9 tips for a successful Facebook presence

The author’s company has created hundreds of thousands of customized tabs for businesses. Here’s what he’s seen that makes some pages successful and others sink.

There’s more to building a Facebook presence than creating a page and hoping for the best. As CEO and founder of a company that builds customized tabs for businesses, my colleagues and I have discovered what does and doesn’t work on Facebook by observing the more than 150,000 custom tabs created with our platform. Based on what we’ve seen, here are nine tips and techniques to build and maintain a successful Facebook presence. Commit to the long haul Many page administrators gradually fall into a cardinal Facebook sin: inactivity. They start a campaign and invest time and energy, but because they don’t see immediate results, they lose interest and their commitment fizzles. As a result, their page’s wall fills up with unanswered questions and unsolved complaints. Soon, the bad vibes pile up so high, it’d be better to not even have a page. A Facebook presence takes a long time to develop, and it requires commitment and availability on your part. This means interacting with your fans even if you aren’t seeing the benefits right away. It means leaving no question unanswered on your wall. It means finding or creating content your fans will find interesting, engaging, and relevant, and posting it to your wall. Even if your fan base is small, cultivate it. It’s an investment that will pay for itself in the long haul. Make your page non-fan friendly A fan gate is a common tool used to drive up fan count. If you aren’t familiar with fan gates, the premise is simple: serve non-fans content that encourages or incentivizes liking the page. After the non-fan has clicked like, they have access to exclusive content or features. However, since Facebook users can be picky about what they do and don’t “like,” a fan gate can cause a high rate of abandonment if you’re gating too much content on your page. To ensure that even non-fans visit your page and come away with a better understanding of your company’s products or services, only gate things like contests and promotions. For instance, Neutrogena’s welcome tab encourages visitors to like the page, but offers lots of links and other information for anyone who visits the tab.

Direct traffic to your custom tabs Facebook is a busy, noisy place. Your fans have so much content vying for their attention that “build it and they will come” just doesn’t work. You can’t even assume your fans will know your new custom tabs exist. You have to tell them. Have a new tab with a poll you just set up? Post a status update telling your fans about the poll, and more importantly, link them to the tab. For instance, QuiBids’ wall post links fans to its daily sweepstakes on a custom tab.

Avoid the allow prompt When apps attempt to access a Facebook user’s information, that user is served with an allow prompt. The user can either grant the app access to his or her information, or hit cancel and leave the app. The argument in favor of using the allow prompt is a strong one: it gives businesses and brands the ability to mine their fans for valuable data. However, today’s Internet users are concerned with security and identity theft, and can be wary of giving out information online. Because the allow prompt can cause abandonment, it’s a good idea to limit—or even eliminate—its use. If you really do need to collect this data, be transparent with your fans: Tell them why you want the data and how you’re going to use it. Have an online ad budget If you’re trying to rapidly increase your fan base, Facebook ads are a cheap and effective way to do it. The target audience of Facebook ads can be highly customized to fit your region, desired age range, and budget. For instance, if you operate a sports bar in a small town, you can limit your target audience to your specific city and only show your ad to men between the ages of 21 and 45. You’ll be surprised how cost-effective the ad will be. Quality is job No. 1 Too many page administrators want to collect fans like they’re on a bad episode of “Hoarders.” Your primary concern shouldn’t be your total number of fans. You should be after quality fans. People who will benefit from liking your page, and people whose “like” will benefit you. Ten thousand 14-year-old girls could like Joe’s Garage, but it wouldn’t do Joe a bit of good, since 14-year-olds can’t drive and rebuilt mufflers don’t top out on the list of interests for many teenage girls. How do you target the right kind of fans? Facebook ads are one way. Another is to create content your fans will want to share. Your fans like your page because they’re interested in your products or services, and chances are, they have friends with similar taste who aren’t your fans—yet. Those are the people you want, because they have the potential to become your customers. Post relevant and interesting content that your fans will want to share. Don’t spam your fans Common sense, right? No one likes to be spammed. Page administrators don’t start out spamming their fans, but many do fall into a pattern of it over time. Say you like a local pizzeria’s page, and the first day you’re a fan, the restaurant makes a wall post advertising a today-only 20 percent off coupon. You think that’s a pretty good deal, and take the family out for pizza that evening. But the next day the pizzeria posts the same coupon, and the day after that and the day after that. Suddenly, the coupon isn’t interesting or intriguing—it’s annoying. As a page administrator, it’s your job to get your company in your fans’ news feeds without being spammy. Optimize for feedback One way to get your fans’ attention without spamming them is to be social. Facebook users expect to engage in conversation, and they’ll converse with you if you approach them as a friend and not a sales target. Adhere to the 80/20 rule: Make posts and comments that are relevant to the community 80 percent of the time, and discuss your business just 20 percent of the time. That same pizzeria could ask fans where they think the next location should be? What their favorite toppings are? Or who they’re rooting for in the big game? Lonely Planet, for example, gets numerous comments and likes by asking a question its community finds relevant and interesting.

Fine-tune your sales pitches You know the guy at the cocktail party who spends so much time handing out his business cards and trying to rope acquaintances into a sale that he completely destroys the mood? Don’t be that guy on Facebook. Your fans are on Facebook for social interaction, not to buy things. If your sales pitches are going ignored, don’t post them again and again, even though that might be the knee-jerk reaction. Instead, take the time to reevaluate your sales pitches and create more subtle, social ads. Jim Belosic is the CEO and co-founder of ShortStack, a Facebook platform-based application helping businesses build customized tabs for Facebook pages that maximize their social media presence and potential.

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