Oh, Facebook, I love you. For years you’ve allowed me to see which mean girls from high school have gotten fat, and who married an ugly dude.

And then, you allowed me to transition into the amazing world of business where I could give snarky feedback to a company anytime they didn’t live up to my impossibly high standards as a cheap consumer.

So, here you are, bringing so many folks to their knees with your new algorithms. While big business and fan-based promotion sites cry, I, for one, applaud you.

For the rest of you, here are three crucial steps to stop your Pay-to-Play boo-hooing:

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Engage With Your Audience

I like about 100 business pages. Guess how many I see posting in my Pages Feed (on the left hand rail of the feed)? Maybe 10% of my Liked pages actually take the time to post on Facebook.

And an even smaller percentage are encouraging engagement. The easiest way to get yourself noticed is to simply interact with your audience.

  • Respond to consumer comments,
  • Share a post from your business page to your personal feed
  • Shoot someone a message to ask them to comment on what you wrote
  • Ask employees to share and comment IF it interests them
  • Ask a question / run a contest / post original pictures
  • Go off-base and just get interesting again (Crazy, I know!)

Anything you can do to encourage interaction will triple the amount of people seeing your posts.

So, the name of the game is about actually being interesting online and not recycling content and tired old quotes or pictures. (I’m guilty too.)

Build Your Own List

I have seen a grumbling about creating a personally driven database that acts like a social network. You and I both know you’re probably not going to invest in any such tool.

But you can stop bellyaching about the social platforms that already exist and go back to an old school brand approach: a personal email list of contacts.

This works in a few ways:

  • Export personal Facebook contacts and launch a conversion campaign (i.e. please oh, please join my list)
  • Offer something free for folks who sign up (10% off a product, etc.) (not unlike an opt-in)
  • Launch a members-only sign-up site that encourages enthusiasts to engage
  • Do spin-off pages from your brand to target a niche (less than 500,000 Likes)

If you somehow capture your engaged audience, you can harness your ability to market to them. But you have to do it in a fun, interesting way – not by beating them over the head with email marketing.

Facebook owes its success to being a fun past time – as do many of the other social media sites. When you build your list of contacts, remember to make it about interesting (yes, even your executives have to see the point in this for it to work) fluffy things that don’t “feel” like a sale.

Actually Try Using the Ads

Bah humbug to the big giants sitting in their corner offices griping about paying for advertising. Facebook is the number one source of direct, targeted marketing statistics that the world has every seen.

The deal with a Facebook Ad is that it actually targets who you want it to target. It’s a genius way to slam dunk a niche audience:

  • Women, age 25 to 30 who are married. Done.
  • Men who work in medicine but are single. Done.
  • Fans of the cooking show Top Chef. Done

And the list goes on and on and on. Just like there’s a profile for TV networks, these ads aren’t like junk mail, they should truly get you some of the audience you want.

Other miscellaneous advice on Facebook Marketing

Let everyone follow you. This setting is part of your personal feed and let’s the public see your feed (if they are following you), so head’s up to the sloppy drunks and political leftists.

Use Instagram from your cell phone if it makes sense for your business. It’s currently the little darling, but keep yourself apprised of any changes.

Interact with your fellow business pages. I pop into my Pages Feed about once a day to comment and engage.

Join Facebook Groups and/or create your own (see list advice above.) These forums may foster better relationships with others outside of the anonymous online world. Just last week I got an hour consult with a brilliant agency owner who offered me a guest spot on her blog. Wow.

And if you truly are spammy, I’m sorry to say that social media is getting a lot harder for you. We can’t ask for likes or shares anymore to ‘help find lost Jane’.

But for those of us who love Facebook, and have worked diligently to interest, engage and see what our audience actually wants to hear from us, well, I’m fully prepared to throw them a little money on ads.

After all, the best things in life aren’t always free.