Major B2B brands are keeping stride these days with their B2C counterparts – swimming in social media pools from LinkedIn and Twitter to Facebook and Google+, and being ranked at the top of social effectiveness lists like the Fortune 100.
If you’re a B2B brand with a Facebook page and are looking for new ways to engage with your audience, today is a significant date: Facebook is officially rolling out a new feature for all brand pages – the ability to “reply” directly to individuals who leave comments on your posts. Pages with 10,000 followers or more have been using the Replies feature since Facebook began rolling it out in March, but today the feature is enabled for all pages.
How Does This Differ from Previous Ways to Comment?
Previously, when Facebook users posted comments, all of those comments were displayed in chronological order for everyone to see. When the page admin wanted to reply to a comment, he could do so only by posting at the bottom of the comment chain, or by calling attention to the user who posted the comment by specifically tagging that person. In contrast, the new replies feature allows the brand page to reply specifically under each person’s comment, and also allows individual fans to reply directly to specific comments, as well.
Furthermore, when viewing the conversation in the post using the “ranked comments” option, the more popular comments will appear at the top, and spam-related or less engaging comments will be pushed farther down.
How Does This Impact Page Admins & Social Media Managers?
While the new, prominent view of the more engaging comments has advantages, one of the complaints during beta testing was that it also made it hard for page admins to view the newest comments in order to identify those that still needed addressing. Facebook has since corrected this by allowing page admins to continue to view comments in chronological order by selecting the “recent activity” view for each conversation (versus the “ranked comments” option).
What Does the Replies Feature Mean for B2B Marketers on Facebook?
The replies feature on Facebook allows B2B brands to communicate with fans on a one-to-one basis, versus a one-to-many fashion, providing the opportunity for enhanced fan engagement. The key element of this new feature is how it allows for true real-time conversation and direct responses to individuals – something especially useful for hosted chats and other discussions your company may hold.
Here are three ways B2B marketers can further personalize their Facebook usage to better engage and build long-lasting relationships with customers and prospects:
1. Bring marketing content to life: Expand the use of a blog or whitepaper by hosting a live Q&A with the expert who authored it. Utilize the event as a way to gain a larger following by conducting a Facebook “likes” ad campaign aimed at targeted audiences.
2. Continue the “in person” conversation on screen: Extend the in person engagement of a trade show booth or company-hosted event by holding a subsequent real-time discussion on Facebook. Pose relevant questions that drive people to your Facebook page conversation and suggest they comment. Your one-on-one conversation that began in a trade show booth with one customer may have the opportunity to go viral on Facebook!
3. Encourage your community to engage with one another: If your company hosts an annual user conference, for instance, your Facebook page could become a forum for those attending to address one another’s questions and discuss key topics. Consider posting scheduled conversation starters and use real-time communications to encourage participation. After the conference, this could also become a regularly scheduled online event – e.g., perhaps each Tuesday a new case study is shared and discussed. The more you can engage your fans to interact with one another, the more your page increases its value by being a place for them to share and learn.
How do you plan to engage your audience with Facebook “replies”?