Facebook! Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay and business owners need to figure out how to use it effectively. Consider the following stats from a new Pew Research report

  • 79% of all online Americans use Facebook
  • 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users
  • The number of online adults who use Facebook has increased 7% over 2015, meaning that a growing number of people are still joining the site.
  • 76% of Facebook users say they check in at least once a day, up from 70% in 2015.

The reality is that social media has enabled our customers to go beyond being passive recipients of our products and services. Our customers are now a community of people who interact with us and with each other. We can choose to collaborate with them or not.  We can communicate and learn from them or not. And they can choose to be our advocates, or not.

Business owners who recognize this know that social media is no longer optional.  In fact, your business is “on Facebook” whether you have an official page or not simply because your customers are already there.

Why Should I Care About Engagement?

Three words: The Facebook Algorithm. Have you ever noticed that you see content from the people and Pages that you interact most with? You see the posts of your funny friend whose posts always make you react by pressing “like.”  It’s very unlikely that you’ll see very many posts from friends whose posts you ignore. That is the Facebook Algorithm at work. Through your behavior, you tell Facebook what you want to see and what you don’t want to see, and Facebook uses that information to create a great experience for you. In order for the people who have liked your page to see your posts, you need to keep them engaged. The best way to do that is by posting useful, entertaining, or informational content most of the time. Then when you send out a promotional post, your fans are much more likely to see it. Non-promotional posts are the digital marketer’s way of “priming the pump” and getting their customers ready for the sales pitch.

A Facebook Posting System that Answers the Most-Asked Questions

The question I hear the most often from business owners is “What should I post so that I get the best return on the time I’m spending on Facebook?”  The second most asked question is, “How many times do I need to post?”

There’s lots of advice about how to achieve the perfect balance of posts. Some social media experts suggest formulas – 20% of your posts ask for a sale, 80% of your posts should not sell, 30% of your posts should be your own content. 70% should be other  people’s content.

Some social media experts give a laundry list of post types – surveys, questions, fill in the blank… all guaranteed to boost engagement from your fans.

But most of these systems are complicated and hard to follow. I know from personal experience and from trying to teach my clients. Figuring out percentages and what’s the most likely to attract engagement is hard. I also knew there had to be a better way to boil down to the essentials for my clients.

And then it finally hit me why the other systems were so hard. They focused on the “how” instead of the “why.”  It is no wonder that business owners are frustrated with Facebook. Memorizing a social media formula is exactly like memorizing a math formula: it works well until you have to actually apply it in real life.  If you don’t know why you’re adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing, the formula becomes completely useless.

Great business strategy begins and ends with why you are doing something.  If you don’t keep the “why” at the center of your activities, it’s easy to get off track, veer away from your goals and wonder why you ever started down the path in the first place.

The Why: As Simple as A-E-I-O-U

The A-E-I-O-U Facebook Strategy is a simple system that focuses on the 5 most important ways to interact with your customers and prospects. When you follow it, you’re focused on engagement, not execution.  You always begin posting with the end goal in mind.

Those five ways are:  Ask, Entertain, Inspire, Observe and Update

A = Ask:

In my experience, business owners often fall into one of two categories with social media. They try to sell way too much, or they never sell at all. They either ask for a sale with every post or they don’t ask for a sale… ever.

We also forget the very nature of social media allows us to ask many other things of our customers besides sales that are extremely helpful.  Social media provides an unparalleled opportunity to gain market research and customer insight that previously cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Facebook gives us an opportunity to get to know our customer outside of our business so that we can be more responsive to their wants.

So when you think about “asking,” think broadly. In addition to a sale…

  • Ask what their biggest problem is so you can help them solve it
  • Ask what a small problem is so you can help them solve it
  • Ask how they are using your product or service. It might be a way you never thought of.
  • Ask for their thoughts on a product or service you’re thinking about adding or taking away
  • Ask what products or services they might want bundled
  • Ask for a referral
  • Ask for a recommendation
  • Ask for a review
  • Ask to share the post with a friend
  • Ask for a photo or video using your product or service (aka user generated content)
  • Ask about their interests and lifestyle (and create a profile of your “ideal client”)
  • Ask what’s important to them (so you can align your business with their values)

The key to asking is to make it as simple as possible for them to answer. So rather than asking an open ended question, ask for a short and specific response. Your most relevant customers and prospects are likely to give you a longer answer anyway.

E – Entertain/Educate:

Here are two very important aspects of human behavior to consider:

  • People share things on Facebook that put themselves in a favorable light.
  • People are more likely to buy from companies whose values match their own.

Entertaining posts provide the perfect opportunity for your customers and prospects to do both!

These kinds of posts provide a peek behind your “official” brand and humanize your company.  Just as you develop a relationship with a new friend, your customers will decide whether they want to “be friends” with you based on these kinds of informal posts. These posts do not necessarily have to be directly related to your product or service, and they don’t have to be original. In fact, you should use content that you find on other websites. Remember, it’s not all about you! Use them to…

  • Show your sense of humor
  • Show what you value
  • Show the humans behind your business
  • Diffuse difficult customer service issues (if appropriate)
  • Connect with other like-minded Pages (by sharing their content)
  • Align your business with causes you support

Sometimes people use Facebook to gather recommendations (We’ve all seen the, “Who’s your favorite plumber?” type of posts).  More often, it’s a safe place for people to passively “come across” solutions to a problem that they may not even realize they have.  Educational posts are a way to…

  • Demonstrate that you understand the mindset and problems of your customers
  • Show (not sell) a solution
  • Give away a valuable piece of information or advice
  • Become a valuable resource

Think of entertaining and educational posts as “trust-builders.”  Your customers can safely dip their toe into the water with you before making the big plunge.

I = Inspire

People use Facebook as an escape. What better way to take your mind off your day than with a dose of inspiration.

Inspirational posts are one of the most shared, viral pieces of content on Facebook. They are easy to digest, easy to “like” and easy to share. Remember, people share things on Facebook that put themselves in a positive light. People like to be inspired and to inspire others.

Use inspirational posts to

  • Show the things you value (hard work, determination, creativity, resilience, etc.)
  • Align yourself with causes (for example, heartwarming stories of hope, progress, etc.)
  • Lift people up during a difficult time (bad weather, sad event, etc.)
  • Encourage your customers or employees
  • Appreciate and thank your customers or employees
  • Congratulate your customers or employees

O – Observe/Opt-in

Facebook is not a one way street. It’s important to look for honest feedback about your organization, uncover hidden opportunities and interact. Remember, Facebook gives us an opportunity to get to know our customer outside of our business so that we can be more responsive to their wants. You have to actively look into the window that Facebook opens up and peek inside.

  • Make it a regular practice to read the comments on your page and respond to people who have taken time to post. It’s always great to hear about the things you’re doing well. Although it’s not always fun to hear the negative, it’s a necessary part of improving.
  • Then check on what people are saying about your business off of your page. Type in your business’ name in Facebook’s search bar and see what pops up. You might discover that someone has posted about something that was completely off your radar.  If there is something negative, don’t write a defensive comment from your page. Rather, try to take it off line and find out more about the problem so that you can resolve it.
  • Every month, take a look at the profiles of a handful of people who have liked your Page to help fill out your ideal customer profile.
  • Use Facebook to do competitive research. Check your competitors’ Pages to see what they are posting and how their customers are responding.

U = Update

Make your Facebook page a place where people can easily go to find valuable resources and information about your business.  Post about

  • new business hours or locations
  • new product additions
  • new events
  • new employees or employee promotions
  • industry news
  • ways to use your products or services (videos are great for this)
  • awards or recognition that you’ve earned
  • community events/causes that you’re involved with
  • inventory changes

The Big Benefit

When you use the A-E-I-O-U method, you’re reaching out to your customers and prospects in five different ways. The variety of posts helps you tell your whole brand story, not simply what you’re selling. It also gives your audience 5 different ways to engage with you.

When you use the A-E-I-O-U method,  the people who engage the most with you are also the ones who are most closely aligned with who you are and what you are selling.

You set up a beacon with your posts.

Your ideal customers found you and confirmed that you’re exactly what they’re looking for.

And that’s the beauty of Facebook.

Execution: 2 Simple Steps

Now that you understand why you’re posting, here’s how to execute your strategy:

STEP 1:  Batches of Vowels
Set aside time each week to brainstorm and create batches of A-E-I-U posts in sets of 5. Batching posts saves time.

For each batch, choose one A, E, I, or U strategy once and use one strategy twice. Do the same thing for the next batch, but don’t use the same strategy twice in consecutive batches.  If you decide to post five times during the week, your posts might look something like this:

aeiou-example-schedule
Creating your posts in batches of 5 with the A-E-I-O-U strategy ensures that your sales posts (A- Ask posts) are 20% of your overall posts and that you’ve engaged with your audience in a variety of ways.

Then schedule your posts directly in Facebook. You don’t need expensive software to do this. On Facebook, simply hit the down arrow next to the “Publish” button on your post and pick the time and date that you want the post published. You can also use scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Buffer that have a free option.

Experiment with the timing and number of posts you make.  Look at the data in the Facebook Insights section of your Facebook Page a few weeks after you’ve started using the system. You will be able to evaluate which types of posts do the best and whether timing or quantity is having an impact.

Start with one set of 5 posts and evaluate. As you get faster, try to increase the number of sets you post each week until you’re happy with the engagement you’re getting from the people who’ve liked your page. Setting up a week’s worth of posts in this manner should take less than an hour of your time.

STEP 2: O-O-O-OOOOh!

Log into your Page and observe (O) at least once a day to make sure that you’re interacting with your audience. See who is “oohing” and “aahing” about your posts. Opt into the conversation when you can and look for ways to interact positively with other pages and people when they mention your page.

Here’s a little cheat sheet to help you visualize the process:

Facebook Strategy

Ready to begin? Download the free A-E-I-O-U Content Calendar Worksheet to get started. With areas for planning and execution, It’s like no other content planner that you’ve seen before, and ensures that you focus on the most important things to grow your business.