I was asked by a colleague how to increase the size of their organization’s Facebook Fan page—not that I would consider any page I manage to be an overwhelming success.
Googling around, I could only find technical advice (“install these apps”) and crappy nonexistent-advice (“You need to have a strategy.” duh, tell me what that strategy would be). So here’s the stream of consciousness around what I do:
Figure out your goal for the page (why spend the time in the first place?). I’m using ours as vanity (look, we’re hip/popular) and also just another channel to push information out to. I’m stoked if someone leaves a comment (and I’ll reply to it), or better yet, posts something themselves (I allow non-admins to post—it’s somewhere in the settings)… but that’s not my goal right now, so I don’t spend to much time worrying that it isn’t happening.
If your goal is like mine (#1), the main tactic I take is to try to be posting new things to the page as much as possible. The problem is that the few organizations’ pages I manage, there isn’t a lot of content generation: we don’t do a lot of communications or events. The way I get around this is trying to repost other events and news articles (I use Google Reader to aggregate a bunch of blogs, as well as anything that comes by email/listserv) that align with the mission and constituents/audience of the organization. For example, on our AmeriCorps programs page, I post articles about nonprofit culture, volunteerism, time management, living cheaply, etc.
So now there is the matter of actually getting people to fan the page: I have the benefit of having some well-connected Friends who are sympathetic/interested in what I post, so they do help spread the word by reposting things. The main strategy I have though is to constantly mention the Facebook page in all external communications: I have an icon/badge prominently on our website; I put a “Follow us on Facebook” in our email eblast template; I try to make it part of our events (for example, I just hosted a conference and put in the booklet: “Follow our Facebook page for updates and discussion around the conference”)
Don’t sweat it: Facebook is just another communications channel (at least for us), I don’t particularly worry that we have 4,000 people on our email mailing list, but only 150 of them are fans on Facebook. Our message is still getting out there. Facebook is unique since it allows people to easily re-post and spread among their social network, but it doesn’t matter how they are reading it so long as the message has reached the people you want to be reading it. Also, I think people get hung up on Facebok because it has a very public metric of success (“you have this many fans”) that your mailing list doesn’t.