Since Facebook hit a billion users a few months ago, signs are that user growth is slowing in the United States. So, what do you do with 158 million Americans on Facebook? Learn to reach them and bond with them.

But the question I get all the time is how do you sell on Facebook. The answer is a counter intuitive, “you don’t sell to them,” you build awareness and bond with them. So, how does that make money for my business? I’m asked. The answer is by building market share and loyalty.

If you don’t know how increasing market share and loyalty to your business makes you money, you may need to refer back to the article called Converting Advertising Strategies from the 1900’s to the 2000’s that I posted about a year ago on our adtalk101 blog. But something has changed since then. The change was an additional 500 million Facebook users.

Increase TOMA

About 25 years ago, everyone knew about increasing Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA). All of the media were promoting it. Back then it made sense, and really worked. But over the past 20 years, media rates soared while audiences shrunk, making it inefficient to build TOMA with traditional media. In addition, the economy has made investing in a long-term strategy such as building TOMA even more difficult.

However, over the past few years, many companies like ours, along with some progressive advertisers, are finding Facebook to be the most exciting and powerful TOMA building tool ever, and it’s free! Well . . . let’s say, affordable. In fact, if you don’t have money, but have the time and discipline, you can make Facebook work for you.

Building “Likes”

The two things you need to do once you create your Facebook Business page are build your audience by getting “Likes.” Then you need to keep your name in front of your audience, and if you are good at working your page, get your audience to help find more potential customers and keep you in front of the most people. Today we are going to focus on how to build “Likes.” In the next article we’ll talk about how to build TOMA and loyalty.

There are many ways to build “Likes” or what we sometimes call Fans. When you first launch your page, a good way to start is to dump into Facebook all the emails you can get of people who may be interested in your business, and have Facebook invite them to “Like” your page. What is great about this system is Facebook invites them, you don’t. These emails could be from your email-marketing list or your address book. There is a limit of 5,000 emails that FB will invite. What FB does is match the emails to people who have accounts on Facebook. Then Facebook contacts them on their pages and invites them for you.

The next thing you should typically do if you have a website is make sure there is a link back to your Facebook page inviting people to “Like” you. Then, any advertising you are doing anywhere, especially on in-store signage, should ask people to “Like” you on Facebook. Other things you can do to build “Likes” are to post invitations on other Facebook Walls. Look for FB pages with Fans that may be interested in your business too. An example may be if you have a business that attracts tourists, you would post on the Wall of your local visitor’s bureau FB page something about your site that may attract interest. Look for sites to post on with as many Fans as possible. Some businesses may not let you post on their FB page.

How fast will your “Likes” grow? It depends on how many people are visiting your web site, or see your ads, and/or in-store signs. It also depends on how many other sites with Walls you can post on, and of course the type of people who are Fans of those sites. Other than buying ads or giving something away, the only other way to push the growth of your Fan base is to make really popular posts that get lots of interaction. As I mentioned, we’ll talk about that in our next blog.

If you want to push growth a little faster, you can run a sweepstakes, where you give something away when people sign up on your FB page to win. This involves a little more advanced knowledge of how to work Facebook, and would probably involve using an Advanced Programming Interface (API) program to create a special page that reveals the registration, only if they “Like” your page. The same thing could be accomplished with a special offer available, only when they “Like” your page.

If you want to really push the growth of your fan base you can buy advertising on Facebook with sponsored ads. There are two basic types of sponsored ads. The ones you see in the right banner along your Newsfeed, and the ones you see in your news feed that say one of your friends “Like” your page or business, which are called Sponsored Stories. They both cost about the same.

Now that we’ve discussed growing your audience, watch for our next blog focusing on the real power of Facebook, keeping your brand in front of your fans and building loyalty.