15 Tricks Learned While Getting My App’s Facebook Page From 0 To 100K Fans

Running a successful Facebook page is often more about science and accuracy than about socializing. You probably already know this from your personal page: You can post great content at the wrong time or under an unattractive title, and it will hardly be noticed. The AutoCAD WS application Facebook fan page now exceeds 200,000 fans (for a business-to-business app; not a company). I had the honor of working on that fan page from the "create new page" step to the point when it reached 100,000 fans. During that time, I learned a lot, namely that simple tweaks and tricks can leverage your content significantly.

Running a successful Facebook page is often more about science and accuracy than about socializing. You probably already know this from your personal page: You can post great content at the wrong time or under an unattractive title, and it will hardly be noticed. The AutoCAD WS application Facebook fan page now exceeds 200,000 fans (for a business-to-business app; not a company). I had the honor of working on that fan page from the “create new page” step to the point when it reached 100,000 fans. During that time, I learned a lot, namely that simple tweaks and tricks can leverage your content significantly.

Here are 15 tested ways to get more likes, shares, comments, and impressions:

1. Share links and videos as images

This trick is almost magical – it usually doubles impressions and likes. When you share a link or a video on Facebook it’s … how should I put it? Well, small. You get a small rectangle with a tiny image. Instead of using a link, I upload a great picture from the post or the video and paste the link as part of the text above the picture. The logic is simple: The more real estate you take, the more likely you are to be noticed. When it comes to the news feed, the bigger  the better. Mailchimp’s blog post describes how it racked up three times the number of likes it receives by using images, rather than plain links.

Posting about my blog in two different methods – using a link versus using an image. Which one would you notice?

The iTunes Facebook page always uses pictures to link to albums. It also tends to pick different images than those in the original link in order to maximize interest.

2. Your fans aren’t interested in the phrase “new post,” — just write the actual content

You’re working hard on maintaining a high-quality company blog, and you’ve just published an awesome new post. Facebook is the first place to share it. We discovered that expressions such as “new post,” or “new tutorial,” won’t get most readers to click, even when you elaborate more about the “new” item. Instead, create an interesting Facebook post with the key points, or quote part of the post, together with a “read more,” and a large picture, of course.

3. Most users don’t enter albums 

The ratio between the number of reactions to a picture that is posted by itself versus a picture that is part of an album is usually around one to 20. Yes, if a standard picture receives an average of 100 likes on your page, one in an album will probably receive about five. There are definitely some cases where you’d still like to use albums, but remember the downsides. When you do, plan well how your album will look on your fans’ feed, as that’s the only way most of them will see it. Carefully choose the first four images and make sure they don’t resemble each other too much, even if the order is wrong. If you have killer content, don’t place it in an album.

Great example of an album posted by iTunes (interesting cover, very different images), which still receives about 10 percent of the likes a usual image (not an album) gets.

4. New feature? Don’t use a screenshot – visualize it

Competing with hundreds of other items on your fans’ news feeds is not an easy task. You’ll have to elbow your way in among cute cats, geeky memes, and pictures of ex-girlfriends. A new feature announcement is probably one of the most important news items you want your users to notice. Instead of using a screenshot — which many of your users are likely to ignore — use an image that represents the new feature. By using a powerful image, your fans will be able to understand the feature in seconds, and it will stand out among other items on the news feed.


5. Favor rectangular or centralized images to avoid quirky outcomes on your timeline

While your images will always look great on the news feed, they will eventually be bound to a 400 x 400 pixel cell on the timeline. Wide and narrow images will be cut, sometimes leaving the punch outside or showing cut text. Plan your picture in advance so that it looks best in a rectangular format.

Big Quote is a great Facebook page with inspirational quotes. However, due to the long and narrow format it picked, when browsing through the timeline, the quotes are usually cut.

6. Want to get more comments? Ask closed questions

From my own experience and after observing different fan and personal Facebook pages for a while, I discovered that asking your audience to select between two to four options usually drives the number of comments through the roof. It can be a new feature selection, a name, a design, or even “what to wear” alternatives. It can also be a simple question with a one word answer, such as, “Which mobile device do you use?,” or a numeric question. Try it. Tip : Yes-no questions usually don’t work as well as picking alternatives. I would avoid the “Have you tried our X?” type of posts.

This question is not so interesting, and it still gained 65 comments among the 15,000 fans at the time.

One of my favorite examples, “What should I wear at my TED talk?” It featured four not-so-different options and received 317 likes and 1,078 comments. Which one won in your opinion?

7. Allow users to tag themselves 

You can change your page settings to allow your fans to tag themselves. Letting a user tag himself or herself in a picture is much more powerful than a like or a comment, and you’re more likely to go viral. You probably don’t have pictures of your users for them to tag, but you can look for something that represents them in a way. Here’s one example that worked well for us – asking Android users to tag themselves on the device they have.

This post, asking our Android users to tag themselves on the device type they’re using, did quite well.

8. Just ask (nicely)  

While I’ve been using Facebook from its early days, I must confess that I only recently started using Twitter —probably five years too late. When I started using Twitter, I researched which type of tweets are most likely to get retweeted. The answer across the board was those that ask to be retweeted. The same goes for sharing on Facebook. If you ask your users to share, they are more likely to share. Yes, it’s easier to explain why you should share a picture of a puppy looking for a home than of your new feature, but when done in a smart and sensitive way, it can work. If the content you’re posting can have value to your fans’ friends, it can work well. Approaching specific groups might do the job, as well (for example, share with your student friends). This fascinating research by HubSpot indicates that the Facebook content that produces the most shares, likes, and comments is, well, the one asking for it.

9. Like the likers

There is a small group of fans who are always the first to like your posts, no matter what you post. They may think your product is the best thing that ever happened to them — or they may just be misusing Facebook. This avid fan group is important, since other fans are more likely to react and comment to a post that has some activity on it. Maintain a good relationship with these fans – it’s nice to send them a thank you message once in a while, to personally Facebook-friend them, or to like some of their content back.

10. Habla Español? Fans come from all over the world

Posting from time to time in a different language may drive a lot of reactions. Do you have product news relevant to your Spanish-speaking fans? Were you covered by a large Italian blog? Did you reach a certain user milestone in Brazil? Use Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese. While some say that it’s relevant only to a small portion of your fans, so is some of the other content you usually publish.

Dropbox posting in Spanish and receiving 1,605 likes. Just for comparison, a post about a new feature from the very same day gets just 336 likes.

11. Use team pictures in context of your product

I’m a huge advocate of using pictures of the team, but when you post, “Cool guys hanging out at a cool office” type pictures, you’re creating generic content. That’s not the reason your fans follow your page. Once you share a picture that is relevant to the product, such as the team working on a new feature or celebrating a milestone, you share interesting information and create an emotional reaction, because you are using people. When done right, these pictures usually get the most impressions and likes.

Here’s an image of a team member testing our Android app before releasing it to Google Play.
This photo got lots of likes from Android fans, and these kind of images worked very well for us.

12. Sneak peeks, design previews, sharing plans  

Based on our experience and other product pages, as well, one of the best content types you can share is about work in progress. This is how you make your Facebook fans feel special and feel that there’s an added value for them to follow your page. This content doesn’t have to be polished and ready: Sometimes a sketch, a half-baked design, or an initial idea can be more intriguing for your fans than the usual shiny screenshots.

13. Examine most-liked content of other fan pages

One of the things I constantly do is to check which content type, published by pages similar to mine, drives the most reactions. Unlike a Twitter account or a company blog, tracking which items received the most likes, shares, and comments on Facebook takes only a few minutes. It’s also very interesting to discover which kind of content is the most ignored. To get some inspiration and fresh ideas, here is a list of 20 great Facebook fan pages.

14. Posts about your product should lead to your Facebook page, not the other way around

“Oh, another great review about our app? Let’s post it on Facebook!” We really want to share all the awesome things people are writing about our product, but if a user is already a fan of your product, he or she probably knows it’s a good product by now. Sure, it’s fine to post other publications once in a while, especially when coming from a well-known blog or newspaper, but it makes more sense that press releases will bring traffic to your product, and not the other way around.

15. Think twice before posting generic content (Christmas, elections, etc.) 

Coming back to standing out among other items on your users’ news feed, during holidays and other events, such as the elections or the Olympic Games, your users’ news feeds are probably going to be flooded with this kind of content anyway. Facebook also tends to group items around the same topic, such as, “John and 14 others posted about Halloween.” However, creating unique content that is relevant to small events usually works very well and generates many shares.

Readers: Do you have any other ideas for building a fan base on Facebook?

Iris Shoor (@irisshoor) is a co-founder at Takipi, a new startup looking to change the way developers work in the cloud. Previously, she was co-founder at VisualTao, a B2B startup acquired by Autodesk. Iris blogs about guerrilla marketing and startup life at www.startupmoon.com.