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How Do Small Businesses Build High Engagement on Facebook?

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There is no doubt that Facebook is a major player in the way small businesses engage with their customers. But, before putting together a marketing plan to build your Facebook fan base, let's take a look at the meaning of having lots of "likes" on your page.

Social marketing gurus have pondered the tangible value of Facebook fans for years. Last year, when Facebook decided to limit the amount of access you have to people who have liked your fan page (unless you pay for people to see what you post), they significantly reduced the inherent value -- in my book. For example, I have nearly 3,000 likes on my fan page and I post typically once a day to my page. On average, 207 people see what I post each day. In the good old days, everyone who "liked" your brand saw what you posted in their news stream, but with every revenue model update that is rolled out by Facebook, the value of likes has diminished. That said, I still come across plenty of small business owners who generate a ton of business and customers through Facebook, despite the hurdles they continue to send up.

One such business owner is Laurie Eno, publisher of The Daily Corgi. The Boston-based Internet entrepreneur mixes fur and fun on her Facebook fan page. She started it in the fall of 2009 as a companion page to her blog, The Daily Corgi. These days she has over 19,000 (likes).

Ms. Eno says there are three things that have helped her build such a big following and high engagement on Facebook. Her first fan page strategy was posting frequency and consistency. "People come to expect regular activity on my page; they know what they will see on my page since I post several times a day." She says the quality of posts is important, even if it's "just" a photo. "Whether it's a cross-post from my blog, which derives more than 60 percent of total page views from Facebook, or a reader-submitted photo story, I carefully curate what goes on the page." She has so much fan-generated material that she rarely struggles to find things to post to Facebook or her blog.

She has infused her Facebook page with her own voice, "I reply to peoples' questions, comments and messages on an individual, first-name basis". She says that her readers and regular commenters largely make her page so engaging. "Readers can post their own photos on the page, and if they are especially good images I'll share them to the main wall of the page and when I do that, they feel their dog has 'made' The Daily Corgi." She claims this is a real measure of Internet fame. Once a week she features an adoptable Corgi or an update on a recently adopted Corgi too. "I sign the updates with my first name, I speak from the heart... and in return I receive equally heartfelt responses from repeat visits and new fans." She takes on testy comments as well. She discourages her readers from posting advertisements, products or services. And she prohibits breeder advertisements altogether. "I maintain a standard of conduct on the page that applies to everybody, no exceptions, no smearing or meanness is tolerated," said Ms. Eno.

She has also made her Facebook page a place where people can come with their grief over losing a beloved Corgi. "If a reader's dog is going in for surgery or facing a grim diagnosis, I post on the page about to rally moral support from readers," said Ms. Eno. She often gets 100-200 comments of support from her fans grieving dog owners. "People are getting more than entertainment; they are being supported and finding solidarity in a virtual community."

And all this dog loving makes money too. She started running ads on the blog last year, and the commission structure is based on web traffic; which is largely generated from Facebook. She has grown the fan page to 19,000+ without ever buying Facebook ads. She mostly uses her page to promote giveaways/fundraising efforts. She wants to add a third-party app to generate revenue from Facebook, but is concerned about the platform's ever-changing rules. "The last thing, I want to do is run afoul of them and have the page taken down," said Ms. Eno.

As a blogger, she leverages her influence with corporate sponsors. She will post sponsored posts by major companies including Subaru of America. While her posts for her corporate clients appear on the blog, she cross-promotes the links on her Facebook page, Twitter and Pinterest, too.

When it comes to getting more "Likes" on your Facebook fan page, Lena West, Founder of the Influence Expansion Academy, suggests what she calls the C.Q.H. Approach.

C is for consistency. Ms. West warns that small business owners should not complicate things. "Rather than try to follow some complicated updating sequence, just make it a priority to be consistent in updating your Facebook page." This also means to be consistent in marketing your page on and off of Facebook.

Q is for quality. "Resist the urge to post anything and everything." Ms. West says make sure your content does one of three things, "It should either inform, uplift or entertain your visitors." Mix it up a little by sharing videos, images, poll questions and quick fill-in-the-blank exercises," she says.

H is for human. "Don't focus so much on always being "on brand"; show your personality to your target audience," said Ms. West. Be sure to tag your fan page from your personal profile to make it easier for your friends to become your fans too. You may also want to post something about your business on your personal page occasionally to remind your friends about your business.

Don't forget: Facebook changes can come at any time, so you want to have flexibility to adjust your plan for driving more customers to your business.

This was originally published under the title: How Do You Get More Likes on Your Facebook Fan Page? at www.succeedasyourownboss.com

Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady, is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, www.succeedasyourownboss.com which is syndicated through the Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #Smallbizchat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News, and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.