Advising brands to get active on social media is, in the words of Black Eyed Peas, “so 2000 and late.” Every brand smaller or bigger has at least a Facebook page, if not also at least one Twitter handle, a Tumblr, a Google+, an Instagram and Pinterest account, etc. Most marketers include social media as part of their overall strategy, 97% agree that it provides benefits and value to their business.

Figuring out what to share, where and when can be overwhelming though, especially for small businesses that don’t have a big budget for a team to support all these accounts or fancy tools to monitor them, retaining their audience and providing the right content to lure in new costumers remains a puzzle.

As social media accounts and conversations are on the rise, how can brands stand out from their competition? The fight for attention is hard, as the competition for it is not only other brands but also individual bloggers and others that keep pushing out fresh content on the same subjects.

Getting your customers to engage with you online is vital on all social media networks and even more on Facebook, where the your fans’ interactions with your brand affect directly your visibility in their feeds through Facebook’s Edgerank. So what should you have in mind in order to drive up engagement on Facebook?

1. You need your customers to LOVE you, not just ‘Like’ you.

Getting your number of likes, shares and comments up is easy, all you have to do is post a funny pic of a puppy or post: “Like if you love Ryan Gosling”, but that won’t do much for your brand, will it? Well at least not as much as it will for Ryan Gosling’s personal brand.

Just as you’d fix your hair and a touch of make up to make yourself more photographable, in the same way try to make the content related to your brand more shareable. If you fall in the trap of posting just what you assume will get you a Like, even if it’s not relatable to your brand’s ID you’ll be the equivalent of an insecure teenager that projects a fake personality to get a date, lose sight of your brand’s goals and time that won’t translate into sales.

2. Human nature crave variety, and so does Edgerank.

One of the factors that determines your Edgerank score is “weight”, which measures the type of content you post – different types get different weights so keep your content diverse. Apart from that, it is no secret that pics do much better in terms of shares and likes than posts with just text, but don’t limit yourself to that.

Try out different ways to share information, such as video, and get feedback from your customers like with Questions. Use apps to set up giveaways and reward your most loyal friends. There is no golden rule and just as each brand is unique, so should its page. Monitor via Insights what kind of posts get you the most interactions and focus on that kind of content while still spicing things up every now and then with other media. In any case keep it fresh!

3. Don’t be a snob, reply to comments!

It’s amazing how many brands still don’t do this, and you will see that a kind reply goes a long way with your customers. You are there to connect with your customers after all – would you ever ignore a client who walked in your store, or hang up on them if they called your office?

In a recent research 49,5% answered that if their questions on Facebook or Twitter went unanswered, they would no longer do business with the company  Answering comments will also encourage your fans to keep posting comments, as they will feel their opinion is heard and valued. You don’t have to reply in detail publicly, simply acknowledging their question and directing them to contact the right person via email or telephone can be enough.

4. Take responsibility and acknowledge your mistakes

A Facebook attack is not exactly the kind of engagement that brands are after, but it has happened to the best of them. Keep a sense of humor and your apology short and honest so you can be move as soon as possible back to normal.

In any case, don’t delete negative comments, you will see that if you’ve been engaging with your fans they’ll be the first to jump in and defend you, saving the day and your page.

5. Monitor analytics

This will help you get to know who is your audience, where you need to grow more, what kind of content works best for you, but also what is the right timing. Try to figure out how many posts a day get you the best interaction rates. Usually brands are more effective with a small number of posts per day, like 2 or 5, while media brands are more effective with around 10 posts a day.

One suit does not fit all, so check your numbers and try different things out until you find what’s best for your brand. Another thing to keep in mind is how often you post on your page and during what times. If you are a local brand, focus on your timezone, but if you aim to reach a broader audience you may want to spread your content to reach more timezones.

Bonus tip: When we say engage with your fans, we certainly don’t mean engage in a fight! Don’t feed the trolls; a short and firm reply should be enough.

What have you tried and worked when it comes to engagement on Facebook? What are your Do and Don’ts?