This blog series highlights some of the top Social Media Beat posts from the last couple years. For more information about IACP’s Center for Social Media visit the project webpage. This post was originally published on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
Guest Blogger: Andy Johnson, Deputy Chief, Hanover Park, Illinois, Police Department
One of the primary concerns of any agency who has taken the step into the world of social media communications is how to keep the audience growing in terms of both size and engagement. The easy availability of metrics that tell us how many people are following us, who is engaging with our content and when and how often, and who our audience is show us very clearly what we are doing well and where we could perhaps improve.
With Facebook especially, we are competing with a stunning array of other available pages for audience attention. Our followers (and all Facebook users) only have a finite amount of disposable time they can spend on the pages, which requires a vetting process in which users decide which posts to pay attention to and which ones to skim past. Engagement, as we all know, is what leads to our pages being shown to more people which will, in turn, lead to more likes and even more engagement (hopefully).
In Hanover Park, we have placed a high value on trying to steadily increase the number of unique ‘likes’ on our page. Knowing this number is increasing reinforces to us that our time is well spent and we have an ever increasing chance to get our messages into more households. We recently passed our goal of reaching 5,000 unique likes and we hope to continue progressing. To supplement our efforts, we have employed the use of limited, targeted Facebook ads. Facebook ads are very simple to use, and take only a few minutes to set up. Once you choose a photo and brief message, you simply input the dates, times, and budget for the ad campaign. One important thing to note is that you can target your audience by selecting zip codes or states (we always use our area code to specifically target our residents), and the system defaults to showing your ad only to people who don’t already like your page. Based on how much you are looking to spend, Facebook will use an algorithm to show your ad in the timeline of a selected group of your target audience. Our ad tends to look like this:
We have found that, generally speaking, a $25 ad run over a weekend can net us 70-100 new ‘likes,’ which we feel is an excellent return on that investment.
However, once a person likes your page, if they do not interact with your content (liking/sharing posts, mentioning your page, etc.), they become less and less likely to be shown your content on their timeline based on Facebook’s timeline setting. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to post interesting, engaging, relevant content that your viewers will find meaningful and useful to them. Generally, we have found the greater the range in terms of variety, the more results we get in terms of interaction. Human interest stories (ESPECIALLY those involving animals) will consistently surprise you with its reach capability. As an example, one of our supervisors posted this photo of Officer Joe Giudice with a found dog, and the total views climbed to nearly 100,000 very quickly:
As an added bonus, the response to this photo led us to nearly 75 additional page likes – around as many as we usually obtain with paid ads. With the success of this photo, we began posting photos of found animals as a matter of procedure, and this practice has led not only to an astounding amount of good will, but has also reunited several families with their pets (and secured many new likes for our page!).
Overall, I would certainly not discourage Facebook page managers from utilizing targeted ads – however, it is crucial to remember that the best pages and highest activity levels are driven by quality of content.