So far, we’ve taught you how to build your Facebook profile and business fan page, and how to use Facebook’s promotion feature to create a paid ad for your practice and attract readers to “like” your page (this used to be calling “Becoming a fan.”). Now that you’re up and running, though, do you know how to keep the momentum going? Here, we’ll discuss some additional ways to promote your business page to potential clients and prospects, as well as referral sources, and use your presence to build an online community.

And remember: If you’re a business owner, you need to set up a fan page rather than a profile using your business name; the latter is against Facebook policy, and Facebook may delete your account.

Revisit your strategy

Hopefully, you built some sort of strategy and defined your goals before getting started on Facebook – this is a good time to revisit that, or to map something out if you haven’t already. This can help you measure your success as you go along and better assess how effective the social network is for your particular business. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you primarily trying to reach new clients? Or are you trying to communicate better with existing clients?
  2. Do you want to improve client engagement?
  3. Do you want to increase referral business?

Keeping these objectives in mind will help define your Facebook strategy and allow you to set metrics by which to monitor the success of your campaign.

Beyond Facebook ads: Spreading the word

The tricky thing about Facebook pages is that you can’t “friend” someone the way you can from your profile. People can elect to become fans of your page, but they can only do this if they know about it. You’ve got to spread the word organically, then, (to introduce people to your page and to your company – and keep spreading the word long after you’ve built your page.

To do this, log in and visit your page. On the left hand side, you’ll see an option that says “Suggest to friends.” Click on this, and it will bring up a list of all your Facebook friends. You can then identify and invite contacts from your personal profile who are business connections, industry peers, or people who would simply benefit from the information your company provides.

Personally, I invite everyone, even if they’re just a friend that wants to support your business and not a prospective client. It can’t hurt, and a greater number of connections can lend credibility to your company.

When you invite contacts to “like” your page, Facebook gives you the option to provide a short note; definitely do this. You’ll want to explain what the page offers (remember, people are thinking, “What’s in it for me?”) and include a link to your page.

Promoting your page

There’s no reason to stick to Facebook alone when promoting your fan page – you can add a Facebook “Like” box to your own website or blog to offer visitors an easy way to discover and follow your page.

To do this, log in to your Facebook account, visit your business page, and click on the “Getting started” tab. There, you’ll see an option that allows you to promote your page on your website. When you click on this, the image below will pop up; go ahead and fill in your Facebook URL, along with a couple items that allow you to customize such features as the width of the box, the color scheme, and whether or not you want a stream of the most recent posts to be visible on your outside site. Once you have the box the way you want it, click on the “Get code” button at the bottom and send that over to your Web designer or IT person to integrate into your site.

Customize your URL

Your Facebook fan page is beautiful – until you get a look at the URL at the top of your browser. The default URL is long and appears to be full of gibberish numbers, dashes, and all that jazz. To clean things up and make your URL more memorable, visit www.facebook.com/username/ and make your page address match your company name, if available, or something similar that properly identifies you and sticks out in prospects’ minds: www.facebook.com/JohnSmithInsurance or www.facebook.com/HoustonLTC, for instance.

The only catch is that you need to already have 25 fans to get a vanity URL. Why bother? A vanity URL is a lot easier to remember and type. Plus, using the same username as your own Web page reinforces your branding.

Build a community

A Facebook page can be a great way to launch a community, which encourages discussion among fans by asking questions like, “What could we do to improve our service?” or, “What’s your biggest insurance concern?” You’ll be surprised by how many people will join in – everyone has an opinion. Post updates weekly if not daily, and direct your fans to off-site promotions, such as giveaways hosted on different websites. And don’t forget to keep it fun – nobody likes all business, all the time.

Create and promote events

With Facebook Events, you can organize gatherings and parties via your fan page or personal page, as well as let people in your community know about such upcoming events as financial literacy sessions or educational seminar – even if you’re not the one offering them. The events applications page displays your upcoming events, your pending invitations, and links to your events. It allows you to quickly create an event listing, invite people, and then watch word of the event spread virally from your network of contacts (if you choose to allow it).

The quickest way to promote an event from your fan page is to log into Facebook and visit your wall, where you would normally enter a status update. Instead of updating the status, though, click on the little Events icon, fill out your event details, and viola – you’ve just created and posted your event for all to see in their news feed.

To start inviting people directly, click on the event you just created; it will take you to a screen like you see below. From here, you can provide an event description, upload a photo, provide directions, set a date and time, and so forth. Then, you have a couple of options for sharing: First is the “Select guests to invite” on the right. That will bring up your personal friends list and allow you to invite anyone connected with your personal account. Next, there’s the “Update fans” link, which is next to “Edit event.” This will allow you to customize an email that will be sent to all your fans. And finally, by clicking “I’m attending” on the right, you’ll be able to send a message via your news feed to all of your contacts, and hopefully motivate them to attend, as well.

Once your event is up and running, you have two options: Let it sit there and hope people show up, or become actively involved in promotion and management. When setting up your event, Facebook gives you a selection of privacy options, with the choice to make your event open, closed, or secret. The latter speaks for itself; the difference between open and closed events is that only invited members can view the details of a closed event.

I recommend open events for a couple of reasons: One, if your event is open, guests can invite others – the type of behavior you should encourage if you want word of the event to spread virally. For open events, guests can click the “Share” button to share a link to the event page on their mini-feed, or send a message about the event to friends.

For example, if you’re hosting an event on long term care literacy where other insurance and financial professionals are encouraged to participate, this allows those professionals to share your event with their connections, which will help boost your traffic at the event. You can also send messages to those who have confirmed their attendance, urging them to invite friends and help spread the word. And, you can send messages specifically to those who have not yet replied to the invitation, or to those who have indicated “maybe,” and urge them to come to the event.

Keep in mind that it will take time to build your fan base, so remember to continue sending invites to new contacts asking if they want to become a fan of your business page. Constantly promote the page in any way possible, and keep your content fresh, giving people a reason to check in on your page regularly. When you’re always working on your Facebook presence, it helps ensure the best results from your initial effort, and helps you realize the benefits this powerful marketing tool can have for your business.

Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached at amy@financialsocialmedia.com; through her website at www.financialsocialmedia.com; and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.