So you have a Facebook page, and you’d like to build your audience. We get it! At Zopim, we were in the exact same position in 2009 when we launched our page. Before we did, though, we had to start with a basic question:

What’s the point of having a Facebook Page?

Although it has become a de facto rule that every business, celebrity, and of course animal has their own Facebook Page, it’s not always apparent what their purpose is. When launching Zopim’s Facebook Page in June 2009, we had two clear goals in mind:

–        First, we wanted to promote Zopim Live Chat to Facebook users;

–        Second, we realized the importance of social media as an alternate channel for customer service, and we wanted to provide an open platform for feedback and discussion.

We’ve approached both these goals in different ways, and after spending years managing our Page, we wanted to share some of our best practices.

Zopim Official

 

The Road to Building a Facebook Following

Our substantial following (nearing 65,000+ Likes) on Facebook did not happen overnight. It took careful planning and preparation. First, we came up with an ad campaign to promote our Page on Facebook itself. This took into consideration Facebook’s various tools for targeting users with shared interests and demographics. Second, we analyzed the data from the first few months of the campaign and made numerous tweaks to ensure we weren’t wasting our money. Third, we augmented our promotion with great content to ensure users who enjoyed our posts kept coming back for more.

Spending Ad Dollars is an Art

It can become easy to confuse Facebook with a forum or a community of sorts. While this may be true for users with personal accounts, it’s very different for businesses who create a Page. It’s more accurate to consider a Facebook Page as an extension of a business’s website with a feedback element. So, unless your business is particularly interesting or controversial, organic growth for your Page will be a challenge. You can’t sit back and expect your content to go viral. It becomes even tougher if your customers are primarily businesses and not individual users. Although it is possible to communicate as a business on Facebook, it’s a tool that is rarely used because Facebook is still a network built for individual users.

With all this in mind, we realized that to grab people’s attention we couldn’t rely solely on word of mouth and had to get serious about targeting the right users. So, we launched an ad campaign to get the word out about Zopim’s Facebook Page. We were already running a Google AdWords campaign targeting users interested in live chat products, and we thought it would be a good idea if we extended this to Facebook.

But, just like AdWords, buying Facebook Ads is not a haphazard process; it is calculated and highly iterative.

Targeting the Right Audience

Before launching our campaign, we analyzed our buyer personas and came up with an outline of the types of users who would be interested in live chat. Our targeting was based on a number of criteria, including the following:

-Interests: Our main criteria was to target the ads based on a user’s declared interest. Facebook allows users to list their interests and also takes into account Pages a user has already Liked. Based on this data, we limited our promotion to only the users who were interested in particular topics, including “live chat”, “marketing”, “customer service”, etc (we had a fairly long list).
-Demographics: We didn’t think it was necessary to restrict the campaign based on a user’s age or location. Although Zopim is targeted towards businesses, we’ve built it to be versatile enough for even the smallest of users and priced it to be within reach of everyone. So, it was not necessary to set an age range as we wanted younger users to try our product. Similarly, we felt that users from any country would find our product useful. And we were proved right (see below).

 Keep Tweaking your Ad Campaign

Although having a plan for your campaign is extremely important, it should not limit you from making changes should the need arise.

When we first started promoting our content on Facebook, we realized that we were burning through our budget very fast. We noticed that a large portion of our followers were coming from India. While India is a big market for us, we wanted to also expand to other regions. So, we decided we would split our budget. One portion of our budget would be solely targeted towards Indian users, and the remaining would be used for the rest of the world. Soon, we started getting followers from more regions.

In sum, the principles of ad-buying apply to social media in the same way they do to SEM or print. Once you spend your initial budget, it is critical that you go back and look at the data to see if you are meeting your targets and goals.

Organic vs. Inorganic Likes – The Devil is in the Details

Our campaign yielded some interesting results. What we found was that not only does promoting a Page help increase inorganic Likes (i.e. Likes obtained through promotion), it also drastically increases organic Likes as well. Here’s a chart to show you what I mean:

On a day-to-day basis between October 2011 and 2012, we only saw occasional spikes in the number of new Likes each day. Furthermore, as expected, once we started promoting our Page the number of inorganic Likes per day increased significantly. However, what was really interesting is that the number of organic Likes (i.e. Likes from users who had not seen the ads) increased dramatically as well. This suggested that thanks to our promotion campaign, the word about Zopim was getting out and more people were drawn to our page organically.

The moral? “Buying Likes” need not be a dirty concept as it helps get the word out to users who are genuinely interested in your product.

Use your Campaign as a Platform for Further Growth

Once we started seeing success with our campaign, we started focusing on creating great content for our Facebook Page.

-Great Content: we selected a number of topics we would feature on a regular basis on our Facebook Page. These included customer service, sales, marketing, and of course live chat. Whenever we would post something new we would stick religiously to these topics. Over time our users have come to expect a certain type of posts from our Page.
-Service Updates: in addition to our regular posts, we also started providing service and status updates for Zopim Live Chat. Whenever there was any downtime or we released a new feature, we made sure our followers were the first to know about it.
-Quality Feedback: Experience has shown that people are more likely to leave a comment on social media if they have had a bad experience with a particular company. We managed to buck this trend by asking many of our customers to leave feedback after we provided support. Be it positive or negative, we empowered our customers to share their stories so that others would have a better understanding of Zopim.

Our robust content strategy has ensured that our follower count is always increasing. We may initially get followers because they either like our product or have seen an ad, but we keep them because they love our content.

As a result of advertising and promoting our content on Facebook, we significantly grew our following. Approximately 50% of our audience found our page through an ad, while the remaining 50% came organically. Facebook’s organic reach may be limited — they just admitted as much! — but a smart blend of paid and organic can turn your page into a powerful extension of your business.

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Abhiroop Basu is a Content Strategist for Zopim helping create intuitive products that redefine online customer experiences. Our award-winning live chat solution helps businesses increase sales conversion by engaging important leads on their websites.