Your company’s Facebook page is not just a free way to advertise your business on the web. And if that’s all your page is doing right now, it’s time to make some improvements.
To start, it’s important to realize that businesses should use Facebook as a way to engage with customers and clients, be it through starting conversations on your wall or uploading pictures of new products.
If your Facebook fan page is merely an extension of your company website with a couple of "likes," follow these four tips to grow not only your fan base, but also your profits.
Hook people in
Average Facebook users are bombarded with thousands of pages to like and follow, but unless a page is going to give them some incentive to hit "like," they’ll quickly move on.
Tim Ware, owner of HyperArts Web Design and a frequent guest blogger on Social Media Examiner, says an easy way to get Facebook users’ attention is through a "fan-gate," or a default welcome page that users are automatically sent to when they click on your page.
But don’t just welcome new users to your page. Give them a reason to come.
"If you create a great little contest or something, people will go and tell their friends, ‘Hey, if you like this page, you might win an iPad,' or something like that," he says. "Use methods like that to incentivize people to 'like' your page."
Marilyn Buckner, operations manager of PRMarketing.com, an online marketing company, says businesses shouldn’t be shy about asking people to "like" their page. She recommends looking at Coca-Cola’s Facebook fan page, which comes right out and says, "Like Coke? There’s a button for that," next to an arrow pointing in the direction of the button.
"The public is catching on more and more that 'liking' a business will post any specials from that business to their personal news feed," Buckner says.
So be as creative as possible to stand out from other pages. Try posting an introductory video or offering a small coupon as a reward for hitting the "like" button.
So you’ve reeled in some fans. Now you’ve got to keep them coming back for more. There’s nothing worse than getting past a welcome page only to find that a business’s page is just a rundown of the basics: hours open, location, phone number and maybe a picture or two. At that point, fans will either "unlike" your page or just ignore it entirely.
What fans should find after they hit "like" is a community of other fans sharing and responding to posts by the business. To do this, businesses must post often enough, Buckner says.
"There needs to be a balance between staying active without overwhelming your audience," she says. "If you aren’t careful, they will hide your stories from their news feed."
Start by posting a new status once or twice a day, including weekends, to get a feel for your audience. Additionally, Buckner recommends responding to every comment posted on the page.
"This will make it show up again and again on the Facebook page of every respondent, as well as many of their friends, giving your business more exposure," she says.
Keep them coming back
The best posts, Ware says, are those that garner responses, because what shows up in a user’s news feed is based on how often they interact with that page. He recommends asking a lot of questions or doing "polls" whereby users "like" a status if they agree.
For example, if you’re testing a new product, ask your Facebook followers, "Is this a good idea?" with a photo. If you see a fun video online that’s related to your business or field post it to give your fans a laugh in exchange for a "like."
Walter says Facebook fans should be thought of as the perfect group to do research on through questions or polls.
"This is a free focus group, people," she says. "Corporations pay millions of dollars to have focus groups. This is free. Your customers are most effective. They’ll tell you what they think."
Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist for Intel, suggests highlighting a fan of the day or week to keep fans checking back to the page and increasing traffic. When posting, she also recommends breaking news on Facebook as one of your first platforms and offering how-to tips. When fans know what to expect from the page, they’ll be more apt to check back.
Just as offering monetary incentives can help lure potential fans to "like" your page, they can also keep them checking back for more.
"Post fun ways to give them discounts at your online store, or your brick-and-mortar store," Buckner says. "They’ll love being ‘in the know’ and will share it with their friends."
Buckner recommends keeping one question in mind with all posts: "When writing content, think, ‘Does this content provide enough value or is it interesting enough to draw my target audience here to read it?'" If you make your posts interesting, you should have no trouble keeping them coming back.
Make it helpful and tasteful
Your page should not only include engaging posts, but useful information for your followers.
Ware says first and foremost, make sure to fill out the company information page with whatever essentials you see fit, such as hours of operation, a company mission statement and a website link. Then use the overall look of the page to convey your company’s brand.
If you just stick to the basic Facebook fan page template for your company’s page, you’ll be missing out on an opportunity to show some individuality and separate your page from any old profile. One of the easiest ways to do this is to add custom tabs to your page to help organize it, Ware says.
Customization often requires special HTML and coding, but there are several easy-to-find tutorials on the web. If your company has some additional money to spend, you could also consider hiring a social media expert or designer.
Businesses should also do their best to make their pages pleasing to the eye, Ware says, by making sure the page has a balanced look.
"You have a lot of control over your visual branding," Ware says. "Make sure that you really take good design practices into consideration when you’re developing. Look for redundant logos and elements."
Walter also recommends including some "house rules" on your page regarding what kinds of posts are allowed and what kinds will be removed.
"If you start seeing negative feedback and posts, you’re prepared to point to these guidelines," she says. "These are just house rules. They basically outline what you will not tolerate on the page. So that way if people break the rules, you delete it."
Managing a Facebook fan page takes a lot of time and energy for any business owner, but the payoff is worth the effort in not only more Facebook fans, but in more fans in real life. Ware says the most important thing to remember is to be present.
"It reflects how your company treats its customers, so if you ignore any questions, you’re not helping yourself," he says. "You have to put in the time to make it work for you."
Photo credit: iStock