Making the Most of your Facebook Fan page

So, you have a Facebook Page for your blog.  And you've noticed a big drop in page views recently.  And you're freaking out.

What happened?

This Dangerous Minds article came out a few weeks ago, claiming it was an attempt by Facebook to make us pay for promoted posts.

Techcrunch followed up with this article where Facebook disputed the Dangerous Minds post by claiming that it was a change (a big one) to their spam algorithms (here's more on EdgeRank - the new algorithm)

Where does the truth lie?  I don't know.

There are two paths this article could go down - one is that, as bloggers, we have to get rid of this expectation that we are owed services for free because "we're just a little hobby blog".  (Remember the outcry over Feedburner a few months ago?  The panic in the blogging community was quite something to watch...)  I have a "little photography hobby".  Trust me... nobody gives me camera equipment or printer ink for free and my local camera store does not accept warm chocolate chip cookies as payment... oh but how lovely that would be!

Or, we could take a look at how to make the most from your Facebook fan page, with or without paying to promote your content.  Let's take that path today!

I run three Facebook pages, one for my business, one for my blog, and the FBC Facebook page.  I have varying degrees of success with them that are directly related to how much time and effort I put into each one. That's right... time and effort!

I realized months ago that Facebook was changing how the game was played and I decided to start experimenting with the three pages to see what worked and what didn't (I like to poke and prod!).  What follows is purely anecdotal and very unscientific.  But hopefully you'll find some useful tidbits that you can put to work for your page.

Start Engaging, Not Regurgitating

When I first noticed our FBC views and engagement were dropping like a stone, (and which had always been very healthy in relation to the number of fans we had) I thought it must be our content... we must be boring, people don't care what we're saying, nobody likes us!!  Eeks!

It was probably the best thought I could have had because it made me want to up our game.  I started looking specifically for fun or useful things to share with our fans, or asking questions that, I hoped, would get people wanting to reply.  Sometimes, it was as simple as asking what food related activity people had going on for the weekend and sometimes it was something a little more substantial.  It seemed to work - we certainly didn't get back to where we were but our engagement level started to climb back up.  People were interacting.

  • post updates outside of your latest post
  • ask questions of your fans
  • ask for their opinion on things - people LOVE to give their opinions.
  • respond to people's comments! Use the @ symbol and type the commenter's name in your reply so they'll know you responded.  People love to know they've been heard
  • "like" people's comments when they say something that resonates with you or that you think is a great point. Both of the last two points let people know that somebody is actually reading their replies to you and they've been heard.  Everyone likes validation - especially bloggers!

If Facebook has indeed change their spam algorithm as they say, and all you are doing every day is simply posting a link to your latest post, you do quickly become spammy and people will click the "hide" button (which, from the sounds of it, tells Facebook you're spamming).

listen and respond

Have a Facebook Personality

No, don't create a new personality just for Facebook - instead infuse who you are into your updates.  FBC's Facebook page is maintained almost exclusively by me.  The status updates are written in my voice - usually exactly how I would speak if I were having a conversation with you.

I was chastised once by a fan for using the word "y'all" in a status update when I'm supposed to be Canadian.  Well, I am Canadian and very proud of it - but I say y'all in every day conversation! I also use a lot of exclamation points, have a weakness for ridiculously bad puns and jokes, and can quote most Seinfeld episodes word for word.  If you follow our Facebook page regularly, you'll have figured all of those things out.

My point is, people who follow us, know that the page is run by a real human being and not a corporate entity who's probably not listening

Understand the Medium

Ok, I have to reference a very famous Canadian here: as Marshall McLuhan said "the medium is the message".   Now that guy was one heck of a visionary and I would love to know what he would think of world of social media if he were still alive!

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and whatever comes down the pipe next are all very different mediums. To make the most out of them, you have to figure out what works best for each one.  This is why using a generic plug-in that updates them all at the same time with the exact same update is not a good idea (and it looks like a robot is running your accounts - it does nothing to help you with my last point!)

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While I run the FBC Facebook page, Ethan runs our Twitter account.  And there's a very good reason for that.  They're different mediums and require a different approach.  Ethan has a great twitter personality (and by the way, he says "y'all" a lot too!) but I feel more comfortable with the slower pace of Facebook.

  • Facebook gives you an opportunity to grow a more interactive community than Twitter does.  People can reply to your updates and immediately see what others have said and can respond to not just you, but your other fans.  Leverage that by encouraging discussion - it's a lot easier than creating a forum on your website (as we learned!).
  • Facebook is great for showcasing your photos.  You can create albums, tag people, upload an image at a time and the interface makes them great to look at.  If you want to stretch your photo to be the width of the page, click the star button to the left of it.  It's a great way to showcase a photo.
  • Create unique content that only goes on your Facebook page.  Part of what can make social media overwhelming is that it's the same stuff on FB, Twitter, Google +!!  Mix it up a bit!
Highlight a Facebook post
To highlight a Facebook post, hover your mouse over the left of the post until the Star and Edit buttons appear. Click on the Star button to make a post full width or shrink it back down to a column. If you click edit button, you can reposition the image so that the parts you want to show, do!

If You're Just Starting Out on Facebook

If you're brand new to the Facebook Page scene here's a few tips to get you going

Fill Out All Your Profile Info

Make it easy when people visit your page to know they're at the right page for your blog.

  • fill out all the profile info
  • upload your blog logo as your profile picture
  • put up a timeline image that relates to your blog (read Facebook's Terms of Service carefully - they are very strict about what can and can't go in your timeline photoand how you run contests through Facebook)

Invite Your Friends

  • You have a built in audience with your existing friends on your personal profile.  Invite them to check out your page and give you a like.  Most of them will oblige
  • Make it easy for people to find your facebook page on your blog.  I recommend using a Facebook icon that you manually link to your page.  When I check out new FBC members, I like to "like" their pages using the FBC page.  The Facebook widgets usually only allow you to do that if you're logged in as your personal account.  An icon manually linked to your Facebook page makes it easier for anyone to visit and like your page (and you do want them to visit!)

Promoting a Facebook Post - Should You Do It?

It's certainly something to consider.  But think about it carefully.

First of all, if you have less than 400 fans, you can't promote a post - it's not an option.  Second, how much you pay to promote is directly proportional to how many fans you have - the larger the number, the more you pay.

Choose the post to promote carefully.  For our first promoted FBC post, we chose our Canola/FBC 2013 Cookie Contest.  It cost us $10 - an absolute steal in comparison to a press release! It was seen by over 4000 people and garnered a stack of new FB fans and a lot more "post shares" and "likes" than we normally get.  But most importantly, this was a post we really wanted people to see - people who might not have us in their RSS reader or who follow us on Twitter.  We also recruited 19 new FBC Members during the time the post was promoted.

Here's what I've also noticed since we ran that promoted post... our engagement levels are much higher.  We now average around 1/3 of our fans seeing our posts - double the normal Facebook average of 15%.  Is it because we chose to pay? Or is it because we're doing a better job of engaging?  I'd like to think it's the latter but it's probably a combination of the two.

Last But Not Least

Facebook is notorious for tweeking and changing things, no matter how much uproar springs from it.  Get used to it.  And remember, solid content, being engaging and interesting with your fans, and understanding how each Social Media channel works will always serve you well.

Getting the Most From Your Facebook Fan Page was written by FBC co-founder Melissa Hartfiel. By day Melissa is a WordPress web & graphic designer at her own little company, Fine Lime Designs.  By night, she's a professional food photographer and author of the food photography blog Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach.  In between she leaps tall buildings in a single bound.  Well, not really, mostly she just hangs out with her dog and eats chocolate.

Connect with Melissa on Twitter: @mhchipmunk or Facebook: Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach

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Thank you very much for this post! I will be creating a Facebook page shortly and this has helped me to understand how to use my new page more effectively.

Eden Spodek

I’m sure lots of people will find this post very helpful. I particularly liked the emphasis you placed on creating real conversations with the community and describing the FBC model where each channel is managed by the person who is most comfortable doing so. Many organizations think one person can/should do it all. Sometimes that model works well. Other times it doesn’t. Thanks for demonstrating it often takes a village.

Michelle Peters - Jones

FWIW, I’ve found that if I post a photo along with a link, I usually get more engagement. I think FB tends to sideline plain link statuses in favour of pictures, so I usually find I get more people talking with a picture. People are also quite visual, and images often talk more than just words.

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