Much as I wanted to include the following in my book “Teaching Belly Dance”, I know that Facebook moves and evolves its policies almost weekly. The information here is based on my understanding of Facebook in 2014.
When I joined Facebook in 2005 it had a nice, simple idea : Post stuff on your wall that your friends would like to see, see what they are posting in return.
It was pretty, smart, easy to use and a good step up from Tribe, Bhuz and the MED list. Here was a new way to communicate and connect with Belly Dancers from around the world. Little did I know....
Facebook is now my top means of communication with the outside world. With the mobile app I can check my feed at least once an hour and keep track of thousands of friends I have never met. When I attend belly dance events I post first to make connections, so even though I have moved around the world, I can meet up with familiar faces. When I want to buy or sell a costume, I go to Facebook first. If I want to send a message to my students I put it on Facebook and when I want to advertise an event…. Facebook is my first port of call.
Of course not everyone is as addicted as me, and we are seeing a split in the world of belly dance between those in the know (on Facebook) and those who avoid sharing their every moment with a faceless corporation with limited ethics. I want to plead the case for using Facebook to promote ideas, raise your profile and get bums on seats at your events. Please excuse me if I start with the basics :
The first thing I am going to suggest is that you separate out your “family” Facebook and your “belly dance” Facebook. Using Facebook to advertise to belly dancers will be boring for your non dancer friends. Split them up. For a while Facebook worked on circles and groups, but that never worked. Have two Facebook pages, or three or four. Yes it breaks the rules, but it’s a small rebellion. You may choose to have a “fan page” instead, but I find that people prefer to be your “friend” than your “fan”. Maybe I’m just not famous enough :)
Next you need to get followers. This takes work, is boring, but it has to be done. Find a friend and look on her friends list for anyone else you know. Repeat. Hopefully people will notice you and send you friend requests too. Its up to you who you accept, but I have rules :
And here we start to see the problem with advertising events on Facebook. Nine years ago most of us had 100 friends, posted twice a day and could keep up with each others news. Now I have over 1,000 and I limit my friend list. Many others have ten times that split between different accounts. In order not to bring the facebook universe to a grinding hault Facebook decided to limit your feed to your top friends, and you didn’t get a say in who those people are.
Let me say that again: "You don’t get to decide whose posts you see or who sees yours."
If for example you wanted to post “Informal Hafla at mine right now, bring a bottle”, some estimates say that 30% of your friends will see that post over the next few days. Not too bad, but that 30% might all be three hours plus away from where you live, while the belly dancer across town who is bored tonight will never see that post.
You can influence what you see on your own feed by “liking” posts from the people you want to hear more from. If you like or comment on your class mates baby photos, Facebook will make sure you see the second batch.
It therefore follows that if you want more people to see your posts you need to encourage them to “like” or comment on your posts. Some people come right out and ask and that is why you see these kinds of weird fishing posts :
These posts are all about collecting people who will see your next post. There are companies who set up Facebook pages like “Kittens are the best”, fish for highly interactive friends by posting kitten pictures then sell the page on to a company (lets say a Onesie company). A few weeks later they change the name of that page. Suddenly you find that you like “Adult Onesies are the best”, they are filling up your feed with adverts and all your friends are laughing at you. That’s a silly example, but beware, that’s how you get unexpected porn show up in your feed.
As a belly dancer you may want to fish for more likes and comments to help promote events you are working on. For example your friends may all like a new video of Rachel Brice that you share, or a photo of you in your new costume. Likes cause more likes. If Facebook sees that most of the 30% of friends they showed your post to liked it, they assume it is important and show it to more. If they also like it, then your message will spread. If your next post is about your event, Facebook sees you as an important person and sends your new post out to more of the folks on your friends list.
However if you post the same thing or something simiar, Facebook will limit its access to your followers who don’t want to see the same posts time and again. This is a huge problem for us if we are promoting an event. Say you posted this ;
Let us assume that 30% of your followers saw it. Three people clicked like.
If you post it again, word for word, the next day it will only get seen by perhaps 10% of your followers and some of those will over lap. This second post has no hope of reaching your prime market. You feel like you sent it out to everyone on Facebook (twice !), where in reality just a few dozen saw it. We need to do more.
The first thing you can do is set up an event on Facebook and invite people. Facebook prefers to send people to its own pages over outside web pages. Put everything on the events page that you would on a web page and post something slightly different to your wall :
With an event page you have the chance to invite people directly. I suggest you start a “hit list”. As you connect with people on Facebook make a note of who they are, where they live and how you intend to market to them. It is no different to keeping an address book. I have a list of people who live within an hour of me, who I invite to events I organize. My second list is of people who have shown an interest in starting classes, and I send them an event invite each time a new course starts up. My final list is of people who may host a workshop with me when I travel. For a local event I am going to invite everyone on that first hit list.
Event invites go straight to notifications and have a higher chance of being seen. However, so many people send out blanket invites (to everyone on their friends list) that many of us skip over those notifications assuming that they are out of area. Please don’t do this – it spoils the effect for the rest of us ! It also helps if the name of your event includes a location :
The next way you can enhance the views of posts about your event is to tag people. Tagging promotes your post with both your friends and the friends of the person you tag. For example, before I taught in Bristol last month I tagged the host, Sasha, in many of my posts:
Her students and other dancers in the Bristol area where more likely to see that post because she was tagged in it, and it may have helped bookings. It also helps promote her as a community leader and workshop host. She did a great job, and I want other people to know that.
Some people are very open to the idea of tagging each other in posts, but limit it to people you are working with on a project. You can’t just tag the most famous belly dancer you know and expect her friends to like you too. Have you seen the posts where a costume designers puts up pictures of new costumes and tags every belly dancer in the universe? You don’t have to help promote their work if you don’t want to. However you should be open to helping out friends by using the tag option. Adjust your setting so that you have to approve any tags others might put on photos or posts. That way you can control how your name is being used, while still promoting events and products you support.
Please feel free to share, tag me and comment on any posts about this blog, or about my book ! If you interact with my post it will reach more of my fiends and maybe some of yours might like to know more about me :)
Personally I am a big fan of advertising on Facebook. Adverts appear in the main body or side bar of the feed of the people you target. The great thing with Facebook ads is the targeting. For example, before a new semester in Pleasanton I advertise to women over 20 who live in Pleasanton, like dance and are not already connected to me. Over this weekend I advertised to people in the UK,USA, Canada and Noway who like belly dance. That advert helped me find 40 people who liked my book, and 4 people bought it. It cost me $5. I think that is money well spent.
Facebook users say they hate adverts, but I think many are more interested in seeing targeted ads. Be honest - you clicked that advert with the pretty yoga pants....
Make sure that all your promotional work links back to one place (most likely your main web site) and remember that people hate to click more than once. If you are promoting an event make sure that when they click on your post or advert they get to a place with all the information they could possibley want.
Finally remember to work as part of a community. By sharing other peoples events you help that event information reach more people and position yourself as a “gatekeeper” informing other belly dancers of what is happening. Gatekeepers get more attention and are more customer friendly than those that fish. Your increased popularity in turn increases interest in you, your events and those whose information you share. The more of a community we can build the faster we can get information to people who want it. Post often but keep it fresh and mix up your topics, providing new information and topical news in amoungst your continued promotion of yourself and your events. Too little and you wont be heard, too much and you turn your market against you.
Here are my top tips for marketing your event at belly dancers via Facebook:
1, Set up a web page with all the information laid out clearly
2, Set up an event and invite your “hit list” to attend. Make the location clear.
3, Post your event on your wall every few days. Say the same thing with different words, add pictures and make each post new and different. Dont always include the same web site link in the main text:
4, Fish for likes and comments:
5, Advertise on Facebook but target your ads at your prime customers.
6, Ask your friends to share your post. Share other peoples posts.
7, Tag your friends (but ask them first):
8, Don’t limit your focus on Facebook – make a web site, email the local teachers, send out flyers and talk to people over the phone.
Good luck with your event, and feel free to share this post, tag me, and buy my book !!
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
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