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Top engagement drivers: how to get viral on Facebook

 

How to boost Facebook organic reach

Page Insights, among other things, help to identify what is the most engaging content for your audience. Some content gets viral, while other doesn’t get noticed at all.

Every content is a meme: some memes survive, going viral or being the source of new memes, while other doesn’t get noticed at all and disappear.

In this sense, are not only a memetic machine, with their constant production or reproduction of memes, but also a memetic cemetery (despite some memes of the past can always come back to life, under any circumstance).

This analysis is neither exhaustive nor definitive but tries to offer an overview over factors that affect the viral reach of Facebook posts, either on pages or profiles.

Results are summarised in the above scheme that is the outcome of frequent observations through different Facebook pages.

Why do we post?

The scheme starts from publisher’s intentions, either posting as an individual or for an organisation/brand.

Drivers of our publishing activity could be divided into three main, groups:

  1. Individualism – it tells how we feel or how we want to represent ourselves to the world (or, at least, our audience)
  2. Altruism – it is probably the most valuable content because it is aimed at creating/sharing value with the audience
  3. Opinion – this can be the outcome of either an individual attitude or a wish to start/join a conversation and affect the public opinion

Most of what we post contains elements of any of the above factors.

Content focus: individual vs. general

While Individualism can be categorised as material embedding a personal element and focusing on the poster (e.g. a selfie), the other two categories (Altruism and Opinion) relate to the external environment (e.g. tech, politics, sport, arts, science, culture in general, etc.).

Unless talking about VIP’s (including social stars, even in very narrow fields) or well-known brands that despite talking about themselves have a strong influence on the external environment, general content has more chances to get viral than the individual.

Engagement factors

The expected consequent actions (reactions) made by our audience, will increase the reach of our content: this is the viral effect, an enormous benefit because it does not cost anything, differently than promoted posts. Quality has value.

To get a high viral reach, it is important to engage people that are social stars, since their actions on your posts usually are more effective regarding reach, but, in general, every little helps.

  • Individualist content might be shared because of Empathy
  • Altruist content can be multiplied when it is perceived as Useful
  • Opinions tend to encourage Participation (either with a positive or negative feedback)

The actions that we expect from this are likes for an individualist content, share for a useful altruist content and comment for an opinion that drives participation.

How to categorise Facebook posts: some examples

We can try to attribute each content we see on Facebook to one of the following three categories and imagine what can be the expected reaction.

  • Individualism: selfies, feelings, travel, self-made content, etc.
  • Altruism: pets, recipes, reviews, guides, invitations, etc.
  • Opinion: politics, violence, VIPs, activism, etc.

Some content stays in between two or even all three categories. For example, a video clip of a song can be posted to represent a personal feeling (individualism) and at the same time to help other people discover that particular content (altruism) and express an opinion that reflects the lyrics (opinion).

Support for a political leader/movement or complaints towards a brand/company’s customer services can be categorised as opinions and can have a follow up made of supporting (or detracting) comments – and relative comment-likes and comment-tags.

A selfie is an individualist content, while an is (or, at least, try to be) an act of altruism that hopefully is perceived as useful and then multiplied by being liked and shared.

Affinity to your average audience increases engagement

Everyone has a different personality and Facebook knows that. Thinking of Lookalike audiences, we have to post with our audience in mind, more than content.

Knowing our audience enables to build an ideal average that should be our main content driver. The affinity of our content to our audience’s expectations is a core virality factor.

A Facebook Page with a very generic audience tends to have fewer occasions to gets its content viral due to high engagement-rate, while as opposite, content posted on a Page whose audience is very narrow and specialised can get viral with a high engagement-rate.

All factors count

Often many pages publish great content too generic and informative: its engagement-rate (and consequently its organic reach) will be very low.

Some content is too cold (for example a link to a technical guide) or too personal (for example a personal status about facts of little interest for the audience) or too introvert (something that nobody or very few people can understand or care of).

To get viral on Facebook, content need to be a mix of all factors proposed in the scheme [ individualism + altruism + opinion ] paying attention to audience’s closeness (including language and jargon) and possibly enriching text with hashtags if the content is about places, brands or trending topics.

Write your content (make it original), try to disseminate value – a strong factor, usually appreciated by your audience – and don’t forget to express your point of view because Facebook is a conversational platform after all.

Something missing: the dark side of analytics

Not all content is shared publicly. Therefore, its virality cannot be adequately measured. Often, good content is also multiplied by private messages (e.g. Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.), channels that cannot be tracked but still can increase reach, engagement, leads, conversions.

In fact, many of us are not willing to publicly share or comment anything, but it doesn’t mean that we are not interested in debating about with our best friend through private messages. We are not aware of what happen behind the wall unless we don’t start to track and read everyone’s private messages, but such amazing advanced tools apparently are available only to very few organisations/governments..

So don’t stick to what’s measurable, ignoring the dark side of analytics. What’s behind a “direct” source can be the outcome of your efforts.

The infographic is made mainly for Facebook, but can be useful also for content marketing in general and other social media platforms, in particular, Google+ and Twitter.

Feel free to download and share Facebook Engagement Factors (PDF)

New screen for GA Goals set up

New Conversion Goal setup interface on Google Analytics

Many people do not set up Goals on their Analytics account. That’s a shame, because despite not having an website, Goals help them to 1) deep dive into the most challenging side of the analytics world (where the magic rule is learning by doing) and 2) learn more about a website, in a consistent way.

To track Goal , some users limit their efforts to placing the tracking coming from their ads platform. Not bad, but not even comprehensive as it could be setting up GA Goals.

Google Analytics has just refreshed its Conversion Goals setup screen adding some standardised categories that are self-explanatory about what Goals are: good move for newbies.

New screen for GA Goals set up

GA brings more clarity around Goals

After choosing the type of Goal in Step 1 (e.g. create an account or make a payment or whatever you like, see figure 1 above) you might be surprised to find the following four standard categories in Step 2. Nothing magic then, the new interface has just been designed to assist users in creating new Goals.

Describe your Goal...

Describe your Goal…

Finally, on Step 3, you setup your Goal details. For example, if you have chosen Play a video in Step 1, you will end up in events (you need to configure your media player properly in order to send events data to GA).

Set up a Goal corresponding to an event

Set up a Goal corresponding to an event

Look carefully at the last row before the buttons: Verify this Goal. That is a very useful tool to check if something is worth (or is wrong). If your Goal bring 0 despite you expect something you might go back and check something – usually you need to adjust URL’s or Event variables. Pay attention when using RegEx and always test before being sure that everything is ok.

Now, I’d like to express a critique to this new approach. As you all know, GA allows 5 Goals for each of the 4 Goal Sets that make up to 20 Goals in the free GA (well, the premium version doesn’t have any limit but that’s another story).Unfortunately it is not possible anymore to assign Goals to particular Goal Sets as it used to be before the change. Goals are assigned sequentially, making very difficult – or impossible in some cases – to group them in Sets depending on their nature.

If you are tracking transactions (completed), remember to opt for E-commerce tracking – if possible. To setup Ecommerce tracking you need to add some variables just on the page where the transaction is confirmed (usually a thank-you page). It’s fundamental to have a unique ID for each transaction, that might contain one or more products. Some values are optional, others are compulsory. If you are managing Google Analytics Tracking Conversion (GATC) through Google Tag Manager, then you need to use data-layers instead (and the code slightly changes).

Finally, if for some reasons you cannot setup you can still add just Goal value to the transaction page. Just avoid to add both Goal values and Ecommerce revenue or you might end up in doubling your revenues… unfortunately only on GA!

Google Analytics custom filters to tidy up your metrics: how to split up social media from referrals

Note: The Google URL Builder has been updated therefore I advice to have a look to this interesting guide written by Prateek Agarwal.


This post is about adding a custom filter to refine your Medium report on Google Analytics.

I am not going to talk about the “direct / none” aggregate that unfortunately include also visits that are not direct accesses like a user typing your URL or a bookmark, but any other session missing server data information. There is a wide literature about, but the problem remains unsolved.

Let’s talk about another medium category, referrals, that includes also visits coming from social media. Why not taking social media visits away from referrals?

Custom filters are a very useful tool for aggregating or adjusting some metrics before they appear on reports. In this post I’ll show you how to use custom filters to assign all visits coming from social media sources to a Medium category called “social“. Just follow this step:

Filter to separate social sources from referral on GA

Filter to separate social sources from referral on GA

The source for visits from FB mobile is “m.facebook.com” whilst Twitter is “t.co”. You can add all social media together by using Regular Expressions (RegEx). In this case you might need to do some testing. A RegEx for social filter can be this one:

(facebook.com|m.facebook.com|facebook|vk|vk.com|t.co|twitter|hootsuite|tweetdeck|plus.url.google.com|youtube|linkedin|reddit|digg|delicious|stumbleupon|myspace|flickr|popurls|friendfeed)

Remember to add also “field b = referral” because you don’t want to tas as social whatever is tagged not referral, for example a CPC campaign run through Facebook or LinkedIn.

After applying the filter don’t be impatient with Real-Time stats as custom filters might take a short while to apply properly.

A suggestion to speed up your RegEx learning process is to create a test profile (never play with the main profile!) and apply different filters there, assigning categories called social1, social2, etc. for different RegEx’s so you will reckon which is working and which is not by looking at the variable appearing on reports few hours after applying the filters.

Let’s go back to my proposals. Here’re the filters applied taken:

  1. visits from social media whose source is “facebook”, “twitter” or “google plus” have been all automatically categorised as “referrals” and will now be categorised as “social”
  2. using another custom filter, all medium assigned to “rss” will be renamed “feed” in order to join another existing category:  there is no need to have two different categories of the same type (distinction will be still available under Sources)

Here is what I had before (15/05/2013)

Before the filter...

Before the filter: no social!

and this is what I had after applying the filter (19/05/2013)

...after the filter

…after the filter, social appears!

Observations:

  • visits from social media are taken off from “referral” and placed into a new category called “social” that will also include all future social media activity tagged through the URL builder to be taken away from the “(none)”
  • RSS disappear and joins “feed” for more clarity
  • the site does not have benefit of any paid advertising source
  • direct/none stable (14% / 15%)
  • organic stable (11%)

Filters above apply only to Campaign Medium, but what about organising also Sources by aggregating at least the most relevant URL’s under just few categories? For example you can join www.facebook.com and m.facebook.com under just “facebook”.

Again, to be precise, you can use RegEx but mind that if you select all domains that contain the word “facebook” or “twitter” you might end up in adding sites that are not facebook and still link to you. For example think of the service “twitterfeed” which is not Twitter. My suggestion here is to narrow aggregation just to the most relevant categories: if you’re embracing let’s say 95% of your visits that could be enough, isn’t it?

A further action: tag your incoming links with the URL builder whenever possible

If you want to reduce the amount of “(none)” among your media, start tagging all your social media posting that links to your website using the URL builder. In this case, I suggest to keep “social” as Campaign Medium for non paid (e.g. a Tweet or a Facebook post on wall or tab) and “cpc” or “paid” for paid (e.g. Facebook advertising) aligning it to other paid sources if any (e.g. AdWords).

You can use URL shorteners, but be sure that they keep tags or your link end up in the meaningless “direct/none” category. To manage non-paid incoming links from your own social sources Lunametrics has built a simple but still useful Google spreadsheet, using the shortener bit.ly

Be consistent with tags

If many people have access to your social media stream and run digital campaigns you should do some efforts to align tagging policies otherwise you might end up in a mess on GA reports. I’ve seen reports including many similar tags all together such as CPC, cpc, PPC, paid, ads, advertising, social, socialmedia, facebook, fb, etc.

Why separating social from referrals?

Ok they are all referrals, but usually visits coming from social media come from piece of content that links to your website (e.g. a post on Facebook wall). I say ‘usually’ because such links might be also placed on social media areas such as notes, tabs, twitter profile description, about sections, etc. together with other links, but such places are less relevant than the mainstream. Other referrals (traditional, let’s say), most of the times are link placed on websites (e.g. blogs), either because they like you/find your content relevant/worth mentioning or because of your link building activity. I’m not engaging in a debate if it’s better to have “social signals” or referrals from a pure SEO perspective during the Penguin era. Let’s say that it’s important to be noticed both by search engines and (yes, apparently we’re still humans) real people, but this post helps you to distinguish among digital type of  place where you’ve been spotted on: making a parallel with geography, if the source is the name of the place, the medium is the type of place.

A filter also for email

Usually newsletters/DEM are tagged with “email” medium. Why not doing the same with a custom filter that attributes “email” medium to all sources that contain the word “mail”? It can be mail.yahoo.com, gmail.com, etc. You might also add other relevant email providers like outlook, hotmail, etc. with a RegEx like (mail|outlook|hotmail|etc….). Again, if you want to preserve other medium like cpc, add a field b=referral – this way you will be pretty sure that all links to your site placed on email content will be tagged with “email” medium instead of referral.

Remember: it’s never too late to tidy your reports and to adopt a consistent and constant “tagging policy”.