Meagan Parrish

If you don’t already have a Facebook fan page, create one – fast. It’s increasingly important for brands to have not only a website, but also a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account. As Brafton recently reported, marketers are finding that social media drives traffic to sites and social marketing translates into leads and sales.

Facebook is the social platform that companies are focusing in on this year, with three-quarters of marketers planning to increase their Facebook spend. It makes sense that businesses want to prioritize Facebook, with its 500 million active users and counting.

You should be taking advantage of Facebook as a corporate branding opportunity to reach out to and engage your customers, fans and prospects. I’ve got some tips for establishing (or updating) your Facebook campaign. We’ll start with the basics – designing a page and setting a content strategy that will enhance your brand.

1. Customize the look and feel of your page.

Your brand page shouldn’t just include a quick business synopsis in the “info” section and a profile picture of your logo. The look of your page says a lot about your brand – it should be unique and engaging. What users see will be their first impression of your company, so you should create or edit your page to make it stick out from the crowd. Here’s how:

Make it visual.

· Add your company’s top five photos. These can display your products and services, or showcase employees and recent company activity. You can decide which is more appropriate for your brand and the overall feel you want to create for the Facebook page. This is a simple step, but it makes the page look more active and inviting, giving visitors a visual sense of your company.

Toyota does a nice job of using product photos to make its page appealing. Toyota's top five photos make the page look good.

· Display fan page photo tagging. Click “Edit Page” and go to the “Manage Permissions” tab to enable users to add photos. You’ll want to monitor the photos uploaded by fans for appropriateness, but this lets fans add images to your wall and gives your page a much more colorful look. (It also encourages user generated content and engagement.)

· Create a default tab that serves as your welcome page, with a call to action for users to “Like” your page. This will be a landing page for your Facebook profile. It can link back to your website and explain your products and services beyond the “info” section. Plus, it can hook first-time visitors into Liking you (and your business offerings). You can create this page using an iframe application.

For those of you who aren’t technically savvy, there are some other alternatives like Pagemodo, TabSite or WildFire. Skittles does a great job of creating a landing page. Skittles has a great Facebook "welcome" page.

Maximize content and make the page interactive.

· Add video and photo tabs to your profile to give visitors more to experience on your company page. Many users would rather interact with media than read text – and there’s also the benefit of additional exposure if your fans choose to comment or like one of the videos or images.

· Make a blog tab to archive your news or blog posts. This will also allow social users to read your company content and click back to your website. If you’re not using an iframe app, be sure to check out the applications RSS Graffiti or Social RSS.

· Include links to all of your social media pages and your website in the “info” section of your profile. Users will commonly go to this tab to view additional sites and information, so make it easy for them!

2. Set a Facebook content strategy.

Just as it’s important to keep the branding of your business uniform with the design of your Facebook page, it’s vital to maintain a consistent tone with the content you share via the social giant.
Facebook (much like a company blog) serves as an outlet to promote the values and expertise of your brand, as well as the voice of your business. While you should keep your tone in line with your company, don’t be afraid to make it a bit more personable or amusing than you might on your website – this is a social space after all!

Don’t be afraid to let your company seem human.

Ultimately, you want your fans to feel comfortable posting their comments on your wall, and the only way to do that is to be engaging in return. We’re not saying to “LOL, JK” your way through your highly professional law firm’s posts, but you shouldn’t analyze what to say to the point that you fail to say anything. If you make a mistake or typo on your wall, just apologize or correct it. People do it all of the time, and it just helps to show that the person or people behind your fan page are human.

Posting questions and asking your fans’ opinions are great ways to show that there is an actual person (or people) behind your fan page. Users will be more likely to engage with a business when they feel like they’re talking to a friend on their profile. Just like you would wish your Facebook friends “Happy Holidays” or thank them for complimenting you, your company should ALWAYS thank your fans for their support and opinions on your page.

Share site content, but don’t overdo it.

I recommend having a your blog posts regularly feed through to your wall, but if that’s the only type of content your company is posting to your page, your hopes of Facebook engagement are slim to none. Also, your fans will be able to differentiate between automated and personalized content.

Similarly, stay away from linking your Twitter posts to your Facebook account. There are some Facebook users who do not like to see automatic Twitter updates to Facebook either because they don’t like the appearance of the @mentions and #hashtags on their newsfeeds or because they simply don’t like Twitter.

Just as people have preferences in the real world, they have favorites in the social sphere. You’ll get more interaction from your fans if you tailor your content to the right spaces. Be to keep your content unique across individual social platforms. You’ll be more likely to draw your fans to your other social media pages if you share a variety of content across the mediums.

Give users the chance to voice their ideas. Auntie Anne's handles tricky user generated content.

You might be afraid of bad feedback, but don’t be – any negativity can turn into positive branding if you appropriately monitor your Facebook page. When Auntie Anne’s was promoting a new line of pretzels, one user left a less-than-enthusiastic comment, which might have turned others off from the new products. An Auntie Anne rep stepped in and turned this negative comment into promotion for the company’s original pretzel.

In any case it’s very rare that users who are “fans” of your page will blast your wall with sensitive activity. You’ll tend to notice that your true fans will jump to your rescue and support your company and its services while giving you the opportunity as a business to correct the issue and offer outstanding customer service.

One thing you must guard against is inappropriate or offensive content. Remember: You can always delete posts.

So now you’ve got the basics for effective Facebook marketing – designing your page and setting the content strategy. In Part 2, we’ll look at what you can do in the day-to-day to encourage continued engagement.