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Thinking Beyond the 'Like'

  |  August 2, 2011   |  Comments

10 tips for engaging and retaining your Facebook fans.

How can you retain and engage fans on Facebook? My colleague and business partner, Ty Velde, shared somes tips in an interview.

Harry Gold: Ty, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Ty Velde: I am SVP, director of client services and a founding member at Overdrive Interactive. My role is to provide strategic and tactical oversight to a wide range of digital and social media programs for our clients and measure the results of our campaigns and efforts. Before Overdrive I served on the account side of agencies that included Interactive Promotions, A&G, and Digitas. I have overseen digital and social media programs for many top brand including Harley-Davidson, GE, John Hancock, Samsonite, Delta Airlines, AAA, and Dow Jones.

HG: What do you see as the primary focus of the social media programs you take over for different clients?

TV: Ask any social media marketer about the success of their efforts and one of the first qualifying metrics they will espouse is the size and growth of their fan base. This has always been a primary social key performance indicator, as a sizable fan base is equated to community, and developing a community is critical to social media success. As a result, companies spend a lot of time strategizing about ways to acquire new fans and spend countless dollars on fan acquisition programs based around everything from advertising, contests, promotions, giveaways, and more.

HG: OK, so what is missing?

TV: Typically missing from many big fan acquisition campaigns are plans to engage and retain fans once they have been acquired. It's almost as if there is an assumption that if someone takes the time to "Like" you, they will undoubtedly stick around. However, in many cases, often once a promotionally-based fan acquisition campaign has concluded, fan numbers start to decline; people actually "un-Like" you. Of course, if you are running a contest, part of this attrition will be due to "contest junkies" who sign up for anything and everything, but this attrition may also be due to the fact that you have not clearly demonstrated the value of forming an ongoing relationship with your organization or brand via the social channel to your newly acquired fans.

HG: So what can you do to engage and retain those who have decided to "Like" your brand and page?

TV: The first thing you have to ask is "Why would anyone want to be my friend?" I mean, why would anyone want to stay in a relationship with you? Are you interesting, funny, nice, or offering anything of value? The key is to think about the kind of relationship you want to have with your base and also, what kind of relationship they may want to have with you. In short, if you want to retain your base and insure that they listen to you, you need to think "beyond the 'Like.'"

HG: OK, can you give us more tactics tips?

TV: Well here are 10 tips I can give you that my team has found to be effective:

  1. Create a road map. If you've acquired fans with a big promotional splash, but you then go silent, they will start to forget about you and even start to leave. Therefore, you need to be thinking about publishing a steady stream of interesting offers, content, or promotions. You need to have a plan for how you will keep your fans engaged.
  2. Send a welcome message. Did you just do a one-day promotion that resulted in a ton of new fans? A simple message welcoming new fans to your page will go a long way. Not only does it show that you recognize and appreciate your new community members, it's also an opportunity to showcase the value of "Liking" the page.
  3. Show other sides of your brand. Don't just post about your promotions and current campaigns. Intersperse your content stream with posts that talk about other facets of your brand that add depth and personality to your company and brand. Are you an old brand that could trigger feelings of nostalgia? Give people blasts from the past with ads and images they might remember. Show good things you've done in your communities and causes your company supports.
  4. Promote exclusivity. Promote access to "exclusive" fan only content…videos, images, etc. This will readily showcase the value of being a fan and the benefits that come with it.
  5. Showcase offers and promotions. Promote access to a consistent stream of offers and promotions. These can take place in the form of "fan only" promos, which ties into point no. 4, or you can repurpose promotions running in other places as well. The key here is to keep them coming, as users see social channels as a great way to access discounts and promotions.
  6. Don't post too much. Just because you suddenly have an influx of new fans does not mean that they want to hear from you all the time. If anything drives fans away, it can be perceived as spammy. Find the right balance - we find that two to four times per day is typically more than enough unless you're covering a special event or something like that.
  7. Solicit content from your fans. Ask fans to share their photos or videos. Not only will this increase user engagement, it will significantly increase the amount of user-generated content uploaded to your page and further showcase the community that exists around your brand. It also lets people participate in your brand's promotion and get their 15 minutes of fame!
  8. Inquire. Use "Facebook Questions," run a poll, or just simply ask a question via a status update. Not only will this show fans that you value their opinion, these tactics are great ways to elicit engagement, which in turn will increase your EdgeRank. Most importantly, when new fans join your page, they will see a myriad of active conversations happening, which will showcase that you have an active and engaged community.
  9. Be human. Facebook is the right place for your company to show that you're not just a brand but you are a company of real people with lives and stories. Let people know that their love of your products is important not just to the bottom line but to the people behind the brand who make the products great!
  10. Respond. This is the most important tip. Don't just post and then ignore all the comments. Respond to them! Join the conversation and have some fun with your fans. Remember, Facebook is supposed to be fun! This lets fans know that the brand and the people behind it are listening and that the relationship actually goes two ways. Do things such as "Liking" your fans' comments and even reach out to your more engaged fans via your personal accounts to send them personal thank you messages and gifts! That really makes them feel connected to your brand and also gets them to sing your praises online and off!

HG: Any closing thoughts?

TV: Getting people to "Like" you is easy, but getting someone to become a real "fan" – well, that's much more of a challenge. Remember, a fan is only worth their willingness to engage with you. So ultimately, success in social media is not just about how many people "Like" you. It's about converting the connections from that initial "Like" into an ongoing consumer relationship and creating a groundswell of support for your brand. This is not something that is built overnight or by focusing on just getting people to click "Like." It's about focusing on what you're going to do with your fans after they click "Like."

HG: Thanks Ty - great advice!

OK readers, as always please tweet and post your tips in the comments section!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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