'If you build it, he will come.'  - Ray Kinsella, Shoeless Joe Jackson

Kinsella's prophesy may or may not be an apt one for baseball, but it definitely doesn't cut it for social media.  As Carlos Diaz (Blue Kiwi) astutely noted in his social media maturity model, setting up corporate Twitter accounts, a Facebook fan page, and YouTube channel, in maturity terms, means you're an adolescent, stuck in the 'Connection' stage.   Connection sounds impressive, but it's not engagement.  And there are a ton of companies out there making a lot of noise: 'Look at us!  We're so active in social media!'  According to Diaz, that's just a lot of blablablah.

So it is with Facebook.  In her early survey of killer Facebook fan pages, PR and social media expert Callan Green noted:

Sure, anyone can build a fan page in under 10 minutes, and some big brands may even attract fans without any real effort. But even if you have 3 million fans, if the extent of their involvement with your brand is that at one point they “became a fan,” is that really benefiting you?

The fan pages that are doing it right are the ones that are actively engaging with their fans. These pages have creative content, two-way communication, active discussion boards, videos and images, and a fun and casual tone to match the medium.

These comments must have been taken to heart by the folks behind the recent Pretzel Crisps campaign to drive fan growth on their Facebook page.  With the assistance of Buddy Media, the campaign centered on product trial through the use of coupons.  According to Pretzel Crisps' Jason Harty, "One of the our first priorities was to give value to our fans, and use this added value to bring in new fans."  By offering coupons to encourage product trial, the campaign offered fans an enriched experience and a reward for becoming part of the Pretzel Crisps fan community.

Here is Steve Hall's account of what happened next:

Pretzel Crisps launched a $1 off coupon on Facebook during the last week of February, 2011, and saw fans grow from 5,000 to 12,000 as a result.  Then, on March 15th, 2010, Pretzel Crisps switch the $1 off coupon to a "buy one, get one free" coupon. And as an experiment, Pretzel Crisps didn't tell anyone about the promotion. They wanted to see if it would spread with literally no push behind it - no status update, no advertising, no PR.  Within 36 hours, Pretzel Crisps had doubled their fan-base on Facebook. They now have more than 45,000 fans on Facebook and have seen these fans remain engaged on their Facebook page.

In essence, a basic coupon distribution promotion boosted sales and built up a fan base in the process, which can in turn be leveraged for future promotions.  More and more brands like Pretzel Crisps seem to be getting the idea - setting up a Facebook fan page won't automatically lead to engagement if the brand behind the page doesn't do anything with it.  The Cone social media agency reported that last January that their research revealed that 77% of social media users want brands to offer them incentives online.  Check out this screen shot from Victoria Secret's Pink Facebook page, with the blue circles highlighting the added value Pink offers its fans:

While I'm at it, I might as well add some value to this page, by showing something else Pretzel Crisps offers its fans - killer recipes:

I'll have much more to say about effective Facebook marketing in coming weeks, maybe even some more recipes, so stay tuned.  Starbucks gets it.