Businesses wanting to actively engage with their Facebook followers could benefit from using humour and questions in their posts.
Analysing Facebook comment threads, South Australian researcher Dr Matteo Farina used conversational analysis to identify ways to design an initial post and help shape conversations.
Examining the patterns and sequences of historic Facebook conversations, Dr Farina said he was able to recognise different verbal and non-verbal cues and references.
“I tried to look at why,” Farina said.
“I looked at if there is a structure in Facebook conversations, what are the patterns, what are the rules that people are following when they interact.
“By using this approach, I saw that when we post something on Facebook, we accomplish an action.”
“For example, we can tell people about what are we having for breakfast by taking a photo of our breakfast. But what is the action?
“We are performing storytelling: this is what I’m having to eat today.”
Published last year in his book Facebook and Conversation Analysis, Dr Farina’s research was based on more than 1200 comments in 213 comment threads of 266 males and females between October 2011 and August 2012.
While he said he didn’t collect any additional data after September 2012, his findings were also based on observations and patterns in the way people communicated on the social media platform until December 2017.
According to Facebook Newsroom, the social media platform had 2.41 billion monthly active users as of June 30.
Dr Farina said using conversational analysis to understand how to use actions on Facebook could be particularly helpful for organisations hoping to engage more users.
“If an initial post projects a clear action, such as posing a question rather than an unclear statement, it’s more likely to receive responses. People know how to interpret this message, and therefore respond to it,” he said.
“If we’re doing a promotion, for example, on Facebook and we post the photo of a new product by itself perhaps some people will respond.
“But if we can post something in addition to this photo, for example a question which is connected to the product, we are more likely to receive responses.”
Dr Farina said companies looking to tap into a larger portion of users needed to continuously add to online conversations.
“To increase participation, which means improving the number of responses to initial posts, companies should participate in their own comment threads by responding to people who have posted comments in response to their initial messages. This stimulates further participation,” he said.
“The most successful conversations are because there is more engagement. When you are directly involved you create interactions for people to participate.”
Another successful strategy for stimulating participation was to incorporate humour, said Dr Farina.
“People that use humour are more likely not only to secure responses, but to receive humorous responses. It’s like in everyday conversation, where responses to a joke are likely to stimulate other jokes or humorous comments,” he said.
“When we have an ad and the ad is using humour, people start sharing and other people will respond because the ad is humorous, posting for example another ad that is humorous.
“If a company is clever and they use humour in the right way, they have got these additional marketing tools, because people are sharing the ads, once again with friends, and friends will like the ad or again re-share.”