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Being strategic about social media (Part II): Facebook

Second in a series on social media strategic planning

Last week, I wrote about coming up with a strategic plan for social media instead of just posting like crazy on every platform. Unless you are one of the few with unlimited time and resources, it's critical that you're as targeted as possible with your social media campaigns. Not only will you get better results, you'll also irritate less people.

The three key questions you need to answer are:

1. Who is on it?

2. What are they using it for?

3. When are they on it?

The latest results from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, which has been studying social networking use since 2005, may surprise you. Social media isn't just for the younger generation; 43% of adults aged 65 and older and 72% of adults use social networking sites. (For the record, there are several reports out there on who's doing what and where. I tend to follow Pew's research because it's methodology is sound and consistent. You can Google and find your own source for stats. Just be careful that you're working with hard evidence as opposed to someone's ancedotal musings.)

Let's start with Facebook:

1) Who is on it: Pew says 67% of people online are on Facebook. It is especially appealing to 18- to 29-year-olds, living in urban areas with a college degree. Does that mean you should only post to appeal to this demographic? Nope. If you look at the attached chart, you'll see the numbers are pretty close across gender and income. There are 1.5 billion people active on FB.

2) What are they using it for: Well, there are 2.5 million content items shared a day, 2.7 billion "likes" a day and 300 million photos uploaded, Gizmodo reports. The average user spends 6.5 hours a month and 50% of its 1 billion users visit once a day, Facebook reports. Facebook has reported that more people are accessing the site via mobile than desktops.

So, they're consuming and sharing content, commenting on their friends' and families' content and share lots and lots of photos.

Based upon some of Pew's research, Jess 3, an agency that specializes in data visualization, developed a cool info graphic on what people are doing.

3) When are they on it: Links between 1 and 4 p.m. get the most traction. The highest traffic time is 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Links between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. get the least clicks, according to Mashable. So, if you're posting first thing in the morning and the last thing at night before you leave work, you might be missing the boat. But, also, if you've got a business page, Facebook Insights gives you good data on when your fans are active, which might be different for a parenting page v. an alt rock group page.

Now that you know all of this, how do you turn it into a social media strategy? That's really up to you ....

My goal here isn't to tell you to post shareable photos at 3 p.m. every Wednesday that you think would appeal to a 25-year-old, college-educated woman in an urban area. Because these stats will change (and probably already have by the time I publish this).

Case in point: One day, there's a story on Mashable about a 13-year-old saying no one she knows in on FB. Two days later, there's an article about a 15-year-old saying all her friends are on FB.

The goal is to get you to think strategically so you're not running around like a chicken with its head cut off in the social media sphere.

With more than 1 billion users, you can find almost any demographic on Facebook so it's up to you to decide who do you want to reach? What do you want them to do? (Talk to you, drive traffic to your site, buy your product?. There are lots of blogs on how to increase engagement. Here's a good one from Huffington Post.)

Answering these three questions is a good step toward making sure you're working smarter, and not just harder, in social media.

Up next: Twitter

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