Humans of New York: Why People Who Hate Facebook Pages for Marketing Should Take a Second Look


Do you know what Humans of New York is? If you use Facebook as part of your strategy for reaching people online, maybe you think that HONY is the exception that proves the rule. 

That’s because while most posts from Facebook brand pages have very low engagement rates (say about 3-5% of your total number of Facebook fans), HONY sees a 15 to 20% engagement rate, including likes, comments, and shares. Tons and tons of shares.

Yes, HONY is the exception that proves the rule at the moment. I think that has at least as much to do with the strategy (or lack of strategy) that businesses execute using their Facebook pages as it does with whether Facebook “decides” to show your business posts to your friends and fans. 

What do I mean? 

HONY founder Brandon Stanton could ask his subjects anything, and he probably asks them a whole lot of things. But he only shares the photos and phrases that he knows will resonate with his audience. He knows what will matter to us, his audience, and he thinks from our point of view. 

He said as much when the New York Times talked to him last year after he shared a photo of a teenager who mentioned the principal of his school inspired him. 

Mr. Stanton noted that while he often asks people about the influences in their lives, few younger people think to give credit to a teacher. “It resonated with me, and therefore I knew it was going to resonate with other people,” he said.

The Times interviewed Stanton because he was able to raise over $1 million dollars for the school whose principal was mentioned in the Facebook post. 

I’d say that’s pretty incredible engagement. … So why do some people still claim that Facebook doesn’t allow them to reach their audience? 

It goes back to something I’ve pointed out before: your content competes with content from all over the web. It also competes with your brother-in-law’s fishing trip photos, reminders that it’s a colleagues birthday, an inspirational quote your mom just shared…. 

But rather than giving up on Facebook for being too crowded, what if you created content that resonated in a way that makes us, your audience, stop scrolling and pause for a second on what you had to say? How do you do that? 

Well, for one thing, you have to believe that what you’re sharing matters. And then you have to tell us why it matters. Usually it matters because this tidbit, photo, idea, insight, or piece of knowledge is going to make our lives better in some way. 

One way to do this by writing a post that solves a problem. In fact, that’s what I’m doing here: I’m trying to help those of you who aren’t sure how to connect with your audience on Facebook. 

While HONY posts don’t “solve a problem,” they do have something in common with problem-solving posts: they make a connection. 

The connection in a HONY post is between the photo subject and the audience. And Stanton has gotten very good at figuring out what will facilitate that connection. That’s the reason he sees so many shares on each post: audience members “get” something about the subject, and it’s something they want their social connections to get, too. 

So, when you’re developing your calendar for Facebook, remember what you want your audience to do: stop and click. How you connect with them is up to you but putting yourself in their shoes, and asking currently clients what they have found most helpful are two good ways to create posts that bring value to your audience and help them develop trust in you. 

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