Social-media marketing is a constantly evolving beast – one that spawns new creatures under the same name, none of which can be conquered using the same weapon or battle strategy. What works on Twitter does not necessarily work for LinkedIn or YouTube. What does not work on Facebook may work well on Google+. A large bulk of the work involved in marketing on social media is to consistently guess, measure and adjust a campaign’s approach.

This is especially true with Facebook, due to its ever-changing, mysterious and elusive algorithm. Facebook reach percentages and stats have been on the downslide for many – perhaps most – businesses. Posts that had a reach of 26 percent a year ago may have only a reach of 6 percent today.

So how does a business tackle the Facebook marketing beast? What kind of content gets the best responses? The best reach? The most engagement? How often should a business post content? How should audience response be measured? While these are questions that even social-media marketing leaders continue to ask and research, it is possible to remove a little bit of the guesswork in a Facebook marketing campaign. You may be surprised at some of the more recent discoveries.

1. Advertising is Imperative

While Facebook ads used to be applauded for their micro-targeting brilliance, they are way more essential to businesses now. Because Facebook has changed – and continues to change – its algorithm, commercial content continues to drop in news feed ranking. The vast majority of your Facebook business audience – about 95 percent – will not see your content or posts on Facebook. As shown in this pie graph by Buffer, advertising is no longer just for major brands or rich law firms. If you want more of your audience to see your content, cough up the cash.

2. Once a Week is Not Enough, Six Times a Day is Too Much

This refers to how often to post content. Whether it’s a video, photo, text-and-photo combo, plain text or link, frequency matters. There is no exact science, but quite a few extensive studies show fairly congruent results, illustrated in this graph by Track Social. As shown in the graph, responses to Facebook posts declined with each successive post after the first one of the day. The generally accepted ideal rate of frequency in 2011 was five to ten posts per week. However, since then, five posts per week may be too infrequent for some businesses – especially because it is highly advisable to schedule posts seven days a week. There really is no magic number to aim for, but, there is definitely a need for balance. Keep your audience engaged and informed without turning into that commercial that you see 18 times a day.

3. Post During Peak Time – But Try Off-Peak, Too

This can be done with various social-media marketing tools or by reviewing your Facebook analytics.

It is pretty commonly accepted that scheduling content posts for peak activity is the best marketing strategy pertaining to the “when” of Facebook posts. However, consider the first tip in this list: Organic reach only applies to a tiny percentage of your audience. Content posted at night may not be within your audience’s peak time, but because there is less activity there is less competition. Visibility increases, and so may the amount of those who share your content.

4. Ask Questions

If you find that your audience’s comments and responses to your Facebook posts leave a lot to be desired, start asking questions tailored to their interests. If you’re marketing an underwater swimming pool Twister game for kids aged 5 to 15, ask your audience what they think is the best method for teaching kids to swim. If you’re marketing a beauty salon, ask your audience what makes a person truly beautiful. These types of questions appeal to and invite your audience to share their knowledge and experience.

5. Rock the Photos

This is one that you’ve certainly heard before, but the fact that more and more people are advising upon and implementing photo-centric Facebook content means that it works. Photos that evoke, amuse, incite, inspire and inform get engagement from audiences – the more interesting, unique and self-explanatory they are, the more engagement you’ll get. However, I don’t mean to imply that photo-and-text posts are not engaging. There are many, many examples that say otherwise, despite the fact that many marketing articles tell you to avoid this type of content.

6. Respond to Comments

As ridiculous as it is to consistently try to evoke comments and responses from Facebook fans, I’m always amazed at how many business pages have very few or even zero replies to comments made. If you are not going engage with your Facebook audience, expecting them to be engaged by your content is pretty cavalier. Don’t just reply to one here and there; respond to as many as possible. The more you interact with your fans, the more visible and remembered you will be.

The example above comes from the nationally known company Victor Pest, demonstrating how to not only appropriately respond to a customer story, but how to honor it as well. Had Lawrence’s story gone unattended, we’d be witnesses to a huge missed opportunity. Since Lawrence’s story serves as a strong, authentic, and public testimonial, it’s only fitting to honor it as such. Anyone who peruses this exchange gets a bit of Victor Pest’s branding rubbed off on them, which is a good thing! This is like having a raving fan hanging around your store, enticing new visitors with their personal success stories.

7. Be Strategic with Your Content

Don’t use Facebook like a billboard. Many smaller businesses, especially start-ups or those that sell only one product, think posting photos of their product will create hundreds of conversions on their website. Don’t just show your product. Create infographics or photos that show creative uses. If you’re marketing a service, snap photos whenever you’re greeted with a smile or thanked by a client, and use that to promote your services in a real-world kind of way.

8. Do Not Use Facebook for Direct Marketing

Do not try to directly sell anything to your Facebook fans or network. This is a huge no-no, but I still see people trying to do it. People do not use Facebook to shop; they come to play. Make them laugh, make them cry, shock them, shake them, rock them, tease them – but do not sell to them. You can promote all you like. Just don’t ask your fans to click on the link to purchase a pair of customized shoe insoles and get a free box of peanut-butter fluffer-nutters.

9. Review Your Data and Analytics From Different Perspectives

Rather than simply going with the offered views per post, reach percentages and what you see in standard data reports, try looking at specific periods of time, such as engagement rates for your page over the course of a month or even a week. This will help to give you a more informed, well-rounded idea of how well your campaign is going.

10. Give Away Backstage Passes to Everyone

This is another tip that I have seen becoming more and more recognized as an effective method for engaging Facebook audiences. Be it the celebrity factor, the reality-show nature of our culture or just that it’s simply entertaining, people seem to love peeking into the more relaxed, private side of businesses and brands. While it works best for large, well-known companies, it can certainly work for small businesses as well. Post photos of your Christmas party, business trips, retreats or whatever details of your “personal” business life that could make the business look fun and inviting.

11. Follow the Fortune 500s

These brands prioritize content in the following way:

  • Positivity
  • Access
  • Openness and disclosure
  • Assurance
  • Networking
  • Task-sharing

However, the top three strategies used on Facebook by these companies were access, openness and disclosure and positivity.

Incorporating all of this may mean being more transparent about the business – how it ticks, where the products come from, how they are made, maybe even how profits are figured. Be accessible to your fans and Facebook network and leave many options for contacting you. Ask questions and give sincere, prompt replies to let your audience know you care about their views and opinions.