Do you want to understand Facebook engagement?

Are you looking for Facebook engagement tactics that lead to news feed visibility?

To learn how to better use Facebook, I interview John Haydon for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview John Haydon, author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies and founder of Inbound Zombie, a consultancy focused on small- and medium-sized nonprofits.

John shares why Facebook engagement is so important.

You’ll learn how to better engage Facebook fans.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher or Blackberry.

Facebook Engagement

Why Facebook engagement is so important

John says that his definition of engagement—from a Facebook perspective—is like, comment and share, because that’s what really matters.


Facebook engagement is made up of likes, comments and shares.

In his experience working with Facebook and nonprofits, which is slightly different than the for-profit world, John encourages an organization to work with existing community and get that community talking about them.

He says he thinks about engagement, as it pertains to Facebook, as word of mouth.

John explains that when your current customers or donors engage with content from your Facebook page (or talk about that content), their friends see that content. That’s increased exposure for your organization.

John says that exposure starts by getting your current community, the people who already love you, to engage first.

Listen to the show to find out how the news feed algorithm impacts engagement. 

How Facebook page managers should spur engagement 

John wants to change the word posting to planting because when you plant something, like a bush, you have to stick around and take care of it. If you post an update on Facebook, you want to pay attention to how it’s performing. If people are commenting, liking and sharing, you want to be involved in that comment thread.


John understands the importance of replying to comments to spur engagement.

Recalling Amy Porterfield’s words from a few weeks ago, John says the more people notice that you stick around, the more they’ll engage with your content.

John agrees that community management on Facebook comes down to identifying the best-performing content, then tweaking and experimenting with content to optimize how you’re posting, topics, times that you’re posting, etc.

Listen to the show to hear what you’re missing by not interacting with what people are saying on your Facebook page.

The Talking About This metric and how it’s calculated

John explains this metric as anything that a Facebook user does to create a story in their news feed for their friends to see.


This post was shared into another user’s news feed.

He says that when a user shares something, likes a page, RSVPs to an event a page has published or tags that page in a photo or a status update, all of these actions put content into the news feed of that user’s friends so that they become aware. It’s really what you might call viral reach.

Anything that creates viral reach is Talking About This.

Listen to the show to learn more about Talking About This.

How a Facebook page used engagement to achieve a goal

Three years ago, the Brain Aneurysm Foundation was doing Facebook upside-down. John worked on a strategy that started with letting people use the page to express who they are. The foundation tapped into the passion around the issue and encouraged people to share their stories on the page.

One of the first posts was, “If you’ve had a friend who found out they had a brain aneurysm, what would be your number-one tip?”

Now their Facebook page is mostly made up of posts by others who come to share their stories.

The next issue was how to translate that engagement into email subscribers, donors or fundraisers.

On one end of the engagement spectrum, they had people liking, commenting and sharing. On the other end, they had people creating a peer-to-peer fundraising page—the highest level of engagement in the organization.

To bridge the gap, they created a Facebook app with ShortStack that allowed people to post a memorial image. The app collected the user’s email, then prompted him or her to share the memorial with their friends and create a peer-to-peer fundraising page.

In the nonprofit world, the number-one converting medium is email. John says that the biggest mistake he sees organizations make is that they discount Facebook as a fundraising tool because no one wants to donate on Facebook. John says they need to understand that Facebook is part of the path to bring people to the point of donating.

Listen to the show to find out how Facebook works in the conversion path.

Engagement tips and tactics

John recommends the Forrester Research POST method for social media.

  • People. First, get to know your people.
  • Objectives. Now that you understand your people, what are you going to give them that’s valuable and how will that achieve your business results?
  • Strategy. This is the value exchange. What are we going to give in exchange for the money we’re asking for?
  • Tactics. Let’s think about doing “X” type of campaign, post these photos, reply to all comments and retweet the high-performing posts.

John shares his thoughts on some specific tactics.

His rule on updates is to post at least once a day. He says that if you’re not posting once a day, you’re missing out. You have to start that rhythm and research shows that 1 to 5 updates a day is what you need to get exposure.

When you share a photo, make sure it has more than one person in it doing something. Those images will get more reaction than a photo of people standing shoulder to shoulder, smiling nicely.

If you post a text update with an open question, fewer people will respond. John says closed questions are the way to go: yes or no, true or false, fill in the blank. When you post questions like this in fewer than 80 characters (keep it short, sweet, concise), you take advantage of the brain’s auto-complete feature and people respond.


This closed question generated 2 shares, 53 likes and 84 comments.

Listen to the show to find out the best way to post links to your latest blog article.

What to look for in Facebook Insights and what you can gain

John says the typical busy small business needs to know what their best content is. What gets the most likes, comments and shares and how they can get more of the same. That’s the business problem.

John tells you how to find the Engagement Rate metric for all of your posts in Facebook Insights (the percentage of people who saw an update and liked, commented, shared or clicked on it in some way), so you can see the types of posts that perform best.


You can track post engagement in Facebook Insights.

Look at the engagement rate for your posts and experiment so you can see what your audience seems to be more engaged with. Then use that information to do more of those and fewer of the things that don’t get engagement.

The higher the engagement rate, the better-performing the post.

John shares that he limits his analysis to people who like the page. Focus on finding who, of the people who are fans that you reach, is liking, commenting and sharing.

Listen to the show to find out about other Facebook metric reporting tools.

What one message about engagement do you want people to take with them?

John says to give people something to talk about. Don’t just post stuff about you and treat Facebook as a free email list. Be useful.

He recommends Jay Baer’s book Youtility, because it discusses this issue right down to the core.

John believes that Facebook is changing how marketers approach things. Marketers can no longer just push stuff out there. They have to listen and pay attention and get to know their people. Understand them, THEN reply.

John points out that Social Media Examiner provides a tremendous best-practice example of this.

Listen to the show to find out what questions will help you think about your customers first.

Discovery of the Week

Are you looking for a great way to integrate Facebook into your blog?

The Official Facebook Plugin for WordPress allows you to do some really cool things.

One thing you can do is integrate a Like button, a Send button and/or a Follow button into your WordPress blog. Each of the buttons has its own custom integration, so you can show a Like button at the top of your page and a Send button at the bottom.


The Official Facebook WordPress plugin makes it easy to integrate the Like button.

Not only does the plugin allow people to like the content from your blog, it also lets you show the names and faces of other people who liked your content.

You can find it here and try it out.

Call in and leave your social media–related questions for us and we may include them in a future show.

Listen to the show to learn more about how we use this at Social Media Examiner and let us know how it works for you.

Other Show Mentions

SMMW logoSocial Media Marketing World 2014 is our physical mega-conference, which is set to return to San Diego, California on March 26, 27 and 28.

The conference features more than 60 sessions in 4 major tracks, which include social tactics, social strategy, community management and content marketing.

Here are some of the newer presenters we’ve recently added: Joel Comm, Jonathan Fields, Syed Balkhi and presenters from Hershey’s, Citrix, Cox Communications and the Huffington Post.

This is truly a global conference. We are expecting 2000 marketers in San Diego, doing nothing but living and breathing social media and having a lot of fun and connecting with fellow marketers. Be sure to check it out.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

Help Us Spread the Word!

Please let your Twitter followers know about this podcast. Simply click here now to post a tweet.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast, please head over to iTunes, leave a rating, write a review and subscribe. And if you listen on Stitcher, please click here to rate and review this show.

Ways to subscribe to the Social Media Marketing podcast:

What do you think? What are your thoughts on using Facebook to achieve viral reach? Please leave your comments below.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Get Social Media Examiner’s Future Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 465,000+ of your peers! Get our latest articles delivered to your email inbox and get the FREE Social Media Marketing Industry Report (56 pages, 90 charts)!

More info...
  • Michael – Thanks so much for having me as a guest on the Podcast! I really enjoyed our discussion, and hope it’s useful to your readers / listeners. 🙂

  • Great work John, and Mike of course!!

  • Great podcast! I have a lot of useful information to share with my team now. Thanks!

  • Thanks Allison!

  • Thanks a lot Scott 🙂

  • Thanks John – You were great. Please do check back here as I am sure some of our audience will have questions for you

  • JS

    Hey, Mike please do a podcast episode on tumblr and google+ engagement/advice, PLEASEEEEEE. It would help tons

  • Kim Stiglitz

    Has anyone noticed a decline in Facebook organic reach starting at the end of November? Seems like a change to the algo is resulting in a drastic decline in reach for many brands.

  • Will do!

  • Allison – what was the most useful takeaway for you? I’m curious.

  • Michael, you know what happened twice this week? I wrote the title of the post as a question. But instead of following the link, people actually thought I was asking, and replied with a lot of tips. I think we need to make sure people understand our post titles are actually introductions, rather than questions. Thanks for sharing.

  • I think that it doesn’t matter which social platform you’re using if you can’t the people who already know, trust and love you, to engage first, you’re toast. Everyday, more and more media becomes optional – if someone doesn’t choose to share your message, breaking through the noise becomes very diffcult.

  • Well I definitely want to integrate the WordPress plug-in for my client. They love to share content from Facebook to their blog when truly I think an important part of Facebook engagement is keeping it on the page. Adding the Facebook plug-in would be an added value since they love their blog so much. As I already do much of what you think CMs should do, I think the tactics you mentioned were the most valuable. This great information to use to reiterate to clients to help them understand the nitty gritty of metrics and engagement!

  • I would love to see a podcast on Twitter and Google+. With Google+ reaching 1 billion users I think insight on that platform would be useful!

  • I’ve noticed many of my clients have seen a decline in activity but I think that can be attributed to the season. My clients are not “selling” anything. I’m in the business maintaining employer branding/careers pages. Job search is down but sales are up! I think it depends on your industry. My fans are on vacation/shopping!

  • Make sure you use the plug-in made by Facebook. It’s pretty solid and easy to use.

  • Kim-there has absolutely been a decline in organic reach. Facebook is putting the squeeze on the newsfeed and requiring brands to pay for exposure. This is not a big surprise when you consider that they are a public company.

  • I’d also try posting plaintext updates with questions for variety. Many people find that text updates get more reach, wild links and photos get less reach.

  • Good point. It’s important to start where your current customers are. For B2B it might be LinkedIn or a professional forum. For B2C it’s probably Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

  • Jay Baer’s philosophy in Youtility is dead-on effective. When you generate a discussion instead of sales or promotion, the engagement is sometimes off the charts! And that’s exactly what you want.

    But what about Facebook’s push for sponsored posts? I read an article yesterday that if you’re not sponsoring your posts, only about 16 percent of your audience will actually see it. So, how can a non-profit or a for-profit business generate discussion if only 16 percent of their audience is seeing it?

    Any thoughts?

  • It’s a good question and I am not sure anyone has figured out the answer about Facebook considering all the changes happening right now

  • Jose – Yea the use of questions does really get people engaged.

  • Google+ is coming this month and we just did one on Twitter. Many of these engagement techniques work across all platforms. you just need to think outside the box 🙂

  • Absolutely. It makes all the more sense when in a previous podcast someone said we have to leverage our current audience. In other words, ideally we would have to grow by expanding our circles, not trying to build a big one from scratch.

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: December 20, 2013()

  • Kim, I don’t know if this has anything to do with the fact that many experts are saying Facebook is losing new generations to Instagram and other trendy platforms. I think too many brands have adopted the “follow us on facebook & twitter” as a prefabricated slogan. @garyvee prompts companies to go beyond Facebook and Twitter.

  • Jeffrey Simons

    Michael, thanks for a great article, but I want to be a bit contrary on the recommended Facebook PlugIn for WordPress. A quick glance at the reviews (which I always do before installing a plugin that could break a WordPress site) has an average of 2.7 out of 5 stars, with 141 1-star reviews to only 96 5-star reviews. I won’t touch this plugin for any of my clients, based on what many of the users have said. This isn’t surprising to me, as Facebook plugins and apps have been, in my experience and the experience of many others, flawed at the best of times, inexcusably and insultingly bad at the worst.

  • Lauren E Mueller

    What is a good engagement rate? On the page I manage, our posts average a %13.65 engagement rate, but this is partly because our reach is small (we average about 175 reach out of a total of 273 likes).

  • Emeric

    Thanks for the shoutout @johnhaydon:disqus! And thanks to @mikestelzner:disqus for making this great podcast come to lide, I’m a big fan!

  • Hi Jeff – I fully hear you on the plugin. But the fact is that we are a very big site and have tested the plugin and it works as advertised without any problems. As I said in the podcast it does have limitations and there are others with more bells and whistles. Perhaps it used to be bad but it works fine now.

  • I defer to John on this but that sounds pretty good to me

  • Thanks Emeric

  • Hi, this is really a sublime effort, We do use almost all of the social media’s for our business and I am more concerned with Facebook engagement its because we have more than 650 people who liked our page but no one is interested in engaging in our post and we are into selling fashion designer clothes so could you please help me in knowing how to increase engagement for our products on Facebook? What kind of photos should we post to receive more engagement?

  • Kim Stiglitz

    Here is another post that also highlights what I am seeing with the algorithm change:

  • Tim K


    Really enjoy your articles and podcasts. I must say though that the side bar on the left of your website is really annoying to the point that I sometimes get frustrated and leave your site. You offer good content. You don’t need to annoy your readers to get them to take action.

    Thanks for your informative articles and insight.

    Tim K.

  • Hey Tim – Thanks for your feedback. Sorry to hear it bugs you. We try to place it outside the reading zone so it doesn’t distract

  • Good article. The only problem I have is with the definition of engagement – likes, comments, and shares. It’s defined too narrowly and arbitrarily. It’s not always the engagement that matters. “Invisible” clicks matter too.

    While likes, comments, and shares are visible signs of good content, they don’t tell you what’s wrong when something is wrong. “Invisible” clicks like photo views do. If photo views are low, check your organic reach. If photo view rates are low, your photos are not capturing enough attention. If photo view rates are high but CTA response rates are low, something could be wrong with the copy or the photo is capturing attention but not bringing across the point well enough.

    I could also go on about other forms of “invisible” links, like link clicks, which are just as important, if not more important, in many specific cases where outbound traffic is the desired action.

    All these don’t change the fact that this article/podcast is useful 🙂

  • Organic reach is indeed declining – Facebook admitted too (via ad age). In any case, this means 3 things (which most marketers are missing) – a fall in organic fan reach, a fall in organic non-fans’ reach, and a fall in organic viral reach. What you see in the facebook page count is a combined effect of a fall in all 3 categories. (i.e. most reports quote the fall of organic total reach, which they mistakenly interpret as organic fan reach)

  • Great discovery tip of the week. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Unfortunately, due to very busy schedule last week, i couldn’t hear your episode, but after letting know about this plugin, I just installed it in my website
    Thanks once again for sharing such kind of helpful information. Happy New Year in advance.

  • Pingback: Facebook Question Ideas for Audience Engagement()

  • Pingback: Forming a Social Media Success Plan – Step 6 « Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant()

  • Pingback: Forming a Social Media Success Plan – Step 7 « Mary Wu, Virtual Assistant()