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What snowballs can teach us about free advertising with Facebook Pages

Following my last post on here about big fish I though I should write something useful! I’ve been reading a lot of buzz lately, particularly in the affiliate space about Facebook advertising and getting the most out of the Facebook PPC channel. While facebook ads have got potential, its really early days. Facebook ads are cheap, but actually you can get free advertising on Facebook, which might be considerably more powerful than their PPC ads, with Facebook pages.

Obligatory giant snowball

In this post I’m going to show how I’ve developed a Facebook campaign thats attracting 8000 fans and is still getting over 100 new signups a day, for free. As its not a client campaign I can show you some nice data as well. Its interesting to see how the snowball effect works on Facebook and you can get it going with virtually no effort, which is nice.

What works and what doesn’t

Not every business is going to be able to get value out of Facebook. Although the audience is pretty varied (and BIG) in pretty much every case I’ve seen getting anything that looks commercial to work on Facebook is an uphill struggle. If you’re B2B, its probably not worth bothering either.The example I’m talking about here is for an online community site, Love Ibiza.

I set the page up as an experiment but its actually grown into a useful channel. Ultimately I think its success can be put down to the fact that although its a commercial site in so much as it generates ad reveue the page itself is fairly inocuous and doesn’t look like a piece of advertising.

I think this is important, all the successful campaigns we’ve run with Facebook pages have used a similar angle. If your page is about your business, the Facebook community probably won’t interact with it, personalise it and you stand a much better chance.That said- if you check out the most popular pages on Facebook you’ve got Coca-cola, Nutella, Pringles & Adidas up there so it is possible, but if you’re not a household name with a decent social media budget I think you’ll struggle.

Setting up your page

This is dead easy. My Love Ibiza page took about 5 minutes to get up and running. Just go here and follow the steps. If you need more help this YouTube vid should get you going but seriously, you’ll work it out!

I reckon the most important things when you’re setting it up are-Name: This is important because when people become fans of your page it will stick a little note on their profile saying “John became a fan of your page“. Try and think about page names you can use which will encourage more people to visit the page so your business name might not be the best thing to use here. This is one of the reasons I think this page works well, when someone joins- this is the message which comes up on their profile

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As you can see the other 2 important elements here are the image, which gets displayed as a thumbnail and the description.

Choose an image which will stand out and look ok when resized. Using a vivid colour in the pic will also help grab some attention.

Promoting your page

Once your snowball gets big enough it will spread virally across Facebook and look after itself. Until then you’ll need to get things started. Here’s what I did to get the Love Ibiza page off the ground:

Spammed my friends- I shamelessly messaged a couple of hundred friends through facebook asking them to become my fan. Thats what friends are for;-)

Hit my mailing list- I dropped a link to the Facebook page into one of my e-shots. As these people are already familiar with the brand they should be a bit more receptive.

Linked from my site- I’ve got a join us on Facebook feature on the homepage of the site. I didn’t incentivise people to sign up because I didn’t want to pay for facebook fans but running promotions exclusively for people who join you on Facebook also works pretty well.

Optimised the page- Facebook pages are indexable and because there’s plenty of equity in the facebook.com domain they can rank pretty well in SERPS. They don’t tend to get much juice from internal links until they get really popular so point a couple of external links at them to get them ranking. Its hard to know how much traffic actually comes from this as Facebook don’t give you these stats but it can’t hurt, particularly if your Page name is a keyword.

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Now watch as your social media caterpillar grows into a beautiful butterfly!

Unless you’re Coca-cola or Nutella its going to take some time for your page to get going. looking back over my new fans stats for the first month I was picking up no more than 10 new fans a day. Even after 8 weeks it was still only up to about 40 a day- it was around this time I started to notice the snowball building momentum.

newfans.jpg

Getting the viral effect going on facebook is about building up the rate of new fans. You could go on forever getting 10 new fans a day but to go viral and start getting some decent numbers you have to get new fans quickly. Your link will only stay on peoples profile pages for a limited amount of time, so if your new fans are active Facebook users it could disappear in a matter of hours.

Not all fans are created equal

Like I’ve said above the main way you’re going to pick up new fans virally on Facebook is through your link which will be displayed on the profile pages (walls) of your existing fans. It will also be displayed on the news feed of all of their friends. Put your advertising hat on for a second and you’ll start to realize that fans with a lot of friends will be worth a whole lot more to you than fans with no friends because the reach of their social network is infinitely bigger. You do the maths, pick up a new fan with 50 friends and 50 people might see your link. Pick up a friend with 500 friends and your link can reach 500 new people.You can’t really control this but if you’re being really proactive about getting new fans you can use it to your advantage. Again my page grew pretty organically but if I had the time and inclination this is what I would have done!

-Get into some related groups and pages like the Ibiza 2009 page.

-Join them and start befriending some of their members with big friendship circles.

-Use flattery or good old fashion beggin’ to get them to become your fans, people are pretty accommodating to becoming fans of things because its non-committal and takes about 2 seconds to join.

-Use your fans to build up your own friendship group. Abi, who is one of the admins on my page has got over 600 friends now, mostly by befriending people who have become fans. If you have loads of friends yourself your own distribution circle increases meaning you can send direct Facebook messages to all your friends or post links directly on your own profile which will be distributed to all your freinds.

If you’re feeling shameless also think about some of the other high profile places you can post links on Facebook, like popular group walls and network homepages. Leo Belchetz did a nice job of this on the wall of my page!

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And  ‘Ibiza’s most luxurious villas’ dropped this beauty on my discussion board:

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I’ve got 8000 fans on Facebook, now what!

I probably should have started with this. Before you setup your page and start promoting it you probably should ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve, particularly if you’re referring traffic away from your main domain onto your Facebook page because there’s always the chance they won’t come back.

I essentially started this page as an experiment but I’ve found some useful applications for my Facebook fan circle.

New contacts- You can’t extract email addresses from Facebook fan data but you can send messages through Facebook as ‘updates’. Updates are ok, they’re not as good as direct messages because they just pop-up in the right column so they might get overlooked, especially if you’re a member of a lot of groups and pages like me and get a load of updates.

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I sent out a updates to all my fans asking them to become beta testers when I launched the new social network part of my site a few months back. Within a few days I got a couple of hundred signups as beta testers so the response rate is pretty good and again the advantage of communicating through Facebook is it takes literally 5 minutes to send out a message to thousands of people where as an e-shot would usually take me an hour to prepare.

Market research- When you start a Facebook page you get access to Facebook ‘insights’which shows basic user demographic information about your fans as well as stats on your page use. The most useful report for me is this one which shows age and gender breakdowns for your fan base:

facebook-insights-i-love-ibiza_1235730391841.png

Nothing to life changing about this data for my purposes but I’ve found these details have been really interesting for a number of clients we’ve run similar campaigns for and I bet the radio 1 bosses pay particularly close attention to the insights on Chris Moyles 600,000+ Facebook fans.

Publicity & traffic- Based on the premise that all publicity is good publicity the viral distribution of your Facebook page should do your ‘Buzz’ levels good. The various links you can embed in your page back to your main site can also drive a bit of traffic.

Promote events- If you’ve got events to push like a conference I think a Page is probably the best hub for doing so on Faceboook.

Thats it for now. There’s loads more you could be doing with Facebook pages if you spent any time/ money on your campaign and it would be good to hear about other peoples experiences using pages.

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3 Comments
  • Max on February 27, 2009

    Nice post, really opened my eyes :)

  • Manmeet on September 7, 2009

    Hi! I just wanted to ask that does creating just a facebook page for my blog cost me anything ?
    I am not going for any facebook ads! i just have the page!
    waiting for reply !