With Friends Like These…

Do you remember those lectures that your parents gave you that always seemed to run along the lines of ‘When I was your age, I walked to school and back … for miles and miles … and in the snow’? Those anecdotes stressed working harder or not taking the quick and easy way out. When it comes to social media, shortcuts are not always the best way – and sometimes, you just need to ‘walk for miles and miles, and in the snow.’

As social media marketing continues to grow, so too does the world of shortcuts and scams for hire. Advertisements that offer the promise of ‘5,000 Facebook likes for just $200!’ are becoming more and more prevalent in Internet searches and news feeds.

It seems like a good deal right? Spend some money, get some fans and grow your brand with no effort except for entering your credit card data. But with Facebook's Edgerank algorithm, that is not how it works.
In March, Facebook acknowledged that, on average, only 16% of fans to a particular brand's page will see any given post on the site. And if you're wondering how to ensure placement in that 16% range, you're out of luck – there is currently no way for brands on Facebook to check their Edgerank position or score.

If you are trying to use Facebook to increase your brand awareness or expand your business, quality trumps quantity in the long run. There's no question that buying more ‘likes’ on Facebook will physically swell your fan base, but it does not guarantee that those fans will engage, interact or value your brand and product – which, of course, is the whole point of social media.

Simply put, if you pay people to be your friends, they are much less likely to be interested in you, and there's no point to increasing empty numbers and promoting to people who don't really care.

So how do you build a following without paying? The short answer is hard work, creativity and time. (Caveat: You can pay a marketing firm to do this work on your behalf, and that's perfectly legitimate – that's merely hiring someone to help you execute the hard work, much like hiring employees, and is not the same as the ‘get 5,000 Facebook fans for $200’ scams we're talking about here). If you are serious about marketing on Facebook, you must keep in mind these key factors: fan engagement, interaction and value.

Nobody likes to see a bland fan page, with nothing but a cover photo, profile picture and endless text. Engaging fans is a must when marketing on Facebook. By incorporating interesting visual content, such as a photo slideshow or a line-up of videos, you can boost viewer engagement. Doing this will make your page more ‘fan friendly’ and drive the visibility of your page up, allowing more people to see what you are saying.
Also, there is nothing more boring than a fan page that just sits dormant for days, only to be updated with a single post. Fan interaction is vital to keep people interested in your brand and product.

Facebook marketing should be about constantly interacting with fans, replying to posts, commenting and doing things such as hosting contests or brand-related sweepstakes in order to create buzz and excitement for your page. These things help make fans want to come back to your page for updates and announcements surrounding your brand and product.

The Facebook page can also be used to enable people to find a branch or connect with a loan officer. If your company is hiring, you can also list job openings at the Facebook page.

As the mortgage banking industry evolves, the Facebook page can also offer links to explain a variety of concepts ranging from refinancing to niche products to financial education. And if your company has been the subject of positive media coverage, then what better way to blow your own corporate horn than by sharing links on Facebook?

Stop and ask yourself: Why would people want to like and visit your page? Creating value to your page is crucial to ensure your page does not grow stagnant. If your page is a one-time-visit page, then you will have a tough time growing it – and you may even lose fans.

When it comes to Facebook marketing, you want fans to feel the need to come back again. For example, a restaurant page may use a menu app so fans can see what's on the menu or place an order. That idea does not have to be exclusive for restaurants: Financial services companies can promote specific products with a special offer app that allows Facebook followers to visit a website and find special offers and coupons for other related products.

Also, the key to Facebook marketing is reaching the friends of your fans. If you create enough engagement, interest and value among your fans, they will begin to share your content – and then you will begin seeing results.
It is a pretty simple philosophy, really: You may only have 100 fans, but each one of those fans has an average of 245 friends. If you can get your fans to reach out to their friends, then you can make big improvements in marketing initiatives.

However, it is important to remember that Facebook is not one big love-in. There are some pages on the site created by disgruntled consumers with an axe to grind against their lenders. Just do a Google search with the keywords ‘hate,’ ‘bank’ and ‘Facebook,’ and you will see how some people are using the site to vent their frustrations.

However, this is also an opportunity: If someone posts a negative comment, the lender has the chance to immediately respond, take corrective measures and satisfy the customer. Customers don't usually take the effort to post a complaint (no matter how vitriolic) if they don't truly care on some level – often it is a veiled plea for help.

Handling complaints appropriately (hint: don't delete or ignore them!) can convert not only that customer, but also others who see the complaint resolved and think ‘those guys are all right.’ And that is the true power of social media – interacting with customers and even growing your fan base (‘likes’ to the page) by converting problems into solutions!

Facebook marketing is still, very much, a work in progress, so do not be frustrated by the lack of instant results. But not unlike your parents' walking miles and miles in the snow, you will eventually reach your destination and receive a learning experience that will help your corporate marketing endeavors.

Eric Robichaud is CEO of 401 Consulting, based in Woonsocket, R.I. He can be reached at eric@401consulting.com. An earlier version of this article first appeared as a posting on the 401Consulting.com blog.


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