A&E Asks: Kelly 'Rags' Ragland on Best Facebook and Twitter Practices

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Welcome to A&E Asks: Five Minutes with… where one-on-one interviews with industry professionals are featured in a Q&A format. These interviews share the experiences, opinions and ideas of some of the industry’s best-known individuals.

In Part Four, the final installment of this series, we discuss best Facebook and Twitter practices as a business with expert Kelly “Rags” Ragland of Rags to Stitches Productions. 

What advice would you give to a small business owner looking to expand their presence on Facebook?

Online contests are a great way to generate a buzz on Facebook and collect a good number of followers. People love free stuff! Create a contest for a free award. Include a clause in the rules that entrants must follow your Facebook business page in addition to liking and sharing the contest with their friends. You will see the number of followers increase rapidly, and exposure to your page, products, and services increase as well.

If you’re looking for some resources, Inside Facebook offers in-depth news and analysis about Facebook through an email subscription, as well as through their social media accounts.

What makes a quality post that encourages engagement?

Posts that generate emotion will get far more engagement than others. Humor, curiosity, amazement—these are all emotions that we have and that are easily triggered through images and/or the clever use of words.

Ask clever questions, such as trivia and pose brain teasers (which work on almost everyone). Get opinions or encourage a discussion on an interesting topic. The subject of awards alone is ripe for encouraging conversation. Should [insert musical artist here] receive an award for [insert something they did here]? Expect some comments and friendly banter!

A humorous idea for the awards industry would be funny awards randomly posted that are light hearted and laughable. For example, create an “award of the week” to post every Wednesday. Simply do a quick Google Image Search for something right off the top of your head like “silly uniform” or “sports blunder.” Grab a funny picture and add it side by side to an image of one of your awards and create a funny post people can laugh about.

Caption contests are another fun way to encourage engagement, and they don’t necessarily need a prize. A funny picture of a cat holding an award with the headline, “Caption This,” will generate comments likes and shares just because people will have fin doing it.

Posts that reward engagement are also effective. Going back to the contest example, you can send out an image announcing 10 percent off for a special holiday weekend and create a reward to go with it. “Like this post and share it on your page to be entered to win!” Do a random drawing and give away the prize of your choice using Facebook Insights, where you can see a list of likes and shares. This can also be applied to re-Tweets, re-pins on Pinterest, and more, depending on the platform.

How has Facebook changed its algorithm in regard to how many followers see content on their news feed? How has it changed in the past few years?

Among its usual changes, the most alarming is its change to the way it treats promotional posts. Flagging the use of the words “sale” and “special offer,” for example. While I fully agree that those are promotional words and, thus, considered promotional content, I personally think that followers should be the ones to decide if they want it in their feed or not. Users have asked me why I stopped posting on one of my business pages for awhile, and the answer was, I never stopped. My followers wanted my coupon code offers and new product updates, but Facebook wasn’t putting them into the users’ feeds.

The trick around this, of course, is to use your buzzwords in the form of an image rather than adding it to the text in the post. That will improve your chances (at least until it change things again).

Currently, Facebook is battling with the recent discovery (or admission of) “fake news” and users broadcasting things on Facebook Live such as murders and kidnappings. I don’t see Facebook catering to us businesses and our marketing interests any time in the near future with those challenges on the agenda, but rest-assured, things will change again sooner or later.

What type of content is more visible or boosted in news feeds?

Posts that get likes and shares get the exposure on Facebook. Its algorithm sees those actions as a qualifier and a sign that users are interested and passing it along.

What do you predict as far as future updates to the Facebook news feed algorithm?

I see it moving to an environment where businesses will be paying for exposure within users’ news feeds. I feel like that is the direction Facebook’s been going in for quite some time with the addition of the “Boost Post” feature, for example. Facebook modifies the playing field to force businesses into using the paid feature in order to get past those modifications.

What is Facebook Live and how does it work?

Facebook Live is another form of a live video broadcast similar to YouTube and Periscope. With Facebook Live, you get Facebook features such as visibility options, blocking users, and a live chat or comment feature. Formerly limited to mobile devices as the video source, it now offers a method of using a computer’s built-in camera or external webcam.

What are the benefits of using the Facebook Live feature?

If you have the time and some creative content to present in the form of a live event or televised-type of format, it is a free channel to get that content broadcasted.

What are some topics businesses pages could feature in a Facebook Live video?

You could do an interview with a satisfied customer to give the individal a platform about their own success and achieving an award. You can show an audience how great your engraving machine is and let them watch it doing its thing. Take a few moments to tell the story about how you got into the business. Take cues from popular YouTubers, television programs, and other Facebook Live events you can discover online, let their ideas sink into your mind, and get as creative as you’d like—it’s your TV show!

What should small business owners consider before diving into Facebook Live? Any advice?

Just try not to make any mistakes that could become embarrassing. When something goes wrong on a video with today’s internet, that one embarrassing moment goes everywhere fast. A well-devised plan will come across much better than plugging in a camera, going live and saying, “Let’s try this and see what happens.”

What are some best Twitter practices for awards retailers?

Make your account human and try to keep your account active with enough of a human element to stay out of any constant circle of advertising. Twitter users will follow an account that gives them something useful, something interesting—keeping them entertained or informed—or an account that has a variety of interesting content. But a Twitter feed that does nothing but promote products on an irregular basis will lose followers fast.

A word of caution: it is perfectly human to have an opinion. However, I don’t recommend sharing too much of it on Twitter. By all means, root for your favorite sports team, but try to avoid subjects like politics. Any subject that is toxic in nature is followed with scrutiny on Twitter by both users and robots. Should they see an opinion they don’t like, they often attack the individual user as well as their business or employer. It has become a hostile environment. If you want a thousand bad Yelp reviews in one afternoon, endorse a candidate, call a celebrity dumb, or declare that you hate cats and see what happens.

Are there any new features or developments that are beneficial to businesses on Twitter?

On the subject of Facebook Live, you can also broadcast live on Twitter through the Periscope app. Should you consider broadcasting a live event, be aware that a Twitter audience might be a better target than a Facebook audience and target your market accordingly. Twitter Moments is also a feature that can be used creatively. Using Moments, you can create online catalogs similar to a Pinterest board, or tell stories through ongoing Tweets. Celebrate milestones. The list is endless.

What are the features of an engaging/effective Tweet as far as reach and engagement?

Like posts on any other social media account, a good headline is the first step, using an image whenever possible on all social media posts. Plain text posts and Tweets tend to go unread, while posts and Tweets with images grab attention and draws the eyes to the headline. If you’re looking for engagement, include a call to action. Hashtag strategies are an excellent method of getting your Tweets seen as well as increasing your number of followers. A Tweet about your business during the Super Bowl might reach your followers, but when the hashtag #SuperBowl is added, it reaches millions.

What are some appealing design elements for Facebook business pages, Twitter handles, etc. as far as colors, images and themes?

It’s good practice to make them all as uniform as possible in order to maintain your brand and identity across the web. If you go to any social media site to find what Home Depot is doing, for example, you’re likely to see it using the same profile image and its signature orange color scheme across all sites. Its website, social media properties and physical locations will all be presented with a clear message that it is Home Depot. That is just good branding and messaging—creating an environment where their customers know they’ve arrived at the right place.

From there, you can use the features offered by each property to enhance your profile with your products and services: Facebook offers features such as picture albums and video; Twitter offers Moments and pinned Tweets; and Pinterest offers boards and featured boards—these things, again, will change from time-to-time, and staying informed and up-to-date when those changes happen will keep your profiles sharp, fresh, and professional.

For example, here’s a timely tip: Facebook is now tinkering with the ability to set a video as your page’s top banner image. Keep that in mind for the near future. Wouldn’t it be cool to have your Facebook header run a quick walkthrough of your shop with a welcoming message?

Want to learn more about the latest trends and best marketing practices online? Check out Part One and Part Two of the A&E Asks series with expert Kelly “Rags” Ragland as he dives into online, social media, and mobile marketing, as well as how to blog as a business. In Part Three, Ragland explores trends and insights on different social media platforms such as Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat and more.