This week, I want to discuss why people become fans of Facebook Pages in the first place. I’ll follow that with some thoughts on what doesn’t really work on Pages. After that, I’ll list some things that I believe do work.

Should you have a Facebook Page? Before integrating Facebook Pages (sometimes called “Facebook Fan Pages”) into your social media marketing mix, you need to think strategically. Georgina provided a basic overview of the need for strategy in “Businesses and the Social Media Trap,” and I ranted about the problem of not understanding strategy in the first place in “It’s the Social Media Strategy Struggle.”

This week, I want to discuss why people become fans of Facebook Pages in the first place. I’ll follow that with some thoughts on what doesn’t really work on Pages. After that, I’ll list some things that I believe do work, based on personal and professional experience, industry news and anecdotal information.

I am surprised by the number of Facebook Pages that are popping up marketing what I would consider to be pretty “unmarketable” things for a Facebook audience. Let’s face it: Not everything should be marketed using every new cool tool on the block. Facebook Pages have specific features and functionality that may not always suit all the things you’d like to market. Facebook fans also have certain expectations in terms of how, when and why they interact on a Facebook Page.

Some Reasons People Become Fans of Facebook Pages

Reason Interactions on Page
Benefits to You
1. They genuinely like or are interested in the object of the Page (company, nonprofit, cause, campaign, product, brand, etc.) High Many, including branding, customer service, relationship building, attracting attention, growing customer base.
2. They are doing it because someone they know did it. Moderate to Low Not much, unless the person they are following to your Page is engaged – they may “jump on the bandwagon” and become a truly engaged fan.
3. They are doing it because someone they know asked them to do it as a favor. Moderate to Low Not much, unless they are engaging at the behest of the person they know as a favor to the person they know and this mostly will just create some activity on your Page that others can see when they arrive.
4. Because it is easy to do (just click to become a fan) and then ignore. Low to None Very little benefit after the initial automatic broadcast to the person’s friends on Facebook that they’ve become a fan of your page.
5. They are using the action of becoming a fan more like a “bookmark” for possible future reference. Low to None Very little benefit after the initial automatic broadcast to the person’s friends on Facebook that they’ve become a fan of your page.
6. They want to keep up with a competitor or have a business reason to pay attention. Low to None Very little benefit after the initial automatic broadcast to the person’s friends on Facebook that they’ve become a fan of your page.

I would venture to guess that many people are probably “fanning” your Page for the wrong reasons.

What Doesn’t Work on Facebook Fan Pages

Here are some thoughts on what falls short for Facebook Pages.

  1. “Non-Fannable” Stuff. I know this is a vague statement, but I’m not sure how else to label the stuff that you might want to market but people wouldn’t want to be a “fan” of. A nonprofit or an important social cause is “fannable.” A television ad campaign for a cause (as opposed to the cause itself) is less fannable. Something boring? Less fannable. Something overtly commercial without value to the community? Less fannable still. 
  2. Automating. Facebook isn’t like Twitter where the rhythm and flow is such that you can get away with a more automated presence. Facebook is more about conversation, whereas Twitter can skip along with automated and scheduled posts in between actual interactions. People expect you to be there on your Facebook Page — maybe not all the time, but in an attentive manner.
  3. Applications. Facebook Applications that integrate into Fan Pages or that you program yourself using FBML don’t always work and set your page up for failure. Don’t push the tech envelope unless you are ready to lick the tech envelope.
  4. Formulaic responses. You need to loosen up and “get real.” If you are working off a script, you will fail. Facebook Pages may be a useful tool in your customer service and customer relationship toolkit, but they are about as intimate as you can get with a customer/potential customer without sitting in their living room.
  5. Trying to control. Let’s face it. Social media is not about you being in control anymore. The customer is in the driver’s seat. You are along for the ride, but fortunately can give some directions or guidance in appropriate ways. Sure you can delete things from your Facebook Page, but in the world of social media, that is an attack on transparency (not to mention freedom of expression and spirit of online community). Someone says something negative about you on your Page? Look at it as an opportunity to right a wrong or to give your side of the story with unrestrained candor. Learn from the Nestle fiasco.

What Works on Facebook Fan Pages

On the flip side, here are five things that do work on Facebook Pages:

  1. Proper usage. When you use Facebook Pages for what they were intended to be used for, they work well. At the top level, they were created for entities or individuals with a commercial or non-personal communications “agenda.”
  2. Being present. Automation may feed content and may trigger brief bursts of interaction, but really having humans there checking in on your Page on a regular basis and being empowered to respond in a timely and transparent manner is priceless.
  3. Tech support. If you build it, you better support it. If you add applications to it, you sure as heck better support it, because adding things to Facebook Pages to enhance them is a great idea on so many levels, except when those enhancements prove to be unstable. Things might break. You must be on call to address the issues.
  4. Being real. It isn’t necessarily about “you” being real, as in the person behind the Page — although that doesn’t hurt. It could be “you” as in the “voice of the brand.” But whoever it is, be human, have good manners, smile.
  5. Leading or guiding. Think of yourself as a party host, versus being the dictator of a small country. You can lead by example, suggest, cajole, provide resources and support, redirect, but you should not be heavy-handed in your approach on Facebook. At best, people will leave. At worst, they will make your Facebook Page hellish and unmanageable. In a way, the looser your grip on control, the more fluid, flowing and effective your interactions will be on your Facebook Page.

Facebook is a powerful communications and marketing tool when used well. Use it badly, and it will kick you in the teeth.

How are you using Facebook Pages and what good — and bad — practices are you seeing on the Pages you’ve encountered?

Photo by stock.xchng image by dafeba

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  1. Thanks for the article! I’ve just created a fan page for my business, basically because I’m told it’s a “must” if I’m to market on social media, but I’m still not that sure what to do with it. I’ve joined a number of them myself, but for all those “wrong” reasons you listed in your article. I’ve yet to see a fan page that truly interests me or that I’m motivated to visit regularly, if ever. Can you give some examples of some excellent fan pages I could visit and check out or specific characteristics a fan page needs to build an active community?



    1. Excellent is a loaded word. My own company manages some Facebook Pages for clients & we are really IN THERE having conversations with fans who are very passionate and active. But are they excellent pages? We’re still learning.

      There are also lots of excellently DESIGNED pages like Coca Cola and Dove and The Gap – I blogged about some back in Sept 09 here:


      After about 5000 fans, there is a momentum that takes over but under that number, you just have to be there. If you want examples of my client sites to see interactions – one is a particular standout because our team member who manages it IS EXCELLENT – let me know on Twitter @alizasherman

      1. Aliza, just checked out your post above and read a few more on your blog. Wow, you really know your stuff. What a great resource to share with our peeps. BTW: Just followed you on Twitter (@KimCastle). Look forward to continuing the connection.

  2. Thanks for the article. I am getting ready to launch a new business for IT services and we are discussing the use of Social Media. Your post brings up key points as to the use of Facebook – thank you.

  3. one of the best post i have come across on FB fan. Very useful to understand the motivations and correlating them with fan “LTV”

  4. 5 Things That Don’t Work on Facebook Pages (and 5 That Do) « Yasoob Ahmed | The Blog Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    [...] Via Web Worker Daily [...]

  5. 5 Things That Don’t Work on Facebook Pages (and 5 That Do) | Yasoob Ahmed Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    [...] Via Web Worker Daily [...]

  6. Good suggestions. I am not shocked that many folks just dive into Facebook and other social media without a plan or understanding how it might help them.

    Your “be real” suggestion is essential–building relationships is critical and without genuine posts and comments the host is certain to fail.

  7. Very interesting article, thank you.

    I feel like Facebook Fan Pages are going to become more and more significant (especially now facebook has overtaken google). I’ve been thinking about why people join facebook groups/pages (albeit not as analytically, and from a user’s perspective) in my blog post: http://blog.gradfutures.com/the-gradfutures-blog/2010/3/22/why-join-facebook-groups.html

    I’ve also been making lots of changes to my facebook fan page, thinking about all the factors that many SEO commentators have been commenting on. Would be interested to know your opinion (if you have the time):http://www.facebook.com/GradFutures

    1. Looking forward to reading your take on Groups. I recently did a podcast about Groups vs. Pages on Facebook:


  8. This is a great resource. i am working on a media plan for a friends new company and these are great tips!

  9. dressingmyself Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    My daugher set up a Facebook Group for my website when the site was brand new.
    The Group did get a good number of viewers onto the site, but most of the so-called fans were ‘one hit’ guests.
    On the plus side, a few loyal viewers first found the website via Facebook.
    On balance, I think it was good initial publicity, but in order to grow viewers to the website we have had to pursue other methods and media.
    Your analysis is very interesting and has helped me to understand why the Facebook Group has failed to sustain interest.

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