By David Glenn

Hey, it’s not 2004 anymore, and the era of Myspace social networking is long gone. In its place has arisen a complex interwoven society founded on sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and of course Facebook. But despite what the term “social network” may connote, these new online hangouts are about more than just connecting with friends. As any business worth its license will tell you, social media is about connecting with customers. However, unlike the media of radio, television, and magazines, advertising on social networks can’t depend on outbound marketing if it wants to be successful. Instead, it needs to rely on the grace of other networkers in the hope that they will decide to share with their friends and acquaintances what the company in question has to offer. So, the real question is this: As a marketer, how can you make your Facebook page (or any other social network page) as share-worthy as possible? Here are five tips.

1. Let them know what you’re all about. First and foremost, ask yourself one question: What is it that makes your business special? Seriously, if you can’t find a reason why anyone would get excited about your product or service, then you shouldn’t expect anyone to bother sharing it with people they know. So, tell them what you’re all about. Post interesting stats and positive customer experiences, and if you’re involved in any charity work, don’t be modest about it (Facebook loves charity work). For example, take a look at the Vivint Facebook page. Vivint is involved with several charities, including the Ronald McDonald House and the United Way, and has even started its own foundation called Vivint Gives Back. Are they tooting their own horn to mention these contributions on Facebook? Maybe, but it works because they are sharing content readers want to pass on and share. If you want people to like you and to share your posts, tell them why they should.

2. Respond to them. Most traditional advertising is a one-way conversation. When a television commercial asks, “Where’s the beef?” You probably don’t sit up and say, “It’s at Wendy’s!” Social media marketing on the other hand makes it possible for your customer to talk back—and talk back they will. From personal reviews, to product questions, to inane non-sequiturs and even the occasional personal insults, users will be leaving comments on your Facebook posts. The idea may seem a little daunting, but you should try to respond quickly and respectfully to every comment. Sometimes you’ll only need to say ‘thanks’ when customers offer praise or share a positive experience; at other times you may want to put them in touch with your customer service department or apologize and offer a solution. Known for its quick and well thought out responses to customers over social media, B&H Photo got some positive press when they were mentioned in a 2012 CNN article. Quick responses and personal solutions will impress customers, and impressed customers are much more likely to share.

3. Give them something useful. At the heart of inbound marketing is this admonition: Be useful. In essence, you need to figure out what it is that your customers want, and then give it to them. Sometimes this will mean offering interesting information or useful tips; sometimes it will mean providing entertainment. The important thing to remember with this form of content marketing is that Brand promotion comes second. First and foremost, you’re trying to fulfill a customer need. Team Detroit once ran a game/contests in which users could build their own custom Mustangs and place them in competition against other user’s cars. The end result was that the page got millions of shares.

4. Bribe them. There’s nothing wrong with offering a little incentive. In fact, according to a study by Syncapse, 35% of users who follow brands on Facebook have done so in order to participate in contests. The point is that Facebook fans are perfectly happy to “sell” you a like or a share for a chance at winning something. These contests can take many different forms. Eggo Waffle once offered $5,000 in exchange for the best user-invented waffle recipe, but other versions—such as sweepstakes—can be just as effective. The prospect of getting something for nothing is a great tool for promoting your brand.

5. Don’t give up. Social media posts are anything but permanent. So, once you’ve figured out the best way to promote shareability of your brand on Facebook, keep it up. Don’t rest on past success; get in the habit of offering new contests, posting new tips and videos, and responding to customer comments regularly throughout the week. The moment that you begin to neglect your Facebook page, customers will lose interest. On the other hand, having a dynamic page that is constantly updated will draw potential customers back again and again, and that will surely help your business in the long run.

David Glenn is a business writer who draws from 30 years of experience as a business owner. Connect with him on Twitter @DavidGlenn97.