How to Build Up Your Facebook Fan Numbers

Judy VedderInternet Marketing

When it comes to online marketing, many business owners are influenced by the mistaken notion that “if you build it, they will come”. Sadly, the real world of marketing doesn’t operate like Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams.

Setting up and launching a new marketing effort, such as a website or Facebook Page, is only half the battle. The key then becomes driving traffic to the site – or in the case of Facebook, attracting consistent followers.

Next to “how often should I post?” and “what kind of content should I post about?”, the question that I get asked most frequently about Facebook is “how do I get more fans?”

Target People You Already Know

If you’ve set up your business Page correctly, it should be entirely separate from your personal Profile. It’s generally not a good idea to mix business with personal when it comes to social media, for obvious reasons. Do you really want your clients to see pictures of family events or the party you went to last weekend? Or do your family and friends really want to be bombarded by business promotions or industry blog links in their News Feed? Not so much.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t invite your personal Facebook friends to become fans, or “like” your Page. Most of us have received invitations from Facebook friends to “like” a Page at one time or another. Whether you took action or not is up to you, but the fact is that at least you knew that Page existed after the invitation. Send all your Facebook friends an invitation to “like” your business Page. You can do so by clicking on the “Build Audience” tab at the very top of your Admin section.

In that tab you will also see a few other options. You can “Share” your Page on your own timeline, on a friend’s timeline, in a group, on another Page you manage, or as a private message. If you do so, make sure you include a brief message with the link.

Also, through this tab you can invite your email contacts from the following platforms: Constant Contact, MailChimp, VerticalResponse, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo!, or other email services. You can even upload a contact list file to invite. (Up to 5,000 contacts are supported.)

Target People You Don’t Know

It’s a little more difficult to ask strangers outright to become fans, but there are subtle ways you can encourage them to take this step. Some should be obvious, but aren’t always.

Do you let people know your business is on Facebook in your existing marketing materials? Is your Facebook Page prominently displayed somewhere on your website, either as a clickable icon in the header or footer, or as a streaming box in the sidebar? Do you have a link to your Page in your Constant Contact (or other email provider’s) newsletter template? If you take out an ad in the newspaper or send out a postcard, do you include a Facebook icon anywhere, or at least mention that you’re on Facebook?

How about your email signature? You can easily include a “Fan us on Facebook” link beneath your contact information. (This generally works better than using a Facebook icon, as icons can often end up displaying as an attachment in the recipient’s inbox, or even get picked up by a spam filter.)

Facebook gives you two options to attract potential fans from among those already on Facebook. You can select “Promote Page” in the “Build Audience” tab, which allows you to advertise your business right in the middle of people’s News Feeds, among updates from Profiles and Pages they are already connected with. You set a daily budget and establish the demographic you are trying to reach. You can also take out a traditional Facebook ad, which works in much the same way as a Promoted Page except that it is displayed in the right sidebar of Facebook Pages, Profiles, and News Feeds.

Run Fan Drives

Who doesn’t like free stuff? From time to time, consider running a special “Fan Drive” offer. You could set this up in one of two ways: each new fan gets a specific gift (i.e., a free ice cream cone, if your business is an ice cream shop), or each new fan gets entered into a drawing for a bigger reward (i.e., $50 off your next meal, if you run a restaurant).

While the “prize” can be something that has to do with your company (for example, a free oil change if you’re a mechanic), it doesn’t have to be. A $20 gift certificate to Dunkin’ Donuts would be enough of an incentive for most people!

Make sure you specify the length of the Fan Drive. It should either be a specific amount of time (“during the month of November”), or until a certain number of fans is reached (“until we get our first 100 fans”).

You will also need to set up a way to monitor who your new fans are. Keep a spreadsheet of new fans each month, or check your fan list on Facebook to see if a person is listed there when they come in to your place of business seeking their reward.

Take Good Care of Your Fans

Once you get someone to “like” your Page, don’t forget to prove to them repeatedly why they should continue being a fan. Otherwise, you risk losing them. Provide them with valuable content (helpful tips, good deals) on a regular basis. Don’t subject them to News Feed spam by updating too frequently.

While Facebook doesn’t allow a business Page to initiate a private message with a fan (to prevent spam abuse), you should answer any private messages that fans send to your Page. (You will see them in the top right corner of the admin section of your page.)
If a fan posts a question or comment on your Wall, or gives a solid recommendation in the “Reviews” section, make sure to display good customer service skills by responding in a timely fashion, or graciously thanking him or her for the positive feedback.

Building up Facebook fan numbers isn’t done overnight, but with a little patience and effort as you follow these tips, you should see good results over time.