Increase Facebook Fans: From “Fan-Gate” to Timeline
As we all know, social media has evolved A LOT in the last few years! Facebook especially has made many iterative changes that have affected the way companies and brands can effectively market themselves via their business page. Despite these changes, one fact remains the same - when it comes to Facebook, we as marketers are looking to drive likes and hopefully prompt these fans to engage with us on other channels as well. Although there is still debate on the value of social media marketing, there is no question that it certainly has become its own channel. And with that, brands have started pouring more resources into creating an engaging and meaningful social media presence. Maybe you have expanded your initial strategy a little bit over the past couple of years. But are you doing everything you can to maximize your fan growth? Step back and take a look at your efforts – are you missing any of the big wins?
Obviously, most brands have learned by now that they have to provide worthwhile content to engage their fans on Facebook. And that being the case, even though the content itself can be of value, it doesn’t stand out against other brands that are doing the same thing. So, to add something more to the “what’s in it for me” question is important. You need to give people a reason why they should like you. The same way that you need to effectively “sell the sign-up” for email permission, do the same with potential Facebook fans by giving them a compelling reason to click. The best example of doing this well is certainly the concept of the Facebook “fan-gate.” You’ve probably seen these while perusing the social media giant in your spare time – brands that give you something for hitting the like button. You don’t get that special something until you do. For most retailers, the best thing to offer is a freebie, coupon or other offer. Sticking to something that can also drive conversions is a win-win!
I have been a big proponent of implementing a fan-gate in order to drive likes. For clients that want to increase their Facebook following, I have suggested this technique, and so far I’ve seen nothing but success! Take Tahoe Mountain Sports for instance. Here is what their Facebook page looked like with the fan-gate in place, to someone who has not yet liked their brand:
This landing page draws attention to the like button and tells the potential fan that they’ll get 10% off their next order. Once the user clicks like, the page refreshes with their coupon code like this:
By giving fans something in return, they have driven “likes” organically via their Facebook page. But the real growth occurred when they coupled the fan-gate with a corresponding email campaign. David Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports, explains the success that they saw with this method:
“With the help of Bronto we implemented a fan-gate campaign on our Facebook page - it looked great and gave us a more professional and engaging feel. But, the revenue and number of fans REALLY increased when we coupled our new fan-gate page with an email campaign that invited our subscribers to check it out. Since many of them were not already our fans on Facebook, they immediately converted. That is when we really saw the best growth for number of fans on Facebook. So make sure to couple any Facebook fan-gating promotion with your email campaigns and watch it fly!"
By making this change, Tahoe Mountain Sports was growing fans at a rate of almost eight per day, exceeding what they had experienced in the past. And by using a unique coupon code, they were able to easily see the success of this campaign as a revenue-driver as well. Kudos to TMS for creatively executing this campaign!
However, the days of the fan-gate are now sadly behind us! As of March 30, 2012 all business pages have been converted to the new Timeline layout. With this change came the inability to control the tab that users land on, hence preventing you from being able to implement a fan-gate. Now that this method of driving likes is a thing of the past, marketers have to look at ways to utilize and optimize the new format effectively. Tahoe Mountain Sports was nimble enough to test out the new format before it launched. They optimized their Timeline and made it live before the required change on March 30th. Here's what they've done to make the most of their Timeline:
You can optimize your Timeline too! Here's a list of first steps when it comes to taking advantage of the new layout:
The most important new image to consider is the cover image (851 x 315). It needs to effectively communicate your branding, as well as connect with your fans. My first instinct was to use this area as a hero image of sorts, driving fans to a specific tab in order to get them to like you or sign-up for email in response to a specific offer. But Facebook doesn't want us to do that. In fact, they have placed some heavy restrictions on what you can do with this banner and hard-selling isn't on the table. Facebook states that you cannot place the following on your cover image:
No website URL, email or other contact information
No calls to action
No reference to Facebook functionality (you can't reference liking or sharing)
No offers, discounts or even pricing or purchase information
Carry these same ideas across to the other images featured on your Timeline. Optimize them all by making sure they are high quality and crisp, as well as the appropriate size.
- Use your profile picture (180 x 180) to brand your page with a great logo.
- Consider going back in time to add new milestones (843 x 403) that represent things important to your business. These are large images that will stand out when going through your Timeline so make the most of them!
- Create engaging app thumbnails (111 x 74) - more on this below.
- Maximize the images you post regularly - they will display as 404 x 404 pixels.
- You can always reference the official Timeline Cheat Sheet by Facebook.
Use the apps to your advantage - they're your new tabs!
- Create names that have calls to action and make sure you're using a compelling image as the icon.
- As long as it doesn't violate the Facebook guidelines, you may be able to include language on your cover image that directs fans to a specific app.
- You can also drive fans directly to these apps by linking to the direct url for that page to outside sources like your site or blog, as well as posting them periodically in your status updates.
As always, think outside the box and encourage discussion.
The most important thing to remember is that what your fans see the most of are your posts in their news feed. In that sense, Facebook really hasn't changed all that much. They connect with you because they want to interact with you. So, prompt conversations and post things that will be interesting and valuable to your audience. If you have a message that you want to feature prominently, you can pin it to the top of your Timeline (keep in mind that it will change within 7 days) but make sure to post regualrly and connect with fans. Now fans can even direct message you so there is opportunity to cultivate an even deeper communication, if you have the capacity to respond. Another opportunity for creating conversations is around the new interest lists function. You can create lists and fans can like these interests as well. Try adding them and starting discussions with your fans about them.
Even though things have changed, marketers will evolve to find the best way to maximize this real estate. There are still plenty of things that work, as well as new things to try. Hopefully we can be excited instead of daunted! SocialFresh has a great roundup of cool examples of how brands are optimizing their Timeline. So how do you feel about the new Timeline layout? What changes do you plan to make to your existing strategy? Let us know by commenting below!
Marketing Strategist at Bronto
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About the Author
As a Marketing Strategist at Bronto, Anna Pfeiffer brings 13 years of experience in Internet marketing and has worked with companies that range from brick-and-mortar locations to online hard goods sales, as well as digital goods and software-as-a-service providers. At Bronto, Anna creates innovative strategies for clients to assist in their email marketing initiatives and educate them on best practices with a strong focus on driving revenue.