When we took over the Facebook Fan page for Weekly World News , they had 3,244 fans. 4 days later, we had 40,310 fans– 10 times larger. We’re going explain exactly how we did it in this exclusive article for AllFacebook.com. In the coming days, we’ll demonstrate how fans translate into trackable revenue, how to perform analytics, integrating social widgets (Open Graph Protocol) with your site, and other aspects of effective Facebook marketing. But today we’re looking only at growing your fan base quickly.

The Background

A few weeks ago, Facebook made some massive changes– more of your personal data as publicly available, you could like something from a website (as opposed to only from Facebook), community pages launched to challenge Wikipedia, and so forth. But the biggest change in our mind was that “become a fan ” was changed to just “like”. The user doesn’t know what they’re liking– the cute saying, the underlying page, the website they’re on, or their friend’s remark.

It used to be that you could tell when clicking on an ad would take you to a fan page or to a website. The fan page would have the “become a fan” button, creating an in-line fan– meaning that they can become a fan without ever having to go to your page. At first we thought this was terrible, since we felt that users wouldn’t want to be yanked outside of Facebook. Therefore, the ads that send users to Facebook pages would have a higher CTR– and this, we reasoned, would be something Facebook would “like” (pun intended), too.

But it’s a funny thing how data often proves you wrong. The highest click-to-fan conversion rate we had achieved prior to the F8 change was 55%– that’s for an in-line fanning of the ad. After the switch to like, we saw conversion rates consistently in the 50-90% range. We tried a range of ads– here are a couple:

Weekly World News Ads

RULE #1: Ask users to like you in the ad.

Give them a reason why. In our case, Weekly World News has plenty of entertaining content about aliens, Michael Jackson, Elvis, you name it. We tried capitalizing the word “LIKE”, writing short versus long copy, testing dozens of images, and trying out different interest targets. Don’t make it complex– keep the language casual, as if a friend was telling you about something cool.

When you have a high click-through rate, Facebook rewards you by decreasing your CPC. As you test out hundreds of ad variations, you’ll inevitably find a couple winners. In this example, we got 631 fan for 95 cents. That’s not a typo. We had a CTR of 0.98% to get 770 clicks. Then 631 of those 770 clicks became fans from within the ad itself (what’s defined as an action).

631 Fans Screenshot

This doesn’t count the fans we got from users who then clicked to our incentivized like page or the viral users that we got when friends of fans came in to participate on our wall, because they saw in their news feed that their friend just became a fan.

Warning: We saw spammers that were impersonating brands, just to drive likes to their page and then monetize via affiliate ads– explained here . Because there is no direct connection between the ad and underlying page, if you’re a spammer, this open the door to all kinds of tomfoolery.

RULE #2: Send users to your Facebook page.

Don’t send them to your website, which removes the ability to get a like from the ad. If you send them to your website, the like action now means they like the ad, not the page. It’s true that when you send traffic to your page that you no longer have control over the ad headline– it becomes the page name. However, the ability to get fans from the ad is well worth the loss of being able to choose a headline, since the choice of image and targeting are far more important in determining ad effectiveness.

So choose your page title carefully, since it will be your headline from now on.

RULE #3: Create an incentivized LIKE page.

Incentivized Like Landing Tab

Facebook allows you to show one thing to people who are fans and something else to those who aren’t. So you can say “click like to reveal the exclusive video”. This is a scratch off card, essentially– so use your imagination on what you can do here. What are your fans going to get by hitting the like button?

We found that incentivized like pages got 200-300% higher click to fan conversion rates than regular landing pages. Some people argue that Facebook is going to shut down this technique, because of the practice of incentivized invites from 2 years ago in the app world. Remember when you’d get points in a game for inviting friends or where the results of the “quiz” were revealed to you only when you invited 10 friends? Incentivized liking on your landing page is not the same thing– it doesn’t result in spamming other users.

RULE #4: Do NOT send users to your wall.

This is almost as dumb as sending your Google AdWords traffic to your homepage, as opposed to a PPC landing page. The Wall is the last dozen or so random things that you and your fans have said– it’s just not going to convert. Instead, change your default landing tab to be your incentivized like page. Most users will click “like” to see the special content and then head over to the wall anyway to see what others are saying and how many fans you have. For better or worse, Facebook users judge how trustworthy you are by how many fans you have and how many of their friends are also fans. So jack up your fan count.

You can test conversion rates from different areas of your fan page. In the example below, we had a 19% conversion rate from the wall, versus a 35% conversion rate from the custom tab, prior to supercharging the page with an incentivized like page.

Fan Conversion Screenshot

RULE #5: Rotate your ads DAILY

For those folks who are PPC professionals, you’re probably used to the “set it and forget it”. We’ve found CTR to often fall by 50% within 24 hours. The smaller your target, the faster your ads burn out. Remember that Facebook doesn’t have frequency capping or the ability to placement target. So the burden is on you to watch your CTR, even if you’re bidding on a CPC. Just because you might be bidding on a CPC basis, don’t think that you can just ignore your CTR.

Do you have that annoying friend in real life who likes to talk only about his or her favorite subject? You know, the one who no matter what the subject of the conversation is– somehow it goes back to that particular topic? If you don’t keep your ads fresh on Facebook, you’re that very person.

Click To Fan Slide

Rule #6: Optimize primarily to cost per fan (CPF), not just CTR or CPC

Sometimes the ad with the highest CTR also converts the worst. Maybe you’re getting a bunch of irrelevant users in your targeting– children, singles, who knows– folks that may still click on your ads. Systematically root them out by multiplying ad variations like this:

Ad Variations Slide

If you’re trying to do this manually, good luck. We have our own software to do this, as do many other engineering-oriented companies. More important than blind multiplication, which can blindly increase your costs from having more cells to test– is being able to quickly prune the unsuccessful variations.

Rule #7: Separate into test and production campaigns

When you multiply ads into a single campaign, it’s easy for a single bad ad to hog up the entire budget. So when you have a group of ads that are performing, place them in a separate production campaign with a high budget, while you test in a low budget campaign. There are no ad groups in Facebook– just ads and campaigns.

Rule #8: Send updates regularly to fans

Most companies just use the wall to communicate, throwing away the massive power of email. Did you know there’s an option in Facebook to “Send an Update to Fans?” This sends a real email, so don’t abuse it. In fact, group this in with your current email marketing campaigns.

We find that a Facebook fan, incidentally, is worth twice as much as an email list subscriber. Why? Almost half of Facebook users log in every day, while email addresses are going dead from spam. Even Sheryl Sandberg is saying that email is dying. Think of building your fan base as a giant list builder with these social options for free.

Weekly World News Fan Updates Screenshot

You might not be a national brand like Weekly World News, nor might you have the kind of content that lends itself readily to social media. Whether you are a consumer packaged good, non-profit, or small business, many of these technique will work for you. You might not be able to drive 631 fans for under a dollar, but you can certainly do a LOT better with proper Facebook ads than you’re doing with Google alone.

If you’re a local business, you don’t want 40,000 fans. Perhaps just 500 of the RIGHT fans might be more than enough to supercharge your business. In our next article, we’ll cover how using Friends of Fans targeting is the most powerful feature in Facebook advertising and the proper and improper ways to use it.

Dennis Yu is Chief Executive Officer of BlitzLocal, a firm specializing in the intersection of Facebook and local advertising. Mr. Yu has been featured in National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine, CBS Evening News, and other venues. He is an internationally sought after speaker and author on all things Facebook. BlitzLocal serves both national brands and local service businesses.