Why should I ‘like’ you?

I was recently asked by an arts organization if I visited/became a fan of their Facebook page. The question painfully reminded me of all the sad looking signs I see outside bars and gas stations demanding that I ‘like’ them on Facebook. My first and only question is always, “Why?”

What does ‘liking’ you get me? Why should I expose myself and give you more clout? Why should I engage?

In this particular case, I had in fact visited and ‘liked’ that page and I had to evaluate my motives. I also asked myself if I engaged with that page since ‘liking’ it. The answer was selfishly simple. I ‘liked’ it because I knew there would be content about ME posted on this page. After this happened, I had no other reason to go there. All the other info, which appears on this page, can be found elsewhere much more quickly and efficiently. Ultimately, the page is simply a bulletin board for reposting content which already appears on the organization’s website. It was yet another channel for their marketing department to deliver their story in a one-way direction, which did not invite interaction. My personal engagement with the page ended right there.

This got me thinking about the idea of fan pages in general. There is a huge difference between a fan page created by the fans and one originating from the object of affection itself. The first might loosely revolve around the idea of this object or person, but it’s ultimately about the fans themselves and their relationship to this entity. It’s about the community created through this common fixation, a platform designed to connect and validate its users. The object of affection might occasionally engage in this community to give it further encouragement for existing, but as an individual person or idea, they are quite secondary to its purpose.

The second type of fan page is ultimately a megaphone designed to tell a particular story to what it hopes is a captive audience. The problem is that it’s never captive.

Facebook is an online community designed to engage users in each other’s stories. When a single individual’s stream of status updates becomes a megaphone for every detail in his over-glorified life, people simply ‘unsubscribe’ and this person ceases to exist in their world. The same can be said about a business or organization page. If it’s only about them, it’s of no interest to most of us because we have no room to weave ourselves into their narrative. And the scariest thing is that once someone took the trouble to mute you out, you are very unlikely to engage with her again. She no longer acknowledges your existence.

So it seems that to design a successful fan page or organization profile page, you need to step back and allow your users to tell their own story. The page needs to be a comfortable platform that encourages sharing and inspires user-generated content. The organization’s agenda is promoted through this gently directed conversation.

How does one go about building that? I’m going to cop out at this point and say that there’s probably not a single correct model for this. The right approach probably depends on the nature of the community one desires to engage. I would love to hear thoughts on this and see successful examples if anyone has them.

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