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Quality content rules the Facebook News Feed

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With over 1 billion users worldwide, Facebook is a key social platform for financial services professionals to reach out and connect with customers. Every day, agents and advisors use their Facebook Business Pages to share content, post updates on their business, and provide useful insights into what is happening in the market.
But it is a simple truth that as more advisors and other business owners use Facebook Business Pages, the more crowded a users’ news feeds will become. At best, a user can sift through dozens or maybe a hundred updates a day.
To reduce noise and keep a user’s news feed as relevant as possible, Facebook uses over 1000 filters to determine which posts should get highlighted. Instead of presenting every single story in a user’s network, the company algorithmically chooses the best posts to display to provide the best possible reach and engagement.
In a recent TechCrunch article, Will Cathcart (Facebook News Feed Director of Product Management) highlighted the main filters:

  • How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone
  • How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it
  • How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer
  • Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past
  • How recently was the post published

As an agent or advisor, you’ve worked hard to build a loyal and active following on your Facebook Business Page. Make sure you keep those followers engaged and up-to-date by posting timely, relevant content.
Focusing on consistency and quality of content will help you increase the prominence of your business page’s posts in your followers’ news feeds.
Learn more:

The Facebook Business Pages redesign and what it means for financial professionals

Facebook recently announced that it is rolling out a new look for Facebook Pages. The new streamlined design will change the way business pages look for both Facebook users and page administrators.

What’s changing?

Facebook will get rid of the two-column design that splits activity to the right and left hand side of the page on the desktop version of the site. Now, all posts and activity will be displayed in a single column on the right-hand side of the page, similar to the single-column view that mobile users currently see. Information about your business (including a map, hours, phone number, and website) will now be displayed on the left hand side.

This change mirrors updates that Facebook made to personal pages a year ago.

Facbook_New_Page_Layout_March2014

What’s new for admins?

The new layout will provide page administrators even easier access to key admin tools. A new navigation at the top of the page will make it easier to access your activity, insights and page settings. The “Build Audience” menu will also give admins the ability to access their Ads Manager account directly.

In addition to the design changes, a new feature called “Pages to Watch” is being rolled out. This feature lets administrators create a list of other pages to monitor and compare metrics versus your own. This will allow you to easily benchmark your Facebook social presence against competitor pages or any other pages you wish. Specifically, you will be able to compare new page likes, total page likes, posts this week, and engagement this week.

Facebook_Pages_to_Watch_Screenshot_March2014

What about custom Facebook Tabs?

These changes will also make custom Facebook tabs even less prominent, putting them under the “More” dropdown in the top navigation of the page. If you currently have tabs in place, it does not seem like there is anything that you can do to make them more visible.

What about compliance?

These changes should not affect any supervision provided by Hearsay Social. Although the site layout is changing, the information displayed remains the same and the Hearsay Social compliance solution will maintain the same coverage as provided with the previous business page design.

What do you need to do?

There is no action needed for financial professionals using a Facebook business page. These changes will be rolled out in waves to business pages. Facebook did not specify when every page will have the new design, but we are already seeing some new pages with these changes (for example: the Facebook for Business page).

However, since the new design features information about your business on the left hand side (map, hours, phone number, website URL, photos and videos), if you have not filled out some of these fields the left hand side of your page may look incomplete.

Disclaimer: The material available in this article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. We make no guarantees on the accuracy of information provided herein.

Happy 10th Anniversary Facebook!

Ten years ago today, Harvard students Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin launched a website called thefacebook.com. Unlike MySpace, Friendster and other social networks of the time, Facebook was designed to help college students stay in touch with each other, work collaboratively on projects and share ideas.

From left to right: Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg
From left to right: Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg

As students flocked to its platform, the social network quickly surpassed its founders’ expectations. Originally dismissed as a passing fad, by the end of 2004 the service had over a million members worldwide and was growing exponentially.

In September of 2006, Facebook opened up to all users and surpassed 12 million members, 60% of whom checked into the site daily. After it launched self-service ads and pages functionality, businesses realized the site could also help them reach out to, connect with and grow their organizations on social.

“It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. It’s rare to be able to touch so many people’s lives, and I try to remind myself to make the most of every day and have the biggest impact I can.” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Today, Facebook is a publicly traded company with over 6,300 employees and a global audience of 1.23 billion active users. We’re excited to be a part of Facebook’s journey and to help our customers gain the most value out of their social networks.
For more information on the history of Facebook, see this timeline they published today.

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Happy tenth anniversary Facebook! We can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring.

How should financial advisors and representatives handle Facebook's new star ratings?

Facebook is testing out a five-star rating system that allows users to rate and review a professional’s Facebook business page. These ratings can be made by any user, which means the user does not have to demonstrate that they know the professional or are a customer.
For financial professionals, this poses a question: Does this star rating feature on Facebook present issues for Registered Investor Advisors (RIAs) pursuant to the “Testimonial” Rule 206(4) of the SEC Investment Adviser Act of 1940?
Rule 206(4) states that advertisements cannot “use or refer to testimonials” (which include any statement of a client’s experience or testimonial). This is true of advertisements in print materials as well as advertising on electronic forums such as a Facebook Business Page.
The SEC’s staff has consistently interpreted testimonials to include a statement of a client’s experience with, or endorsement of, an investment adviser. Therefore, the use of “social plug-ins” such as the new Facebook “Star Ratings” feature could be deemed a “testimonial” under the Advisers Act.
While members should consult with their own legal and compliance departments as to the application of this feature with regulations restricting advertisements and other communications with the public, we suggest that RIA’s with a Facebook page should not accept ratings or reviews on the social network.
Facebook has not made it possible to block this new ratings feature, but RIAs can use a workaround to prevent their page from receiving star ratings. This workaround requires the financial professional to remove the map of business location (see illustration  and steps below). Please note that by doing so the map of the business location will not appear on the business page.

  • On your business page, go to the “About” section under the logo.
  • On the next page, hover over the “About” section and click “Edit.”
  • To the right of the “Address” section, click “Edit.”
  • Uncheck the box underneath the map that says “Show this map on your page and enable check-ins.”
  • Click “Save Changes”

Hearsay Social has indicated to Facebook that this feature might present a compliance risk for RIAs, and we are working with them on behalf of our clients to advocate for a solution that allows the map, but does not prompt users for check-ins or reviews.
If you have any additional questions about compliance on social media or Facebook star ratings, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact us directly.
We will keep you posted as more features change!

Disclaimer: The material available on this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. We make no guarantees on the accuracy of the information provided herein.

What the Facebook News Feed redesign means for marketers

Facebook this morning announced a major update to News Feed, aimed at making the popular service richer, simpler, and more beautiful.

The ultimate goal of Facebook News Feed, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is to deliver “the best personalized newspaper” to every user.
That means providing a “broad diversity of content,” including high-quality public content from businesses and public figures as well as posts from friends and family. While being broad, News Feed should also allow users to drill down on specific topics that interest them.
Here are a few tips to consider when incorporating the new Facebook News Feed into your existing social sales and marketing strategy:

1. Share rich and visual content

In November 2011, according to Zuckerberg, photos accounted for 25% of News Feed stories. In January 2013, photos accounted for almost half of all stories. Additionally, posts from business pages, not friends, has increased from 15% of the News Feed to nearly 30%.

This data demonstrates that, more than ever, businesses like yours have an extraordinary opportunity to engage with customers and prospects on social media. In order to capitalize on this opportunity, brands and businesses must share rich and visual content on Facebook.
The previous version of News Feed only allotted 40% of screen real estate to the main content, including your Page posts. This allotment, says Facebook Director of Design Julie Zhou, has been greatly expanded, meaning the impact of photos and other visual content will likewise be widened. For businesses that run ads on Facebook, like Sponsored Stories, it’s essential that these also be made “richer and more immersive” to compete with other visual content in the stream.

2. Provide value to fans

While Facebook constantly tweaks its algorithms to make News Feed as relevant and personal to each user as possible, this is sometimes difficult with content coming from such a disparate group of sources. As a result, explained Facebook engineer Chris Struhar, users now have the option of choosing between the overall News Feed, an “All Friends” feed, and a “Following” feed, which only shows posts from businesses and brands.
This update will be welcomed by users, but it shouldn’t change much for businesses on Facebook. As long as you remain dedicated to providing value to fans, not in the form of self-promotional content but instead with relevant posts and photos, you will still surface in feeds and stay top of mind with your customers.

3. Share content that will work on any device

Rather than try to make Facebook for iPhone and other mobile devices look like Facebook on the Web, the Facebook design team has instead opted to port their mobile designs over to desktop. Ultimately, this will result in a more consistent Facebook experience across mobile devices, tablets, and the Web.

The value of this to businesses is that “they can think about how assets will look across different screens,” according to Facebook VP of Product Chris Cox.
Previously, marketers would have to jump through hoops trying to figure out how certain posts will appear to users on the Web versus users on mobile. Since this will no longer be the case, you can start planning your social media posts more holistically for sharing across Web and mobile.
As expected, the updated News Feed will roll out to users slowly, as Facebook collects feedback and works out kinks. Once they have a more polished version, the redesign will roll out more broadly.
Anyone curious to test out the redesign can join the waitlist here.

How to make your Facebook Business Page more engaging

Every day, more and more organizations across several different industries are encouraging and even requiring their employees to engage with customers via social media. For non-marketers, starting a Facebook Business Page and connecting with your customers on social media can at first seem daunting.
As part of the Hearsay Social Customer Success team, I work full-time on coaching corporate teams to help their employees achieve higher conversions and brand loyalty through social media. When new users start going social, they often ask, “How do I get more ‘likes’ to my Facebook Business Page?” While likes are great for increasing your reach and the number of people able to see your content, the real million dollar question you want to ask is, “How do I get more engagement on my Facebook Business Page?” Likes are not as powerful if those fans are not liking, posting comments, and sharing your content with others.
Here are my top five suggestions for making your Facebook Business Page more engaging:

1. The social media rule of thirds

If your foot doctor had a Facebook business page (and they probably do), would you want him/her to publish Facebook posts about foot fungus and cracked heels every day? Probably not. It’s not fun to hear and it’s not relevant to your everyday interests. This is a pretty extreme example, but we can apply this same logic to insurance agents, real estate agents, car dealers and more. When deciding on what to post to Facebook day in and day out, keep your business talk in check by following the social media rule of thirds:

  • One third of the time, post about your business or brand. This includes your own blog posts and press releases, announcements about your upcoming events and speaking engagements, and other similarly self-promotional content.
  • One third of the time, post about topics or info directly related to your business, but using material from a third-party source. This includes news items from your favorite publications, graphs of analyst data visualizations, and other outside materials.
  • One third of the time, just show off your personality. This includes posting photos of the team hard at work (or at play!), friendly well wishes over holidays, and anything else that reminds your fans that behind the logo are real people.

2. Photos Please!

In case you aren’t familiar with EdgeRank, it’s Facebook’s algorithm that determines who sees what. Basically it determines what social media content, like posts, photos, and videos, you will see in your Facebook News Feed.
There are three criteria that make up EdgeRank: affinity, weight and recency. The part that most significantly impacts content engagement is the weight which corresponds to the type of post selected by the user. Some content types are considered more important than others and will have a higher probability of showing up in your fans’ News Feeds.
Here is the order of weight in EdgeRank:

a. Photos
b. Videos
c. Web Links
d. Messages (just text)

Make sure many of your posts have a picture or a video to secure a higher probably of having the post land in your fans’ Facebook News Feeds. The more frequently your photos appear there, the higher the chance that they will comment on it. In addition, photos are the most engaging type of content, which is why it is weighted higher in Facebook’s algorithm.

3. Short and Sweet

One of the many factors that has made Twitter successful is their 140 character limit. It forces people to be succinct. Even when posting on Facebook, where there is virtually no character limit, you should still write brief messages to be the most effective. Your fans want to quickly scan their News Feed to see what’s happening in the lives of their fans and friends. Make it easy on your fans by keeping your messages to less than 2-3 sentences (and remember that photo!). If they can read and understand your point quickly, they will have be more motivated to like and comment on your post.

4. Ask Questions

If you want engagement, why not ask them to engage? The easiest way to do that is to ask a simple question. When people know the answer or have an opinion, they feel the need to share. Example questions:

  • I’m planning my next vacation. What do you recommend?
  • I can’t believe it’s my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary! What’s the best restaurant for a group dinner?
  • What’s your life motto?

5. Schedule Posts for the Weekend

Believe it or not, Americans are not always outside playing in the yard on the weekends (and if they are, they have their mobile devices with them). Even on weekends and holidays, lots of people are checking their Facebook feeds and engaging with content there. In fact, businesses get 32% more consumer engagement on the weekends than on weekdays, according to Socialfresh. By the way, vacation isn’t an excuse for not posting on the weekends. Just login to Hearsay Social and schedule your posts in advance.
Hopefully you found these tips useful and can apply them next time you post from Facebook or Hearsay Social!

Lessons from Sam Walton: How a social-local strategy brings the human touch back to business

Ed. note: The following post, penned by Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih, originally appeared in Advertising Age.

Long before the digital age, all business was local and social. Customer engagement was paramount. Shopkeepers, barbers, and Avon ladies alike intuitively knew that their ability to connect with customers would often determine whether or not a purchase would be made. They also understood that investing in building long-standing relationships with customers would result in repeat visits and loyalty.
For many successful proprietors, this meant knowing customers by name, remembering their likes and dislikes, and being on hand to answer product questions. Years before founding Walmart, at the age of 26, Sam Walton put these principles to work as a variety store manager in Newport, Arkansas.

Sam Walton's original Walton's Five and Dime store, now the Wal-Mart Visitor's Center.

On stage at fMC (Facebook’s marketing conference) earlier this year, Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn hearkened back to this bygone era:

“If you went back 120 years ago, a retailer would be a pillar in the community. [Retailers] would know not only everybody, but their likes, what they thought was interesting, what new products they might be interested in.”

So, what happened to the shopkeeper who cared about customers? The answer is very simple: technology.
Technology has enabled two of the biggest changes to sweep across retail: national mega-chains and more recently, e-commerce. Both have played key roles in driving down prices by introducing greater transparency, efficiency, and economies of scale. But this has come at a cost: the customer experience now feels “mass produced.”
In his eloquent foreword to my book, The Facebook Era, 1-800-FLOWERS founder and CEO Jim McCann captures it perfectly:

“Past technologies helped drive down costs, improve reach, and grow the business, but in the process we lost something very important: customer connection. I have missed the direct customer dialogue I had in our retail flower shops. The digital age has felt largely transactional in comparison.”

A central theme of fMC last month was how social media provides a way to put a human touch back into business. Several Facebook executives, including David Fischer, Mike Hoefflinger, and Chris Cox, took the stage at various moments to explain how Facebook’s new Timeline redesign provides businesses with an opportunity to “reintermediate” a human touch in their online interactions with customers. Less advertising, more engagement. Less cookie-cutter, more authentic. Less corporate, more local.
Slowly but surely, even the biggest retail organizations around the world are awakening to this sea change. Quinn and his team at Walmart have recommitted to a “social-local strategy” that I think would have made Sam Walton proud.
Walmart has launched thousands of Facebook Pages, one for each of its brick-and-mortar stores. Designated store employees who have received special training on social media are responsible for maintaining the pages, such as by responding to customer questions and issues, sharing targeted local promotions, and discussing town news or events, such as the local football game. Quinn says social media is enabling Walmart to “go back to the future” by providing an authentic local customer experience, but at scale.
Walmart is not alone. A growing number of brick-and-mortar retailers from Lululemon and Home Depot to 24 Hour Fitness and Quiznos are embracing social-local. According to a report published last month from Mainstay Salire, local Facebook pages already outperform corporate pages by a factor of 40 (Download the report here.)

Like Walmart, 24 Hour Fitness offers gym members a tool for finding their local center’s Facebook page, which publishes more relevant information and local promotions.


Disintermediation is fine for highly commoditized brands and products, but if you want to build brand differentiation and customer loyalty, there are no shortcuts to authentic engagement. Certainly, social-local requires greater coordination than having brand pages alone, but like anything, what you get out of social media is proportional to what you put in.
Retail e-commerce sales topped $61.8B in Q4 of 2011, but this still amounts to less than six percent of total retail sales. Embracing a social-local strategy allows retailers to capitalize on the shift in consumer behavior toward digital, social, and mobile technologies at the store level where most of the transactions are still taking place, even while investing in growing e-commerce channels over time.
It turns out shopkeepers, barbers, and Sam Walton had it right all along. Customers want to be treated like real people, not an audience segment. Having 20 million fans secures bragging rights for any brand, but from the perspective of the fan, it’s generally far more engaging and rewarding to be part of a smaller, more intimate community.
Today, social-local is a really good idea. As more of your customers get smartphones, check in to your store locations, and begin demanding authenticity with a human touch, it will soon become mandatory. In my next article, I will discuss how retailers should go about establishing and operationalizing a social-local strategy, as well as why I believe brands have no choice but to do this. Please stay tuned.
Watch Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn talk about his social-local marketing strategy below:

Local Facebook fans beat corporate fans 40 to 1

Earlier today, independent research group Mainstay Salire released a white paper comparing the fans of corporate and local Facebook pages. According to Mainstay’s data, the typical Facebook post from a local Page reaches five times the percentage of fans as a corporate post, and eight times as many of the fans reached will engage with that post. (Engagement could mean anything from viewing a photo or watching a video to clicking a link, liking, commenting, or sharing.)
Combining those two factors—five times reach and eight times engagement—Mainstay concludes that a local fan is 40 times more valuable than a corporate fan on Facebook.
This new data confirms what has been reiterated time and again both by Facebook (as evident in this fMC conversation between Facebook VP David Fischer and Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn) as well as Hearsay Social, where making the enterprise successful on social at the local level has always been our top priority.
Our design team whipped up an infographic to visualize exactly how this plays out when you trace the path from a Page post to actual engagement on the user level:

What else can we learn about the benefit of local pages? Depending on your social media goals, there are benefits across the board, though it’s clear now that just accumulating as many fans as possible shouldn’t be the end goal.

1. Getting more link clicks

We know from our research that a large portions of posts on social media contain links. Most people post those links in hopes that someone will click them, but are people more likely to click links from bigger or smaller pages? As it turns out, smaller pages see higher clickthrough rates per fan. Not only do more fans see the link, but more of those that see the link are likely to click it.

2. Using more effective media types

Not all post types are equal. We looked at this before but it is even more obvious when comparing corporate and local pages. Looking at “People Talking About This” (PTAT), which is a count of everyone that has commented on, liked, or shared your post, we can see that certain types of posts get more traction. For local pages, photos are the most effective form of media, followed by status updates, videos, and, last of all, links. Interestingly, photos are the second most effective media type for corporate pages, trailing videos. My take is that large corporate pages videos get the most PTAT/Reach because corporate has a bigger budget and thus higher production value on the videos they produce and post to Facebook.

3. Avoiding negative feedback

Not everyone is aware of the negative feedback metrics on Facebook but they are very important. When your posts appear in someone’s News Feed, the user can choose to hide the story or to unsubscribe from your page’s posts completely. In either instance, you would lose the opportunity to reach that person with your content. Looking at the percentage of fans reached who submit negative feedback, we found that larger pages are more likely to elicit negative feedback. This could be caused by many factors, but it most likely comes down to lack of interesting, original content from corporate.
To conclude, we cannot say enough how important it is to make sure you update your Facebook timeline with unique, timely, and relevant content to the user. And, for large enterprises struggling to engage with individuals across social, the key lies in unlocking the power of local.
Feel free to share in the comments any trends you’ve noticed on your own social media pages! And be sure to download the Mainstay report, The Power of Going Local: Comparing the Impact of Corporate vs. Local Facebook Pages.

Facebook Pages Brand Timeline: What it is and what it means for your business


Note: The following is an introduction to our how-to guide for the Facebook Page Brand Timeline Redesign, a free resource featuring everything you need to know about the new social marketing tools.
Facebook, the most popular social network in the world with nearly one billion users, announced at the first-ever Facebook Marketing Conference (fMC) that it would be transitioning brand pages to a new format based on timeline, allowing businesses to tell their story and connect with customers better than ever before.
True to Facebook’s mission to help people around the world “tell their life story” in a visually rich way, timeline launched for individual users last December. As part of this launch, a new generation of social apps like Spotify and Netflix allow users to seamlessly share their favorite tunes and films with each other in real-time. Additionally, stories appear side by side in the timeline to convey a more cohesive story. Lastly, but certainly not least, Facebook reserves the wide, open space at the top of the page for a unique cover image or backdrop of your choosing, perfect for self-expression.
Facebook has now brought many of those same exciting elements to Facebook Pages.
Social media marketers should be delighted by the changes. After all, what are businesses but large groups of people with stories of their own? From the founding year to its first sale to other major milestones, organizations large and small have interesting stories to tell. And Facebook Pages will finally allow businesses to tell those stories in a compelling way.
Adjusting to a new look and feel can sometimes be confusing, but brands and businesses will find that timeline is a winning interface for interacting with fans. With timeline, marketing on Facebook is about building engagement more than ever before. It’s not about the hard sell; rather, it’s about creating original content and telling interesting stories, which more often than not occur at the local level.
Long before social networks, local representatives, agents, advisors, or franchisees connected with customers on the ground, in cities all around the world. Trust those local workers to be your best brand ambassadors. Cookie cutter messages don’t work anymore because social networkers see right through bland corporate messaging.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for corporate brands to go local on social media. And, supported by Hearsay Social for Facebook Pages Brand Timeline, social marketers can do that with ease.

Now that you’ve read the introduction, read the full how-to guide for the Facebook Page Brand Timeline Redesign. Learn about the new rules for cover photos, how you should transition from the wall to the timeline, and other digestible tips for creating the best possible business page on Facebook.

Facebook Pages + Places: What’s changing

The news has leaked out – Facebook is getting ready to launch another significant change to Facebook Pages and Places. As you may remember, they’re merging Places with Pages so users will now be able to check in to Pages with physical locations. Now there’s more: in a week or so, Facebook will launch a beta “parent-child” system that allows organizations to manage all of the Facebook Pages created by their local agents, owners, and retailers. We can’t wait!
For a while now, corporate/local brands have been creating and maintaining not only a corporate brand Page but individual local brand Pages for each location. You can imagine things get pretty hairy when you’re talking about hundreds or thousands of Pages, and that’s why companies turn to Hearsay Social–to help set brand guidelines and compliance rules across the enterprise, to marshal the marketing resources of the brand effectively, and to understand the dynamics of how their social strategy works across the organization.
But up until now, we could only take it so far. A truly “rogue” location or representative could refuse to adopt corporate standards, or leave the company and keep control of their branded Page, leaving the brand no recourse but legal action.
With this new announcement, Facebook is taking a major step to help corporate/local brands (our favorite!) with baked-in API support for claiming and retaining control of their brand. By rolling in these new APIs to our existing corporate/local social management suite, brands will have more control and flexibility than ever, while still maintaining authenticity at the local level.
We’re excited that Facebook is beefing up their platform so we at Hearsay Social can deliver richer functionality for large companies. For example:

  • enterprise systems integration
  • enterprise-grade compliance tools
  • centralized content library with hierarchical control
  • distributed campaign management tools
  • and lots more exciting stuff to come

P.S. Facebook, while we know you’re listening, can we have that API to edit Pages and profiles next? 😉