½ years, and not knowing about it? Can you imagine having an employee acting in this manner while driving a clearly identified company vehicle? I presume that any business owner would take immediate corrective measures if he knew about this situation. Without any such knowledge, this type of behavior on the part of an employee is only likely to continue.

Yes, this is an extreme example, but it is totally true. How about the employee who is short with one of your guests, or the employee who did not perform a maintenance task up to the expected standards? Those are often the foundation of a negative review. Even if a review site does not give you, as the business owner, an opportunity to directly respond online, it is still providing you with valuable information that should probably be incorporated into your next company meeting, job description, or employee performance review. The reputation of your business is at stake.

When you do have the opportunity to respond to a negative review, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Listen to what the reviewer has to say. Try to be as subjective as possible, putting your ego aside. The review is not a personal attack upon your reputation (even if you think that it is.)
  2. Empathize, introduce a positive factor into the conversation, and apologize if necessary. An apology is not an admission of guilt but simply a polite acknowledgement that the reviewer had less than a perfect experience involving your business.
  3. Try to take the conversation offline. I recently posted on Facebook how dissatisfied I was when an energy audit contractor failed to show up for a scheduled appointment. The organization saw that it had been mentioned on Facebook, responding by asking me to contact them privately with my telephone number. Offline, they apologized and re-scheduled the appointment for the following day. Any damage was under control.
  4. Despite the urgency of responding quickly, before posting a response to an online review, always run it by another set of eyes. Too often, in the absence of body language and tone of voice, a response with the best of intentions might sound condescending or even sarcastic. Remember that you are trying to rectify a situation, not make it worse.

There are literally dozens of online review sites, the most important which impact the travel and tourism industry being TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Foursquare. Other types of businesses are reviewed on sites like Angie’s List, MerchantCircle, Manta, Buzzillions, Epinions, and Insider Pages. Then don’t forget the BBB (Better Business Bureau) Online, where any consumer can file a complaint against a business.

Just as important, any comment on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ is a de-facto review within the writer’s network. In fact, those can often do the most harm because they come from somebody whose opinion is trusted within his or her network of friends.

There are also more than a dozen of which are specific to the campground industry. These include RV Park Reviews, CampRate, Campground Report, Campsite Reports, RVparking.com, RVcampReviews.com, RV Park Finder, and of course GuestRated. Some of these sites get much more traffic than others, but keep in mind that only one person reading one negative review can translate into lost business. Do your best to try to keep that from happening.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Is Facebook Today’s Milton Berle?

May 1st, 2014

Like a TV star at the peak of his prime, with ratings going through the roof, only to face cancellation two seasons later, the popularity of Facebook may very well be in decline. Think of Facebook in terms of Milton Berle’s career in the early days of television.

The Texaco Star Theatre was a popular radio show that transitioned to television in 1948, featuring a rotating series of hosts until settling upon comedian Milton Berle for the 1948-49 TV season. The show was an immediate hit with Uncle Miltie at the helm, commanding as much as 80% of the viewing audience, keeping people home on Tuesday nights, and driving the sale of televisions. Wanting to latch onto something new and extremely popular, NBC signed an unprecedented (and soon to be regretted) 30-year contract with Berle, culminating with the premier of the Milton Berle Show in 1955-56 (cancelled after that single season). The comedy shtick of “Mr. Television” had outworn the public’s patience with recycled material and failed to meet its demand for things that are “new and improved”.

Not long ago, Facebook was also at the top of its game, but I think that it is fair to say that the game is changing. According to Facebook’s own statistics from January 1, 2014, there were 1,310,000,000 active users, including 680,000,000 mobile users. They also admit to 81,000,000 fake Facebook profiles. Also according to Facebook’s own statistics, the total number of users between the ages of 13-17 has declined by 25.3% in the 3 years from January of 2011 to January of 2014. During this same period, users between the ages of 18-24 declined by 7.5%. As grandma and grandpa have opened accounts in droves, in an attempt to stay in touch with their children’s children, the same people with whom they want to connect are disconnecting at a record pace. Users currently enrolled in high school have declined by 58.9%, and users currently in college have declined by 59.1%.

According to a Pew Research Center report released in late 2013, the popularity of Facebook in the hierarchy of social media site usage by teens is in freefall, being surpassed by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and smartphone apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Beyond that, social media applications in general are being put aside in favor of instant messaging.

As a business, does Facebook still fit into your marketing strategy?

A few years ago, Facebook usage was growing across the board, demographically speaking, and businesses were creating Pages and content in an effort to capitalize upon a new and growingly receptive market. Before the conversion of business Pages to the Timeline format, “unliked” Pages could designate custom landing page that could be designed to more actively engage visitors. The introduction of the Timeline format ended that capability. Since the introduction of the Timeline format, far more emphasis has been put on Facebook Advertising, which is now the only way to designate a custom landing page.

In the beginning, if a Facebook user “liked” your Page, they would be shown posts from your Page; however, since the introduction of the Timeline format, fewer and fewer people have been seeing a business’s organic posts. In fact, every time you post anything to your Page, you will see a link to the right of the Timeline that says “See Your Ad Here” with a link that says “Boost Post”. In addition, every post is now followed by a “Boost Post” link directly alongside of the small number of people who have already seen your post. Whereas it used to be that Facebook Advertising was an effective way to reach new people, now Facebook is using it as a means to get businesses to pay to reach even their existing followers!

With the latest version of the Timeline format, more space is being devoted to advertising and slightly less is devoted to content. For users, the updates that they want to see – including posts from your business – are far less likely to appear, having been largely replaced by advertising (with a small “Sponsored” disclaimer) disguised as real content. Although Google and other search engines have always showed clearly identified sponsored search content, the display of that advertising has not come at the expense of the organic search results that are the foundation behind usage. Facebook – a company that touts so-called “transparency” – is violating the trust of its end users and further insuring its ultimate decline. The official explanation is that their objective is to “improve the quality and relevancy of news feed content.”

The truth can be found in a recent Valleywag report quoting an anonymous source from within Facebook, disclosing that Facebook’s current strategy is to reduce the reach of organic posts to somewhere between 1% and 2%.

Creating and maintaining Facebook content for your business made infinite sense as little as a year or two ago. Today, the impact and return on the time and expense invested is questionable at best. Although my company has built well over 100 Facebook Pages, including custom content, for all types of small business clients in years past, we are no longer recommending that our clients expect a Facebook presence to create an impact that will be a significant component of their overall marketing strategy. Yes, you still want to be found on Facebook, but we can no longer recommend anything beyond the bare basics of content. Quite simply, there are far more cost-efficient ways to generate new business.

This post was written by Peter Pelland