Small Potatoes has been on Disney Junior in the US since September and, as of today, we’ve amassed 288,301 Facebook fans. We get about 2,500 new fans a day, mostly teens and families, with a slight skewing towards girls over boys. Now, I can’t tell you our entire strategy for the page, but I can tell you one of the big things we’ve learned that may help make your fan page a little more popular on Facebook.
The attraction of Facebook over, say, radio or television, is that everyone who’s on it gets to actively participate in the culture of your brand. Assuming your page allows others to post on it (which it should), any fan can make their voice heard on your page at any time of the day. They can talk to you, post artwork, share videos, etc. But, as many of you have no doubt discovered, it’s not easy to get people to “like” your page, much less post on it. Many pages attempt to attract and engage new fans using various contests, but these are a hassle to set up and promote and, in the end, they create far more losers than winners among your fans. We don’t have any contests.
We operate on the assumption that each and every fan has “liked” our page because they like something about the Small Potatoes. Maybe it’s the show. Maybe it’s the album. Maybe it’s our design work. We feel that it’s our job to reciprocate, and to show our fans that we “like” them back. We do this in a variety of ways, from making them free custom potatoes, to praising the potato art that they make, to responding to every single one of our fans’ posts. But, perhaps most importantly, we provide them with a very accepting and friendly environment on our Facebook page where they are listened to and appreciated. We value each fan who “likes” our page and we tell them that, often.
One of the biggest errors I see on a lot of fan pages for other kids’ shows (and even for kids’ networks) is that they allow their pages to become the Facebook equivalent of a complaint box. Parents use these pages to vent about changes in the programming schedule and to criticize the shows that they don’t like for one reason or another. These posts often go unanswered and then other unhappy parents read them and climb aboard the complain train. Before you know it, the whole page is just ranting. Who wants to spend time on a Facebook page that’s so negative?
My dear friend and mentor, Cathy Chilco, once told me something when we were both working at Sesame Street International that has always stayed with me. She said, “Josh, if you allow the few negative people in the room to dominate, all the positive ones will soon go silent.” Cathy was certainly right, and we apply her simple principle on our Facebook Page daily. We always acknowledge any rude or negative comment, but we explain to the fan that our page is a place for those who like Small Potatoes to gather. Typically, they see the light, but when they don’t, we invite them to “unlike” our page.
The great upside of not permitting negativity to spread is that the rest of our fans feel that they are in a safe and fun environment where they can share their opinions, their questions, their songs and their own artwork without the fear that someone will say something mean or critical. In fact, we immediately delete any comment that might make another fan feel badly, including any type of rudeness.
There’s a great book by one of my favorite authors, Vivian Gussin Paley, called, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play” that applies a similar principle to real preschool classrooms. Dr. Paley, who is also a preschool teacher, doesn’t allow children in her classrooms to deny other children access to any play area or even to say “you can’t play” to the other children. Though this may sound a little controlling, Dr. Paley argues that her approach encourages the children to include and respect one another rather than exclude and alienate one another by forming cliques. She feels that such an environment is more conducive to building self-confidence among her young students and, clearly, I agree.
Yes, we do a lot of cool things on our Facebook page, from posting animated versions of our fans’ avatars, to making “Potato Quilts” in the style of Chuck Close paintings. But I’ve come to believe that it’s the overall culture on our page, a culture of acceptance and appreciation, that has been pulling in so many fans and keeping them happy. As one of our fans wrote to us recently, “I love the Small Potatoes Facebook Page because the songs are catchy, they always post cool stuff, and they’re always really nice, and I love how they said happy birthday to my brother today!”