Are you engaging your Facebook fans?

Most small businesses understand that having a Facebook page is a must these days. A survey last year by MerchantCircle, the social network for local business owners, indicated that 70 percent of small businesses use Facebook for marketing. Still many companies are not leveraging their presence to achieve the real marketing benefits of the social networking site.

Facebook success depends on having an ongoing conversation with your followers. You can’t accommodate that by posting only occasionally or using Facebook strictly for promotion.

Here are some suggestions to keep your Facebook engagement going and growing:

Provide relevant and shareable content: Focus on more than your products and services.  Become a reliable source of news and issues about your market. Videos and photos are popular, too. Also express your opinion and ask questions. When your fans like your content, they share it, which helps raise your brand visibility to attract new fans.

Post regularly: Try to post a few times a day but if you can’t, then at least post something daily. There are apps that let you maintain and schedule posts to social network sites from one dashboard, so you don’t have to log into each. These apps, such as Hootsuite, also indicate which days of the week you are getting the most visitors to help you schedule content accordingly.

Listen and interact: Don’t just post, interact. That means replying to questions and comments. Immediacy matters, too.  Don’t wait days to get back to someone’s complaint or criticism or even favorable comment. Respond immediately or at least in a few hours.

Enhance popularity: If appropriate, run a promotion or contest on your page or offer a discount to attract more fans and build goodwill among your current ones.

Understand your followers: Tools like Facebook Insights tell you how many impressions a post generates, post feedback (likes, dislikes and the number) and number of new (or lost) followers. Measure your page activity frequently to find out how well you are doing and what you need to change.

If you have any doubts about the value of your Facebook marketing efforts, consider research from SocialCode, a social agency owned by the Washington Post Company. SocialCode found that Facebook fans are more likely to perform desirable acts than nonfans at a situational rate of 547 percent. For example, they are 291 percent more likely to engage with brands than nonfans. Furthermore, when it comes to making an actual purchase, fans do so at a 7 percent rate, while nonfans buy at a rate of just 2 percent.

Facebook isn’t just about attracting fans; it’s about keeping them engaged.