7 Lessons Learned (or Reinforced) from the First 1,000 Fans

October 23, 2012

We all know how important it is in business to have a loyal fan base. Small businesses count on the fact that about 51% of Facebook users say they are more likely to buy from the brands they follow.

When we started our small business, VT Mommies , we knew that Facebook would be the go-to social media platform. Moms are on Facebook, sharing photos, catching up with friends and trying to stay connected in a go-go-go world. We knew a strong Facebook fan base would help build the brand, increase traffic to the website and all of the other things the social media gurus said it would.

Here are a few things I learned in the first six months, as we gained our first 1,000 fans on the VT Mommies Facebook Page.

1. It Starts With You

If you’re just starting a small business, or your small business is just setting up a Facebook page, your very first fans are probably your friends and family. And that’s ok! Share your page on your profile, encourage people to ‘like’ the page (even if they don’t care about the product) as a way to support your new endeavor. Nobody wants to join a club of one, so having a few likes gets the ball rolling, and makes it more likely others will join in.

2. You’re Talking To Yourself. A Lot.

You may only have a few fans in the beginning, but you need to post regularly and you need to be excited about what you’re sharing. My friends & family ‘liked’ my page, but I knew not all of them were really paying attention. Still, I had to post and I needed (for my own sanity & emotional well-being) to pretend that people were listening. Because that’s the only way anyone ever would.

3. Like, Comment, Share, Comment and Comment!!

A great way to break the monotony of talking to yourself is to talk to other local businesses and causes. That seems like an obvious statement, but even if you know the “social media is about being social” mantra, it really is so easy to fall into the mindset of “if we build it, they will come.” Well, maybe they will. But you can wait for that to happen (or not happen), or you can get out there and get in front of potential fans.

Positive comments on posts from other local businesses and causes that matter to your business really do matter in terms of starting to build your brand. At VT Mommies, we follow a ton of local Vermont businesses and organizations. I enjoy reading the posts, but more than that, I enjoy reading the comments. I like seeing what other people (other Vermont moms, in particular) are talking about. The discussions that happen in the comments sections are often the gateway to getting someone to engage on our page.

4. A Simple, Targeted Ad Can Go a Long Way

I was a little skeptical about advertising on Facebook at first. Who looks at those ads over there, anyway? Well, a lot of people. And when they see the name of one of their friends in an ad, they’re even more likely to look, to click, to like. Nearly half of our fans have come from a simple Facebook ad that says ‘Your friend likes VT Mommies.’ And we didn’t have to break the bank to get great results. We’ve gained nearly 500 fans and our ad has a  click-through rate of 0.55% – all on an advertising budget of, well, of a small start-up business (which isn’t much).

5. Style is Essential

By style, I’m not talking about what you wear (that only matters if you post pics). I’m talking about your tone of voice, your attitude, your online personality, your posting frequency, etc.

Early on, we realized that we didn’t always want to sound like a magazine on our Facebook page. Naturally, we would need to promote our articles, events and products some times. But we also wanted to regularly share the truth of what we are about. And so, we made a handful of VT Mommies featured authors administrators on our Facebook page – and gave them the freedom to post (mostly) whatever they wanted. They could rant about their kids, share a resource, ask other mommies a question, whatever. And they would include their name in the post, so fans would know which of the mommies they were talking to.

This style works for us because we believe it works for our fans. It’s one way our fans can connect with us on a personal level – an essential element when the topic/product/service is as personal as ours is.

6. There is No “I”

This ties into our multi-author approach, but I think it goes beyond that. It starts with you, but to grow, you need advocates. You need people to comment, share, talk about, promote, etc. You need to continually give current and potential fans something worth sharing. You need to find or create content, share it often and encourage fans to share it as well. You need to find people who will champion your cause – and beyond that – people with whom you can share mutually beneficial causes.

The moms on VT Mommies ARE VT Mommies. My site is their site – this company is their company. Ok, yes, it’s officially my company, but it doesn’t feel like it. When I talk about VT Mommies, the company, I refer to it as a plural. It’s not a “me,” – it’s a “we.” And it’s a “we” because the company is only as successful as fans are engaged. “We” sometimes refers to our featured authors, sometimes to all of our fans, sometimes to all Vermont moms… but it is always… ALWAYS “we.” On purpose.

And the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far?

7. What Works for You Doesn’t (Always) Work for Us

This is a lesson I’m reminded of every single day – What works for VT Mommies doesn’t necessarily work for my other endeavors. Most of the VT Mommies’ fans will never find or read this blog. And most of the fans of this blog will never become a fan of the REALTOR Association where I work. My audience(s) are different than your audiences – and you know your audience.

So while many of the social media tips & tools I read about work for all of my blogs or businesses, many don’t work for this one. Or that one. A multi-authored blog may not work for you the way it works for VT Mommies. Twitter may be way more effective than Facebook at driving people to your website.

What works for you is what works for your fans. Sometimes, you have a pretty good guess of what that will be right up front. And sometimes, it takes a lot of trial & error. But it IS worth the work and it is worth journey. And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far.

Oh, and here’s a cool infographic I found on the importance of a Fan Base (as if you didn’t already know how wonderful it is to have great fans).

++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
The Importance Of A Fan Base
Source: The Importance Of A Fan Base Infographic

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