Producing Spicy Success on Facebook

Heard a great presentation this morning from an organization that has achieved surprising success on Facebook. It came from Buffalo Wild Wings, a restaurant chain that is gaining recognition on the social network far beyond its position in the industry.

The restaurant’s success is a lesson in thoughtful and strategic use of social media that translates nicely to the nonprofit world. Paul Freher, director of media at Buffalo Wild Wings, and Brandon Murphy, chief strategy director at the agency they work with, 22squared, offered insight into how they have accumulated their 3.5 million Facebook “likes” (fans). I’ve pulled out eight of the lessons that are particularly helpful for nonprofits and added some thoughts of my own.

Lesson 1. Be strategic, not just experimental.  Don’t launch a Facebook page simply because you want to give it a try. BWW suggests you ask three questions before launching a page. What role does Facebook play in your communications strategy? Does it extend your value proposition [mission] or is it another channel for your message? Who are you trying to develop a relationship with? Translated to the nonprofit world: think about your overall strategy and then answer the question of how a presence on Facebook will contribute to that. If it will contribute, figure out who you want to develop a relationship with through Facebook.Facebook is a wonderful tool for enhancing and extending relationships. A Facebook strategy should center around strengthening your relationship with your selected audience.

Lesson 2: Listen to what your audience wants to talk about. Brandon Murphy of 22squared put it best: “It is their platform. You are a guest.” As you listen, look for shared passions, engagement insights, topics of interest and some basic logistics—how frequently people post, what time of day they post and what time of the week. It is amazing what you can learn if you stop talking and start listening.

Lesson 3: Celebrate milestones by thanking your fans. An easy way to share successes and show appreciation for their contribution.

Lesson 4: Develop a conversation strategy. Facebook isn’t about managing followers or delivering your message. It is about getting your audience/fans/customers engaged with you and each other—with the ultimate goal of strengthening their relationship with your organization. BWW offers some great advice based on what works for them. Keep posts short. The fewer words in their Facebook posts, the more their fans interact. Text and photos bring the most fan interaction. Learn what works for you.

Lesson 5: Post like a friend, not a brand. You know the difference. BWW’s advice: Be timely, ask a question, invite debate, be funny. They say about 80 percent of posts by the organization should be focused on what fans want to talk about. The other 20 percent can be about the organization’s message and news.

Lesson 6: Recognize how great your fans are. Do this often and with genuine appreciation.

Lesson 7: Use good content to drive conversation and involvement. For Halloween, they created a “monsterizer” application where you could create a monster using your photo. Think about content that will drive your fans to Facebook from your Web site and and vice versa. Generate content that will get people involved and talking.

Lesson 8: Define value and make a difference. For BWW, they know their Facebook fans spend more at their restaurants than other customers. That is their value equation. For a nonprofit, figure out what you see as a value from Facebook. Do you want your Facebook fans donating? Volunteering? Touting your cause to others? Helping shape your mission and work by contributing to conversations and responding to your questions? This can be vague in the nonprofit world where there isn’t a simple revenue equation to measure, but it is worth taking some time to come up with an answer. Once you figure out the value, develop some benchmarks to measure how you are doing.

Thanks to Buffalo Wild Wings and 22squared for a great presentation at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit 2010. What about you? Any tips for Facebook success to share? Any stories, good or bad?

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