10 Ways to Engage Your Facebook Fan Base

March 16, 2011 No Comments by Kim Stone

Here at Blank Slate Interactive we’ve been doing a fair amount of research on how we can attract and engage fans on our own budding Facebook page. We’ve discovered a lot of good ideas and felt like we ought to share them with our readers.

First, a few Facebook stats to noodle on…

As of this post date Facebook has over 500 million users. That’s 1 in every 13 people on planet earth. Half of these users log in every single day.  As of this time last year , there were 1.5 million local business pages on Facebook, up from about 700,000 in 2009. Surely in a years’ time this number has grown considerably, too.

Clearly, businesses are catching on to the magic and possibility of social networking and Facebook, specifically.  As a marketing company that works mostly with small businesses, this thrills us. Not because of the business opportunities this presents to us (okay, maybe that’s part of the reason) but because social media is perhaps the most powerful, least cost-intensive marketing tool ever invented. The only exception might be word-of-mouth marketing; however, when you really understand it social media is a bit like word-of-mouth marketing on steroids.

For those of you finally warming up to the idea of having a business presence on Facebook, rest assured that even the smallest business can benefit from a Facebook fan page. You can use it to create brand awareness and interest, share information and discuss topics and ideas with fans (read: potential customers). Best of all, it can (and should) be integrated into your overall marketing strategy. We dare say that within a matter of a few years we predict it will become the central fixture of most small business marketing plans. So if you’re on the fence, get off it. Get a Facebook fan page and invest in a staff person to maintain it. All you really need is some time and commitment to maximize its true potential. If you don’t have the resources or staff you can also hire a company like ours to maintain it for you. (Sorry, shameless plug).

So without further ado, here are some great ways to build your fan base and engage with them in meaningful ways:

1. Thank You Message

When you get a new fan, thank him or her. It’s a simple but powerful way to connect, especially if it’s not a friend that you’ve hounded endlessly to “like” your new page.  Its purpose is simple, to show that you are grateful for the “like” and are interested in his or her ideas and comments. By doing this you’re more likely to get ongoing engagement and ultimately, business.

Before you send off your thank you, though, here are a few norms to get into the habit of doing. First, send your new fan a “thank you” via a message rather than writing on their wall. Many people are very concerned with privacy and this is a way to avoid any misunderstanding that may come with a wall post. Additionally, make your “thank you” personal. Tell a little about yourself and ask a few questions. Ask about their interest in the page and if there are topics they’d like to see discussed. In essence, you’re starting the conversation. And this is the point, after all.

2. Ask Questions & Link to Outside Articles

As you build content on your fan page, keep in mind that your fans “like” you because they think that you’ll post content relevant to their interests, profession and lives. So take the time to find articles that you think would be of interest to them. Sure, bragging about your business’ achievements is a part of the equation but keep it limited. Many successful businesses use Facebook to build their own brand by focusing the attention on their clients or partners. There is a great deal of credibility you can build by associating your company with a larger, more recognized brand.

One of the most invaluable tools built into social media is the ability to converse with your fans. So don’t be afraid to pose open-ended questions. In addition to creating more interesting fan interactions it also helps your company grow in rank within Facebook’s search engine. One key factor to this approach, however, is to remain open-minded. You may receive controversial or challenging responses to your questions and you need to be prepared to respond professionally.  Often times a challenging response can be just the prompt your company needs to re-evaluate and improve in some way. If a comment is downright offensive you always have the option to delete it and move on. In the end this approach is crucial to building your fan base and thus, your business.

3. Respond in a Timely, Thoughtful Manner

Responses to fan posts come in a few different forms. The main response method is to comment directly on your business page wall. Another is when a fan “likes” or shares your original post. The latter can create a viral effect, which can be great for building your fan base. In either case, it’s important to recognize their efforts. You can simply say “thanks for re-posting” or “like” their post yourself. This builds goodwill and positively reinforces your fans’ engagement with your business page. It’s a simple but effective technique.

4. Publicize Cool, Local Events

If you’re a small, local business then chances are that your fans are also local. One of the reasons they’ve chosen to become a fan of your page is to feel a sense of community. A perfect way to reinforce that sense of community (albeit online) is to promote local events that you believe they would love to hear about. This can be an event for a business you admire or do business with yourself. It can also be a nonprofit, business association or even a cultural event. This effort goes a long way to demonstrate your commitment to and investment in the community. You never know, when you have an event these other organizations might return the favor and publicize your event on their page.

5. Give Stuff Away!

Who doesn’t like getting something for free? With a Facebook page, it’s easy to create a free giveaway or incentive that you know will be seen by people that actually care. It’s important to be thoughtful about your approach, though. The last thing people want to be is bombarded by offers, especially if it’s something they may not want.  A good rule of thumb is to limit your offers to about once per month and to make your offer or give away substantial. 10% off doesn’t incite excitement and intrigue the same way 50% off does.

Another element of success is to plan your give away with the end goal in mind. Are you trying to grow your fan base? Do you want to encourage repeat customers? Or are you launching a new product or service? Your end goal will determine your give away or offer. For example, a company that is in the early stages of their Facebook page development might want to focus on attracting fans. A great way to do this is to design a contest where a winner is selected to receive a specific prize once a certain number of “likes” is achieved. Whereas a more established company that is unveiling a new product or service might decide to give away a free ticket to a popular webinar or event where they can experience the new thing first-hand. Heck, if you manage it right you might even be able to design a cross-promotion campaign with another business. Rather than buying the tickets they might just give them to you in exchange for the publicity.

6. Hold a Contest

As mentioned above, another great way to attract new fans and engage existing ones in a genuinely interactive way is to hold a contest. The only legal requirement (and yes, we recommend you adhere to their requirements) by Facebook is that you use a third party application like Wildfire Apps to administer the contest. Here are a few examples by major corporations to get the juices flowing. You may not have the budget or time to create something that elaborate but I assure you, there is something about your business that can be leveraged to build your fan base and business.

7. Ask a Fan

One of the riskiest, but potentially most rewarding approach, is to ask your existing fans to recommend your page to their friends. While some might be irritated by such a request, others may find the reward worth the effort. An incentive (free tickets, deep discount coupon, etc.) might be just the thing they need to take the time to bother their friends to recommend your page. The reward for you is a high conversion rate. Friends tend to trust their friends, and you’re much more likely to gain fans that know almost nothing about you with the expectation that they’ll like what you have to say.

It’s important to remember that the worst thing a fan can do is nothing. Yes, they could “unlike” your page but if you’ve taken the time and effort to provide worthwhile content and interaction with your fans the chances of them abandoning your page in a huff are pretty slim.

In terms of practical tracking, the most effective way is to request your new fans post a message to the business page’s wall, telling you which of your existing fans suggested the page to them. In addition to knowing whom to reward you also have the opportunity to thank the new fan (see #1). You may even think to offer the incentive to him or her so that the “likes” go on and on.

8. Make Your Page Human

Facebook is about making human connections, so personalize your business page with staff profiles and photos. The photos can be simple staff head shots, but the more interesting photos are those of them at work, at events or engaging in good causes. When writing the staff bios keep it interesting, engaging, funny and most importantly, short. I’d even go so far as to say the bios should be modeled after Seth Godin’s Purple Cow concept of standing out by being remarkable. Create something memorable and you will be remembered, essentially.

9. Video, Video, Video

YouTube is the one of the busiest search engines on the web, with Vimeo (another video sharing service) quickly gaining in popularity. People love context, and nothing provides context to a personality or idea like video. So take a chance, create a brief video! Invest in a cheap camera (even your iPhone would do) and talk about your services, your story, your vision. Talk about trends or relevant news items. Promote your incentive or offer. Simply upload these to your YouTube or Vimeo page and embed them on your Facebook page for your fans. This is cross-platform marketing at its best.

10. Current Project Photos

Since we serve the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) and clean energy industries, this one is a good one for those of you in that industry. In these industries, most work is project-based. Meaning you have access to drawings, models or photos depicting the process of a particular project. Give those visuals additional mileage by posting them on your social networks. Here’s a fan page for our architect friends over at Bryan Bowen Architects that makes the most of project visuals. Give it a try. You’ll find that your fans are very interested in what you’re up to and want to help you grow.

I’m sure as you’re reading this you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time for all of this!” We know. That’s why we’re here. We exist to help businesses execute their social media efforts in ways that produce results…in fan counts, in new business, in meaning. Let us show you how at http://www.blankslateinteractive.com.

About the Author

Kim Stone is a designer, ecopreneur, and online marketing expert based in Boulder, Colorado. Her marketing strategy and visual communications firm, Blank Slate Interactive, develops sustainable marketing solutions for businesses in the architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and clean energy  industries. Kim has her very own hobby woodworking shop where she builds fine furniture and owns 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 6 finches with her partner, Kara.

Photo courtesy of 55 Hi’s