Lobbying: Formula for Facebook Pages?

23 05 2009

During a recent conversation my friend told me he had set up a Facebook page for his company’s new initiative. The first thought that went into my mind was “Not again..” but before jumping to any conclusion, I replied “Oh hey, that’s interesting. What are you doing on the page?”. To my disappointment, I got the answer I expected. “Engaging users, posting videos, links, news and inviting people”.

Many companies nowadays are setting up Facebook pages for their products and initiatives to “engage users” but most of these end up being a gathering of inactive users who either joined the page out of interest for the company/product, or out of goodwill for an invite from a friend. There are definitely several companies who have done well by doing what my friend did like Coke, Intel and Seventeen Magazine but the rest, especially by lesser known brands are quite dead.

What is the formula then for creating a successful Facebook Page? This is the question I was wondering before I decided to find common traits between 2 successful campaigns which I believe might work for other companies as well. The keyword that popped into my head was:


Note here what I mean by lobbying is not lobbying done by the company but rather by users and fans of the company. Also note that this probably applies more to specific events / campaigns rather than general company pages. Let me illustrate by drawing on 2 examples:

1) Victoria’s Secret PINK Campaign (Over 1 million fans)

This was a hugely successful campaign not because it gathered lots of fans, but because its fans were voluntarily creating groups, activities and content around the campaign. What Victoria Secret did was create a PINK collegiate collection where users could nominate and register their school to be part of the collection. Victoria Secret would manufacture a PINK collection branded with the school’s logo and mascot. This created a lot of excitement and gave their users (aka college girls) enough reason for them to lobby their friends into it, garnering more than 1 million fans.

2) Target Bullseye Campaign (Over 75,000 fans in 4 days)

Image from Inside Facebook

Target wanted to donate US$3 million to charity this year but didn’t want to do it in the traditional way where charities receive the money and a picture of them holding a gigantic mock cheque appears in the papers. They wanted something that would capture the attention of youths on Facebook as well, and hence created a Facebook application on their page. In the application, fans could vote for their favorite charities and at the end of the 2 week campaign, the US$3 million will be split amongst the 10 charities based on the percentage of votes they received. Almost immediately, this campaign has given the charities MORE than enough reason for them to lobby all their supporters to get onto the Target page and vote for them. The campaign is now over but according to Inside Facebook, the campaign garnered 75,000 fans after just 4 days.

Reason for lobbying??
The next question is how do you go about creating these incentives for people to lobby their friends. I’m no expert at this either as I’ve not created any successful Facebook pages/groups before but these are my observations based on what gets me to lobby my friends:

1) Something I want or strongly believe in…
If a campaign would give me something I want should I get my friends in, then I’d lobby for it. One example would be to look at the immensely popular and addictive Facebook game PackRat (sorry for picking a game, but I think they have great incentive systems). PackRat is a game where you go around collecting sets of collectible cards and stash them in a vault by stealing from your friends. They give 2 very strong reasons to lobby your friends:
i) You’d have more friends to steal cards from and grow your collection
ii) Inviting a certain number of friends gets you a limited edition card

Note here that there is a clear guarantee of reward if you achieve certain milestones which I believe beats crappy “invite 3 friends and increase your chances” incentives.

For an example closer to home? Take the latest GI Joy SoyJoy campaign which got bloggers like Nadnut to rally all her friends, blog readers and companies she knows to vote for her and participate. The prize for her? A trip to Japan (and all the buzz that comes with it).

2) Something I can own…
This may come a little hard as if you’re a company on a low budget / just starting out, you wouldn’t want to spend money on physical products as rewards that people can own. The alternative is a digital solution which a lot of people have come to dislike.. my friends still prefer handwritten letters and physical greeting cards to electronic ones anytime. However, if you give them something they can own and show off to their friends, chances are they will participate more. This reminds me of the super old and probably forgotten Vampire & Werewolves game on Facebook where everyone was literally inviting everyone else to get the side they were on (Vampire or Werewolf) to get bigger than the other for “world domination”. The items they are owning here are was something very simple. A small tiny square badge on their profile with a vampire/wolf picture that would evolve with their rank and 2 lines of statistics.

3) The Cold Start problem
Like many new brands / products, there is the cold start problem. Not every company has a huge database of customers whom they can already mass mail to start getting them lobbying for them. The key here is to reach out to key people in your target audience who will be inspired to do the lobbying for you. This brings me back to the NEXUS ’07 by TDM which attracted over 800 registrations within 2 weeks (and we had to turn some away). The publicity was done purely through only social media and none of the traditional press methods. I’m not trying to promote NEXUS or anything here but I thought this was a good example of a cold start problem to highlight. Back then I was very skeptical about the power of social media and had a very traditional mindset of how events should be publicized but Ming Yeow, the founder, was trying extremely convert me. This started with us looking for key experts to work with us on the conference programme. Believe it or not, the very first person we contacted was Kevin Lim. We met up with Kevin, told him what NEXUS’07’s inspiration was and from his immense knowledge of Second Life, we invited him to run the Virtual Worlds track of the event. What I didn’t expect after that was that the plug on his blog would lead to many other blogs plugging us as well and a sudden surge in website hits. o_O

4) Eat your own dog food
Okay.. this is starting to sound like a start-up lessons thingy but seriously, this point is very relevant here as well since you are creating something to market your initiative. Nothing much to elaborate here except the simple point: Will you be excited enough to get your friends involved? Or will you only be excited to submit an entry and not be motivated to tell your friends about it? The first question should be the one you’re answer “YES!!!” and the second question is where you say “NOPE!”. If it is the other way around, then the chances of visitors to your campaign lobbying their friends for it will be low.

Concluding Words
I know coming up with a good reason for getting people to lobby their friends and organization members for your initiative may be hard as you don’t want it to sound too gimmicky either (and potentially end up ruining your company’s reputation) but if you get it right, you should have a pretty good chance of generating a lot of buzz around your Facebook page. And trust me, this is much easier than creating a successful Facebook application. If I’m not wrong, the only somewhat successful Facebook app by a company to date is Whopper Sacrifice by Burger King? That is like a once in a blue moon thing.

Other formulas for a successful Facebook page:
Successful Facebook Fan page article by Mashable
How to develop a Facebook Page that attracts millions of fans by All Facebook




9 responses

23 05 2009
Chen Chow

Su Yuen, thanks a lot for the sharing on the Facebook Page!

It is definitely ideal to be able to find ways to get the users/fans to be passionate about the page (or maybe the product), and eventually, be the one that spread the words. The viral effects.

The challenge and perhaps the questions are – How to get it done? Especially for a new initiative that perhaps very few people have heard of.

Thanks for the sharing!

23 05 2009

Hey Chen Chow!

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you the bigger question is how to get it done. Personally I am not an expert and hence am unable to give you any sure fire ways of getting it done but I’ve added some points and examples based on my experience as a participant / consumer.

Hope this helps!

24 05 2009
Chen Chow

Thanks Su Yuen for your sharing! Those are definitely very useful information!

24 05 2009

hi friend,
it was great to stop by your excellent and informative work.
I wish if you have time to visit my site and tell me your opinion.
Thanks and good luck.

26 05 2009
Vidit Agrawal

Brilliant article. I was googling for some information when I came across this article.

28 05 2009
Kevin Lim

If “lobbying” is the clinical terms for rallying support online, then “Power to the People” would be the war-cry. 🙂

2 06 2009
Bi Ying

Su Yuen,

Fantastic article! It beats a lot of the crap I subscribe to from “social media experts”. Maybe you shld start contributing to these sites… 😉

9 06 2009
The New “Facebook” Of Lobbying - Undercurrents

[…] by this example of a successful charitable campaign by Target identified by Su Yuen on her Bitbot blog: Target wanted to donate US$3 million to charity this year but didn’t want to do it in the […]

20 05 2011
Danny Foo

The first challenge to any new page is the awareness. Simplest method is to invite friends you know whom will be interested. If you don’t have existing customers, you’ll just have to work a little harder.

In terms of activity, engaging users is talking about what they’d talk about and speaking to them as if you’re sitting down with them over drinks. But of course, campaigns do generate lots of activity when you initiate them.

I’m also not a social media consultant but this is what I’ve observed which has been successfully done in most active brand pages. Oh, and everyone needs to tell their clients, if you’re not prepared to address bad comments, don’t jump into social media.

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