This weeks cool tool could prove to be a bit controversial.  Post Planner is an application for Facebook that helps you think of things to post.  One of the biggest time sucks when managing Facebook pages can be deciding what to post today.  I use several methods to combat this, I have a schedule and a list of content, I bookmark interesting links, I write down ideas that pop into my head during the day and I’m always looking for something new and creative.  However, like everyone else I get brain freeze from time to time and this is when I could see Post Planner coming in handy.

Once you authorise the app to Facebook (and it looks for a lot of permissions) a click on the light bulb icon will throw up a number of suggestions for posts.  Unfortunately the free version teases you with question suggestions but if you try and activate them you are asked to sign up for the free trial.  However when you click through to sign up for the trial it looks for credit card details to activate it. This really put me off, maybe I’m an old fuddy duddy but I’m still not ready to trust my credit card to a company I stumbled on through a Google search that has pretty comprehensive access to my Facebook profile.  Sacrificing the Facebook data and my credit card info at the same time was a step further than I was willing to go.   If you sign up for the free trial there’s lots more cool stuff you can have access to, including ‘fill the blank’ updates ‘ask for likes’ updates and posting to your Facebook page rather than just your profile, they have a huge database of ideas for you to tap into, all of them aimed at getting more interaction.  Tempting as it is I’m still not ready to hand them my credit card info.

For free and without the trial there is one useful feature and that’s the ability to schedule updates.  Yes there are tools such as Hootusite that allow me to do this as well but the beauty of doing it through Post Planner is that you don’t need to leave Facebook.  As a free user I can only schedule updates to my personal profile page but I can see that pairing the posting ideas with a scheduling function could yield great results, particularly if you want to target users in a different timezone.

I’d love to try the full functioning app or to hear from anyone who has done the trial.  What do you think?  Would a Facebook app with access to your profile information scare you off giving credit card information or am I being overly cautious?

I met someone last week who wondered if I still ran Spiderworking.com.  The reason?  She ‘Liked’ my Facebook page but hadn’t seen any updates from me in months.  Since Facebook made it’s latest changes to the newsfeed at the end of last year reports have been coming in of page updates not appearing in the stream.  Page owners also saw a significant drop in their page and post views and a new statistic appeared on our pages ‘talking about’.  All of this combined means that if we really want users to see our updates we need to encourage interaction, the ‘talking about’ stat has become the most important insight on our page.

So how can you encourage more interaction on your Facebook page?  I’ve been experimenting and here’s what I’ve found works so far.

Always look for feedback

Whenever I post something to Facebook I ask for feedback, instead of posting a link and saying what it’s about, I think about why I’m sharing it and add my thoughts and ask others for their opinions.  I try to end most posts with a question mark.  This has been a valuable tool for me and has helped me gather ideas and content for blog posts amongst other things.

Other effective tricks I’ve seen other pages use for getting feedback are posts with a missing word (see below), or asking for ‘three words to describe’.  Giving likers something simple to do will encourage more engagement than asking for a long opinion.

example from Mari Smith

Share on Twitter

If your posts are no longer appearing on the newsfeeds of all your fans you need to be reaching them elsewhere.  Posting links to Facebook posts on Twitter and asking for feedback is an effective way of widening the conversation beyond those who pick up your stories on Facebook.  Facebook users no longer need to like a page to comment on it so you may find you will get more interaction from new users this way.

I try and post one Facebook discussion a day to Twitter and have found it effective for getting new comments, all of these are hugely valuable not just for encouraging sharing but again for garnering opinion on topics that I can translate into blog posts or content in the future.

Use a variety of content

It’s widely agreed that images and videos have better edgerank than other types of content.  Images and video are also more visually attractive to users, they will catch your eye the way a status update or a simple link won’t.  When I’m posting a status update I try and find an image that illustrates my point and add it to the update. It’s important to include a variety of content types on your page and I wouldn’t recommend using the image trick for every update.  People get tired of the same content and you will discover that video and links will reach different users than images and status updates.

example from Amy Porterfield

Run a competition

Running a competition on Facebook will get lots of people talking about your page.  Use an app like ShortStack that allows you to configure sharing, this way people who enter will be prompted to tell their friends.  If you have an active user base running a photo contest that is judged by Facebook users will encourage competition entrants to share your page with all of their friends.

example from Country Hounds

Great content

This should really have been my first point.  Creating compelling content that people will want to share will always encourage interaction and shares.  I always recommend creating a content schedule for Facebook, you can download a blank schedule word document here.  Think about when you are going to post and what sort of content you are going to post on each day.  This will make it easier for you to find content to share and encourage consistent posting.

Carry a camera and a notebook with you everywhere and look out for photo opportunities that will work on your page.  I find the voice memo device on my phone invaluable and am always recording snippets of ideas when I have them.

What have I left out?  How do you encourage engagement on your Facebook page?  Let me know… leave a comment.

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You may not consider your email mailing list social media.  It almost falls into that traditional marketing slot but it is a great way of communicating with your target market and if done well can keep customers connected with your brand and encourage more interaction… which of course inevitably leads to more sales.

So here’s our 4 top tips for Newsletter beginners:

1. – Permission

Make sure you have permission from your subscribers to add them to your list.  It is a common mistake to start collecting email addresses and then send them unsolicited emails. There are several problems that can arise from this.  Firstly if someone hits the junk button when they receive your email it puts a black mark against your email address, if enough people do it your future emails will be considered spam.  If this isn’t scary enough imagine how annoyed someone might get if they start receiving your newsletter on a regular basis.  Instead of receiving something they have an interest in they could start getting annoyed with you and your brand and articulating this to others.

2. – Great Content

As with all social media, provide valuable content!  If you are sending a monthly newsletter don’t just try to sell something.  Offer something of interest to your customers.  For example, we try and offer a tip or a hint every month and a competition as well as a special offer.  Hopefully this means that people will look forward to receiving our updates and read them fully.

3. – Catchy Title

Come up with a catchy hook for your email title.  People are going to be less inclined to open a mail that is named ‘May Newsletter’ than they are one that says ‘Cool Twitter Tools and Free Social Media Audits’.

4. – Good Tools

Use a good Newsletter management tool, there are lots available, some by subscription and most with a free trial.  We use and recommend MailChimp as it is easy to use and is free up to 500 subscribers.  We’ll be talking more about the benefits of MailChimp in part two of this blog next week.

If you would like to receive the Spiderworking.com mailing list subscribe using the form on the top right hand side of this page.