How I Quadrupled My Facebook Fan Count with One Blog Post

orange beads
image from: flickr

Building your Facebook fans from zero on up is incredibly hard. 

You’ve gotta convince people to Like your page, but how do you command respect when you’ve got only a few fans?!

The response I see too many bloggers take is to beg for Facebook likes.

Do this, and you’ll risk immediate blog failure.

Instead, create engaging content that entices people into becoming your fan.

I’ve had a few questions from readers lately on starting up their fan pages, so I figured I’d address them all right here and offer a strategy to build up those precious Likes.

In this post, I’ll show you a trick to leverage small amounts of engaging content into large growth. Hint: it involves creating your own blog contest posts that generate more Facebook fans, subscribers, and new traffic.

Assuming you already have a Fan page setup and a Like box on your blog, this could be really helpful for you. If you don’t have one yet, go get one, then return here.

Normal ways of building blog Likes and getting fans

like button
Image from: flickr

To get Likes for your blog, one option is to just plain ask people in person if they mind Liking your blog on Facebook. Honeslty, this is actually quite effective.

It’s hard for a friend to say, “No, I won’t click a button for you.” Especially when they’re noodling around on their laptop.

But that’ll only get your a few Likes here and there. It’s not sustainable growth.

So lets see. You could do what a TON of blogs do and put the Like button in literally the most prominent place on your blog, hoping it’ll attract clicks. This flat out does not work.

I’m sorry to say, visitors don’t just come to your blog looking to Like something.

They often come to judge your work, pretty critically.

They definitely don’t Like something on whim if there are only a few Likes so far. Readers are very observant of other readers and their actions. People are followers. So what can you do?

Give your readers a better incentive

dog treat
image from: flickr

You’ve got to create an incentive for folks to Like your blog. Readers are selfish, lazy, and have short attention spans (sorry guys). Same goes for me when I visit most blogs 🙂

The won’t click on much of anything, unless it offers them an immediate or future benefit.

Remember how your parents used to entice you into setting the table, or cleaning your room? Same thing here. Actually with mine it was always, just do it or you don’t get this. Nevermind.

You want to give your readers something. You can’t lie, saying you’ll “donate to charity for every Like”. And like I mentioned above, don’t beg for Likes. You might gain a few Likes doing this but you’ll forfeit your dignity and long term respect.

How I started my first blog contest

I was actually quite fortunate. I got an email one morning during summer 2011 that just looked different than the usual clutter I was getting.

It was from a company out in California that found my blog through an interesting algorithm of recent traffic, inbound links, and comments.

They wanted to do business with me. It was actually the start of a very fruitful relationship.

The initial email read:

“Dear Mr. Narayan,

We’ve been reading your blog for sometime now and would like to say congrats, you’re doing something great. We’re from XYZ and are interested in forming a partnership with you in order to raise awareness about products that may interest your readers. We’re not selling things to you. What we do is create lasting brand relationships and help blogs grow simultaneously.”

My blog was only 7 months old. Honestly, I’m such a skeptical person that if this email landed in my inbox today, I’d probably say no thanks, I don’t buy it. Bon voyage to my trash bin.

I do delete such emails, every morning. But it was early in the game and my blog needed a boost, so I took the risk and responded:

“Sure, I’m interested. Could you explain the products and your requirements?”

I always keep initial responses brief. Keep my cards close to my chest and put the ball in their court.

I won’t reveal the name of company XYZ, but I will say they turned out to be fantastic people, and recently sent me on an awesome trip to San Francisco 🙂

What they helped me do initially, was design the very first contest Honest College ever ran.

Step 1: Create a contest that draws people in

product toss
image from: 12ozprophet

Here’s how my first contest went.

Company XYZ told me they’d send me a free product for me to review for about a month. After that month, they wanted me to design my own giveaway contest for the same product (they’d ship out another one), that would create traction around the specific product’s release.

Basically a win-win.

I did have to trust them enough to give them my address, and phone. Not a big deal though, the apartment I was living in what basically a crack den and a free product didn’t make me any more or less concerned about my safety than I already was.

So I had to write up a summary of the product, and I had full discretion to design the contest so that readers had to do something for me and my blog in order to enter.

I won’t say what the product was either, just that it was valued on Amazon at about $2500 at the time.

Daunting? Sorta. Exciting? Yes.

The post that did it all for me

Well, it was actually two posts. I had to post initially to announce my contest, then tweet about it, and build some hype.

Doing these simple things made my readers actually ready to enter once the contest began. You can have a sick contest design, way better than mine, but if no one knows about it you’ve basically failed.

If you’re actually going to run a contest, its critical to build up some hype. The two posts are here, and went live on Honest College back in December.

An introduction to the contest

The contest post

The contest post you’ll see is “round 3”, because I designed 3 separate rounds to bring in more visitors and compound the hype built up each round.

I’ll admit the post looks goofy now, because you haven’t seen rounds 1 or 2, but take a quick look at the stats and comments for proof.

It worked!!

I remember seeing the results of the contest and thinking “holy crap, this is working!” I was vacationing to Istanbul at the time to spend Christmas with my folks, and would wake up each morning and instantly check my Facebook page to see who had liked it.

If you’re the kinda person that checks stats with fervent ADD, then a contest could be very pleasing to you. Every time I checked, my Fan count had gone up by 3-4 Likes.

What were my contest rules?

They were simple: to enter for the product, readers had to Like my fan page, and comment on the contest post. The comment had to be on why they’d use the product to make their holiday season merrier. I had to go over this with company XYZ, and XYZ approved.

Note: see the comments for a small hint at what the product was 😉

Note 2: that’s not the last contest you’ll see here…

Readers got an additional entry for tweeting or facebook posting about the contest, which created a semi-viral effect.

Over the course of a few nights, my Fan page grew dramatically. Never before have I seen +20 likes when I logged in in the morning, then +10 more when I logged in in the afternoon. The growth was startling.

Granted my fan page started the contest with roughly 60 likes, so the end result wasn’t a staggering number. The percentage growth though, was unheard of, and that’s were you have to focus as a blogger.

How to replicate this effect on your own blog

You can also start up a contest on your blog, pretty easily too. You’ve just gotta give away something worth your readers time. Think about what your readers are into. What do they really need? What are they searching for on Amazon? What are they asking for for Christmas?

Theres no shame in buying an item to give away on your blog. I think that’s actually a sign of dedication. I was just fortunate and had a nice company backing my contest. They even gave me a few hints on what works in a successful contest, like how to get the contest post more Tweets.

Tips:

Respond right away to readers: be timely, don’t underestimate people’s impatience.

Encourage shares: always smart. Ask readers to help your contest by sharing. Hey, you could help this post by sharing.

Ask your friends to enter: gets initial traction.

You probably have something of value to give to your readers, however large or small your blog. It could even just be  T-Shirt, or an Amazon Gift Card.

Step 2: Building your contest and plan ahead

You’ve gotta be clear with readers, setting up reasonable expecations and more importantly, clear timeframe. Keep things as clear as you possibly can be.

No, more clear than that.

Definitely give an announcement about your contest on Twitter, Facebook, and wherever your online self hangs out. This is a must.

Then, place an annoucement on your blog. I did this by adding an HTML/Text gadget to my sidebar and header section. To do this in Blogger or in WordPress, go to new post, and create what you want with images and text. Then, copy paste that HTML into a gadget/widget. You’ll have to edit the image size, but it should look decent without much work. DO THIS. The styles you put incorporate in the new post editor like bolding and coloring will show in the gadget/widget.

Note: HTML gadgets are useful for adding almost any feature, like an ad, to your blog

Then write your contest post. Go ahead and copy mine if you’d like, I won’t mind. You can even email me for help. I get a lot of emails every day from readers, but I do my best to respond the same day to all of them.

Give people short deadlines!

If your readers think they’ll have a month to enter your contest, they won’t enter today. Or tomorrow or the next day. Setting short time frames of one week or even just one weekend will force your readers to act.

You will have to actually end your contest at some point. You’ll lose respect if you don’t. If your readers are left hanging, wondering who ever won the product, the effect will be the exact opposite of what you intended. People might unlike your fan page, and won’t trust you in the future.

end
image from: flickr

Make sure to make clear announcements of the contest end date/time, as well as a grand announcment of your winner. How you select them is totally up to you and this should be fun too. Ask the winner to tweet their prize, and post a picture on your Fan page. Social proof is everything here! Especially if you plan to run more contests in the future.

If you use a tool like RaffleCopter, tracking results will be easy and there should be a clear winner.

Step 3: Decide on the outcomes YOU want from the contest

What do you want out of the contest? Your readers will perform an action like, in my case, Liking the fan page, in order to have the chance to win your product.

Should they follow you too? That’s an easy one. Or maybe subscribe to your mail list? Email subscribers are a central part of a profitable blog, and if you haven’t set up an subscription form yet you may want to. Aweber offers a good email marketing tool that gathers subscribers for you.

The forms you see on Honest College are by them, and they’re awesome because when I update form appearance on the Aweber end, they automatically update on Honest College.

The point being, contests are an ideal way to increase a blog’s social media presence. This stuff seems trivial but is the very meat of a profitable blog, if that’s your goal someday.

The Raffle Copter app I linked to above is a great way to track entries to your contest. I’ve seen lots of bloggers use it with startling numbers of entrants. But if you’d rather do manual tracking, thats totally fine too. It’s not hard counting one statistic like fan page Likes, but it get’s tough when you factor in tweets and Facebook comments.

If you go the manual route, you’ll have to check your contest post, Facebook page, and Twitter account often.

Step 4: Grow your contest through Twitter: A crucial step

The power of a well-timed, well-written tweet cannot be overestimated. I’ve had other blogs retweet me leading to over 300 new followers. Check out this old screenshot. It got sent to 79224 followers, many of whom would move mountains at the tweeters very request. The result was a lot more followers, and an annoying amount of Twitter emails I soon turned off.

large retweet

And that tweet wasn’t intended for any marketing purposes, it was out of shear amazement over someone else’s good work.

Here’s a tweet that really helped grow my contest:

retweet from adobe

Minor detail: I could not find the exact tweet in my email archives, so here’s a similar retweet from the same folks. Because this tweet came from a trusted source, people actually followed the link and checked out my contest post. Many of them entered. I saw significant contest traction right after big tweets.

Twitter will be crucial for starting a contest on your blog, and it’s a big numbers game.

Here’s how it works (this is a bit of a tangent, sorry about that, but it is useful Twitter theory):

A reliable, trusted individual gather followers. Say we’re talking about Target, or Steve Carell. If Steve Carell tweets, “go follow Greg”, can you imagine how many people will follow me without thinking twice about it?

Granted, he’s got a lot of followers. But he’s also very trusted, with bundles of crediblity. Of course, if Mr. Carell tweeted this specific tweet, not everyone would listen. That’s impossible on Twitter.

I know of  Twitter handle called The Lulz Boat, try following them. They won’t attack you. They are, however, a community of hackers and subversive minded folks. In the past, they’ve directed their 360K followers to single websites and webpages just to crash that particular site. And it works!

Anyways, here’s my point:

The impact a tweet has within Twitter is a factor of

–The tweeter’s credibility and reputation

–The tweeter’s following count

–The message in the tweet

–The quality of the link target, meaning your post

Assuming the last two are in check, the tweet isn’t incomprehensible, and your post looks alright, getting a reputable tweeter to tweet your contest post can result in pretty staggering, useful traffic.

Step 5: Stay on top of comments!

gopher arcade game
image from: minnesotansforglobalwarming

A contest will result in comments, tweets, emails, likes, shares and more notifications popping up everywhere. Readers want to know how to enter, where to enter, and when.

They’ll ask you the same questions even if you post the answer in the clearest possible place.

You’ve gotta be on your A game with responding, and honestly this is one of the most enjoyable parts. I mean, who doesn’t like getting more @tweets and blog post comments?

When you respond, be very encouraging and a little bit witty. Congratulate users on entering, and let them know other ways to get additonal entries by retweeting, sharing, etc. If you do this write, others will notice.

Don’t promise anything you can’t give. Do not say that someone has won before they have. Which brings me to another good point, once the contest has begun, you CANNOT CHANGE THE RULES.

You cannot change the criteria for winning even if you have another brighter idea mid-contest. This will throw everyone off, and instantly reduce your credibility.

You’ve gotta do this planning in the planning stage. Sure, you can tweak little things, like giving extra entries or tiny bonuses for a funny tweet, or something like that. That’s your discretion. After all, it’s meant to be fun (and get you more Likes).

Final things to remember!

Be creative with your contest announcements. Do just tweet: contest coming up, win a new ____! That sounds generic and spammy. Don’t expect generic announcments to work. Instead, engage your readers with a message like “starting a new contest soon, any ideas what I’ll be giving away?” When readers respond, that’ll create a nice buzz around your contest to be.

Don’t expect it to work right away. Just because you post an annoucement, does not mean people care. You’ve gotta encourage people to care, and almost force them to enter, at least at first.

Don’t check your results to often. Check your Like count too often will make you impatient. You’ll think, wow, just one or two Likes? What am I doing wrong. Then you’ll go into your contest post and rearrange everything, when the current setup may have been just fine! Give things time, like 48 hours, to work.

Then, if things still aren’t clicking, you can change things.

Good luck, and I’d love to see what sorts of contests you are starting at your blog in the comments. Please post your ideas and questions here! I’ll try to respond to everyone. Let’s build some ridiculous, creative, helpful contests.

Post your comments and questions here:

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.