Recently, I seem to have had this conversation time and time again with businesses, individuals and consultants who are beginning to take Facebook seriously as a place to peddle their wares, so I thought I'd immortalise it here for future reference.
Facebook started as a way to network students of a single college together, with a firmly teen-to-early-20's audience. In recent years, my mom (and probably yours too) has joined and the average age of Facebook user is on a steady increase. It can no longer be dismissed as "kids' stuff" by businesses who have a direct to consumer audience, hence the many discussions about creating fan pages.
The problem with creating a fan page for your business is that, unless your brand is incredibly sexy & fun, nobody wants to be a fan of it. I'm lucky to have a great local baker & cake maker, but would I really want to be a fan of her business on Facebook? And what good would come out of me becoming a passive fan?
Facebook can facilitate something much greater than just the digital equivalent of a bumper sticker promoting someone's business.
Facebook gives these business owners the opportunity to be an authority on something they're passionate about. Taking the example of the cake maker, she would no doubt get much more participation from her customers if the fan page was for cake lovers, for example.
Lead the conversation
Encourage fans to talk about the best cakes they've eaten, the cutest cupcakes they've seen, the failed homebaking attempts (we all have them, don't we!?) and the healthy alternatives for those weeks where we need to eat a bit lighter.
Share recipes and tips
Realistically, no skilled baker will lose business over this, as we're all too busy or lacking the skill to make the kind of cakes we'd buy from a real cake artist!
Listen to hardcore cake fans
What do they want? What occasions do they buy cakes for? Even if the fans aren't local, this is a goldmine of information which can help a perceptive business owner plan future promotions.
Bonus: You'll have more fun
Best of all, taking this approach will make content creation much easier and enjoyable than trying to keep it solely focused on your business. You'll be recognised as a cake-baking authority (or whatever your business may be) yet not be known as the navel gazer who only talks about your own products!
By celebrating a shared passion rather than simply asking people to be a fan for the sake of accumulating numbers, you'll find that your Facebook fan page will have much more interaction and that people far beyond your existing customer base will join. Go out, have fun and talk about things you're passionate about.
[Photo credit: Super Mario Brothers Nintendo Cupcakes by clevercupcakes on Flickr, Creative Commons license]