This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.
Facebook Fan pages are swiftly becoming a standard extension to blogs’ brands and messages. This is a highly effective form of engaging with your target market and building a community around your brand.
If you focus on making your Fan page your homepage for the social web, you can create a page that serves as your mini-hub. Then use it as your platform to connect on a deeper level.
Today’s currency is engagement
People like to socialize with, and ultimately do business with, people they like and trust. So it’s very important that you’re actively engaging with your followers and they are engaging with you—hence the word “social”. That’s how you build strong and rewarding relationships.
From personal experience, by building an engaged and interactive community through our own travel blog’s fan page, our community member numbers grow every day. And although ours may not have as many fans as some other Fan pages, it does have a great deal more engagement, which is not only important to us, but important to Facebook.
Facebook rewards you for building relationships. The degree to which you engage with your fans, and how much they interact with you, determines whether your status updates show in your fans’ news feeds.
Strive for social success first, not marketing success
There are five critical errors most people make when they start using social media for business.
The secret to our success has been very simple. We made the intention for our Fan page to build an engaged community and start conversations. We wanted to create a place where those within our travel community can meet for some socializing and fun, not just get travel tips and information. Our intention is not to use our Fan page purely as a marketing tool.
Although we know it’s a highly effective tool, we do not build our fan page community based on this. If your intention is just to use your page as a tool to promote your products, that will clearly come through, and your success with Facebook will be limited.
Think of those who are most successful in your niche. I bet most of them began blogging by building their brand and a community first, and any monetization came later. First, build a passionate community based around social interaction and sharing. Any monetary rewards will come naturally later on.
Make your Fan page a party
We approach our Fan page strategy as if we were hosting guests at a party. For us to remove all thoughts of the page being a marketing tool, we had to think of it as the type of place we’d like to hang out. So our intention was to make our fan page more like a party. We love to socialize, and have never been shy in hosting parties in real life in any of the countries we’ve lived in. After all, isn’t that what the “social” part of social media is all about?
We invite and welcome
First of all, we invite and we welcome visitors. No one will come to your party if you don’t first invite them. We have clear invitations set up on our blog and all our other online platforms. And when our new guests arrive, we warmly welcome them in. We tag and give a shout out by video to every 100th guest. And we also have a “Fan of the Month,” which is the person who has contributed the most to the community in that time.
We interact and respond
This is our biggest recommendation for keeping social media “social.” How long would your party last if you didn’t talk to your guests? Or worse still, if they spoke to you and you ignored them? We do not ignore our guests. We respond to every comment left on our Fan page. Yes, it takes work, but we value our community members and suggest you value yours. Fostering a community involves a strong leader who supports, encourages, recognizes, and inspires.
Managing fan comments has become much easier since we started using a great free app called Hyper Alerts.
We ask questions and share
To be interesting, you must be interested. The best way to get to know new people is to ask questions. Remember, people like to talk about themselves, so let them. Don’t make the conversation all about you, what you’re doing, and your opinion.
Ask questions as a way to get your fans to share, to stimulate conversation, and to give advice. A lot of people won’t open up initially if they don’t feel like someone wants to listen or will respond. Be the listener and when your guests do answer the question and share, be the responder. Continue to ask questions throughout the conversation to encourage a more in-depth discussion.
At least once a month, we have a status update that runs something like this:
“Go ahead and introduce yourself:
- Where are you from?
- Where are you currently?
- What is your favorite travel destination?
- Can we help you with anything?”
This gets people to open up and feel welcomed. Sharing helps others to make new connections and form bonds. Simply through this particular update, community members become aware of others’ geographical locations and special interests, and can connect more directly. Sharing also shows that you are interested in and care about your fans. We also make an effort to share other people’s articles, videos, and blog sites through our Fan page.
Every Friday we have “Post Your URL Day,” when we encourage other travel bloggers to post their URLs and a three-line description under their status updates. From the URLs posted, we randomly choose a winner to do a featured interview on.
We say it with photos
Pictures really do tell a thousand words. Being in the travel industry, we find there’s no better way to inspire others and stir emotion than through travel photos. So we post a daily travel photo of a destination we have personally visited.
We also post random photos from our day-to-day lives. That way, our community members get a behind-the-scenes look into our life that creates a deeper connection.
People love to look at others’ personal photos, and Facebook is great for that. And did you know that using photos to stand out in the Facebook news feed carries more weight than text updates when it comes to your Facebook EdgeRank Score?
We play games
Everybody loves a good game—especially if they’re at a party and there are a few beers involved! There won’t be beers at your Fan page party, but you can still have a good time. We run a “Where in the World” game, where we upload a travel photo from somewhere in the world, and our fans have to guess the location. This stirs interaction and creates a fun vibe.
We also have “Happy Hour” once a week, where we encourage our fans to post a link to their favorite blog, website, or resource on the Web. Take some time to think of games you can play on your Fan page that relate to your niche and encourage participation.
We run competitions
Once you have enough fans engaged and interacting at your party, consider introducing competitions with prizes to let them know you appreciate them. We run photo contests every second month with a different photo theme which relates in some way to our prize. Last month’s prize was a backpack sponsored by Kelty, and the photo theme was National Parks. Fans get to vote on the best photo, and the top five are then sent to the sponsoring company, which selects the ultimate winner. Competitions like this are a win-win for you and your sponsor, who gets exposure to a new audience.
New ideas for a fantastic fan page party
Keep thinking of new ways to make your Fan page—and party—better. Don’t initially approach Facebook asking, “How am I going to use this as a monetization tool?” Instead, ask “How am I going to make this the fun place to hang out?” That’s the way to create an engaged community.
Don’t just create a Fan page, create an experience. Get this right, and the rest will naturally follow.
How much of a community are you building around your brand on Facebook?
Caz Makepeace has been travelling and living around the world since 1997. Along with her husband Craig they are the founders of y Travel Blog. You can visit her Facebook Fan Page or sign up for herRSS Feed.