Every once in a while, marketing bloggers bring up some awesome case study here or there that shows the best way to dominate on Facebook. Nearly every one of these posts is useless to most businesses, because the Facebook Pages in question are owned by major brands like Red Bull. In all likelihood, these pages owe their success to the fact that people would like them anyway.
Let's face it: Pizza has 33 million Likes on Facebook. That's not the result of brilliant marketing.
I wanted to find Facebook pages that were totally killing it, and that clearly didn't owe their success to traditional marketing or existing familiarity. So I headed over to SocialBakers, browsed through the top 1,000 Facebook Pages (time I'll never get back), and dug up some immensely popular pages that didn't seem to owe their success to any preexisting brand or traditional marketing.
Let's take a look at what's working for them.
1. Jesus Daily
I'm going to be frank: this page disgusts me. I'm not taking a political stance here. I'm talking about posts like this, which are essentially all this page consists of:
Is this what the world has come to? Shamelessly guilt-trolling people for Likes on Facebook?
For the record, it didn't take any digging to find this picture. This is what the Page is.
I considered not including this page in the list, and not just because of my feelings about it. Several other pages in the top 1,000 are built around shared religions and ethnicities, but I didn't include them, because I felt they were essentially in the same category as Pizza. They were popular because they were already popular.
But Jesus Daily is different. I don't feel religion has much to do with the page at all. It's entirely about shameless Like-trolling.
And I have to admit the strategy is working. Jesus Daily has 24 million Likes and 7 million active users. That's 30 percent of their audience. So as much as I'm disgusted by this Page, I can't ignore it. As far as I can tell, it's the most Liked page on Facebook that has relied exclusively on Facebook for growth.
Do I think you should do something like this? Let's just say...I certainly wouldn't. But can we learn anything here?
Clearly, asking people to use the Like and Share features as some kind of a vote of agreement works. And, apparently, if you know how to properly guilt people into doing just that, it works even better.
There are some obvious business lessons here, but be warned, the potential to attract negative press for this kind of shamelessness is high.
It probably won't surprise any of you that one of the most popular Facebook Pages on the web is about a dog.
Once again...shameless. I'm sensing a pattern here.
Never underestimate the power of maternal and paternal instincts. It shouldn't be surprising to anybody who's spent time on the internet to know that cuteness rules, but being cute alone isn't enough. People post pics of their cute babies and animals all the time.
No. To rule the internet, you need to be cute and influential.
Boo's growth was certainly impressive prior to 2010 (the initial posts have thousands of Likes), but it didn't skyrocket until Ke$ha tweeted that she had a new boyfriend (Boo, of course). Just four days later, Khloe Kardashian posted a picture of Boo to her blog. The rest is history.
As I've pointed out before, there's no such thing as truly viral content. While shareable content undoubtedly expands reach, about the best you can expect is to reach a friend of a friend. Exceptionally popular content gets that way because it makes its way to an influential node in the network. While you can certainly use shareable content to grow an audience, exponential growth doesn't occur with a single piece of content. Audience retention is the major limiting factor.
After the celebrity exposure, Boo had 60,000 fans, and Chronicle Books approached the owner to create a series of books, which further helped expand Boo's popularity.
So Boo owes his success not just to being cute, but to Ke$ha, Khloe, and ultimately, traditional press exposure. Undoubtedly, without a large enough audience, the celebrities would never have mentioned him.
As marketers, though, it doesn't make sense to wait for your audience to get large enough to grab the attention of a celebrity. Reach out to influencers and get on their good side.
Don't count on luck.
3. I F*cking Love Science
This page has managed to leverage the novelty that scientific discoveries and oddities have to offer and combined it with humor to form a winning combination.
IFLS uses these images to link to science discoveries, and recently, it's own science blog. This strategy has carried the Page up to 8 million likes, with a striking 40 percent of the audience active. With images like these, it's not hard to see why:
The internet craves novelty and humor, and IFLS seems to have mastered a combination of the two. Elise Andrew created the page just to curate things she found interesting, and literally woke up the next morning with over 1,000 Likes. From there, it just kept picking up 10,000 or so visitors per day.
That 24-year-old Elise Andrew is really just a science fangirl herself should be revealing. Andrew is a curator, not a scientist. She shares content that she finds interesting, mostly produced by others. (Originally, she didn't link to the sources for many of her images, but she's cleaned up her act.)
It's also worth noting that the expletive in the Page title is no coincidence. It sends the message that while science is often presented in a dry fashion, this page is anything but dry. In doing so, it may be a bit polarizing, but it's also exciting to its target audience.
I'm already regretting mentioning this page. For one, 9Gag receives nothing but hate from 4chan, Reddit, and pretty much the entire "anonymous" internet for being a network that just rips off other people's memes and pastes their logo on them. 9Gag also doesn't really belong on this list the way the others do, because the popularity of the site came before the popularity of the Facebook page.
At the same time, I feel like I would be doing anybody who hasn't heard of any of this stuff a disservice if I just ignored the page, because it means you're sadly out of touch with the kind of material that succeeds on social networks. Stuff like this:
9Gag is an online platform for sharing images and GIFS, and in many ways, it is much like Reddit and 4Chan, though arguably more derivative. That said, 9Gag hasn't shunned Facebook and the anti-anonymity that it brings. That means it's one of our only windows into how this kind of content performs on Facebook. And the results are staggering.
9Gag's Facebook page has 6.6 million Likes, but more importantly, about 40 percent of those users are active. With stats like that, it's hard to ignore the lessons. If you want to know how to use humor to get noticed on Facebook, you should probably take a look at this page.
Two Pages in a similar boat include Shut Up I'm Talking and Don't Touch My Hair, Face or Phone (for a slightly more feminine take), both of which have around 6 million fans and engage about 10 percent of their audience.
A very important thing to note about all of these Pages, except for Boo's, is that the majority of these posts are curated. And while that's not necessarily a problem, many of these pages don't even link to the original image creator, putting themselves in spotty legal territory. Again...shameless.
By now it should be obvious that copying these Pages' business models wholesale would be a bad idea, but you can't ignore the lessons learned if you hope to understand Facebook, and what successful posts look like.
Pages that genuinely owe their success to marketing with Facebook posts, not ads or blog content, share funny, novel images, and often have no shame about asking directly for a Like or share. Captioned images are huge, novelty has massive appeal, and the help of an influencer is undeniable.
As I've said before, if you want to master Facebook, you need to be the type of content that shows up in your own Newsfeed. If you aren't, gaining that exposure isn't going to be easy.