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5 Ways I’m Using Facebook to Drive Traffic, Build Brand and Increase Reader Engagement

I was always a doubter when it came to using Facebook to promote a blog. I’m not sure why – but despite my best efforts I couldn’t seem to get Facebook to ‘work’ as well as I could with Twitter when it came to engaging readers, driving traffic and building community.

However in the last few months things have changed – Facebook has become HOT for me, at on my photography blog.

I’m pretty sure it’s more about how I’m using Facebook than any particular change at Facebook but I’ve started to see it become a lot more useful in a few ways including driving traffic (see chart below), increasing reader engagement and building brand. Here’s the traffic from facebook over the last 13 months (click to enlarge):

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There were always a few days of spiked traffic (usually when we did a post that went a little viral) but the last 6 or so weeks we’ve seen a nice up swing in traffic).

All the action happens on the Digital Photography School Facebook page where the bulk of what happens is simply us pulling in new posts from the blog as status updates using the ‘Networked Blogs’ application – however in the last few months we’ve also started to try a little more reader engagement. Here’s what’s worked:

1. We Ask Questions

The best thing that we do (and I have my forum administrator help with dPS facebook page so it literally is a ‘we’) is simply asking questions of those who ‘like’ us on Facebook. Every day or two we pose a simple question that asks readers either for

  • their opinion on some aspect of photography
  • to share an experience that they’ve had
  • to tell us something about the photography gear that they use
  • to do something fun

These simple questions go crazy. Some examples include:

Interestingly when we ask the same questions on Twitter (where we have 1000 more followers than we have ‘likes’ on Facebook) we only get 10 or so answers to our questions where on Facebook we get hundreds (we’ve had as many as 700). The fact that Facebook allows our followers to see each others responses and that it’s less fleeting than Twitter is an advantage for this type of thing.

2. Promoted ‘Hot Facebook Status Updates”

When we have one of these question status updates/discussion going on Facebook we try to get more traffic to it from other sources. This largely happens in two ways:

  • Weekly Newsletter – in our weekly email newsletter we’ve been linking to one facebook discussion a week as a ‘hot on facebook’ link.
  • Twitter – because the ‘conversational aspect of facebook’ is so great I’ve started to tweet when there’s a good discussion going. It might seem odd to promote one social media account on another but it’s led to significant increases in interaction.

The benefit of highlighting what’s going on on our Facebook page has been two fold – firstly it boosts the numbers of responses to the questions we ask significantly.

Secondly it’s led to a big increase in the number of people who ‘like’ our pages. We’ve gone from several thousand connections on our facebook page to over 27,000 in a couple of months.

3. Reader Involvement in Shaping the Site

Every Friday morning as I’m scheduling posts on the blog for the weekend I ask the same question on Facebook. The question asks readers to suggest a theme for our weekend photography challenge (something we run each week on the blog where we name a theme and everyone goes away and takes a picture to come back and share relating to the theme).

We get a lot of great suggestions in this weekly thread of conversation and the added bonus is that it builds a little anticipation for the challenge itself.

Another thing I did last week was create a survey for our facebook friends that asked them some questions about the content that they’d like to see on dPS. Over 600 people took the survey from facebook giving us some amazing insights into topics for future posts.

4. Promotions

We recently launched a Travel Photography eBook on dPS and saw some really positive response from our promotional efforts on Facebook. I’ve never seen much success with ‘selling’ on Facebook before but this time around we built some pre-launch buzz on the facebook page and released it to our facebook community before anyone else.

Our best conversions did come from email promotion but Facebook was probably our 2nd most effective place of promotion this time around. We did some status updates about it but also sent direct messages to all of those who have ‘liked’ our page.

5. Landing Page

This is very new – but I’ve recently added a ‘welcome’ landing tab for those arriving on our page who have not been there before and ‘liked’ it (I’ve also added it to the ProBlogger Facebook Page).

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The idea here is to create a tab (using the FBML application) which is a customized greeting page for new people to your page. The page directs people to the ‘like’ button and sells benefits of making the connection. Next time they arrive on the page they are taken to the ‘wall’ tab and don’t see the welcome (Facebook allow you to set this up in the ‘page’ settings.

It’s too soon to tell what impact it is having but in talking to a few other web publishers this has seen significant increases in connections.

I’ve also seen others add other things in such a page including welcome videos, email newsletter subscription forms and other things that help them achieve some kind of ‘conversion’. The FBML application lets you add pretty much any html to the tab. I’ve so far just used an image file but hope to convert it to live html with links in it in the coming weeks.

Update: due to many people asking for more information on how I created my landing pages – I’ve just written an update of this post looking at how to create a facebook landing page for your blog.

What are You Doing that is Working on Facebook?

I feel like I’m still finding my way with the use of Facebook and am still experimenting with different aspects of it. We have a ‘tab’ for our eBooks which I’m not sure is overly effective, I want to find a way to get our readers sharing photos better and I’m sure I could be promoting our newsletter better – but it’s one of those things where I find experimenting with one thing at a time is best.

What are you doing with facebook that is working (or that isn’t)?

PS: I’m pretty sure that facebook is not a site that will work for every topic. For example on the ProBlogger facebook page we’ve not seen the same sorts of results – for ProBlogger Twitter seems better. I’ve heard from a few other bloggers mixed results including some amazing stories of increases in traffic.

Also worth noting is that earlier this year I made a significant change in the way that I used Facebook when I defriended around 4800 friends and made my personal facebook profile purely for personal friends and family and concentrated all of my facebook efforts on creating ‘fan pages’/'pages’ for each of my blogs. This was the best thing I’ve done on facebook and released me to develop the pages and use my personal account to build friendships and connections with real life friends.

Update: I’ve just written an update of this post looking at how to create a facebook landing page for your blog.