5 Things That Don't Work on Facebook Pages (and 5 That Do)

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

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise

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