Friday, January 24, 2014

Growing Your Facebook Community

Biannual Blogathon BashI know I don't usually write about blogging here, but I'm taking part in the Winter 2014 edition of the Biannual Blogathon Bash this weekend, and I volunteered to host a mini-challenge for participants. Fun, right? Anyone is welcome to take part in the mini-challenges, but only registered Blogathon participants are eligible for prizes. Yes, you heard right! There are prizes to be won as well. If you are a blogger and want to join in, head on over to the Blogathon website to sign up! The event takes place from January 24-26, with a goal of spending 24 hours on blog-related tasks. Wish me luck!

One of my plans for this winter is to spend more time on my Facebook community, with a goal to increase my fans and conversations, so I thought I'd share some tips that might help you as well. There are two pieces to the puzzle - introducing your page to a new audience and then keeping them interested so they want to stick around.

First, people need to know your page is there.

  • An obvious place to start is with those readers who already read your blog or follow you on other social media. Be sure that these current readers know about your blog's Facebook page and that they can easily access it to add their "like." You can add a link or button on your blog's sidebar, or drive traffic to Facebook through posts on other media. Talk it up! Invite people directly. Include your page url in your email signature. The people who are already engaging with you in other areas are likely to enjoy the connection on this platform as well.
  • If you run giveaways on your blog, you can include "like my Facebook page" as an optional (not mandatory) entry. This can increase your numbers quickly, but you may see a decrease again once the giveaway period is over, as these fans weren't necessarily coming for your content, but just to get another virtual ballot in the draw.
  • A great way to get your page in front of new people is to visit and comment on other, relevant Facebook pages. Just be sure you are acting as your page and not your personal profile. To make the switch, just click on the little cog in the upper right corner of your home page and choose "Use Facebook as {your page name}." I have been setting aside a half hour each day this week to engage with other pages in this way.
  • You can of course also pay to promote your page through Facebook. Facebook allows you to promote individual posts or your page through targeted ads. You will find the "Promote Page" button at the top of your page's sidebar and can choose various demographics for your target audience (women, men, age, country, interests) plus set a budget and time frame for your ad to run. This week I set an $11 budget for a 24 hour period, to test it out. My ad reached 748 people and brought me 15 new likes. So, not sure if I love the payback on that.

Staying Power
Once you have the new eyes on your page, what are you offering them? Is your content engaging, entertaining, informative, fun? At the end of the day, quality content is what will keep your readers coming back, and should be why we're doing this in the first place. And if you are providing quality content, they will want to engage with you, and hopefully share your posts with their friends. Those friends could become your newest fans, and that word of mouth sharing is the best form of advertising out there.

  • How often should you post? To some extent that depends on your audience and your focus, but you do need to keep content fresh. You're already posting every day, right? Try spacing out 2 to 4 posts over the course of a day. Give readers a reason to check back. But if you have nothing to post, don't push it. Always go for quality over quantity.
  • Start conversations. Ask questions. Crowdsource solutions. What should I make with this chicken tonight? Maybe there's something in the news that is relevant to your audience's interests. Start a discussion around that. A question or call for input generally gets better conversation going than a statement.
  • Share posts, videos, news articles, cartoons, etc., that captured your attention and that you believe will interest your readers. Again, the goal is to remain relevant and to foster conversation, while providing value to your readers. Shareable content is also great for increasing exposure.
  • Engage! When your readers comment on a post, be sure to reply. It's only polite, seeing as they took the time to leave a note. Plus, the conversations are why we're in this, right? I can imagine that individual replies to every commenter would be too much on really widely-read pages, but at the building stage this is do-able and desirable.
A final note - Facebook has made some recent changes in their algorithm that will mean fewer text updates from pages will show in people's newsfeeds. Instead text updates from personal profiles will be emphasized. Since I generally start at my newsfeed and read from there, I am expecting to be missing a lot of updates from my favourite pages. One way pages can increase their chances of getting into newsfeeds is by posting updates with images or other media, rather than just text. You don't want to drop out of newsfeeds as these are a key point to get your readers coming back to visit.

The Mini-Challenge

For this mini-challenge I'm asking you to make a plan. Look at your current page likes and then set a goal. What number do you want to be at on February 28? What is a realistic increase? What steps will you take to reach that goal? How much time will you commit to those steps on a daily or weekly basis? Then, take some time this weekend and try out one (or more) of the tips I've included here, as a start.

Leave a comment on this post, outlining your goal. What number are you working towards and how do you plan to get there? Let me know what you did this weekend to get started. (Did you spend a half hour commenting as your page? Did you post something that grabbed attention and got shared?  How many updates did you post, and did you see a difference in your engagement levels?)

And please feel free to share the link to your Facebook page in your comment so that my regular readers and other Blogathon participants can visit you and maybe give you a like as well if they enjoy what they see! I love new finds :) 

Good luck and have fun! And, for the record, I'm aiming to be a great Facebook engager and reach 4100 likes by the end of February.We'll see!

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