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Advice Needed - How to Build a Facebook Following from Nothing

Marketing, social media, advertising

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Hi all,

I've been having trouble finding an answer to my question online and around the forum, so hopefully some of you will have some ideas or experiences with this.

I'm starting a business (aren't we all). It's a unique product, custom design, requires a license to create, and is quite expensive. Think... collectible movie merchandise, like replica Lightsabers.

My question is, how can I start to build an audience, without advertising? I've commissioned a design, and I have several images of it. I have a brand name, logo, and facebook page set up and ready to go. My question is: once I start to post pictures to the facebook page, how do I get people to find the page? Without paying for ads.

Here are my thoughts so far:

1) There are a handful (3-5) facebook groups within the niche that I'm a member of. I think that I could post an image on my own page, then go to the groups and basically say "hi, I'm working on making X, here's a few images, and you can follow my page <here> for more updates". Obviously copy would be dialed in and all of that.

2) I could go through and cold-invite the members of the above-mentioned groups to join my page with a little message similar to the copy from the post.

3) Work to build an Instagram following by following people, good use of images, and good use of hashtags and then work to redirect them to the facebook page or a landing page that I could set up. There's a Notable! thread with a lot of good advice on how to build up IG followers that I'll be using.

I'd like to know if there are other options I should be using or if any of these are ineffective from your experience.

The commission wasn't cheap, so I'm trying to get as far as I can on free, organic traffic before I begin advertising. Ideally, I'd hold off on advertising until I'm actually prepared to make sales, which may be many months out.

I'd appreciate any and all thoughts and advice! Thanks in advance.
 
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MattR82

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Would that annoy admins of the groups you are talking about and possibly get you kicked off? Suppose it depends how open they are to self promotion.

@Andy Black has a good thread called pm me that you may find interesting. Although as you have a product rather than a service it may be kinda different.

How active and well known are you in the groups already? Are you someone known as an expert or have some kind of authority or would it just be like chucking a dead cat on the table and walking out?
 

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Would that annoy admins of the groups you are talking about and possibly get you kicked off? Suppose it depends how open they are to self promotion.
Great question. I'm a member of several groups. I've identified a small handful that encourage people to post projects they're working on, and promotion is permitted.

@Andy Black has a good thread called pm me that you may find interesting. Although as you have a product rather than a service it may be kinda different.
I will find that thread, thank you!

How active and well known are you in the groups already? Are you someone known as an expert or have some kind of authority or would it just be like chucking a dead cat on the table and walking out?
I'm not active within them at all. They're largely "XYZ Company has just released a new product!" or "My shipment finally arrived, check it out!". I don't see a lot of value-add opportunities within the comment sections of the posts, but getting more engaged is absolutely something I need to do, even if it's just liking and commenting "Looks awesome". The group admins are very regular posters, and I've toyed with the idea of reaching out to them to see if they want to post in their groups, but I'm struggling with what I could offer in return. I guess the worst thing that could happen is they decline.
 

sparechange

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give out free content that is informative/entertaining > add tons of random people on fb > invite them cold, takes a few minutes of your time. i think fb caps out around 30 or so invites havent really looked into it.

although its a million times easier to just spend money promoting your page...been there done that, you save so much time

with $7 i can reach 6-7k

7k eyes with a few of them converting to future customers pays it self off itself in the long term
 
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Aaron T

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My question is: once I start to post pictures to the facebook page, how do I get people to find the page? Without paying for ads

Been doing this very same thing and to be honest haven't found a reliable good way for free if you don't already have a list or following. Using my own lists I was able to build one group up very fast, but for another project I learned ways to spend as little as possible in FB Ads but get maximal value.

I do that all day now. It is a lot of knowledge gained to do it correctly, but your best bet is still FB Ads probably. That or a lot of patience.
 

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>
 

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lowtek

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You should probably just pay for ads.

You'll get traction or invalidate the idea much quicker that way.

If you're REALLY opposed to paying for ads, then I would reach out to influencers on IG and see if they will plug your product. Again, that will probably cost money and measuring ROI isn't as straight forward.

Options 1 and 2 violate the first rule of the internet - nobody cares about you.

Sorry, there's no free lunch in this world. Either put in the sweat equity by building a brand/loyal following or pay the dinero.
 
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Get familiar with how Facebook releases your content to your followers too (it doesn't just automatically get sent to everyone following you).

If you can create great content and share it to the groups with the aim being for them to share it etc.

Don't buy likes from Indian click farms. It will affect your edge rank I think. I'm not sure but it seems to me people are cottoning on to some of the Facebook growth hacks.

I'm not too sure if it's more difficult to share content from within a private group.
 
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Andy Black

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Options 1 and 2 violate the first rule of the internet - nobody cares about you.

Sorry, there's no free lunch in this world. Either put in the sweat equity by building a brand/loyal following or pay the dinero.
You're totally right. It's easy to get wrapped up into how good (you think) your product is and you forget that it'll take time and effort for people to actually care.
 

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I learned something interesting this morning about facebook. You cannot post/like facebook groups as your page (i.e. your business). That means that in order to get my page in front of people within a group, I need to either share it as myself (i.e. the personal me), or have other people share my posts organically. That adds a level of complexity to my plan, but these are good barriers.

I'm thinking that, in the interest of building a long-term brand, separating my personal facebook page from my business might not be so important. What do you think? Keep the owner of my page anonymous, or just blur the line and be my brand?
 
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MattR82

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You can't run and promote a business from a personal profile, treating it as a business page to avoid those barriers. Facebook will shut you down if you get caught I believe. Then all your work building it up is undone.
 

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My question is, how can I start to build an audience, without advertising?

Why do you want to build a Facebook following?

My guess is because you want sales right?

Well is there a way to get sales that's a lot more effective than Facebook?

Personally I hate the ROI (more so return on time) from FB, IG, and other social media.

You'll build your FB page, invest a lot of time and effort, and then find out that FB is only pushing your posts to 5-10% of the people that liked your page. To push the rest of the people you have to buy ads. Not really much upside to building the infrastructure if end of the day you're back to step one.

However, if social proof is what you're going after then social media profiles make more sense.
 

Kung Fu Steve

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As someone who built a Facebook page the wrong way -- I wouldn't recommend advertising your page in the traditional way. I look really cool with 13k followers, and behind the scenes I look really stupid because my FB page hasn't produced a single sale.

If you're looking for sales -- advertise. If you're looking for branding and building awareness (and start building a list of leads and potential customers), then (hopefully) your work speaks for itself. Show it off on Instagram. Show it off on your niche groups. Have your page. Let it build organically.

Do you have a website? Somewhere people can purchase something from you? How would I buy something from you today?
 
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Andy Black

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If you're to first sell to people who already know you (arguably the easiest sale?) then you'd do it as yourself anyway. I think social media works best when you're a person rather than a company.

You're starting out so I'd argue that engaging with your market in hand-to-hand combat is a requirement. Being you means you can do it quicker and nimbler than a big brand in your space. Make being small your advantage.

Facebook groups and forums are amazing places to find people you can help, immediately help them, and learn what common (and obscure) problems they have, and how to solve them.

Do that for a while and see who starts PMing you to go deeper.

I'm a big fan of throwing up Paid Search campaigns up and buying data cheaply to determine market demand. But I realise this requires a level of paid search skills that most don't possess, and learning to do it is a distraction from engaging your market right *now*, this second.

Maybe go hunting out Facebook groups or forums as the first port of call?

Literally go looking for people you can help, and then help them immediately.
 

MattR82

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You can't run and promote a business from a personal profile, treating it as a business page to avoid those barriers. Facebook will shut you down if you get caught I believe. Then all your work building it up is undone.
I thought about this some more and it may not be such good advice for you. I'm not really sure. Depends on what type of business it is maybe.

I had friends that own a backpacker hostel that do it pretty blatantly and haven't been caught yet, but wouldn't have a leg to stand on if they did. But after reading Andy's post, maybe taking the more personal approach is better. If you took off, it could get a bit messy when you get to the 5000 friend mark as that's the limit on a personal profile, although people can still follow you. But then you would have an audience and could just invite them to a page and switch over.
 

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As someone who built a Facebook page the wrong way -- I wouldn't recommend advertising your page in the traditional way. I look really cool with 13k followers, and behind the scenes I look really stupid because my FB page hasn't produced a single sale.

If you're looking for sales -- advertise. If you're looking for branding and building awareness (and start building a list of leads and potential customers), then (hopefully) your work speaks for itself. Show it off on Instagram. Show it off on your niche groups. Have your page. Let it build organically.

Do you have a website? Somewhere people can purchase something from you? How would I buy something from you today?
Thanks for your advice. My niche is unusual in that production is funded by pre-orders. This is true across the board, from individual producers to large brands. As such, the strategy that I envision is to show the design, gauge interest and build a small following, get an official license ($10k - $15k), pre-sell, and go from there. It's kind of a backwards way to do it, but dropping 5 digits on a license only to find out that nobody is interested in it would be devastating.
 
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I thought about this some more and it may not be such good advice for you. I'm not really sure. Depends on what type of business it is maybe.

I had friends that own a backpacker hostel that do it pretty blatantly and haven't been caught yet, but wouldn't have a leg to stand on if they did. But after reading Andy's post, maybe taking the more personal approach is better. If you took off, it could get a bit messy when you get to the 5000 friend mark as that's the limit on a personal profile, although people can still follow you. But then you would have an audience and could just invite them to a page and switch over.
I'm thinking I'd use my personal account to promote and represent the company on other pages. It would be more along the lines of "you know I'm a real person and who to reach out to with issues" kind of thing. I wouldn't be funneling business or sales through my personal facebook account.
 

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I signed up for Hootsuite's free version. I'm scheduling daily posts out for about a week on both Instagram and facebook. After I have 3-5 solid posts, I'll try sharing it to the groups I'm in. On Instagram, I'm focusing on following and liking other people's posts within the niche and hopefully I'll gain some natural traction that way.

Will keep this thread updated. If I hit an IG or FB post that does really well (strangers share it, for example), I'll probably look into spending a small amount $5/day to "boost" the post and target it towards my groups.
 

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I've made a few posts now (~3) on both IG and FB. I'm getting a liiiitttle bit of traction on Instagram, and pretty much nothing from facebook. I think it's very difficult to get found organically on facebook, so my plan is to share the page once it has a little bit more sharable content.

I have had one person ask a question about the timing of the product's release, so that's promising. He asked on Instagram, the facebook page, and privately messaged the facebook page, so I guess he's really interested. I've also had a couple of "Looks cool!" comments on IG.

I'm slowly releasing images of the product. The design is done, but I'm releasing little bits of it slowly to appear as if we're currently working on it. The only reason I'm doing this is so that I can have consistent posts for the next few weeks while I try to build up an audience that can sustain through a few weeks of downtime in between design and development.

I have doubts about whether this is a good way to go about it. It might be best to just put it all out there, then follow up with "close-ups" of the product instead. People might be more excited/inclined to follow if they have a clear idea of exactly what we're offering. What do you think?
 
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I decided this morning in a moment of impatience to post the "full picture" of the product instead of close-ups of little parts of it. My rationale is that I wouldn't want to invest energy into something without knowing what is really is. Instead, I've shown the full product, and I'll follow it with close-up or details. I think this will be easier to get behind as an observer.

I messaged a few groups for permission to share my page and so far one has said yes. I posted to his group and within 10 minutes had a couple of positive comments and one with constructive feedback that I'll be responding to after I get home tonight. The share has drawn almost 20 new followers to my page (up from 0) in an hour, and according to facebook, the post has reached 425 people. So far, things are going better than I expected.

The same post on Instagram has seen little traction. I think that for my particular niche, facebook is a lot more effectively. People like to discuss different products and interact with the businesses, and facebook is the best platform for this. I'll continue to post to both, since it's not much trouble to post to IG anyway, and I think they can drive traffic between each other.

This project is still very far from a success, as converting likes to dollars is like turning water to gold, but it's moving in the right direction. And that feels good. @MJ DeMarco has a name for this - productivity cycle? I think mine just got jump-started.

I appreciate everyone's feedback and advice in this thread so far. Facebook ads are on the near horizon for me, once I feel like I've exhausted the organic traffic from sharing.
 

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I finished up the day with 76 new followers, 670 post engagement (likes, shares, comments), and 4,531 people reached, which is the number of unique people who saw the post. Several other people re-shared my post to their own friend's lists, and I've had probably 10-15 comments and I'm working on starting a few conversations to get a better sense of exactly what people like and don't like. Overall, a very positive reaction to my first real exposure. Note that I haven't spent a penny.

Some numbers:
~15% of people who see the post engage with it (like, comment, share, etc.)
~11% of people who engage follow my page
~1.5% of people who see the post follow my page

I have no idea if these are good rates or not - does anybody know?

I expect activity will drop off significantly after this. I can't share every post to the groups without being annoying, so I'll need to reserve more shares for major updates. Hopefully I can keep the conversations going for a while.
 

MattR82

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Nice :)

I can't remember off hand, but just Google and Facebook search for tips on creating posts that are more likely to cause engagement. Maybe that can help. Not sure if there's a thread on it here but it wouldn't be hard info to find I presume.
 
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