5 Ways to Leverage Facebook in 2011

If Mark Zuckerburg being named TIME’s Person of the Year in 2010 isn’t enough evidence that Facebook is the hottest thing in social media right now, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past year or so.

Seemingly overnight, Facebook has become the most popular social network. And for digital marketers and business/website owners, its real power is that it’s personal.

This means that you have a direct line into people’s lives: your product or service shows up next to photos of their family and their friends’ last vacation. And unlike most traditional advertising (think television commercials, bulletin boards or online banner ads), people have actually invited you into their digital space.

So what does all this mean? Simple: your Facebook presence is going to be even more important in 2011.

To help you get off on the right foot, here are 5 quick tips for making the most of Facebook’s potential.

1. Design a Facebook Welcome Page

Welcome pages show up as the default tab on your Facebook page when non-Fans visit.

This is the perfect place to pitch users to convert them from casual visitor to a Fan. Use the space to promote the kind of things you post on Facebook and remind users how to “like” your page. It’s also a great place to put any current discounts or specials.

Check out this article for some examples of what other companies have done with welcome tabs.

2. Create Exclusive Content

Your customers/fans have the option to keep up with your brand a half dozen different ways: by visiting your website, subscribing to your RSS feed, following you on Twitter, or liking you on Facebook.

The benefit of having so many channels for information distribution is that you’re able to reach the person who loves Twitter, but hates Facebook or the person who reads RSS feeds, but doesn’t use any social networks. These are the users who are religious about how they choose to consume information.

But what about those users who are channel agnostic? What’s the point of following you everywhere if there’s no difference in what you share in each space?

Exactly. There isn’t one.

So, if you want to build the numbers on all your social networks, foster a sense of exclusivity in each of your channels by spreading your content between them.

Create stand-alone value for each of your channels and then cross-promote them like crazy. Remember – they each have different strengths and weaknesses; use those to help guide your decisions.

3. Run Contests

Contests are a great way to boost followers and user engagement (at least temporarily); which is why they’re so popular.

An effective Facebook contest could be as simple as a giving away a discount to your store for a random commenter on a post. Or, you can get more complex and explore the options with integrated Facebook contesting providers.

Whichever route you take, contesting can be an effective way to generate word of mouth and positive buzz and activity on your Facebook page.

4. Decide Against Auto-Posting

In the world of the connected web and APIs, there’s dozens of ways to automatically update your social networks with the news you post to your website. But automation is the anti-thesis of personalization and connection.

The minute you decide to automate your postings, users will catch on to you and the inherent value of your interaction with your fan base will decrease. The relationship becomes hollow.

5. Have a Conversation

Engagement is the holy grail of digital marketing. Getting real interaction from people means that they haven’t just heard your message, they’ve bought-in and are passionate enough (whether that manifests itself as love or hatred doesn’t really matter) to step up and participate.

And Facebook, by its very nature, is ideal for engagement. But nobody wants to engage with a pushy sales guy (except maybe to close the door in his face). Don’t use every post to sell your services or your brand. Use your posting power to help foster that sense of community and encourage participation.

If you’re a band, ask users to share their favorite memories of your last concert. If you sell farm fresh vegetables, create a post to collect creative recipes from fans (and then re-post favorites to your blog, later on).

So there you have it…

… Five ways to make the most of Facebook in the new year. If you haven’t started planning your 2011 social media strategy yet, now’s a great time to do it. And if you need help, give us a call.