Wednesday, February 18, 2009

making a consumer Facebook page work

This is a triple-whammy question from my talk about social media policy at the Capital Communicators Group today in Washington. It touches on policy and practical issues around a consumer Facebook page:

    Facebook lets businesses, artists and other organizations or people create pages and they're a great value: They're free, they allow Facebook users to become "fans," and they include all the functionality of a profile, plus the advantage of well-designed metrics and results for the organizer. (A regular Facebook profile won't include those metric reports.) More than 100,000 corporate or organizational pages have been created on Facebook, and a consumer travel page on Facebook is a great idea, so let's break down and answer this triploid question:

    1. How do I get fans for my organizational page? As I said in my earlier rules for the "wild west" of social media, you can't expect to round up all the dogies--they have to come to you. Having said that, you can send up plenty of smoke signals. Start virally: Ask all your employees on Facebook to become "fans," for example, so their status updates will tell their friends about your group. Facebook also helps you out by showing users pages and groups that their friends have joined, another helpful nudge that doesn't involve work from you. Put a link, badge or button on your existing websites and blogs to let your existing viewers know about the group; then ask your members, clients, or constituents to help spread the word. Blog about your page and what it hopes to do, and post a link to it on Twitter--a great advantage of social media is that you can use social networking sites as a destination and also to promote other social media efforts. And do some old-fashioned PR: Send an announcement to (in this case) travel bloggers and Twitterers as well as mainstream journalists and ask them to check out the page and cover it. Then stand back and see what happens.
    2. How do we maintain a good level of activity on the page? This is critical to the success of any page--you can't stand back on this aspect. Make sure you are automating your RSS feeds and blog posts, which can appear as notes on your page, so that links are automatically created when you post. Beyond that, create a schedule for posting questions, news from your organization or other information regularly. Best of all: Start discussions and participation by announcing a contest, creating a poll or asking your fans to post video, photos, and notes. For travel, it's easy: A travel photo contest or "bucket list" of places people want to travel to someday are easy options that encourage participation. Ask the crowd to source your subject.
    3. What if someone posts something objectionable or negative? This is a discussion you'll need to have within your organization. It's important to remember that allowing a negative post to stand--and responding to it in a forthright way--only adds to your credibility as an organization. Why not use the opportunity to publicly answer misinformation, rumor and more? At the same time, you should be prepared to develop a thick skin and let opinions stand (as opposed to errors of fact). As I said to the audience today, the only difference between social media and the way things worked before is that you didn't always hear negative feedback, and thus couldn't address it. Now that you can, why not use it to your advantage?

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