To develop the insights for this guide, I watched 23 different Facebook and Twitter accounts for a period of three months and monitored over 2,865 status updates. I personally consider this a fairly small data set, but it is large enough to show some important trends that warrant consideration and further discussion.
As the clients that my firm writes for are in diverse markets, purchase different service engagement levels, and have unique starting levels of follower/fans, it is impossible to state from my data unequivocally how to specifically grow a social networking account. However, there are some statistical averages and trends that I have found and wanted to share with you.
The Timing and Consistent Posting of Your Updates on Twitter Can Grow Followers
Contrary to what has been published on the web in a recent statistical report I’ve found that for our clients, a unique time schedule for status updates and tweets works for most accounts to grow their follower numbers. To test this strategy, I had our writers schedule the publishing of content based on the following schedule trying each program for a full 30 days to see which made the biggest difference if any in follower and fan counts.
Widely Reported Best Twitter Posting Schedule:
For Twitter: 6 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. For Facebook: noon and 7 p.m.
After 30 days we posted content on a new schedule for Twitter:
For Twitter: 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. For Facebook: 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Here is a sampling of data for several of the accounts that I monitored:
|Account||New Users First Schedule||New Users Second Schedule|
|Recreational Vehicle Sales||+10||+39|
|Pest Control Business||+35||+46|
|Citrus Grove Seller||+11||+19|
Although it appears that all accounts had increases using the second schedule, the variance in the full statistical data does not allow me to make such a blanket statement. Additionally, although I monitored both Facebook and Twitter accounts for this report, there were such small differences in Facebook numbers for many accounts that it is best to consider the second schedule best to use mainly for Twitter growth.
When I looked at the overall data, I found that followers grew at about a rate of 5% using the first schedule and grew on the average of 10% on the second schedule. Although not every account had the same growth and some accounts actually grew faster on the first schedule, the recommendations in this guide were based on overall average growth across all accounts.
It is important to note that although we used a very specific schedule unique to our needs, your results may be different. I feel personally that setting a schedule and being consistent about posting at the times you personally choose are important. You may want to test several schedules to see what works best for your audience.
The Changes Facebook Has Made That Have Impacted Business Pages
Facebook made some very big changes in the fourth quarter of 2011 that have impacted how businesses can use Facebook Pages and how they interact with fans.
As a quick review, here are the changes:
1. Facebook got rid of the ability to send a note out from your Business Page to all fans. The best feature to have a Business Page in the first place!
2. Removed tabs and the ability to do FBML markup pages. (You now have to use iframes).
3. Killed off the notes and discussion sections.
4. Removed the ability to auto feed your blog to your Facebook Notes Page.
5. Lowered the value of a like. No one needs to like your page to see your wall or to interact with you and post on your wall.
6. Changed the News Feed for personal profiles. People must now subscribe to your updates to be assured of seeing them in their News Feed. Now Updates are typically lost in the “noise” that is a part of the News Feed.
These are some very serious changes and have really strangled a business’s ability to connect with users on Facebook. As a result, these changes have caused fan growth for pages under 100 fans to come to a near halt.
I do not recommend that brands and businesses abandon Facebook. Business models change and what Facebook has done to kill off brand and business interaction will certainly change over time. For now, I personally feel that these changes were made to drive businesses into Facebook pay per click advertising before the Facebook IPO. As monetization of the Facebook platform is essential for their continued growth, these strategic changes most certainly have been made to force businesses to “pay to play” on Facebook.
I still feel that businesses should be on Facebook keeping a presence there, but maybe not in the same fashion as we recommended in early 2011.
The Reality of Facebook Follower Growth and Engagement Challenges
I started following our client Facebook accounts right when Facebook was altering the data it reveals on fans and their interaction levels. Again, I would not consider the data I have recorded as scientifically accurate, but I did see some trends on fan growth for pages with different starting levels of fans.
First, for Facebook Pages with fewer than 100 fans, the ability to get and grow a fan base is very different from Pages with 100 to 500 fans and different again for Pages with 5,000 fans.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Brand new Facebook pages will have a very difficult time building a fan base in the current Facebook climate. Be prepared for a new page to grow at the rate of one or two new fans a month! If Facebook activity is important to you, consider Facebook pay per click advertising tied to a promotional offering to get new fans and drive traffic to your Business page. Additionally, I have had good success getting new fans with Facebook Sponsored Stories. I added 27 new fans in a 16 day period for under $2.50 per fan. Remember just because you don’t have fans does not mean that people are not visiting your page. They no longer need to like your page to interact with it.
2. For businesses which are just starting their Facebook Page, consider doing one status update a day and don’t worry about fan growth. Invest your money in Twitter updates at this time for a better return. You can even use Twitter to drive traffic to your Facebook Page to try to build your fan base up over time, or, until Facebook makes some business-friendly changes to its current Business Page model.
3. Once your Facebook Page has over 100 friends, it seems to be easier to grow your fan base, but this still happens more slowly than before the fourth quarter 2011 Facebook changes. At this point it appears that the more frequent updates you do (I recommend up to five a day when you hit about 100 to 200 fans) that your fan base will grow at a higher rate than with just one or two updates a day. We’ve done a very small sampling on this, but from fan feedback of what and when they see items in their News Feed, more updates rather than just one or two a day seem to be the best way to get exposure in fans’ News Feed.
4. For Facebook Pages with several thousand fans without regular moderated interaction with fans, I actually saw fan numbers drop. Status updates alone will not cause fan numbers to continue to grow.
Here is an example, of follower growth versus status updates.
1-2 updates a day +1 fan in a 60 day period
4 to 5 updates a day +7 fans in a 60 day period
4 to 5 updates a day PLUS Sponsored Story Ad +28 fans in a 14 day period
In addition to more fans added, there was significantly more one-on-one interaction between the page manager and fans on this Business Page.
My Recommendations for Twitter and Facebook
If you aren’t on Twitter now, get on Twitter quickly. If you have to move some of your resources from Facebook to get involved on Twitter, I definitely recommend doing so.
For Twitter growth, you’ve got to invest time and money to grow your followers. Just setting up an account and doing one or two updates a day will not grow your follower numbers. I recommend that you publish a minimum of five updates a day on this schedule: 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. I also recommend that three days a week you retweet, direct message, and specifically work to interact with followers for best account growth over time.
New Twitter accounts should initially strive to follow up to 75 to 100 people in their industry, and sort these people into lists, which are important for a new Twitter account. You will want to provide something for your new followers to subscribe to and a way to build your Twitter core network.
Make interaction a priority, network with direct messages, retweets, and great sharable information to create a core list of people who retweet you and that you retweet as well. By building a core network, you build access to a viral base for the regular news and information that you share.
At this point in time, I recommend a careful approach to Facebook. Status updates once or twice a day for accounts fewer than 100 fans are in order. It is important to not abandon Facebook at this time as Facebook may change their strategy on how it allows brands/businesses to interact with fans and you don’t want to lose any momentum you have created.
For Business Pages with 200 fans and up test publishing content up to five times a day along with moderated fan interaction to continue to grow your fan base.
If you believe strongly in Facebook as part of your overall marketing plan, consider using Sponsored Stories and Facebook pay per click ads as a stopgap measure to drive relatively low cost traffic to your Business Page.
I don’t believe that you should drop out of Facebook entirely, but consider taking some of the funding you have used for updates and spend those dollars in Facebook advertising for now, or move the funding to Twitter.
The Bottom Line for Consistent Follower/Fan Growth Is Really Personal Engagement
From my careful monitoring during this three month period, this is what I’ve found out in a nutshell: social media is powerful but requires the personal touch. With great informational status updates, an account on either Twitter or Facebook WILL grow, but very slowly. The more one-on-one fan interaction you invest in your social network, the higher your return in regards to shares, retweets, fan/follower counts, and user engagement.
If you are looking for a savvy firm to manage your Twitter or Facebook program implementing the strategies found in this guide, my firm is available to help. Please visit our Twitter Management and Facebook Management pages for service engagement levels and pricing.
Nancy McCord is the founder and President of McCord Web Services LLC which provides Twitter and Facebook status updates, blog writing services, and Google AdWords account set up and management. Since 2001, Nancy McCord has developed a reputation as an expert on web visibility and how to use social networking for business. You can visit Nancy and her firm at www.McCordWeb.com. Connect with +Nancy McCord at Google+, @mccordweb on Twitter and on Facebook.