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Get to Know Your Facebook Fans: Audience Growth and Engagement

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Previously, I shared some simple ways to find your first Facebook fans.

When you've got you're first few likes on your Facebook Page, you're ready to start getting to know your fans through Page updates, photos, videos and contests.

There are two main reasons for keeping your Facebook fans engaged:

  • People are more likely to hire freelancers they know well. Engaged fans, who know you and your work through Facebook, will look to your business when they need a helping hand.
  • The purpose of your Facebook Page is to spread the word about your business and pull in more prospects. Engaged fans will draw in their network to Like your Page, boosting the visibility of your business. It's word-of-mouth marketing, but online.

Why Finding Clients on Facebook is a Lot Like Dating

Getting someone to like your Facebook Page is only the first tiny step in your Facebook marketing.

Normally, there are a whole lot of steps between shaking hands with a person and making out.

Social media consultant John Haydon compares Facebook Pages to dating. According to Haydon, someone Liking your Page is the equivalent to first meeting them at a party, networking event or evening class. You say hi, shake hands, and learn their name.

At the other end of the Facebook marketing spectrum is a Facebook fan hiring you as a client. The dating equivalent is making out.

Normally, there are a whole lot of steps between shaking hands with a person and making out. You get to know the other person and find if you're a good match. You spend time flirting and holding hands. You go out on a date.

Likewise, you must get to know your Facebook fans before they'll be willing to hire you. Engaged fans comment on your updates and photos, tag your Page in their own updates, and visit your blog or website to find out more about you.

Facebook Posts: Your Engagement Toolbox

Facebook posts are your secret weapon for engaging your fans. Posts include any updates you share on your Facebook timeline, be they text updates, links, photos, or videos.

To engage effectively on Facebook, it's a good idea to create a publishing schedule for your Page. This needn't be as formal as it sounds. Simply, it's deciding what you want to share and when you're going to share it. For example, you may decide to share photos on Mondays and Fridays, text updates on Tuesdays and Saturdays, links on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and videos on Sundays.

One word of caution: Avoid the temptation to simply share on Facebook everything you post to Twitter. Here's why.

When to Post

Posting something every day is a simple and easy way to show up regularly in the Facebook timeline of your fans, encouraging them to engage with your Page. Because of this, it's best to share a post every day, including at weekends. If you have time, Facebook allows you to share as many posts each day as you want. I suggest a maximum of three posts a day. Any more than that, and you risk overwhelming your fans, or simply being ignored.

Not only does posting regularly boost engagement. It's also a subtle demonstration to clients that you're reliable and methodical. You're someone who shows up every day.

Daily posting needn't be as taxing as it sounds. With your publishing schedule in place, you can prepare most of your posts ahead of time, and schedule them using an app such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or (my personal favorite) Buffer App. Scheduling allows you to post during weekends and at other times when you're away from your desk.

As you schedule your posts, experiment with posting at different times of day to see when you get the most comments, likes and shares. Social media consultants who've researched this have found varying results. For example Dan Zarella's research concludes evenings are best, while this Infographic from Social Caffeine, drawing on various research sources, concludes afternoons are best. That's not to say time doesn't matter. Rather, the best times to post depend on your audience, and it's up to you to put in the legwork to find that out.

What to Post

Share a combination of what your fans are interested in and the things you care about (including your day-to-day life).

First, think about what your fans would find helpful. Many of your fans are potential clients, so consider why clients need your help. For example, a landscape gardener's clients need help keeping their garden in shape. A copywriter's clients want help with their marketing and communications. People go to a gym instructor for fitness training.

Asking questions is a great strategy for fostering engagement. It encourages participation, shows you’re open to feedback, and provides you with feedback.

This gives you a good idea of what to share. The landscape gardener could share gardening and horticultural tips. The copywriter could share links to the best and latest marketing advice. The gym instructor could share videos on keeping fit, or motivational quotes to help fans achieve their fitness goals.

To maintain a constant stream of inspiration for things you can share, subscribe to blogs and follow Twitter users in your niche. Twitter search is a useful tool for finding links to recent and relevant blog posts, articles and videos.

Freelancers whose clients are businesses rather than individuals can share news updates on their industry or niche, and ask fans for their views of the news.

If you're unsure of what your audience would like to know about, ask them. You can do this by posting questions in your updates, or with a Facebook poll.

When your Page is taking it's first baby steps, your questions might be met with silence. If this is the case, you can ask your Twitter followers or blog subscribers. Alternatively, look at thriving Pages of other freelancers in your niche, and take note of what they share with their fans.

Asking questions is a great strategy for fostering engagement. It encourages participation, shows you're open to feedback, and provides you with feedback. Closed questions (questions with a yes or no answer) work well on social media, as they allow your fans to share their opinion and engage without a big time investment.

In addition to sharing what your fans are interested in, look to yourself. Your fans want to get to know you, so decide how much you're willing to share of your life. You don't need to (and shouldn't) share everything. Boundaries are healthy! For example, you might decide never to share a client's success story without a clients permission. Or you might decide to share stories about your pets, but not your children.

Showing what you care about, and giving glimpses into your personal and professional life helps your fans to relate to you.

Always be positive in your sharing. Your fans don't want to hear you moaning about your life. That's not to say you can't make yourself vulnerable by sharing your mistakes and fears. But show what you learned from your mistakes, or at least share them with a sense of humor.

Also consider your writing voice - whether sassy or serious, funny or foppish. Approachable, open and personable always works well on social media. Your voice and style can be one of the main reasons people will choose to engage. Don't fret over this, or hold yourself back from posting updates because you're thinking about your voice. Just bear it in mind. Your voice will develop and mature the more posts you write.

Before sharing any personal updates, ask yourself "how is this relevant to my audience?" If that's difficult to answer, hold the update back.

Model Success

Knowing what's worked for others is a great place to start in finding what works for you. Here are some top tips:

  • Text updates, without a link, are the most likely to attract comments from fans.
  • Photos are great for boosting the visibility of your business and pulling in more fans. Research by Dan Zarella of HubSpot found Photos are nearly twice as likely to be "Liked" by your fans compared to text updates, and over six times more likely to be shared compared to links or text updates.
  • Zarella's research found links are the least engaging type of update.
  • Getting behind a relevant cause or campaign, and encouraging your fans to back the campaign, helps create a sense of community and deepens engagement.
  • A series of posts with an interlinking theme ensures fans keep checking your Page for the latest updates.
  • Include a call to action in some of your posts. Ask your fans to click like, comment or share the post. This sounds obvious, but few people do it, and it works to boost engagement.
  • Set aside a few minutes each day to respond to comments on your Posts. When fans know you listen and respond, they're more likely to engage. You're also deepening the conversation, and fostering more engagement.

Most of all, remember that social media is an experiment. We're all still finding out what works best. Play around with different posts and updates, and you'll discover what most engages your fans and grows your fan base.

I'm curious to know: Freelancers who already use Facebook, what have you found are the most successful ways of engaging your fans?

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