If you build it, they won't come.

In social media, at least.

No matter how well known your business is currently, you'll need to provide a value proposition to your customers, staff, vendors, and partners, some sort of benefit they will receive from becoming your fans- in order to connect with you through social media. In other words, don't just tell them to like you. Tell them what's in it for them, and tell them in a way that's about them, not you.

Consider the following two different calls to action:

Like us on Facebook now at Facebook.com/LikeableLocal.

versus

Ask us your social media questions anytime at FB.com/LikeableLocal.

The first one is totally brand-centric. Why would you read that and decide to like our company unless you already knew us, loved us, and trusted us? The second call to action is consumer-centric, and it is likely to generate a lot more action, not only from people who already love us and trust us but also from casual, first-time customers and maybe even prospects. Remember, it's not about you. It's about your customers. Whatever you can do to encourage activity on your Facebook page will in fact encourage likes, without actually asking for them.

For instance, Oreo asks customers on the company's packaging: "To dunk or not to dunk? Let us know at Facebook.com/Oreo." The company is encouraging people to share their opinions. It is not just telling them to like Oreo's online content--yet, more than 37 million people have liked the company on Facebook.

The value proposition might be different for each constituency. For example, you may want to invite your own staff to like your page with the incentive that they can post questions to the CEO, some of which will receive responses. For customers, however, you may invite them to access a discount.

By giving people a value proposition for joining you and then surrounding your customers with that value proposition, or others, at every opportunity, you'll convert customers into fans, and that's where things begin to get interesting.

Why should people like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn or Instagram? What's in it for them that's of value? How can you summarize that value in a short, easy-to-understand call to action? The answer is, it depends on your business or organization. Here are several real calls to action from Likeable Media clients to help you think about why people should like you:

  • Share your feedback with us at FB.com/VerizonFiOS.
  • Win prizes and join the conversation at FB.com/1800Flowers.
  • Your medical questions answered at FB.com/KenRedcrossMD.
  • Free support for quitting smoking at FB.com/NYCquits.
  • Connect with other moms like you at FB.com/striderite.
  • Get some at FB.com/NYCcondom.

It's not about you. It's about your customers. In the same way that the Web quickly became too big for you to tell people to visit your website without telling them why, Facebook (and all major social networks) are too big to tell people--even your customers--to like you without telling them why. It's essential to develop that value proposition and then integrate it into your communications with customers and prospects.

Getting the like approval is essential for everyone, but it is even more important for smaller businesses and new organizations, which can utilize such free social media and word-of-mouth marketing to grow their fledgling companies. Don't be afraid to ask anyone in your organization's circle of influence to like you. Just don't do it without creating value for whoever that audience is. You're not going to get likes from anyone without giving him or her a valid reason. On the other hand, you're also not going to get likes from anyone without reminding him or her to like you. Give them value and opportunity, and your vendors, partners, staff, and friends will join you.

There's much more about how to make Facebook work for your business in my new book, Likeable Social Media 2nd Edition. I'm so excited about the launch of this second edition, that I'm giving away 20 copies for free! Just tweet this and you'll be entered to win. Good Luck!

Now it's your turn. How do you add value for your customers on Facebook? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Published on: Mar 11, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.