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From the Actrix Online Informer April 2011

Promoting your cause using social media

by Rob Zorn

When it comes to how useful social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are, there are a number of different opinions. Some people are happy to whittle away the hours playing Farmville and following the tweets of the rich and famous. Others view it as a waste of time and a cheap compromise for authentic social interaction. However, it cannot be denied that social networking has phenomenal potential. Never before has any medium given users the opportunity to communicate with other users on such a large scale.

Less than a decade ago the idea that one would be able to reach an audience that numbered over 650 million with a few clicks of a mouse was laughable. Not even television had that potential. However, with the increasing popularity of Facebook and Twitter, this has never been more possible, and it didn’t take long for people to realise that these networks could be used for more than just socialising. Nowadays it’s rare to find a company or organisation that doesn’t have its own Facebook page or horde of Twitter followers (Tweeps).

A couple of New Zealand-based Facebook pages that are dedicated to causes or promotions include It's our turn to shout, dedicated to alcohol law reform, Breastfeeding NZ, and, of course, The All Blacks,

Using Facebook and Twitter to promote your business, your organisation, or your cause is easy, economical and effective. Every hour 7.5 million users sign-in on Facebook and 4 million tweets are sent. So whether you’re self-employed, manage a sports team, are on the school-board, or you're holding a garage-sale, there’s something in this for you. Facebook lets you choose what sort of page it will be, e.g. for a cause, business, artist, brand etc with its Create a Page feature.

Generally, what you find with people making the most of social networks is that they use Facebook to create their audience, and then use Twitter to communicate with their audience. Creating the Facebook page is as easy as following a few simple instructions. The hard part is creating and maintaining an audience.

A place to start if you want to attract an audience is to make your Facebook page easy to find. When you create your page, fill in as much information as possible regarding who you are and what you are aiming to promote. Facebook automatically sorts its pages into categories so that people know where to find what they want. Also, each Facebook page offers users the chance to “Like” that page, which effectively makes them a fan of that page. This allows potential clients or customers to follow you and receive any updates that you post on your page. Further, whenever someone becomes a fan of your page all of their friends see that they have become a fan, which helps spread the word about your page. Once you get 25 “Likes” or fans, Facebook will replace the random and complicated URL to your page with a username, making it even easier for people to find.

Making your page stand out is a good way to attract an audience. Every Facebook page is laid out identically, so there will be little variation between your page and everyone else’s unless you put some effort into sprucing it up. A splash of colour and some material that they can interact with, be that a video or photos, and you’ll stand out. But you can go even further than that – Facebook offers users a vast number of applications that let your fans interact with your page in different ways that aren’t otherwise accessible. With these 'apps' you can create surveys and opinion polls to find out what your audience wants: you can create newsletter sign-up forms for people who want more information; you can even create a live-chat environment that people can engage to discuss relevant information. There’s even a nifty app called FBML (Facebook Markup Language). This app writes code similar to html but is exclusive to Facebook, and with it you can limitlessly customise your page.

Here’s a useful link that illustrates a number of ways to really make your page stand out: http://facebookflow.com/get-more-facebook-page-likes/

So once you’ve got an audience, you need to maintain it. Actively communicating with your audience is paramount, but here’s the tricky part: if you bombard them with updates and messages, they’ll quickly “un-Like” your page; but offer too little interaction and they’ll forget why they became a fan in the first place. The trick is to keep the communication relevant and attractive, to feed them enough but keep them wanting more.

Effectively communicating over Facebook can be a complicated process. Fortunately, there’s a program called Tweetdeck which can connect you with your fans over a number of different social networks, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and MySpace. Tweetdeck lets you set up any number of updates to go out to all your fans on any social network. You can even write the updates in advance and programme Tweetdeck to send them out at specific times, taking out some serious hassle!

The ways to promote your page and maintain an audience are only limited by your imagination. If you can think of a way to customise your page, chances are someone out there has already figured it out or written the app to get the job done. The internet is full of guides and tutorials for effective marketing over social networks, so no excuses!

 

 

Copyright © 2011 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: editor@actrix.co.nz