The Way We Work
November 15, 2011 by Julia Camenisch

So your business page on Facebook has close to 1,000 followers. Don’t get too excited. In fact, let me be the first to break it to you: that fan count is meaningless when it comes to social media success. Effective Facebook marketing is much more complex than a simple numbers game. With all due respect, it’s time for a recount.

For those who would like a simplistic formula to evaluate the ROI of their social media marketing efforts, relying on the “friends,” “fans” or “followers” count seems like a safe bet. Unfortunately, many of the people on that list have checked your page once and never returned. And therein lies the core principle of effective business promotion on Facebook: If they care about interacting with you, you’re successful. If they’re apathetic, you have failed.

So how can you turn a social-media friend into a real-world fan? Here are some ideas:

  1. Reward Your Followers.

    A business is only viable if it has customers that find value in its product or service. The same holds true for your business's Facebook page. The only reason for its existence is to provide value to your customers. One way to accomplish that is to give rewards for visiting.

    • Offer “Facebook Only” rewards. Whether the rewards are coupons, e-books or sneak peeks, make sure they have real value in the eyes of your fans.
    • Make use of Facebook Places. Similar to FourSquare and Gowalla, Facebook allows users to “check in” at your real-world store, providing you free and easy word-of-mouth marketing to all the user's Facebook friends. Encourage that sharing by offering in-store deals to users that broadcast their visit. From individual deals to loyalty rewards to charity points, you’ve got some options for implementation. Read more about using Places in this article from Catalyst Marketing.
  2. Learn from Your Fans.

    One of the interesting phenomena of today’s Internet world is the widespread desire to make one's opinion heard. There’s a satisfaction many online users derive from commenting on anything and everything — indulge that desire using Facebook Groups.

    When Facebook revamped the Groups feature last year, it provided a great way to interact more personally with small groups of customers. You can use it to set up your own customer advisory panels and/or product testing groups. You could even segment out your customers based on their demographics or interests (such as running enthusiasts or young moms). You benefit from getting focused, real-world feedback. Your customers benefit by getting to make a difference in the way your business operates. It’s a win-win for everyone and it generates more page traffic.

  3. Engage with Your Base.

    Don’t get so intent on promoting yourself that you forget the social part of “social media.” For example, do you regularly reply to the comments made on your Facebook page? If not, you’re missing out. One of the strengths of Facebook is the ability to easily interact with customers in a more casual setting. Granted, you’ll always have cranky commenters who have nothing useful to say. Don’t waste your time on them. But your fans who make thoughtful comments, whether positive or negative, should be rewarded with a reply.

    But don’t just reply — start conversations as well! Try to ask questions of your followers on a regular basis. Get people talking about the issues surrounding your niche in the market. Giving some direction to the conversation on your page can protect the venue from being nothing more than a complaint forum.

  4. Increase Your Audience Numbers.

    And now to backtrack just a bit. While numbers alone do not guarantee an effective Facebook business page, they do help you on Bing searches. Earlier this year, Bing began factoring in your friends’ Facebook “likes” in order to tailor your search results.

    For SEO purposes (or, as some have titled it, SSO - “Social Search Optimization”), it’s important to encourage people to “like” your page. Embed a Facebook Like button on your website. Add a link to your Facebook page in your e-mail signature. Regularly add content that’s interesting, funny, quirky or compelling to your Facebook page so people recommend it to their friends. And that’s just for starters. For more ideas on promoting your Facebook page, check out these 11 ideas from blogger John Haydon.

When it comes to Facebook, keep in mind the old adage, “To make a friend, you’ve got to be a friend.” Implementing a customer-oriented approach to your Facebook strategy provides a clear path to social media success. So don’t focus too much on your numbers — instead, focus on your fans.

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.