Fueling the Momentum of Your Facebook Fan Page

For any of us who grew up in the age of digital, it’s starting to feel like deja vu all over again as companies large and small flock to social media darling Facebook. It’s not hard to understand the allure, given that

  • there are over 400 million members — 100 million of which live in North America;
  • 50 percent of active members log in at least once per day; and
  • the average member has 130 friends.

Much as in the early days of the Web however, many companies are struggling with ways to take advantage of Facebook’s massive potential.

Unfortunately, many marketers have taken a ready, fire, aim approach when creating a presence on Facebook, resulting in walls with few posts and very little meaningful activity. Worse yet, some brands have focused on acquiring “fans” with little attention being paid to longer-term engagement or activation of those members.

While this may look good from a numbers perspective, the lack of meaningful engagement may ultimately come back to haunt these companies when customers see nothing but virtual tumbleweeds rolling by on their Facebook wall.

4 Critical Steps

While not every company has unlocked the code to success on Facebook, there have been some success stories from companies that have focused on four critical steps in their Facebook process:

  1. Strategy — Before you start building there are a few things to think about. For instance, who do you want to talk to? What do you want to talk to them about? What you want them to do? Figuring these questions out up front will help insure a successful step two.
  2. Presence — With most companies, creating a solid presence requires creating one or more fan pages with several tabs. This is the “getting the house in order” step. Presence can be a difficult step, as it requires patience while you build your following.
  3. Activation — A brand can have all the fans on Facebook, but what’s the value of a fan just sitting there? Activation is the “what do you want them to do” portion of building a fan page. Real value is when a fan is doing something for you outside of being just another follower.
  4. Amplification — This is more of an outcome than a stage, but if you have the right presence and you’ve done your activation, amplification should allow you to tap your Facebook presence to amplify or build on current campaigns, in-store promotions and other marketing activities.

3 Success Stories

A good example of a company that has done a great job building out its Facebook presence, with a little over 1.4 million fans, is Dunkin’ Donuts. The company has a “fan of the week” — a fan is highlighted in the page’s profile picture. In addition, fans celebrate promotions that are going on in the different page tabs where they can dunk themselves in chocolate, design their own donut (leading to hundreds of thousands of likes and comments by fans) and even upload photos taken in stores or with Dunkin’ Donuts products.

This commitment to a deeper engagement with their customers no doubt leads to things like evangelism, insights into new product ideas and a greater sense of loyalty from the participating customers.

Another example of a company tapping into the power of Facebook is Southwest Airlines (a Powered/StepChange client). Leveraging the success of its “Bags Fly Free” ad campaign, Southwest decided to continue the momentum into its Facebook presence. With a clear focus on what it wanted to do — i.e., collect email addresses while increasing the number of fans on its page, it created a custom application on Facebook called “Fans Fly Free.”

The focus of the promotion was to give away 100 pairs of airline tickets to anywhere Southwest flies. Within three weeks, Southwest grew its fan base from 150,000 to 750,000 — but more importantly, half of the contest participants opted in to receive its newsletter.

A last example of a company that is getting it right is Coca-Cola (second-largest branded Facebook fan page). Interestingly, it didn’t build the page that Coke now co-manages. In fact, Coke’s page was truly a “fan” page created by — who else — actual fans. Rather than creating a competing page — or worse, issuing a cease-and-desist letter to the page’s founders — Coke reached out and suggested a co-ownership of the page.

The result is a vibrant page with north of 5 million members that Coke can tap into whenever it is interested in amplifying new campaigns or programs.

Step Back to Go Forward

Whether your company is large or small, there are a few additional considerations that brands may want to keep an eye on as they think about their Facebook presence. First, are you committed to monitoring and managing your Facebook wall outside of traditional business hours? Nestle’s recent scuffle with environmental activists during a weekend flare-up shows how critical a quick and decisive response can be.

A second consideration is the cadence of brand contribution. Many experts talk about brands not posting more than once a day on Facebook and for those posts, keeping a healthy portion of the focus on helpful, educational content vs. corporate updates. This can include — but should not be limited to — posing questions to the fan base. In fact, many of the fans who might be content with lurking may be interested in the brand’s answers to its own questions.

Last, but not least, brands should be thinking about their measurement plan for Facebook. Yes, number of fans, wall posts and overall page views might are important, but a deeper look into the data — like overall sentiment, fan composition and number of “shares” with each members’ set of friends — should also come into play. Perhaps most critical is answering the question, are your fans doing what you want them to do — e.g. share, learn, evangelize or even buy?

If you’ve already built a Facebook fan page, it’s never too late to adjust course. However, if you aren’t getting what you had hoped for with your presence, sometimes it’s worth taking a step or two backward in order to take three or four steps forward.

Kevin Tate is president of StepChange, a Powered company.

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