Ask any aspiring entrepreneur how many Facebook fans they want and you're liable to hear numbers upwards of ten thousand, or even one million, but few people ever consider that the “wrong kind of fans" can quickly bring any Facebook page to its virtual knees.
As Director of Social Media for the consumer electronics shopping site Retrevo.com, I saw our Facebook fan base grow from less than one thousand to over eighty thousand fans in a seven month period, and it isn’t by chance that our community maintains its friendly, somewhat geeky, humorous personality.
Here's how to keep that "small town" feeling as your company's Facebook fan base grows.
Tip 1. Use Evangelists To Run Company-Themed Profiles, Ready to Engage Your Fans
It's important for a company's Facebook fans to have real people they can interact with. These people (evangelists) can set a tone and keep the peace on a Facebook page far better than an unnamed "admin" ever can.
Each evangelist should set up their own company-themed Facebook profile where he or she shares what's going on behind the scenes of your company (within reason). Your evangelist profiles should be both professional and fun, preferably manned by a customer care specialist who understands your brand's voice and the subtleties of running an effective social media voice. At Retrevo our evangelists typically talk about subjects related to tech, gaming, or nerd culture. Our fans know who they are and often ask them questions about technology and Retrevo.
Evangelists should post comments on your company's Facebook wall on occasion and socialize with fans when appropriate. If a conversation on your company's wall is getting out-of-hand, evangelists can also step in and, in a friendly way, engage the audience, clarify confusion or answer questions that may otherwise escalate.
Tip 2. Know Exactly Who Your Core Customers Are
Pop quiz: Your brand’s typical Facebook fan is sitting at home in front of the TV; what shows are they watching? Is it Glee, General Hospital, Top Gear, or something else? If you don’t know the answer then you haven’t done your homework. The way you address your Facebook fans should sound different depending on whether your core fan is a twenty-year-old Groupon/Angry Birds addict, or a retiree who’s more fond of American History and NASCAR. Locate some of your brand’s more engaged fans, learn as much about them as possible, look for things they have in common, and make sure your social marketing campaigns and Facebook activities contain the types of messaging and voice to which you think they would be receptive.
Tip 3. Talk About Something Other Than Your Business
There are far too many companies who think that “social media” means “say the same thing you just said on your blog or website.” Social media implies that you should engage your audience, ask them questions, have a conversation with them, and become a resource of knowledge for them in your business’ area of expertise. One of Retrevo’s more popular “segments” on Facebook is called the Retrevo Time Warp. It’s a segment where we post a link to a “vintage” gadget or gadget advertisement and ask people to chime in on what they think about it now. Some of the more popular topics with our audience have been the old Atari TV commercials. I think this is due, in part, to the significant leaps in graphics processing power we’ve seen since the early days of gaming. It’s a real shock to look back now and see what used to be popular, and our Facebook fans seem to feel the same way.
Tip 4. Figure Out When Primetime Is for Your Audience
Take a moment to think about your core Facebook fan and imagine when they’re most likely to check Facebook. If they’re a stay-at-home parent with young kids, they’re likely to check it during “afternoon naptime” or late at night. If they work in an office, try lunchtime, or right before they go home. If your fan is mobile, their commute time may work better. Find out when you get the most responses from your fans and post when they are the most likely to engage with your brand.
Tip 5. Give Fans a Fun Reason To Come Back
Most people view checking Facebook as an activity that has the potential to lead to happiness, whether that’s connecting with an old friend or socializing. Associate your brand with what makes people happy. For example, most people enjoy being right, so give your fans the chance to guess the right answer in a brand-related “Pop Quiz” on your Facebook page. Give your fans a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions and make sure your evangelists sincerely comment when they do. Retrevo often posts a deal that is going to feature the next day and asks people to “Guess the Price” on that item. Everyone who guesses correctly is entered into a random drawing from which one person wins the gadget we’re selling. Lots of our fans look forward to this and frequently check in to see if we’ve posted a new chance to win.
Jennifer L. Jacobson, Director of Social Media & PR for Retrevo.comand author of 42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business