How I Gained 500 Facebook Fans Overnight

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I was going to wait until the new year to write this post, but as I start to see a few more people attempt it, I can see that the effects may in fact wear off very quickly. What I’m talking about is a new idea in viral marketing on Facebook, in which a fan is encouraged to share something, to be in with a chance of winning a prize. I ran a little bit of an experiment myself, and I was very pleased with my results.

I should warn you first, that I’ve since found out that this is again Facebook rules and regulations for these promotions, and had I been a much bigger page, and been reported, there’s a good chance that I would have been banned, or at least been the subject of a strongly worded email. The specific guideline is on line 3 of their promotions guidelines and is as follows: “You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism. For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.” That is basically a lot like what I did; I didn’t get caught, and I will be deleting the image now that the competition is up, but it’s certainly a risk. I personally think it’s a bit of a gray area because the reason I give for liking a page is so that they will see their name when they win, and this is a very new type of promotion, so there’s every chance that you’ll get away with it too, but it could be perceived as spammy so be very careful about your decision.

I got the idea from this campaign from the clothing brand Fly53, which was a giveaway of £7,500 worth of clothing, where all they had to do was click share to be in with a chance of winning. This is a fantastic campaign, but I immediately saw some problems (and how they could improve them), which I’ll get to further down the page. One thing that does stand out to me is that they manage to follow Facebook’s guidelines, not follow the guidelines, and mislead all of the fans in just one small paragraph.They follow the guidelines of Facebook by making the readers enter the competition via an app, but as you see, they tell the readers to share the post to be in with a chance of winning. The give the impression that all you have to do is click share, because it doesn’t say anywhere in the text that you have to enter the competition through the app that’s linked in the text. If a big name brand with over 40,000 fans can get away with this, then I should imagine that most people would. I still recommend exercising caution though because the risk may not be worth the reward, and I would hate for any of you to lose your accounts. I imagine there will be a crackdown on this sort of promotion pretty soon.

I wanted to test the water myself, just to see how well it would work, but without spending any of my own money. Without going into too much detail, there’s a lens that I recommend as the first upgrade any budding photography should buy, it’s a lens that I’ve written about in length before, and it’s had a pretty good response. The lens also isn’t that expensive, so getting a hold of one wouldn’t be too hard either. I decided that this would be perfect for my readers to win, but it’s not a decision I brushed over, and you shouldn’t either.

If you think about what you want to achieve by holding this giveaway, it’s ultimately so that you can find new fans for your page, whom you can share your website with in the future, so the prize has to be something that will appeal to them. Not only does the prize have to appeal to people in your niche, but it has to ONLY appeal to people in your niche. Sure, you could giveaway a $200 giftcard for Amazon, but everyone wants one of those, so you’ll likely get it shared by a lot of people who aren’t into whatever your niche is selling. By choosing a lens, I knew that everyone who liked and shared my post, would at least have a digital SLR camera, and would therefore be interested in my content. The unfortunate thing about this rule is that not every niche can do one of these giveaways so easily, in fact we’re struggling to come up with one for Income Diary. We had considered the top 20 business books, but again, that has a much wider appeal than just our niche.

The second thing that I took note of was the worth of the giveaway, Fly53 were giving away £7,500 worth of clothes, but I wanted to only give away between $110-220, so it was a slight risk because I wasn’t sure it was going to work as well. Of course, I knew it was never going to work quite as well, they have around 40,000 fans, and I had just 1700 at the time, and they were also giving away something a lot better than me, but I was still surprised with just how well it has worked.

Ok, so now you’ve chosen a prize to give away, how do you pay for it? Well, there’s three options for that. Firstly, you could just pay for it out of you pocket, and consider it a worthwhile investment in your website. Secondly, you ask for a freebie from whoever makes what you’re giving away, which I’m planning on doing soon with someone who’s already sent me a free camera strap. And finally, you could use your Amazon Associates commissions. Every couple months I promote a new post, where I recommend different products that people should buy, and then use Amazon Associate links to earn commissions. I posted this on my website a couple weeks ago, which links to 70 different products, and since then I’ve earned $179.19 in commission, from that post, and various others. These posts provide me with content to keep my readers updated, and money that I can spend on giveaways.

When you know what it is you’re giving away, then it’s important to share it on Facebook as soon as possible. I actually left a little tease on the Facebook page earlier in the day, saying how I was thinking about arranging a giveaway, and I asked what everyone would like for Christmas. Then I started designing a little image that would contain all the important information, and grab the reader’s attention at the same time. It’s important to put all of the necessary information into the image because you’ll get a better result. Below is the image that Fly53 used, and although their campaign went well, it really doesn’t tell you anything about what they’re doing from the image itself, nor can you differentiate it from the other competitions that they were running, using exactly the same image.I went for a very different design, making mine on Photoshop in a couple of hours. I’m not very good at photoshop, and you don’t have to make it on there, you could easily make a PDF in word and use that instead. When you’re designing your own, it’s important to only include necessary information, detailing very clearly what the reader has to do. For me it was very simple:

1. ‘Like’ Expert Photography on Facebook
2. Share the image on their Facebook wall

The fist requirement was a trick that most people seem to be missing, because if you can get people to like your fan page, then there’s a good chance that you can get them to come to your website multiple times in the future. The reason I gave for making people like the page was so that I could tag their name in the post if they won, and it does have that use, but in reality, I just wanted to be able to market to them again in the future. How much would you pay for 500 new fans on your page? How much would it cost you in Facebook ads to reach it? When you consider those options, this starts to become a very cheap way of generating new fans.

I included a few images at the bottom of the post, before revealing a few finer details about the terms and conditions, such as where I’d ship to, which brand I would be giving away, and when the winner would be announced, but for more detailed information, I used the description of the image on Facebook to really sell it: “To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is share this photo on Facebook, and make sure that you ‘like’ the Facebook fan page (so that we can tag the winner). You have to be in the USA, Canada, or UK to be in with a chance of winning, and you have to own either a Canon, Sony, or Nikon DSLR. It’s an essential lens for every camera bag, and even if you already own one, it makes for an excellent present, I’m sure you’ll agree. Happy Holidays!”

With the image posted, it became a waiting game to see how people would react to it, and I didn’t have to wait long at all. I started receiving likes pretty regularly, but I really wanted to promote it, so I decided to ask others to help out. I emailed Jim who has written on this website before and is in the same niche as me (you can see his post here), because he has 15,000 fans on Facebook, and seeing as it’s something every photographer should have, I asked if he minded sharing it with his fans. I did this just 33 minutes after I published the photo, and just 42 minutes later, he had shared it on his Facebook to thousands of people. This is when things really started to pick up.

I don’t have a huge following on Facebook yet, but it’s growing steadily now as the site is also growing. I do however know a few people in my niche though, usually because I’ve included them in one of my top lists, or I’ve been mentioned in one of their lists too, so I can use these relationships to my advantage. You shouldn’t be worried about sharing other people’s content through your own website or Facebook; they are NOT your competition – the success of your website is up to you, not down to how good someone else’s website is.

With this boost from Jim, I was able to reach a lot more people, and the sharing soon grew to hundreds of people. After just an hour and a half, I have 92 new shares and 87 new likes on Facebook, and just 35 minutes after that, the numbers had gone up even further to 185 and 182. I posted the image late in the evening, and when I woke up the next morning, I had 500 new fans on Facebook, which is now up to well over 700. It took a little over 24 hours to reach 500 shares, which meant that people were liking the page and not sharing the image, probably because they were confused by how Facebook works, but I had a feeling that was going to happen because I’ve seen it happen before.

There’s no doubting that the viral nature of this sort of marketing has clearly worked, and when you consider that the average Facebook user has 130 friends (although I suspect it’s more), and I’ve had 592 shares as of writing this (it’s still going up), then my post has been shared to 76,960 people, for what may only be $110.

Not only are people sharing my image, liking my page, and visiting my website, but they’re also talking about my website. The ‘talking about this’ statistic underneath the fan page likes, will dramatically increase from this, and that will cause Facebook to include more of my content in people’s news feed, as I will be considered to be worthy.

When you’ve got your big new following, you’ll find that there are more people interacting with the content that you put up. I put up my first article since the campaign started, and where I would usually get up to about 6 likes, and a couple comments, I received 15 likes, and 8 comments. This increases reader interaction, and helps my website to grow.

There are a few things that I would have done differently to how I’ve done it, for example, I’ve said that I’ll announce the winner on Christmas day, which is when I planned on ending it, but it’s started to lose steam, and I think that 24-48 hours would have sufficed. Next time I do one, I will probably be giving away a camera strap, and for that, I’ll only doing it for 24 hours. That giveaway is going to be part of a promotion for both my website, the strap, and the commission that I can earn through Amazon, so not only will it not cost me any money, but I’ll be able to actually earn money too. I also would have widened the area that I would have sent the lens too as well, because I have a fan base in Australia who couldn’t enter the competition, so that’s something I will consider next time.

If I were to run the competition again, I would definitely run it through the app, and follow the Facebook guidelines, because it’s taken me a long time to get to the point that I’m at today, and I would hate to lose it all. It’s been a very interesting experiment and I’m glad that I’ve done it, but those rules are in place for a reason, and I’m sure Facebook wouldn’t feel bad at all about quickly deleting your page from their servers. Since the promotion started just 6 days ago, I’ve had over 750 new likes, 592 shares and around 200 comments, all for the cost of a cheap lens. I chose my winner and, although I’m yet to hear back (don’t worry, I will definitely chase them up), everything has ended up a little bit better than expected.

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