Unless you’re a celebrity or well-known personality, what exactly does it mean to have a fan? Have you been misled into thinking that someone who clicks on ‘like’ is your true fan? Has this even tempted you to sign up to the sites that offer to ‘sell’ you fans? If so, then you still don’t understand social media and how to maximize its potential and even monetize the people who have, on their own volition, decided to follow you.

Below is an image taken from FanPageList.Com. This shows the top 12 fan pages on Facebook, in terms of number of fans. Take a good look at this list. Apart from Facebook, Zynga and YouTube the remaining nine fan pages all have ‘celebrity’ appeal. The people following these nine pages are true fans. What all 12 have in common is mass interest. Whether it’s the Harry Potter movie, Shakira, Family Guy, Christian Ronaldo or Facebook, people are truly interested in seeing and receiving updates relating to these iconic pages. The value given to ‘fans’, is the personal connection to their favorite singer, footballer, game or social network. The same is true and even more relevant for Twitter. But the key to this is the belief that ‘fans’ are being offered something that is valuable to them.

The Facebook fan page has over 60 million fans. What do they get? Insights into their favorite social network. The first thing they are presented with is interesting and relevant information. Memology 2011 offers fans the top ten global topics on Facebook. This ranges from the death of Osama Bin Laden to the Royal Wedding. It also shows the most shared articles on Facebook in 2011. The page does not try to get anything from their fans. It just gives the fans more information about Facebook.

Eminem, with over 52 million fans, also gives without expecting. This page rewards loyal fans with videos and music and even a Facebook game application called ‘Bad Meets Evil’.

Television show Family Guy gives fans the opportunity to vote for their favorite character. This gives fans the feeling that they are being listened to, and they are. Polls are a great way to interact with fans and find out a little more about them in an unobtrusive way.

However, if you’re not an iconic figure, a famous movie, a sports star or a social network, why would someone even consider becoming your ‘fan’?

Social media is a two way street. This is why there’s such a vast difference in mind set between conventional advertising channels and social media advertising channels. It’s also why so many mistakes are made regarding expectant ROI. As it stands right now, there is no ROI in acquiring new fans alone. It takes time to cultivate followers into fans and only then you will be able to monetize your fan base.

It’s all about giving before expecting. Journalists and news publications give content that is considered valuable to the people reading it. Games give enjoyment to the people playing. Only once a significant enjoyment level is reached, fans are prepared to make a financial contribution to take their ‘play’ to a new level. For games it’s the difference between freemium and premium. People first have to understand and desire the freemium before they opt-in to the premium.

Exactly the same tactics can and should be applied to selling anything within Facebook. Here are the steps to take in order to successfully promote your products or brand on Facebook:

  1. Fan Acquisition
    For most brands this would start off with an advertising campaign using Facebook ads. Define an appealing offer. A compelling reason for someone to ‘like’ your page. Then, once momentum begins move on to step 2.
  2. Be a Giving Brand
    Give something of value to your fans. Whether it’s exclusive gossip, participation in a poll that your fans will feel part of or access to an exclusive VIP section of your page, give something for nothing. Please note, offering a discount does not count.
  3. Measure Engagement
    Take another look at the graphic above. Each statistic displaying the ‘fan’ count is followed by ‘Talking About’. When you have more than 10% of your ‘fan’ base talking about you, you are approaching the time to start monetizing your fans.
  4. Exclusive Deals / Flash Sales
    By the time you are ready to run a deal or flash sale you should already have a solid fan base with more than 10% talking about you and what you have already given to your fans. When you do make the decision to run an exclusive deal don’t hold back in telling your fans that they are receiving this deal just for being a fan.
  5. Attaching Viral Discounts
    For every fan who takes up an offer on Facebook, you should have a system to reward them. This reward system should be twofold:
    1. A reward for their transaction
    2. A reward if they share (this can be a tiered reward system based on number of shares)

The result of this is a successful word of mouth marketing campaign, also known as a ‘refer a friend’ program.

  1. Keep the cycle going and don’t stop.

This is the full cycle for selling and continuing on Facebook. Every company trying to put key performance indicators (KPI’s) to their social media campaign should try these:

i. Cost of a fan
If an advertising spend is $1,000 and 2,000 fans came in as a result of the campaign, but an additional 500 people became fans as a result of the 2,000, then $1,000 was spent to acquire 2,500, making the cost of a fan $0.40.

ii. Cost of a fan talking about your brand
Fans talking about your brand are more valuable, but also cost more. If 10% of your fan base are talking about your brand, that 250 fans. This would put the cost of this type of fan at $4, based on the figures quoted above.

iii. Cost of Fans purchasing straight from the offer.

iv. Number of Additional friends of fans who purchased from the ‘word of mouth’ program.

There are additional KPI’s that can measure the full success of social media campaigns. But, based on the above ideology, not everything is free!