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Straighten out your content for great 'news feed optimization'

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One of the big mistakes I often see companies make when they are setting up a page on Facebook is spending more time “planning the wedding than they do the marriage,” as I like to say. In other words, they spend all of their effort in getting the page perfect and having it be in compliance with their corporate guidelines, but they have no real plans for how they are going to grow their base of fans with rich, engaging content.

I often suggest to companies to put at least the same amount of time into identifying possible content for the site, and planning how they're going to create it on an ongoing basis, as they do in the planning and design of the site itself.

And what kinds of responses do I get in return? You're be surprised: things like, “No problem. We already make tons of content—you know, things like brochures, fact sheets, data sheets, Web pages, case studies and so forth.”

Oh my. That's not the kind of content I meant.

It occurs to me my definition of content often differs from their definition of content. What I mean by content is material that can be used for “inbound marketing” (hat tip to HubSpot, which created the term), meaning things that can be shared socially, like blog posts, e-books, videos, podcasts and research reports.

It can also include more advanced techniques, like polls, promotions and contests. All this is needed to get people to engage with your brand specifically in the form of “liking” and commenting on it.

Why is this so important? Because only 0.2% of fans ever return to a fan page; in some cases it's even less (hat tip to BrandGlue). So people on Facebook who “like” your fan page basically never go back to it.

So stop thinking of your Facebook page as a microsite and making it all fancy. What you need to focus on is the content and optimizing it in order to get likes and comments, which in turn will help drive the number of people that Facebook will show your page to.

It's all based on Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm, which controls what you see in your news feed when you log on to Facebook.

Remember the days back in 1999-2000 when everyone was trying to get a banner ad on the home page of Yahoo? Then came the days of wanting to appear at the top of a Google search, either paid or organic.

What's happening now is, savvy marketers are creating content that gets “liked” and commented on a lot, so they will continually show up on individual home pages in Facebook.

This is a new type of optimization called “news feed optimization,” and it's the next big race for all of us to run.

Paul Dunay is global managing director-services and social marketing, at enterprise telecommunications company Avaya Inc. (www.avaya.com). He can be reached at pdunay@avaya.com.

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