Networking on Facebook to improve engagement

meaningIn the past few months there has been a real trend towards trying to gain as many “likers” as possible under the premise that more likers=more prominence, credibility etc. In this article I’d like to talk about the idea of engagement as a networking tool. How can you network with other businesses so that genuine “likes” (and therefore leads) result?

Firstly, it is really important to understand that the number of likers you have means nothing to your bottom line or your business credibility. In fact, focusing on the number of “likers” you have can actually be detrimental in that you spend a lot of time and energy harvesting “likes” on other peoples’ pages rather than focusing your attention on the people who already “like” your page. When you self-promote on another business person’s page it will likely annoy the page owner and his/her fan-base and won’t do your business any favours.

So how do you increase your reach without harvesting “likes?” Well, there are some creative ways you can do this without resorting to quickie tagging games. Just think “social.”

Facebook is all about building relationships and picking up tips and recommendations from other people you know. The best way to promote your business is to take time to get to know other businesses and to be responsive to  your followers.

So how can you get to know other businesses?

1. Networking Groups & Pages: There are a number of networking pages and groups on Facebook. Do a search for a networking group that is relevant to your business or geographical area and ask to join. Each networking group has posting rules and guidelines. Make sure you familiarize yourself with these before diving in. I belong to about 5 main networking groups and these have translated into real life networking opportunities as well. Support a work at home also has two networking groups on Facebook for our Supporting and Professional Members and advertisers. These have been fantastic for getting to know other home based women entrepreneurs who regularly interact with us on our page and website and who do business with us. We also have a fledgling group on Linkedin as well as our forum.

2. Genuine social games on Facebook. Amanda Foy from Foyster’s Communication has come up with a fantastic networking game and has kindly allowed me to share about it here. Facebook Bums and Heads is a trivia game run on an event wall. The beauty of this game is that it is hilarious fun, educational, involves winning a prize for your business and provides an opportunity for you to connect with other businesses in a meaningful way. I played the first time Amanda hosted the event and it was an edge of your seat competition with my kids cheering me on in the background. You can learn about the next Facebook Bums and Heads game here. And we are contributing one of the prizes this time (An In the Spotlight Interview).

3. Genuine networking initiatives on page walls. We just launched a new initiative at Support a work at home: Workshop Wednesdays! On Workshop Wednesdays we will set a time to do a peer review of a work at home business (selected by random draw the night before). We held our first one this week and it was a roaring success. Everybody learned something new and the selected business is already busy making positive changes to her page and website as a result. Each of the businesses that participated by offering feedback had the opportunity to get to know each other and quite a few ended up with new “likers” as a result.

Others are doing similar (but different) takes on this idea: Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz opens her page wall up to followers to ask questions and seek advice from other businesses and Mari Smith hosts Facebook Fridays where she offers her expertise in Facebook Marketing to answer reader questions.

We share these initiatives with you, not so that you can copy them but so that they can spark different ideas for you.

Being responsive to your community

Engaging your followers means being responsive to their questions, emails, private messages and comments. It means being accessible and responsive to feedback as well.

If you have a blog, make sure your content is relevant and helpful for people who are interested in your business. If people are asking questions on your Facebook wall, then it might be an opportunity for you to write a blog post about it so that the information is helpful to your whole community.

Sharing the love to other businesses you network with is terrific as it is meaningful. Shouting out about random businesses that have nothing to do with you or your business is not as effective. On my local business page I only tag other businesses that have interacted with me in a meaningful way, either through networking groups, business deals, joint ventures or by providing a service I’ve used and enjoyed. This carries a lot more weight to my readers than if I went and tagged a bunch of random pages or allowed random businesses to tag themselves on my page.

Sharing original content that meets your followers’ needs will lead to higher levels of engagement as will asking for their input. People love to give their two cents worth. Ask a relevant question and you’ll have a thread a mile long. I’m not advocating asking questions as a way to manipulate engagement, I’m just saying that when you do have a decision to make about something, asking your followers for their opinion isn’t a bad idea.

Hosting competitions and giveaways on your blog is a great way to drive traffic from your page to your website and rewarding your followers with “fan-only” deals creates loyalty. Remember that Facebook is not designed to be used of and by itself but is a tool for you to interact with your customer-base. The more you drive traffic to your website, the more people will do business with you.

What are other activities you can think of to better engage with your audience and network with other businesses on Facebook?

PS: You might also be interested in previous articles on the topic of Facebook business pages: What’s to Like? Liking etiquette tips for Facebook, Marches, silent tagging and other tagging games defined, and Beware the Facebook spam police.

pps: Other fantastic resources on Facebook: @ Foyster’s Communication @Mari Smith, @Social Media Examiner and @build a little biz.

  • Ebony

    The workshop Wednesday was fab I was able to apply what was being said about her page’s profile pic to my page and we now had a lovely longer profile pic with more info, our website, our logo and some photos thanks so much

    • Cas

      So glad to hear that Ebony! We’ll do it all again next week!

  • Melissa Rogers

    Thanks so much x I have tried a combination of ways to increase likes – but at the end of the day I have decided it’s not so much about the number of likes but like you said providing your current base with a great facey service…and slowly but surely our numbers have increased.

  • Amanda

    Great read, it’s all about building relationship…since starting my own fb page for my small business, I am now trying to support and buy from other fb page businesses. I enjoy “meeting” others and love being inspired by others.