Inbound Now #47 - Creating engaging Facebook pages with John Haydon

John Haydon returns to another episode of inbound now to share updated Facebook fan page best practices and his best insights on how he took his fan page from 3000 fans to over 15,000 in under a year.

John is the author of “Facebook Marketing for Dummies” and runs his own inbound marketing and social media strategy firm inbound zombie.

In the episode we chat about:

  • How to Foster Fan Page Engagement
  • How John Leveraged an Email Marketing Campaign to gain 2000 new fans
  • What different types of content work best for FB fan pages
  • The importance of content offers on your Facebook fan page
  • Must have third party Facebook apps for marketing

Full Transcript

David: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of Inbound Now. I’m your host, David Wells. Joining with me today is a blast from the past, Mr. John Haydon. John was on Episode 3 of Inbound Now over a year ago, and we talked all about Facebook then. Since then, John has authored a new book,

“Facebook Marketing for Dummies”. Today we’re going to dive into really the meat of how he creates his Facebook content strategy and some of the best practices that he implements on Facebook. So, welcome to the show, John.

John: Glad to be here. Glad to be here.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, John, you’re one of those people that you clearly eat your own dog food when it comes to the stuff that you create on your blog, in the book itself, and your page has grown tremendously over the past year. We’ll dive into your content strategy in a second but “Facebook Marketing for Dummies”, why did you write the book and who is it for?

John: Well, I wrote the book because I feel like that would give me the next step up in my business to create more awareness, get more leads, and that has happened actually. The book is really intended for kind of the beginner marketer, basically, the beginner person on Facebook. Although there is a lot of advanced stuff in the book, but really I would say it’s for beginner, an intermediate marketer who’s looking to include Facebook into their overall marketing mix. That’s who it’s for.

David: Nice. Nice. Yeah. I definitely recommend the audience to check it out if you’re getting into Facebook for sure. So, with your content strategy, John, I’ve noticed Inbound Zombie, so, John’s Facebook fan page is Inbound Zombie or Over the past year you’ve grown tremendously from I think you were somewhere around like 3,000 fans now you’re up what is it like 14,000?

John: 15,000 plus.

David: And you recently revamped your content strategy. What were some of the things that you’ve implemented to kind of change the course of your page?

John: Yeah. So, from a strategy perspective, what I did was I realized that and this is true for, I guess, any business to business company is that ultimately you’re doing business with people, right, and what I was doing in the past that was working OK was that I would publish content that was solely about building websites, Facebook, Twitter, social media, that kind of thing. In a way I was really talking about a very narrow niche. So, what I did over the past six months though is I kind of broadened that out realizing what are people interested in that might be related to that so that, in other words, I’m not just accessing their interest in a very, very limited way, but I’m actually touching on several different interests to kind of keep their attention.

And the reality is that someone that I would work with, a client that I would work with, they’re a human being. They’re not only thinking about social media.

They’re thinking about a whole bunch of other things that might be tangentially related. So, that kind of broadened it out.

I look at it more as approaching your content strategy in a very vertical sense which I think is very common.

If we’re a restaurant all we do is post pictures of our food and that’s it, but the people that go to your restaurant they’re actually interested in movies. They’re interested in going out at night. They’re interested in maybe, eating healthy. They’re interested in making their own food at home and cooking dinner for people. So there are other areas that are related to that. So, what I did is I kind of approached that content strategy more from a vertical perspective thinking what are other areas in people’s lives that might be related to this?

David:  So, it’s a way to grab people’s attention into the page that they might be interested in that other content. A lot of the stuff you do post, it’s funny mean pictures and stuff and stuff like that.

John: Yep.

David: And it seems to have a pretty good reaction.

John: Well, yeah. That’s the other thing is that I’m not like all businesses. Basically, Inbound Zombie is me. So, it’s essentially me as a person and so I’m like a whole person, and what I realize is that I need to express more of who I am and who I am is essentially not really different from the brand. I don’t really like the idea of personal brand, but on a Facebook page it is essentially I’m giving people an impression of who I am to a certain degree. So, I wanted to post content, and I didn’t really go about this consciously like, oh these are the types of things that my brand is about. I just started kind of becoming aware of what got me fired up. Like, wow, this is a cool picture, or this is an interesting article about evolution. I mean, what does evolution have to do with Internet marketing for non-profits? It’s smart, evolution is smart, organizations evolved, and I’ve also found a lot interesting ideas about how people, how human beings behave and I think that that’s important, too, because face it, Facebook, Twitter, all these things, they’re going to change from month to month to month. The one thing that doesn’t change is human beings. Also, I’ve just really expressed more of other interests that I have and posted those on the page but obviously they’re going to have to be related. Like, I love BMX bike riding, but maybe, not so related to what I’m doing for work.

David: Got you. Got you.

John: Maybe. I haven’t found a connection yet though.

David: Right. Right. So, with the stuff that you are posting though, it sounds like it’s two fold. Its increasing fan engagement, and it’s also making it more enjoyable for you to manage the page. Right?

John: Exactly and it’s easier for me to get inspired to actually post on a page if I feel like, wow, this got my attention. I like this. Here’s a cool idea. Let me share it. And by the way, I don’t go solely on my gut. I think inspiration is an important thing to go on, and, oh wow, I like this idea. This I think people are going to love. I want to share this. But also measure it. Well, that didn’t really work so well. What are the common things that are working what’s not working? I think that’s important.

David: Got you. Got you. So, yeah and you’re also posting inspirational quotes. Another thing that I really like about your page is you’re utilizing the full width. Is that a milestone or what is that to kind of highlight a certain area of the page?

John: Yeah, I mean, most people don’t go to my Facebook page anyhow, and I think this is true for most Facebook pages. People just don’t go to it. All the action happens in the news feed but for people that do go to my page and they’re a little bit more interested in what I do, like what is this Inbound Zombie thing. I’m going to click, go the page, check it out. A lot of people do that so what I’ve done is for individual updates that have a photo I’ve turned them into not milestones it’s called highlighting. You just click on a star icon and it makes it a full width, and what that does is it basically breaks up the visual space on the page so it’s easier scan down the content because you’ve probably seen the new timeline it’s really visually it’s just so zig zag. It’s awful to look at, actually. It’ll give you a migraine.

David: Got you. Got you. So, walk me through the kind of process when you’re planning your editorial calendar for the content that you are going to post on Facebook. What are you thinking about?

John: Well, I’m thinking about putting some very tactical “how to” stuff that’s on there.

I look at other pages that are similar to mine and I look at what are they posting. What seems to be working on these pages? I think competitive research is really important on Facebook.

I’m surprised a lot of non-profits, I work with non-profits but maybe this is the same for every industry. A lot of industries just don’t really think, oh wow, maybe I should look at what my peers are doing and what’s working. So, I do a lot of that and then in terms of the timing I’ve done a lot of reading of research like Dan Zarella who you know. And he’s found that really 8:00 p.m. is the sweet spot for posting stuff.

Most businesses really wouldn’t think about that though because usually work is a 9 to 5 gig. You go to work, you do your social media thing, you go home, and you do your other thing. But now with Facebook pages, you can schedule posts so that’s important. So, I’ve been kind of spreading my updates throughout the day like every three hours, and I update the page generally between four and five times a day. So, it really requires me to always be thinking of stuff to put on the page obviously.

David: Got you. So, you can schedule directly through Facebook now?

John: Yep. Yep. It’s a little clunky. I use another tool called Post Planner that is a lot more effective because you can do batches of updates at a time, and you can post to multiple pages very easily. It’s a little bit cleaner, but, yeah, you can schedule updates directly on Facebook.

David: Have you seen a difference between scheduling directly from Facebook because you’re using Facebook and the third-party app? I remember there used to be a thing with Edgerank where if you’re using a third-party app it wouldn’t get as much traction.

John: Yeah. That- I don’t think Facebook is no longer giving a third-party app kind of a- They’re not directly giving an app kind of demerit in the Edgerank, but third-party apps, the way that they function is that the technology itself actually diminishes or kind of puts a little ding in the Edgerank in a number of ways. So, for example, if you’re using Hoot Suite and you post a short URL something that you’re reposting from Twitter to Facebook, the issue isn’t necessarily the third part app but it’s the way that it’s used. So, it’s the short URL, it’s the RT, you know retweet, like what does retweet mean on Facebook. So, those are the things that really inhibit Edgerank. Also, the icon that might turn some people off, like if I see a Hoot Suite icon in my news feed, it tells me that the person’s really not there. It tells me that person’s on Twitter. That’s cool. They’re on Twitter. If I happen to meet up with them on Twitter, I’ll go there but I’m not really that motivated to really reply to this comment because it came from Twitter onto Facebook.

David: Right. Right. It just kind of shows that they’re kind of being lazy, they’re just cross-posting everywhere.

John: Yeah. Cross-posting in general, I don’t recommend it. I don’t think it’s a good idea. No.

David: You recently did an email push, and from the results you got 2,000 new fans.

John: Mm-hmm.

David: So, what’s the story there?

John: So, I read a couple articles recently that say that Facebook tabs aren’t really working and this and that and actually… God, who was it? It was Wild Fire, they found that now more recently in the past month their specific page… So, it’s not necessarily a study about a whole bunch of different pages, but their specific page is getting a lot more action on these other custom tabs. When a page is converted over to timeline, a lot of people said, well, these custom tabs are no longer valuable, but it’s just the only thing that’s changed is that you can set it as the default tab. Which I’m sure you know and many of the viewers know this, but there’s so many great things about these tabs. You can make 810 pixels of width. You have a huge amount of real estate to work with.

So, what I did was I did three things.

I had a pretty big carrot. I had an eBook that I published and I had it behind a like gate, like a fan gate.

So someone would have to go to the page, oh you want this book, click here and download it. Then I pushed that out to my email list. So, basically people that were subscribing to my email list, I wanted to kind of push them over to the page and have them like the page because the theory, my theory, is that if people are subscribing to my email list, they probably like what I do and they would probably be a little bit more likely to actually comment or like or share content on my Facebook page than a total stranger.

So, I thought that was really important. I wanted to kind of promote that. I sent out actually two emails. One email I sent out and I had a kick ass, sorry, I had a great subject line, plain text email, actually rich text not an HTML template. That I found gets a higher open rate in general. So, I sent out that first email and then three days later I sent out a second email to the people that opened the first one. It was like this one two punch. Go to the page and then further once they downloaded the eBook it had a kind of a note, a message, to them that says, hey, don’t be so selfish, share this with your friends, have them like the page, too. So, it kind of created this echo within each person’s friend network.

David: Very cool. Very cool. I think it’s very smart that you leverage your existing mailing list where you already have their email address, so sending them to that content offer and putting that behind that like gate that’s brilliant. So, kudos.

John: And I could send them directly there. Each tab has a unique URL on the page so it’s easy to send people there, but I think the key was really the carrot. Like the carrot has to be something that people really want. Then the carrot does the work, I think. If you don’t have a good carrot or if it’s like a skinny little like baby carrot, nobody’s going to like it.

David: Got you. Got you. Speaking of Facebook tabs, what applications do you recommend and are using four of those custom Facebook tabs?

John: So, I recommend two mainly. This is going to maybe, get a lot people mad. Actually, I’ll say three. Tabs is a really great third part solution. I’ve recommended them a lot because I like the people that work there, and Maurie Smith loves them, swears by them, so I recommend them, but I use Short Stack a lot because Short Stack not only allows you to build really nice looking custom tabs and manage them but also to run contests like upload videos, upload photos. They have a fan gating, they have this refer a friend thing where you can create a custom tab. People go there and you might have a contest, for example, that says like our page and get three of your friends to like our page as well, and then you can be entered to win this thing. Or enter this contest and get three of your friends to enter this contest then you’ll win, that kind of thing. So, leveraging again the friend network idea. So, those two and then for people that are really savvy with HTML, I recommend the Static HTML iFrames app which is free.

David: Yeah, that’s the one that I use. I got to revamp my tabs, and that’s kind of my next question here. You kind of touched on this, but are tabs still relevant? Like you sent that traffic to your tabs via email, but for the people that are primarily seeing stuff through the news feed, are the tabs still as powerful as they once were?

John: Well, yeah, that’s a really good question. So, it depends upon what you’re putting on the news feed and what the motivation is. So, you can post an update on the news feed and obviously include like a link to the app so that’s pretty straightforward, but really it matters what content are you sharing on the news feed. Is that going to get people’s interest?

Are they going to click on that link? That’s really the key. So, they’re relevant in that sense, but you can’t set it as a default tab. Mostly it’s going to be pushing people to that tab. You really have to push people to that tab. You could also use Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads allow you to pick a specific tab on your page and promote that, and the great thing about that is you can have your own image, custom image that you upload. You can have text around that tab. You can literally make your own little custom Facebook ad that directs traffic right to that tab.

David: Got you. Got you. So, for Facebook, if someone does go to your actual page for the cover photo, do you recommend just using a plain photo or actually customizing that and having something in there that tells about your business or non-profit?

John: It really does depend upon the brand. My brand, OK, I’m not like a big salesy type of person. Like, hey, buy my five-minute video on how to get 5,000 fans on Facebook in 30 days. That’s not me. That’s not me at all. I’m a little bit more subtle about it, but I think that photos do, you know, I like to have photos on my page. It really depends upon what you’re trying to say. So, WBUR, who you know, the past couple of months, they had a promotion where they want, not a promotion but basically a campaign, where they wanted to get testimonials from their listeners so they created a cover photo. On it, it said, “We want to hear from you” and then it had an arrow, click this tab and then tell us what you think about WBUR. Win a free iPad was the whole deal, but they were soliciting, they were trying to encourage engagement. They were trying to encourage like we want to hear what you have to say.

Now, cover photos have guidelines to them. You can’t put promotional text on them or even like a call to action, but I think the intent of that is so that we don’t have Facebook pages that are just almost like a red light district in Las Vegas. So, Facebook does have, I think, a high bar for how they want businesses to present themselves, but WBUR kind of crossed the line a little bit. I think it was they did have a call to action technically, but the intent was to engage the community. So I think that was fine with Facebook obviously because they ran that campaign.

David: Right and their call to action it was kind of like half of the call to action. It was basically pointing that arrow down to that custom tab, right?

John: Yeah.

David: That’s why I think it’s OK, and that’s actually I would think, that would be a best practice to kind of promote your content offer.

John: Yeah, yeah but again you can’t even refer to any features on Facebook with the custom tab like you can’t have arrow that says like our page or anything like that. There are pretty strict guidelines about it.

David: Have you seen anybody get shut down?

John: I have and Facebook is busy. So they’re got priorities.

David: That’s got to be a tough job being the Facebook cover photo police.

John: Yeah.

David: Cool. So since our last chat back in January of 2011, I asked you what was the future of Facebook? What do you see on the horizon? You mentioned that more and more companies would be creating fan pages which definitely became true. You also mentioned Facebook Places would kind of grow and that Facebook Ecommerce would also kind of grow. Did they or are they kind of in the same place as they were?

John: To be honest with you, I don’t have any data about if Facebook Places have grown, but just in my kind of world of Facebook I haven’t really seen businesses, local businesses particularly, using Facebook in the way that I would hope that they would use it. For example, offers and leveraging the idea of checking in. That’s what’s unique about a Facebook place is a person can actually check-in and share that with their friends. You and I both live in the Boston area, like I want to see people like the Museum of Science do something with Facebook check-ins. They could do wonders with that, but it’s not happening. And so, I guess last year really what I was telling you was that my best hope was that businesses would be using it. Are they? Maybe, I’m not really noticing it though.

David: Right. I feel, like Places is kind of stuck where a lot of people aren’t using it. They’re still using like Foursquare or something. I think Facebook’s going to have to acquire, like they spent a billion dollars on Instagram. I feel like they’re going to buy some sort of location service to kind of replace Places.

John: Yeah. The other thing is that there was this whole communication thing around Places. At first, they came out, this is Facebook Places, we’re going to compete directly with Foursquare, this is going to be awesome. Then they backed up and they changed their messaging on that. They said, well, Facebook Places, we have other plans. We’re not really going to be pushing that so much, but now clearly if you create a Facebook page you can either create a local business or place or a business. So they still have a lot of features of it, but they’re not really pushing it anymore and I think that’s, I don’t know. I mean they’re smart people. I’m sure they have great intentions, and they totally know what they’re doing. My hope was that I would love to see local businesses, especially in major metropolitan areas like Boston. I have not seen a lot of businesses really use it. Every time I go and I check out a place, I look at their pic, there’s nothing like hardly any check-ins, really not much going on. It’s really, it’s not good.

David: Right, right. Cool. So, for business owners out there watching and non-profits watching, what would be something that they could do starting out to basically revamp their content strategy? What would be the biggest bang for their buck?

John: Oh, the biggest bang. So, here’s one really important thing. Facebook just kind of announced this feature a few months ago called Promoted Post. So you can promote posts. So, what I would recommend is if you have a Facebook page and you want to revamp your content strategy, you have to start with our audience. Start with your best people, the people that are absolutely completely crazy about your business. Start with them. Find out what they really want. Find out what else is related to your company or your product or your service that you can also talk about as well. This has been said a thousand times but try and publish useful content. If your content isn’t useful, it’s not going to get you any return, really. So you have to start with that. That’s the first thing.

And then what I’ve been doing a lot lately and it’s worked amazingly is I’ll publish an update, and I’ll check that update, say, maybe six to twelve hours later and if it’s really getting some wind behind it. You know people are commenting and liking and it’s kind of going viral what I’ll do is I’ll promote it. I’ll just push it out there even more because I figure if the number of comments and likes and shares on that if it’s a high level that’s a testament to the content itself. So I want to push that good content out to a wider audience. I use promote a post and push that out there and the return the money that I spend on promote a post is I get much more out of my money when I promote posts that are really doing well initially.

David: Right. What’s the typical cost for promote a post?

John: It says on the page but it’ll be anywhere from like $10 up to $15 maybe, $100, depending upon how many total fans you have. Promote a posts really it’s almost like if you give us this money, we will guarantee that you will reach this many people. It’s all about reach. It’s not necessarily about clicks. It’s not a pay per click. It’s just pure reach, but the idea, that’s why the content is critical. If you display something in front of somebody, you’re going to pay for that. You want them to do something with it and then when you do a promote a post you get kind of a report almost. You know how many people liked the page, how many people shared the page, how many people commented, liked… as a result.

How many people that saw this post as a result of your promotion? What are all the things that resulted in that and it will show you that. It’s amazing what you can get, but it really has to start with the content itself. That has to be good. You just can’t say be lazy. You just can’t be lazy about, oh, wow, we don’t have to worry about our content anymore we’ll just buy, we’ll just spend thousands of dollars on promote a post. No, that’s going to be a waste of money, a pure waste of money.

David: And you also don’t want to just auto feed your blog to Facebook and call it a day.

John: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, David, that’s the other thing is that Facebook primarily is a friends network, and what I encourage businesses and non-

profit marketers to do, I tell them look you have to be on Facebook. You have to be using it personally so that you understand what the native language is, and then you’ll know how to post an update that will be engaging because the more that a brand can come across as a friend the better. How are they going to know what that culture’s about? How are they going to know what that native language is other than becoming a friend on Facebook? Right.

David: Right.

John: The brands that do really well, the ones that come across, like hey I’m your friend just like your real friends, I’m your friend, too. That does so much better.

David: Very cool. Very cool. So, John, where can people find you online?

John: On Facebook, no just go to and there’s also another page I have for non-profits. It’s the non-profit Facebook guy, it’s

David: OK. Cool. Cool. Yeah. I definably recommend checking out those pages. I like both of them and you keep it updated and you kind of give me what’s happening on Facebook. You show a ton of graphs of like what’s working for you and the Facebook insights. I found it extremely useful and new features, too, because Facebook’s changing every single day. You’re basically, my Facebook news where it’s like, oh, that’s new. Wow, you can do that now.

John: Yeah. What I do is I share a lot of, like you said, insights. Like, I’ll take a screen capture of insights either on my page or on a client’s page. Obviously, I’m not sharing their name, but I’m sharing that screen shot and I’m saying this is what I did to create this result and it’s a very simple image. And then I’m just trying to, again, it’s about providing value. You know like, hey, I think you guys might be interested in this. This is working for me, I want to share it with you, and that’s it.

David: Awesome. Awesome. Thanks for coming on for round 2. In another year we’ll get you on for the third go around with Inbound Now.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah that sounds great. Thank youso much. Thanks.