Long ago, in a time far away, Charles Atlas used the power of comic books to turn boys into men. Using the term ’98 pound weakling’ he sold a system that was supposed to turn the underdeveloped into he-men. The comic made this seem like a quick fix. While there is no ‘quick fix’ in physical development (ok, steroids…) Charles Atlas succeeded in branding himself as the expert in body building.

I bring this up because – more and more – I am seeing ads, blogs and emails that tout the ability to add hundreds – if not thousands – of Facebook fans in an amazingly short period of time. They occasionally tout how quickly this can be accomplished. And, even more occasionally they present case studies of how their ‘proven system’ worked…and can work for you.

There are two problems with these ‘proven methods’.

First, social media is not a quick fix. It takes time to develop a strategy, build a community and nurture them with great content. Just ‘adding fans’ is not enough.

Second, adding fans – in the long-term – is not what leads to social media success. Your goal is quality not quantity. You want fans that care about you and are willing to share that passion with their social networks. You cannot generate word-of-mouth with the uninterested.

That said, if you are in the embryonic stages of building your Facebook brand page you do need to create a reasonable fan base as quickly as possible. The perception is that the number of fans you have equals the true popularity of your page –  and people tend to flock to where the crowds are.

While that will not guarantee long-term success there are valuable reasons to establish a fan base quickly. These include the ability to create a custom user name, gain access to Facebook insights and appear like you already have a viable social presence. So, here are a few tips to get you started:

Your Friends – If you can’t exploit your friends, who can you exploit? When you are building a new brand page ask your personal network to like it. In addition, ask them to share the page with their network. You will never get 100% cooperation at either level – but it is a start. Yes, they are doing you a favor but isn’t that what friends are for? (Caution: Do not go to this well too often! If you are managing multiple brand pages you can become an annoyance.)

Your Employees – There is nothing wrong with asking the people who depend on the revenue you generate to pay their salaries to suggest that their friends like your brand page. You can’t force them to do that but – hopefully – you’ve built a company culture that encourages and fosters this kind of cooperation. If you are a nonprofit, tap into your volunteer and donor base. (And, by all means – get your board involved!) If the people inside your organization cannot be motivated to be passionate about what you do then you have issues social media cannot solve. (Note, I am suggesting that you use your internal networks to spread the word about your social media. Having employees post on your platforms is an entirely different issue.)

The above steps will get you up and running rather quickly. From this point, the hard work begins. As I wrote here, you cannot simply build it and they will come. You will need to leverage your other networks to draw a crowd.

E-mail – Hopefully, you have built a robust e-mail database. These are people who have opted in to receive your message. It makes sense that they would like to become more social with you, too. Make sure you alert them to your new brand page. Make it easy for them to find. Oh, and give them a compelling reason to join up. Simply asking for the ‘like’ will only get you so far. Set a goal for yourself – within six months you want your fans to equal 20% of your database.

On Site – If you are a brick-and-mortar make sure you put up signs inviting your customers to be more social with you. Kohl’s does a great job with this. The possibilities for on site touches are endless – from printed receipts to table top cards.

External marketing – If you have the ability to market your brand – include links and mentions to your brand page. Every time! Why wouldn’t you do this? Social Media is just another marketing platform  – albeit with different rules of engagement. You drive traffic to your web site – why not to your social platforms?

Vendors – You have a partnership with your vendors. Why not make it a quid pro quo? You promote them to your social network and they do the same for yours. Examine your list of business partnerships and you’ll likely find others who are willing to share with you.

Twitter – Just because you are not participating in the conversation does not mean they aren’t talking about you. Monitor Twitter for any brand or industry mentions in your trading area. Respond to those that are talking about you and invite them to become part of the conversation on your Facebook page.

Web Site – Put the Facebook social plugin on every page. Use the Add This Button.

The above steps are time-consuming. They will not transform your 98 pound Facebook page into Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight. Building a community is a process and requires constant attention. Merely adding Facebook fans is only the first step in a long journey.

But, you have to start somewhere.

Your thoughts?

Author: Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist, SMThree