Building Your Business’ Facebook Following

Building Your Business’ Facebook Following

None of your efforts will gain you a competitive advantage if no-one “likes” your business page.

The most important aspect of facebook is the multiplicative nature of the exposure and potential for exponential growth.

Simply put your page updates and posts appear on the news feed of each of the people who like you and if they take some action on your post – “like” it (thumbs up), comment on it or add a review or fan photo – then that action shows up on all of their friends news feeds.   If three people with a hundred friends each give you a thumbs up then 300 new people see your page update and have a chance to like your page.

In a twist on the old truism that “any publicity is good publicity,” on facebook it’s even more true, and  “any fan is a good fan.”  Even if you sell doilies for flower arrangers to set their vases on it can’t hurt to have the drummer for a grunge band like your page.  He may not arrange flowers, but his little sister might.

According to the experts there are dozens of effective strategies to increase your circle of social influence and which ones will work best for you depend strongly on the type of business you’re promoting.

We’re just beginning to experiment to find the most effective combination for our map and travel businesses but here’s the plan.  Most of the approaches are incidental, adding a facebook like option to some ongoing activity, but a few are more direct.

Friends and Family

Twenty five likes are required to get started on facebook and they don’t necessarily have to be customers or potential customers, just facebook members.  On your page click “Suggest to Friends” below your page picture on the left hand side.

Make Inbound Links

Once you have 25 likes you can get a URL for your page by visiting http://www.facebook.com/username/

Your URL, vanity name or username is an important choice.  Read the information that facebook provides during sign-up.  You cannot change this later and you should choose something that represents your business and is easy to remember.

Our URL is http://www.facebook.com/costaricaguides and we can use it in text or image links to direct visitors to our page where they’ll see our welcome page and have an opportunity to like the page.

The Event

We’re planning an event at a local coffee house to dole out some free travel advice and promote the Waterproof Travel Map of Costa Rica.  We’ll have a computer set up parked on our facebook page so anyone who attends can like us on the spot.

The Websites

We have a pair of very successful websites – Costa Rica Guide specializes in descriptions of National Parks and beaches, and information for travelers; Map CR provides interactive maps and geocoded information on hotels, resorts, restaurants and activities.

Each has its own facebook page with appropriate feeds and hooks and we’re adding “like us” links to the website templates.

Bookmarking Services

We’ve gone back and forth on link service bars (the ones that allow people to bookmark on digg, stumbleupon, as well as feed or like your webpage) but have basically come to the conclusion that they aren’t worthwhile.

If someone is a bookmarking fanatic they probably have the toolbar installed on their browser and the services we’ve had problems with slow servers delaying our page loads.

For now we’re focusing on direct links to our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/costaricaguides

Giveaways

Each week we give away a free copy of our Waterproof Travel Map of Costa Rica and the New Key to Costa Rica guidebook to someone who’s recently chose to “like” our facebook page.

Become a fan on Facebook and get an instant coupon for free standard shipping or $2 off priority or international shipping.  Make the coupon on Google checkout and put it on an FBML page.

Target the Correct Demographics

Contrary to what Social Media professionals might imply not everyone is on facebook.  There are more women than men and college age users dominate.

There are two ways of thinking about this if your customers don’t match facebook demographics.  Either you’ll be targeting a minority at facebook (even a minority of 5 hundred million can be a pretty big number) or choosing the part of your brand that appeals to the majority and emphasizing that part on facebook.

We do both.

Toucan maps knows their customers are a minority on facebook.  Baby boomer males who still want a printed map in hand when they head to a foreign country.

Costa Rica guide travel services emphasizes active adventures that appeal to college students or young families.

E-mail Lists – Newsletters

If you have an e-mail list suggest that the subscribers like you on facebook.

We sent out a fairly compelling e-mail offering a chance to win a free map and guidebook for Costa Rica to anyone who became a fan on facebook.

Our list is quite well targeted and our members quite engaged.  The open rate (what percent of the people we sent the message to actually opened it) for the mailing was 39% (17% is the travel industry average) and the click rate on the facebook link was about double the industry average as well.

We created a special landing page on facebook for the offer.

1,700 e-mails generated 140 new fans.  We were a little disappointed in the results but some people with a lot more experience in social media have told us they weren’t bad at all.   We’ll reserve judgment until we see if those fans contribute to our growth exponent on facebook.

E-Mail Signature

Add an image or text link in your e-mail signature. e.g.

Like Costa Rica Guide on Facebook

Gaining “Fans” or “Likes” Within Facebook

Each time you make an update to your page it’s broadcast to people who already like you, and if they like or comment on your update it’s broadcast to all of their connections most of whom probably haven’t liked your page yet.

Push or Pull Content Onto Facebook

Youtube is the best, a good blog/website second, flicker third.  There’s probably not much point in bothering with anything else except perhaps twitter.

If you can get other people to push content onto your page all the better.  We’re working on a personalized e-mail campaign to encourage past travelers to post reviews and “fan photos”  on our page.

Reactive Content

You need content that compels people to interact with it – easier said than done but it’s what you need.  Sodium and Potassium not Argon.  Remember that it’s the facebook users’ interaction with your page that gives you exposure whether that’s someone initially liking your page or commenting on or liking something you post.

Don’t annoy your existing fans in your attempt to get new ones.

It Doesn’t Need to be Your Content

CHECK TO MAKE SURE HOW THIS WORKS…I think you can borrow popularity from other content.  People can like your post of something without liking the something.  This exposes you to their friends.

Fake/Real Profile to Harvest Friends to Convert to Fans

A very common strategy is to create a personal profile – either a real profile for a person like the owner or pr director or a fake profile for the business – then seek friends instead of fans (“likes”).   The savvy then try to convert the friends of the profile into fans of their page. This blatantly violates facebook’s terms of service (only real people can have profiles) but apparently it’s effective because from casual observation this is how many if not the majority of small players build their following.

It’s easier to collect friends for a fake profile than likes for a legitimate page because the profile can send friend requests directly to strangers.  Facebook attempts to throttle this because they don’t want a bunch of social spam – fake profiles bugging people to friend them – and because facebook makes money selling promotional space for the purpose of bugging people.

If you send too many unrequited friend requests you’ll be blocked from sending more.  It’s fairly easy to circumvent this restriction by doing some profiling of the potential friends before you send the requests.  For example if someone has 2,700 friends and a quarter of them look like businesses it’s pretty safe to assume that they aren’t really that popular and simply accept any request that comes their way.

If you’re going to try it just remember that facebook can and does erase these non-personal profiles without warning.

The Contest

What goes in the Top Ten?  Make a page for each of the top 15 and let people “like” them into the book.

@costaricaguides

According to mashable using another user or page’s name in a status update will make a clickable link to their page or profile in your update.  It’s a quick easy way to interact, and if you use it in a personal update to point at your business page could result in more likes for your business page.