By Cameron Asmussen
Coming up with an engaging Facebook page is no easy task. It’s one thing to connect with old high school buddies in a personal account, but how do you attract fans to your business Facebook page, and then keep them engaged?
We dipped our toe in the waters of fan pages by going to folks who supposedly should know best: media companies.
LESSON 1: MAKE YOUR SITE ARTICLES EASY TO SHARE
The big benefit of a good Facebook fan-page is that the fans are the ones doing all the work in promoting your website. The easier it is for fans to find and share pages they find on your website, the easier it is for them to pass it along to their friends. After all it seems the most successful pages are the ones that have more opportunities to be discovered.
A good example of a publication that understands this is Fast Company. At the bottom of every article on their webpage they have a Facebook icon, and a “connect with Facebook” specific link. It is very easy for a reader to share an article that they have written or to become a fan. This is a lot better than the “share this” link found on other websites. Those only invite people who really want to share a page, rather than anyone who might casually click it. Or worse yet it might get missed altogether.
Another way to make things easier for the fan is to include a tiny url in the Facebook posting. This doubles the fans chances of clicking on the article, and possibly sharing it in the future. Given the short attention span of the average reader, the more opportunities you give them to find your articles, the more likely they are to make it to your fanpage.
LESSON 2: OPEN UP ACCESS TO YOUR FANS
As far as fan numbers go, The Economist is a hugely successful page. They have more fans than Time and Newsweek combined. Curious given that those two publications probably have a lot more national recognition. I believe the success comes from The Economist letting fans post to their wall.
At first glance, it appears fans are running the page. They comment on stories, link to others, and generally keep the page vibrant. This leads to nice fan interaction and often praise of the magazine. The Economist still posts news bulletins, just not as often, and they are easier to find through other links (i.e. articles tab) than some other publications.
This is a little bit of an iffy strategy in that you never know what people might say, and requires an investment in a moderator. One post reads “For all Singaporean fans of The Economist. I'm offering a subscription rate LOWEST in Singapore. Interested subscriber please email me.” Though they might get a few spammers, they also have more people posting to declare how much they enjoy the magazine. “I almost have enough American Airlines frequent flier miles to order another year's subscription. Need 3,200 for the year, and it's worth every mile!”
LESSON 3: ASK QUESTIONS OF YOUR FANS
A great way to get fans to interact with a page is to directly ask them questions. One thing that was consistent with all the fan pages I researched was that when a posting is phrased in the form of a question, it gets responses. When a posting is not worded to elicit viewers to respond, there are fewer responses.
The pages that practice this mostly have more fans than pages that do not. Time magazine understands this, and there is hardly a story posted on their fanpage where they do not ask for their fans opinion. Articles recently posted on air-line travel, college tuition, and the holiday shopping season lead off with questions such as: “Would you have paid the excess baggage fee?”, “How do you feel about tuition hikes?” and “Are you ready for the shopping season?”
By doing this, Time is getting people to ask, “How does this story affect me?” Not only does this attract a fans attention to an article, it also spreads the article further to all their friends if a fan decides to respond.
LESSON 4: CONTROL WHERE YOUR USER LANDS
The first thing a viewer sees when they enter a fanpage is key to that fan sticking around or leaving. If a fan comes to a page and finds a muddled wall, no interesting content to speak of, then they will quickly move on. However, if something jumps out at them then they typically will stay to find out more. A fanpage that does a good job of practicing this theory is Fox News. When first visiting their page, a new viewer will not see any articles or fan posts, instead they will be taken to the “Fun Stuff” portion of their page.
Most people who are fans of Fox news are probably fans of the anchors and various personalities on that channel. This “Fun Stuff” section is filled with information about those personalities and links to their own Facebook pages. If one is a fan of Bill O’Reilly say, then they are free to find out more about him, rather than read any of the days news. Most importantly, the first thing one sees when getting to this page is a “Don’t Forget To Fan Us” message.