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How to improve your company's Facebook EdgeRank by going local

Facebook is constantly tweaking EdgeRank, the behind-the-scenes algorithm that automatically chooses which stories appear in each user’s news feed. As the biggest social network in the world—it recently surpassed the one billion member milestone—Facebook aims to only share the most pertinent and engaging content with its users.
The latest major change to EdgeRank specifically affects corporate brand pages. Facebook has opted to reduce the frequency at which corporate page posts appear on fans’ news feeds in an effort to declutter the amount of brand-sponsored posts served up on mobile and tablet devices. This change requires companies to rethink their Facebook Page strategy in order to maximize the amount of visibility, reach, and engagement of their pages.

Increase Your Facebook EdgeRank by Going Local

In a way, this news shouldn’t be too surprising for savvy social marketers. Earlier this year, independent researcher Mainstay Salire released a report analyzing social media posts from corporate pages versus local brand pages. The researcher found that a typical local Facebook Page fan (someone who has liked the page) is worth 40 times a typical corporate Page fan.
Having tracked 14 million consumer interactions across Facebook, the report revealed that local fans pack a much bigger punch than corporate Fans from a sales and marketing perspective. While, at first glance, corporate Facebook Pages have the clear advantage in their massive fan bases and engagement, Mainstay discovered that local Facebook Pages actually generate 5x greater reach per fan and 8x more engagement per fan reached. Ultimately, one local fan is equal to 40 corporate fans.
With Facebook tweaking its EdgeRank algorithm to even further limit the reach of corporate page posts, it is clearer than ever that major businesses must go local with their social media efforts.
If you want to maximize reach and engagement with your customers on a national or even global scale, doing so from one corporate page is not the best way to do it. Instead, you need to equip your local salespeople and stores with the knowledge and software (like Hearsay Social) to help them best represent your brand on social media.
To learn more about how local pages outperform corporate pages on social media, download Mainstay Salire’s report, The Power of Going Local: Comparing the Impact of Corporate vs. Local Facebook Pages.

The legal and compliance impact of social media

Ed. note: This post is the fourth in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Comprehensive Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Financial services and insurance companies are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which consider all “static” content (including social media posts) to be marketing material. As such, companies are required to conduct pre-reviews of social media communications and retain copies of content published on Facebook and other channels.
“We worry about fines all the time,” a representative of a major financial institution told us.
Educational institutions as well as companies in a range of industries (e.g., fitness clubs) are also subject to state advertising regulations and labor laws. These range from restrictions on how institutions are allowed to advertise and market educational programs (including via social media) and rules that require only full-time employees to publish posts on behalf of businesses.
Findings

  • Regulated companies reported easier compliance with government and industry regulations due to their social media marketing platform’s built-in monitoring, workflow, and archival systems
  • Companies said that the platforms substantially lower the risk of incurring regulatory penalties and becoming the target of legal action

Streamlined Compliance Supervision Effort

Regulated companies that introduced compliance automation capabilities said it helped them move more confidently into local social media markets. Marketers at an insurance company, for example, said they were better able to focus on building customer relationships rather than worrying about legally allowable content. The platform’s monitoring, alert, and data management capabilities all contributed to reducing administrative overhead. Adoption of the platform resulted in a 65% reduction in the number of full-time employees needed to manage data compliance.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.

The huge productivity advantage of social media

Ed. note: This post is the third in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Increased Employee Business Use of Social Media and Productivity

While most of the businesses previously had local social media presences, Hearsay Social offered a level of convenience and scalability that attracted agents, advisors, and local-branch marketers. Access to corporate content libraries, auto-scheduling, compliance tools, analytics, and the flexibility to customize each post were all features that appealed to users. Uptake of the solution was rapid across the companies studied and training needs were reported to be minimal.
Findings

  • Average of 4X increase in employee activity on social media across companies studied
  • 90% of advisors at financial firm joined a pilot rollout of Hearsay Social and 87% continued to use the platform after the pilot, demonstrating strong buy-in, adoption, and ease of use
  • 75% of advisors said the platform improved how they used Facebook as a business tool

Faster, More Efficient Delivery of Corporate Content to Local Networks

At the corporate level, marketers noted the productivity advantage of an enterprise-wide platform for managing social media programs. Reusable content libraries, automated compliance checks, and other management tools were key to streamlining production and delivery of content to field networks. Ease of integration with back-end systems (e.g., ERP systems, compliance supervision and archiving systems, and monitoring tools such as Lithium) contributed to minimizing maintenance and support costs.
Findings

  • More than 70% reduction in steps to convert, package, and deliver corporate content to local networks
  • Creating and leveraging content library reduced compliance administration, content reviews, and rework

Easier Creation of Content at Local Level

Local teams leveraged the social media platformto access corporate content and marketing ideas, customized to local needs. By providing a common, easy-to-use platform across all channels, Hearsay Social enabled more frequent use of social media. On average, companies reported a 50% reduction in effort needed to create and manage social media content at the local level.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.

The sales and marketing impact of social media

Ed. note: This post is the second in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Expanded Marketing Reach

Companies embracing social media marketing solutions reported a significant increase in the number of people reached through various channels, notably Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. One insurance company, for example, saw a 150% to 420% increase in its local Facebook fan base, largely because the platform’s simplicity enabled agents to post more frequently and effectively.
A major educational institution reported a 189% increase in its fan base because teachers and administrators could post more customized, relevant content and build a “feeling of community” among current and prospective students. Feedback through the platform’s analytics also helped fine-tune the content to focus on messaging that generated strong local-consumer engagement.
Findings

  • Local agents and branch managers that adopted Hearsay Social’s platform saw a two-to-five times increase in their local fan base over locations without Hearsay Social
  • 95% of local financial advisors said they now reach more customers through social media
  • 40% of the study participants reported a “positive sales impact” from adopting the social media marketing solution

Surge in Consumer Engagement

As companies established integrated corporate-local social media networks, they not only saw more fans signing up, but these fans and followers also responded more frequently to communications from the company. Marketing managers said that the platform’s automation and scheduling features allowed local marketing staff to “concentrate on crafting more pertinent and appealing posts,” thus attracting more engagement (including clicks, comments, views, and check-ins) from local fans and followers.
Findings

  • An educational institution adopting Hearsay Social saw a 13X increase in online consumer engagement as measured by the number of Facebook “likes” recorded per page
  • Businesses saw a doubling of customer check-ins (Facebook, Foursquare) after implementing Hearsay Social
  • Agents at an insurance company reported a 5X increase in Facebook “likes” after adopting a social media marketing platform, as shown in the figure at left.

Drove Transactions

Better outreach and engagement of consumers at the local level positively impacted sales and other measures of business growth at the companies studied. Several companies reported jumps in sales conversion rates, with one retailer doubling sales tied to specific promotions, largely due to the ability of marketers to design more attractive deals with targeted local social media offerings.
As shown in the figure below, an insurance company adopting Hearsay Social saw business improvements in several areas, including a boost in lives insured, premiums, and total assets. The volume of posts and tweets increased overall, but especially among junior advisors who adopted social media as their primary channel for stimulating sales growth.
Findings

  • 50% to 500% increase in revenue performance measures at insurer adopting social media marketing platform
  • Sales conversion rate jumped from 1.5% to 3% at retailer due to targeted offerings

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.

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: