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7 ways to grow your Facebook audience on the cheap

7 ways to grow your Facebook audience on the cheap Scott Meldrum
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If you have struggled to connect your customer base to your official page at Facebook, you're not alone. Many brands are finding it difficult to turn customers into fans. Last week, I defined the 4 Cs of scaling your social media efforts (customer support, communication, content, count). While most brands want to scale social media responsibly, there is constant pressure from senior management to grow social media as a marketing channel. This pressure can sometimes lead to hasty decisions and bad investments as brands desperately try to get their numbers up on Facebook.


The pressure will not only continue, it will increase. And why wouldn't it? As a marketing channel, Facebook represents a tremendous opportunity for brands to distribute messaging, information, and content more cost effectively than paid media. As I pointed out last week, social media is not "no-or-low" cost. It's merely cost effective, particularly over time.


The good news is that there are several ways to grow your audience at Facebook without spending a ton of money. Depending on the size of your customer base and website traffic, it may not be necessary to spend any money on paid media to bring more customers into your Facebook. Regardless of the size of your fan base, you can experience exponential growth if you can follow most, if not all, of these highly effective habits of brands that have been successful at Facebook:  


Habit 1: Make it visible
As I pointed out last week, turning customers into fans can be as easy as making them aware of your presence at Facebook. It's important to merchandise the connection to your Facebook page everywhere a customer might interact with your brand online. This certainly includes your website(s), newsletters, purchase confirmation emails, and other email communications. Be sure to make your links, buttons, and banners highly visible. Where possible, make sure to use the "one-click" fan button feature offered by Facebook. And, do not hesitate to cross-promote your Facebook page via other social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, or your online forums.


Habit 2: Give them a reason
Include a compelling call-to-action and even an incentive for your customers to join your Facebook community. Offering an incentive is an important component in this process. Remember -- you are building a community here and the audience will scale much faster if you can provide a clear benefit for your audience to join your community. Effective incentives include discounts, special offers, exclusive content, product giveaways, and/or anything else your customers might find valuable.


Habit 3: Invite interaction
Another way to activate your customer base to interact with you at Facebook is to invite them to join the conversation. I've seen this work particularly well with broadcast news and talk radio. A celebrity gossip show like "Entertainment Tonight" will post a topic to its Facebook wall and invite fans to comment. It will also integrate that topic into the show on air. This brings fans and non-fans alike into the channel to interact. Consider doing this with your regular email communications and blog posts. Post one or two topics at Facebook that are central to your email communication; then, in the email or blog post, invite your subscribers to comment.


Habit 4: Fans recruiting fans
Whether you have 300 or 300,000 fans at Facebook, two things are certain: 1) You want more fans and 2) you should be leveraging the fans you already have to get them. Facebook fan drives are becoming more popular than ever. Some of the best examples include "everyone benefits" promotions, where the fan base is activated to recruit their friends to join the page at Facebook. Once the fan base reaches a certain number, the brand unlocks a special "members only" benefit for all. Don't underestimate your fans' willingness to bring their friends into the fold -- the entire Facebook platform was built on just such a notion. 


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Step 5: Borrow from paid media
It is becoming quite popular to add links to Facebook and Twitter in paid media advertising these days. I've seen huge brands such as Toyota, Target, and Best Buy reference links to Facebook and Twitter on outdoor, online, television, and print advertisements. Often times, this is the only URL featured in the ad; yet, just as often, these links are not accompanied by a call-to-action. The link just sits there at the bottom of the ad. I can see how this would work well for a large brand advertiser like a Target or Toyota, but for the majority of brands that are focused on more direct means of advertising, or don't have the budget for splashy brand ads, this might be a strategy to employ once you have a specific call-to-action and incentive for your customers to engage with.   


Habit 6: Content, content, content
By far, the most effective method of building your audience at Facebook is by delivering regular content that is truly engaging to your fan base. Every time fans interact with your content at Facebook -- be it a wall post, a video or link, poll, or app -- they have the opportunity to share that experience with their own networks. The more content you deliver, the more sharing opportunity you create. This sharing opportunity is the Holy Grail of Facebook marketing. Your wall posts need to engage fans to not only read your message, but to interact with it by responding with a "like", a share, or a comment. In addition to your wall, you should be very focused on creating tabs that motivate consumption and sharing of content. Facebook tabs are your rich media banners. You should absolutely be taking advantage of them with more than text or a single HTML graphic.


Habit 7: Pay for fans
Yes. I said it. Someone had to. Despite all of the habits above, sometimes, you need to dip in to the war chest and drive up your count at Facebook by way of a paid media campaign. Many brands are taking full advantage of this by leveraging Facebook's PPC platform. Whether you decide to work directly with Facebook or buy media outside of the platform, I recommend you start slowly, test creative and incentives, and spend sparingly. And for God's sake, be sure you have the first six habits locked down before you spend any money acquiring fans. If you don't, you'll lose them quicker than you paid to get them.
 
There are 20 million fan pages at Facebook today. I am a fan of more than 250 brands -- not because I love these brands, but because I am a student of the Facebook ecosystem. In the large majority of cases, the most successful brands at Facebook have adopted these habits. And so, if you would allow me an eighth habit, it would be just that: Become a student of other brands at Facebook. You might discover even more habits on your own.


Scott Meldrum is head of integrated marketing at TiVo.


On Twitter? Follow Scott at @ScottMeldrum. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

As a veteran of Interactive Marketing and Social Media, Scott Meldrum provides digital strategy, creative and media solutions for leading brands. Leveraging 20 years of interactive experience, he has delivered award-wining digital advertising and...

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Comments

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Commenter: Mark Ryan

2010, March 26

Great article Scott, The point about inviting fans to interact is a good one. I love that Facebook helps determine how successful posts are with their Post Quality scoring. We find that many companies judge their success in social simply by counting their number of friends/fans/followers/etc and not by their interaction. When some organizations invite visitors to interact they are surprised to find out no one is reading the posts.

Mark Ryan, www.extractable.com