4 Strategies For Engaging Facebook Fans No Matter How “Unsexy” Your Brand Is

It’s simple to conceive of a host of clever social media campaigns for brands that sell popular products like packaged goods, food, travel gear, and other “sexy” items. But what if your brand sells a product or provides a service that inspires less consumer enthusiasm?

If your brand sells children’s clothing, or pet supplies, or organic groceries, a wide array of effective Facebook marketing strategies are available. Here are just a few:

  • Create constantly rotating photo albums of your merchandise.
  • Run contests encouraging fans to share their personal style and preferences.
  • Encourage messaging interactions around topics related to children, pets, or food.

What do you do if your brand sells insurance, is a mortgage brokerage, or develops security software? How can you build an engaged rapport with your fans?

We’re Going To Show You How!

By examining real-life examples of companies that range from housing development builders, to banks, to security software, and gardening suppliers, this post will show you how to engage your Facebook audience, regardless of what your brand does.

It is important to always keep in mind that fans are people, no matter what brand they declare affinity for. People generally have interests that, when catered to, influence action and engagement. Let’s take a look at four strategies that any brand can implement to encourage engagement and interaction:

  • Create a one stop information shop
  • Relate to a common experience
  • Offer an enticing prize
  • Tie activity to a cause or initiative

1. Create A One-Stop-Information Shop

When brainstorming how to entice users to join and interact with your brand, the challenge is to come up with ways to encourage them to interact with the page continuously over time and prevent disengagement. If you’re managing a brand that is perceived as “unsexy,” creating a fan page containing valuable resources and information to benefit the user is essential. The goal is to capture users with an initial promotion, and to keep them returning to your page for information even after the promotion is over.

An example of a brand who achieved this goal is Webroot, a software company that distributes security applications and programs. Webroot partnered with Wildfire to develop a campaign promoting its security software. Users visited Webroot’s Facebook page for a chance to win high-value prizes such as airline tickets, electronics, and kitchen appliances. Recognizing that its promotion would drive considerable traffic to its page, Webroot created a powerful, resource-rich page about its products and services. As a result, users who visited Webroot’s page to participate in the promotion were also exposed to the page’s valuable content (such as a virtual help agent, a collection of informational videos, customer testimonials, and registration for a free trial), which gave them a reason to return. In turn, Webroot created a full service, user-friendly community through its Facebook page, and a place where fans go to access information about the company.

The strategy worked well for the company, as monitor charts showing the timeline of the pages growth indicate a high correlation between the promotional marketing efforts and the growth of the page:

Webroot Social Media Growth

Webroot Facebook Page

2. Relate To A Common Experience

Depending on your brand’s targeted demographic, Facebook user groups generally have things in common that tie them together. Teenagers are all in school, college-aged users typically appreciate putting money towards books or college, and adults all pay bills. While it may be difficult to think up a creative promotion for a company like Meritage Homes, which designs and builds eco-friendly homes and other community properties (a task such as “sketch your dream house” is difficult for a user, even though it’s a creative idea), it’s not impossible. Meritage Homes created a theme all users can relate to and engage in:

The company’s fan page revolves around a contest it launched called “Show us your Bad Bill Face,” which asked users to submit photos of the facial expressions they make when paying bills. The fan page customized its profile picture to reflect this theme, and includes a leaderboard that changes daily to reflect vote counts and motivates entrants and voters. With its contest, Meritage Homes focused on an idea that relates to every adult’s common experience: we all pay bills, and none of us like it. By making an amusing request that all adult users could connect with, awarding a $25 gift card to a daily winner, and promoting the contest with a strong messaging strategy throughout its month-long duration, Meritage Homes placed itself in a great position to grow a larger fan base that remains engaged even after the promotion.

Meritage Home Facebook Page

3. Offer An Enticing Prize

It used to be that a bank would sweeten the idea of opening up a checking account by giving you a free prize for doing so. Flashlights, lava lamps, tickets to a sporting event; none of these items were directly related to banking, but each offered an incentive for the user to engage with the brand.

The same concept is true on Facebook today, as brands that otherwise might not seem highly differentiable among users still attract fans. In fact, many banking brands on Facebook are using this age-old incentive in a social-media-friendly way.

For instance, Bethpage Federal Credit Union hosted a promotion and offered a $1,000 grand prize to users who submitted photos incorporating paper print-outs of the bank’s two mascots, Beth and Paige. By doing so, Bethpage put a fun and creative twist on encouraging users to become fans: it required users to “Like” its Facebook page in order to enter the contest and vote on photo submissions.

Bethpage Credit Union Facebook Page

4. Tie Activity To A Relevant Cause Or An Initiative

Companies regularly engage in corporate social responsibility programs to give back to the communities they are a part of, and signal to the public world of their dedication and commitment to certain values. If your brand does this, your Facebook page is the perfect place to showcase your brand’s causes and initiatives. In fact, fans are rallied to action by being tied to specific causes.

Consider the example of Safer Brand, a leading manufacturer of organic gardening and pest control products. Safer Brand ran a promotion on its Facebook fan page through which it donated money for each user who “Liked” the page, to a good cause: the Katie’s Krops initiative to fight hunger. For Safer Brand, this was a powerful way to rally users around a common cause, raise money for a charitable initiative, and convert users into fans to grow its fan community.

Safer Brand Facebook Page

When your brand provides a service that doesn’t lend itself to typical promotion opportunities such as giveaways and exclusive discounts, you can get creative with the kinds of promotional activities you create for fans.

The insurance industry is an example of a brand that can be hard to promote, since it’s difficult to give fans a discount on services, and you can’t give away free coverage in a sweepstakes. You can and should, however, add personality to your brand by aligning it with a cause that users can relate to. For example, Independence Blue Cross hosted a fitness-oriented contest to promote its “Healthy Steps” initiative. Fans submitted pictures of themselves exercising for a chance to win a gift card to a sporting goods store. With its promotion, Independence Blue Cross conveyed to users that its Facebook fan page is a forum to engage in fun, healthy activities, discuss common interests like fitness, and be rewarded for taking part in an initiative. For its efforts, Blue Cross saw a healthy progress in growth over the campaign period:

Blue Cross Social Media Progress on Facebook

Do you have examples you’d like to share of other brands shaking up their Facebook fan pages with interesting campaigns that engage fans and spur conversation? Share your thoughts in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

About the Author: Maya Grinberg is the Social Media Manager at Wildfire Interactive. She specializes in corporate social media strategies and teaching businesses how to optimize them. Follow her on Twitter as @papayamaya or @wildfireapp.

  1. What a great post! I get asked this question all the time. I will be passing this along to a lot of people

  2. How awesome is this, Maya! Thank you for showcasing Safer Brand and the awesome work we’ve done with Wildfire!

  3. Hi Maya,

    It was truly a very informative post. Would love to have a post from you on engaging C level Executives on facebook, twitter, etc.

  4. Thanks Maya for this post.

    I really liked the Meritage Homes contest as they offer something unique & interesting which I’d like to share with my own client. Though, his nature of business is jewellery, but apart from sweepstakes which he is currently running now, do you know something unique contest we can create?

    Also, we talked to wildfire for applications & other things for our fan page but their prices seems to be little bit high due to which we moved to Northsocial which we are cursing. They don’t provide anything new & most of their apps are into development or seems to be not launched.

    • Hi there hyderali! We do have many suggestions for being engaging with fans on Facebook, check out our Wildfire blog– some great articles there: htto://blog.wildfireapp.com

      Wildfire campaigns can be very affordable, it really depends what features you need for each campaign you’re trying to run. If you like promotions, which it sounds like you do, they start at $5 to launch and $0.99 a day for each day you run it. Our promotions are very popular, and have been used to run over 130,000 campaigns for brands. I’d love you to check out more information at http://www.wildfireapp.com.

  5. I have two words for these strategies:
    Short Term.,…

    People do not relate to your brand because of this, they relate to your campaign.
    It’;s over?
    Their love for you goes away as fast.

    In FB – that means no more engagement, that means not showing up on their radars anymore, that means waste of time/money…
    Just so you know

    • Hi Konigwonig! Thanks for your feedback. I agree with you– this is a place to start, and a place to keep coming back to seasonally (or however often your brand commits to promotional activity.) In between messaging and content strategies are especially important, to keep users interested. We regularly provide our readers and clients with ways to remain engaging in between heavy promotional periods: check out our blog, I really think you’ll like it! http://blog.wildfireapp.com

  6. koningwoning,

    Well that depends on one thing. If you do these contests and initiatives once a year – I agree you’re wasting time, $ and energy. However, if you keep an active Facebook page and you continually market well with it on a daily basis then it should pay off. Remember, most people who like the page will get touches every time you post to your page.

    In addition, you will continue to get likes on content linking back to your site, which provides a healthy social signal for your SEO efforts.

    Especially in the situation of the local credit union – Facebook is a great way to keep their local customer base aware of new financing programs for their members, auto deals, free checking specials, refer a friend programs etc. I think these strategies can be very beneficial if executed well.

    Finally – always track your metrics. Can you trace success of your Facebook campaigns? That’s how you really know :)

  7. Great post. It’s important, as you stated, to grab hold of a common interest that your brand and target demographic might share. For instance, good health is a part of everyone’s lives, and I believe Blue Cross nailed it with their Facebook promotion. I guess the lesson is, think outside the box, and you’ll tap into resources and ideas that you never thought possible!

  8. This is a great post! As an online faxing company, it can be challenging to find ways to engage with people of all interests… not just faxes. This blog helped give us some ideas for what to do in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  9. @Sean / @Maya – thanks for the feedback.

    @Maya – I know you guys. I know your work. I think you guys rock. I just am very weary of all the companies investing in something that only gains short tem results – often at the price of brand values.
    I understand that if you do this in accordance to your brand – but this is fuel for a lot of people to simply give more promotinos unthinkingly….. and because the likes go up they’ll say “see, we did a great job”

    @Sean – I agree partially. I know for a fact through statistics that those comapanies who have been doing promotions on a case by case basis that it only works for short term visibility. The thing is that you have to have a good content strategy as well…. What I see in this article is not long term thinking about what kind of thing can you build a whole contentstrategy on – except for the one stop shop (that IS great).

    I think it still focusses too much on the products and not enough on the benefits. I believe that if you take the benefits one abstraction level higher you can always get a good content strategy. You just do need to know who buys your product, why they buy this product and how to enhance it in a way that will resonate (so understand your TA)

    In the case of the credit union – that is spot on. There you tie what you give back to your product. You give something in order to get something back. That is what misses in most giveaways/prizecommunication etc.

    Again guys – thanks for the feedback!

  10. We did a kind of similar campaign as Safer Brand with Intoloop’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/intoloop) and grew the total number of likes from 400 to 3000. We donated a tetanus vaccine through Unicef for each like on Facebook. This campaign was on until Unicef asked us to stop that. I guess they got enough vaccines already :)

  11. it’s very important the quality of the likes also. it doesn’t help to organize a contest for example, where the participants should like your page first, but they are only interested in the prize, they have nothing to do with your page or your brand. better have 1000 targeted fans, than 5000 fake

    • @Lumidan Agreed on the point you’re making– promotions, if you’re choosing to run them, can definitely cater to a certain target group of fans. For example, GIA (Global Industry Analysts), a research firm, did a promotion where for each entry, the user got a free copy of a white paper about cloud computing (MSRP $1,000.) Now THAT’s a prize you can assume that only VERY interested users of that target demographic would find worthwhile to enter a promotion for. :)

  12. Great post, completely informative and useful explanation – visual aids help spark more ideas!
    Believe it or not dentistry can be unsexy – but only sometimes..

  13. These are great tips. I work with a lot of B2B brands in ‘unsexy’ industries like healthcare and safety footwear… and we’ve been successful using some of the strategies you mention.

    One of the most recent promotions we did was for ICD-10 Online from Elsevier Revenue Cycle Strategies. They provide educational tools to hospitals and healthcare organizations that will help ease the transition to ICD-10 coding requirements by 2013…. how’s THAT for unsexy?

    But we came up with messaging anyone could relate to – a journey, a roadmap – and used it to drive an entire campaign. We even gave away GPS devices! Most importantly (in my opinion), the brand has positioned themselves as ICD-10 implementation experts, sharing relevent articles, white papers, e-books, webinars, etc with their Facebook fans.

    The lesson is, even ‘boring’ brands don’t have to be boring. Social media allows you to add that bit of personality. Take advantage of it.

    Check out the full case study here – http://www.atomicdust.com/blog/single/roadmap-for-successful-healthcare-marketing

    -Danielle at Atomicdust

  14. Really cool post, unsexy brands? haha

  15. Thanks for this interessting post. But i’m not so happy about the long-term strategy. First they grow their likers, but what’s about the community management after that? Do the new likers engage with the company or not?

    I think that competitions are good to get a critical size for engaging with your users, but later it’s important to grow your fanbase with good community management.

    Greetings from switzerland
    Chris

  16. Personally, I find it offensive that Preparation H wants me to find them on Facebook and “Like” them.

  17. Here’s a great tool (FB APP) that helps you engage fans with video! Easy and effective! http://apps.facebook.com/slidemotion-pro/

  18. Great post thank you for the informative information

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