9 tips for building a Facebook fan base from scratch

How to get your page on your audience’s radar.

You created your company’s Facebook page, and now you’re looking to build a fan following. But so far, there’s nothing but crickets. The task of reaching fans can seem daunting, especially if you’re just starting. So how do you get your page on people’s radar in the first place?

1. Lean on your already-established presence. Chances are, you already have a presence somewhere, whether it’s an e-newsletter, the company’s website or a more traditional form of advertising. Use these already-established avenues to push traffic to your Facebook page. That email list you have? In your next newsletter, mention that Facebook fans get VIP information. And all the traditional advertising you’ve been using—from TV and radio to print and billboards—can contain the line “Find us on Facebook” or that iconic lower-case Facebook “f.”

2. Take advantage of free tools. The Facebook Questions feature is an interesting way to generate traffic to your page, and it’s completely free. Whatever question you ask, your company’s name and link back to your page will stay attached. To get the most out of this feature, ask questions that everyone cares about (these are the kinds that go viral). The question doesn’t have to be related to your company. It doesn’t matter if it’s a refrigerator repair company asking, everyone has an opinion on the nation’s debt crisis. If the question gains enough momentum, you get a ton of free exposure for your brand.

3. Gain attention with enticing contests. Contests, promotions and sweepstakes are great ways to grab attention. But you’ll only get that attention if what you’re giving away is an attractive incentive that’s sharable. An attractive incentive because no one cares about a boring prize, and your fans need to be able to tell their friends about the giveaway. So give away something big: a new tech gadget, shopping spree or free meals at your restaurant. People will enter, and when they do, serve them with a share prompt so they can advertise your page for you.

4. Be relevant. Even if you aren’t giving something away, there has to be an incentive for people who aren’t fans to “like” your page. Create a welcome page that lets visitors know what’s in it for them, whether it’s fan-only coupons and specials, or important status updates. A financial planner could pique interest by promising to keep his or her fans updated on how market fluctuations affect portfolios. People like to have relevant content sent to them in their news feeds.

5. Cheap, effective Facebook ads. Facebook ads are inexpensive, especially if you’re targeting a niche audience. Say you operate a sports bar in a small town. Your target audience is males aged 21-45 who live in that town. Drive traffic to your new page by offering coupons to fans for a free round of beverages with a wings platter on game days.

6. Use your fans as your marketing agents. Trust is what makes Facebook “like stories” work. By purchasing like stories, you’re targeting friends of your fans. Jane will see that Jack “likes” your brand, and because she knows Jack, there’s a greater chance she’ll check your brand out than if the ad came from your brand. Whether it’s like stories or post stories, these are great avenues to grab initial exposure without spending too much money.

7. Create an exclusive air about your page. One common way to entice would-be fans to “like” your page is by using what’s called “fan-gating” or “like-gating.” Simply put, fan-gating makes parts of your page or tabs unavailable to people who aren’t your fans. But here’s where it gets tricky. Many page administrators will gate their entire page, in essence creating a big road block. The problem with this is there’s a huge abandonment rate because some people are selective about the pages they choose to “like.”

Instead of gating the entire page, use a custom tab application that allows you to gate individual parts of your page. If someone was interested enough in your brand to visit your page, don’t let them walk away empty-handed. Allow all visitors—not just your fans—to learn about your brand, see your current offers and find out the latest information. Gate the more advanced features of your page, like contests and sweepstakes. But when you gate this content, make sure you’re letting non-fans know about it. Create excitement about becoming a fan by alerting visitors to fan-only promotions and contests.

8. What about people who don’t click “like.” It’s up to you to create interesting and compelling content for your page. If a non-fan visits and doesn’t see a reason to click “like,” there’s a good chance they’ll leave and not return. That doesn’t mean that non-fans will never click that like button on your page. You can continue to target those people by using Facebook ads and like stories.

9. Keep content fresh. Whether it’s a Facebook ad, contest or your default landing tab, change things up regularly to see what’s working. One ad or one contest may draw in one person, and leave another disinterested. Be creative and always look for new ways to market your business, brand or organization so you’ll always draw views and new fans.

Jim Belosic is 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. A version of this article originally ran on Smartblogs.com.

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