5 tips to grow your Facebook page from scratch

We’ve passed a big milestone over on Breaking News’ Facebook page: 100,000 likes!

True, this is a pretty modest Facebook audience compared to many other major brands. But unlike some of those brands, Breaking News is still a relatively new entity in the news ecosystem. We launched our Facebook page on June 11, 2010. Like many newer brands, we face the challenge of growing our page’s audience without the support of an established, traditional publishing channel and with a modest marketing budget. Sound familiar?

We’re celebrating this 100,000 likes milestone (and more milestones to come) because we think we’ve honed in on a Facebook strategy that is delivering real results – higher engagement, stronger viral sharing and clear audience growth.

Based on our case study over the last few months, we’re sharing five tips to help you grow your Facebook page’s audience from scratch.

TIP 1: Metrics are your new best friend.

Facebook has really beefed up their Insights offering over the last six months, making huge swaths of detailed information available for export as well as easy dashboard viewing. Clearly, we all care about growing our likes. But in order to gain audience, you have to determine what activities contribute the most to that growth.

The good news: You don’t have to guess!

Here are the main categories of metrics we watch closely as we look for correlations to like spikes: 

  1. Volume of posts (per day and per month);
  2. Stories created (“stories” are likes, comments and shares on a post);
  3. Reach (the number of unique users who saw our posts, either organically in their News Feed or Ticker, directly on our page, paid or virally from a friend’s like, comment, share);
  4. Impressions (Facebook’s aspirational metric for possible times your posts could have been viewed);
  5.  Link clicks (how many times users clicked on URLs accompanying posts).

TIP 2: Map out a straightforward strategy with actionable goals that everyone buys in to.

Breaking news: Not everyone on your team is as obsessed with perfecting a Facebook post as you are. Getting everyone to buy in to your plan is key, and you can do that with a to-the-point strategy that focuses clearly on a small number of tactics that serve your main goal (growing likes). Identify clear actions everyone can take as part of their daily routines. Also identify how you will measure the success/failure of those actions.

This shouldn’t overwhelm your team and should keep everyone focused on actions that are truly important.

Here’s an example from our strategy document:

THEORY TO TEST: We can reach a higher number of Facebook users on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

PROPOSED ACTION: We posted 85 times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October: We posted 43 posts on 4 Fridays; 27 posts on 5 Saturdays; and 15 posts on 5 Sundays.

Let’s aim to increase our monthly total Friday-Saturday-Sunday output to 120 posts (~30% increase), with an average of 10 posts per day.

HOW WE’LL MEASURE: We’ll compare our month-over-month Reach and Impression metrics.

TIP 3: Experiment with posting photos and asking Questions.

A few months back, several folks on the Breaking News team noticed that photos being shared in our personal News Feeds seemed to be standing out more. We decided to start experimenting with uploading images directly to our page (instead of linking out to them), and we’ve seen a huge boost in engagement and sharing as a result. Photos as a peg to share news work really well on Facebook, especially when the photos are unique.

Facebook Questions have proven to be a great way to get our Facebook audience talking about breaking news, especially when the question is related to a “talker” story. Generally, we try to ask at least 2 Questions a week on our page. We try to keep them short and easy to answer. We try to avoid Questions that ask users to second-guess court rulings or arrests, and we also try to avoid Questions that would require the user to be an expert on the subject-matter.

TIP 4: Experiment with Facebook advertising.

We’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads, flighting campaigns in small bursts to discover the most bang for our buck. For some campaigns, we tied it to an ongoing story in the news. In others, we used Facebook’s “sponsored story” product to plug the overall page. In all instances, we discovered social ads – only served to people whose friends have already liked the page – proved to be the most effective way to draw engaged fans at an affordable rate. Overall, we spent a very modest amount of money to expedite our growth.

TIP 5: Test, learn, adapt (repeat).

The key to any goal-setting process is to be agile. Breaking News on Facebook isn’t perfect, and we don’t claim to have all the answers. What we do have is a process to test and measure our theories for growing likes. This structure allows us to experiment and learn and then experiment again. We’re looking at our Facebook performance every month and we’re tweaking based on the results we’re seeing. We can brainstorm new experiments and plug them into the existing structure that our team has bought in to. In many ways, this kind of discipline is an even bigger win than passing 100,000 likes.

(Post by Lauren McCullough, @lfmccullough)