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I was moderating a small panel at a conference about two and a half years ago that focused on Facebook fans. The two panelists represented the two different sides of Facebook promotion at the time: one focused on local quality fans and the other focused on bulk fans. After the debate, one might have called it a draw. That was over two years ago. Today, there’s really only one side that deserves any representation at all. Local businesses should focus solely on getting local fans, period. To get a broad reach of fans outside of the market area as a local business can do more harm than good.
Only one side of the argument “deserves’ to be mentioned today, but unfortunately that’s not the case. There are still plenty of companies out there that try to use contests or other incentives to coax people to like their pages. Some even purchase fans. Both methods are antiquated.
To the right, you’ll see a standard demographic breakdown from a Facebook page we recently took over. They had been growing their fan base through contests for some time. Despite the fact that the drawing for a free iPad required that the winner had to come to the car dealership to pick it up, there were still hundreds of entries in the form of likes on the page that came from outside of the area, even outside of the country. I know that iPads are great and all but nobody’s going to hop on a plane to get the iPad they won.
Fan growth can and should be organic and transparent. We’ve had extreme success with stating the absolute truth. In one example, we took over a car dealership Facebook page in Honolulu that had 26 total fans. Three months later, they have over a thousand and their demographic composite is exactly what we want it to be:
Other than the four people in Cincinnati dreaming of living in Hawaii, the likes we’ve built have been completely localized. The goal should be that every person who follows you on Facebook should be within driving distance of becoming a customer. Some would argue that you can expand your reach beyond the immediate local area, but in the vast majority of America, keeping it hyper-local is the way to go. It isn’t just about focus, either. It’s about exposure. Your brand needs to be seen by as many locals as possible and the easiest way to do this is to make sure that only locals are following you.
Here’s the thing. People will follow businesses. It has been proven time and time again that people are willing to follow businesses if they give them a valid reason to do so. A contest is not a valid reason. Getting the latest funny cat pictures is not a valid reason. The latest Facebook game is not a valid reason.
The valid reason that you’re looking for is all around you. You’re the expert in your field. People come to you and trust that you know what you’re talking about when it pertains to your business. If you’re a car dealer, you know cars. Period. Your content should reflect a deep understanding of the automotive industry, your brands, the local area, and your customers.
Present it just like that. There’s no need to promise that you’re going to be interesting. Promise tangible things that pertain to your business. For example, you can advertise that your Facebook page is “The home of the most important Chevrolet news, pictures, and videos that pertain to you, Honolulu.”
It works. We know. We’ve seen it in action.
When people like your page because they think they can win something, play a game, or perform any action that has nothing to do with your business, they will not be engaged. If they’re not engaged, they’re wasted fans. Having fans that are not engaged kills your EdgeRank and makes your actual business-relevant messages and branding invisible to your audience. I cannot stress this enough. In the future, I’ll compile a blog post that proves beyond a doubt that this is true, but for now, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.
This is arguably the hardest thing to do on Facebook when a page has been algorithmically damaged by poor strategies. Getting the algorithm to like you again takes time, but it can happen. It’s a healing process.
In the example above, it’s clear to see where the engagement is happening. By keeping the page completely local, we’re able to more easily target the dealership’s message towards those who can come buy a car, get their oil changed, or interact in some way with the dealership.
This isn’t a large dealership. It’s not a large Facebook page. In fact, it has around 700 fans. Thankfully, those 700 fans are engaged and we’re able to reach the local audience with their message much more easily than if they had fans spread out across the country or around the world. That’s the key to all of this. By keeping it local, you can reach the people that matter. Unless you’re Dell or Skittles, chances are that you aren’t going for a global audience. Make sure your Facebook page reflects this concept.