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Inbound Marketing Blog

    How Real Businesses Tripled Their Facebook Fans

    Posted by Jasmine Henry

    Generate Facebook Buzz Fast!

    Boring or unimaginative advertising doesn't go far on Facebook anymore. I'm pretty sure even inbound marketers can occasionally identify with business writer Jim Edwards who famously wrote "sure, I like your brand page. Now leave me alone."

    Getting noticed online, whether you're talking about a business blog or major social media networks, is really about producing material that's interesting enough to be shared and discussed offline. You've really got three options. You can build a following by introducing humor or otherwise loveable content or slowly generate a reputation for sterling customer service, like Zappos. Or, you could go the direct route and triple your Facebook fans in a single weekend by doing something irresistible or just plain nutty. We've gathered some real-life examples of social media rock stars and a few other companies who ended up with a little more than they bargained for:

    1. Offer Incentive

    Lenny's Sub Shop, a Memphis-based Sandwich chain tripled their Facebook fans in two days, increasing from 11,000 to 34,000. There were no paid advertisements or Google Ad Words campaigns involved, just a pretty sweet incentive: a coupon for a free, half-pound sandwich for all new and existing fans who liked their page over a 7-day period. It was a risky maneuver, but they weren't too worried about losing money.

    President Brent Alvord was confident that first-time guests of the chain would be converted into regular customers. Besides, chances were high they'd also purchase chips and a drink when they visited or even bring a friend without a coupon. The move was bold and probably a little scary, but it definitely worked: a year after the promotion, Lenny's has nearly 90,000 Facebook fans and offers a new coupon every Wednesday!

    Several years ago Jack and the Box ran an "October Rich Fan sweepstakes," where they offered to pay a nickel per fan to a randomly-selected winner at the end of the month. The fan count shot from 40,000 to 230,000 by the time a lucky winner was awarded $11,500. That's a lot of nickels!

    2. Spotlight Your Kindness

    While national department store chain Kohl's is a large corporation, the ingenuity surrounding their 2010 Facebook contest for charity can yield a lot of inspiration for small and medium-sized brands. The department store offered $10 million for not-for-profit schools nationwide, with $500 thousand as prize winnings for the 20 schools who were able to generate the most "likes" and votes. The winning schools each earned more than 100,000 votes and the total number of Facebook fans quickly exceeded a million. The contest was a home run because it brought a flood of positive attention to the brand's outreach efforts. Two years later, they have nearly 10 million Facebook fans and a high engagement rate.

    3. Be Really Weird

    So your brand can't afford to put $10 million up for grabs, even for a great cause? Maybe what you need is something that no one's ever done before. Being really original can help you generate buzz and earn likes. A little-known example of Facebook brilliance comes by way of Pinacoteca de Estado, a fine arts museum in Sao Paulo, Brazil. When faced with the need to close a floor of their massive building for an entire year, they introduced a robot cat attached to a live web camera. For a week, they allowed Facebook fans to spend 3 minutes controlling the electronic beast and catch a peek into the renovation. Over 10,000 participated and many more watched.

    4. Don't be disingenuous

    Remember, there's a difference between putting a human-like face behind your company and masquerading as a human. Shock rippled through South America when a young Columbian man announced on Facebook he was giving away all of his worldly possessions. Lines formed, and it turned out it was all a ploy by local hardware store Homecenter Sodimac. While it certainly got people talking about the brand and earned some social media attention, it wasn't all positive by any means.

    5. Don't Ignore Possibilities

    There's more than a few examples of big brands who suffered social media embarrassment, but few Americans have heard of a little-known Volkswagen incident that happened overseas. When Volkswagen Quicar, a car-sharing service was introduced to the town of Hannover, Germany, fans were invited to share messages on the Facebook page which were broadcast to hundreds of electronic screens throughout the city. It didn't take people long to figure out the messages weren't filtered before broadcast. The enthusiastic surge of likes and commentary from trolls worldwide wasn't the sort of fans Volkswagen was hoping to earn.

    6. Be Honest

    There's another way that thousands of brands have experienced a boom of followers overnight without even having to craft a really innovative campaign. Buying fake followers has become an epidemic, and Facebook said about 24 hours ago that enough is enough. Back in August, buying fake likes became a violation of the terms of service. Early October 1st, the social media king began deleting these fake accounts in droves. There's an estimated 83 million fake accounts currently on Facebook and some major brands have already lost nearly 100 thousand followers in the beginning stages of the great clean-up. While it's still technically possible to buy fake likes for as low of a cost as $0.10 each, the option won't exist much longer and it might even get your company banned from the biggest social media network in the future. 

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    Topics: Social Media