Continuing our series of posts aimed at helping professional triathletes understand and use social media more effectively, Mike Cliffe-Jones takes a look at the largest platform of them all – Facebook.

Facebook is simply huge now:

  • 1.2 Billion people use Facebook
  • Half of users log in every single day
  • A million links are shared on Facebook every 20 minutes
  • 350 million photos are uploaded every day to the platform

Of course, most of Facebook is about “Friends and family” and allowing people to stay up to date with each other, and many people wonder about mixing their private lives with their public lives online.

But Facebook actually makes it easy to separate them – you have a personal profile, which is where you connect with your friends (up to 5,000) and you can also have a “page.” Your Facebook page should be the “professional” part of Facebook for you. There’s no limit to the number of people who can “like” the page and therefore follow you.

On a side note, you’ll also find that you can set up “Groups” in Facebook as well, but I wouldn’t recommend using a group for anything other than a small club.

Creating a page is straightforward and you should complete the profile and then add links to it from your Homebase, and then spend a little time each day adding status updates. If you want examples of how well some sports people use their pages, here are a few, just search on them in Facebook:

  • Lewis Hamilton
  • Javier Gomez
  • Sachin Tendulkar

As you’ll see, their pages are interesting, sometimes funny and most of the updates are written by the sports person themselves. They are also all effectively using them to promote their sponsors, which gives them great value.

The key to doing well with your Facebook page is to interact as much as you can with it, and that means replying to comments, liking other relevant pages and sharing other’s people content as well. Start with your other triathlon friend’s pages, add all your sponsors and potential sponsors and get posting.

It’s worth mentioning that on your page you should keep focused to triathlon. Your personal profile is the place to allow all the other interests and aspects of your life come out, but people will like your page specifically because of your sport. In this respect Facebook is unlike Twitter, where you can effectively talk about any aspect of your life.

Facebook can deliver huge traffic to your Homebase website if you use it correctly –that means occasionally posting links to it as status updates, and making sure you have a link to it in your profile.

I’d recommend using a general rule with your Facebook posting – post 3 useful, funny or interesting updates for every one where you are asking them to visit your website. That means you’re being interesting and engaging about three times more than asking for something in return.

Let me give you some examples:

Interesting – might be facts about you that people don’t know, stories about your early days, how you got into sport, what other sports you like.

Useful – would be training suggestions, tips for specific races, your thoughts on swim starts.

Funny – funny stories that apply to you, sharing funny images or videos. Anything funny on Facebook is likely to be shared!

Once you’ve posted one of each of those, now you’ve earned the right to ask them to do something! You can send them a link to the sponsor’s page on your website, or post an affiliate link to the trainers you recommend, for example.

One other thing to note is this – over time you will build up a corps of “Super fans” on your Facebook page – these people will act as ambassadors for you, promoting you, your page and your website all over the web. They will even answer other people’s questions on your behalf. Start to identify them early on – you’ll begin to recognise their names. They will do a lot of the work for you if your nurture them and keep in touch with them.

If you already have a Facebook page, post a comment below and we’ll connect with you.

This post was written by Mike Cliffe-Jones, find out more on his profile page

Mike Cliffe-Jones runs Camel Media Group in Lanzarote – a web publishing company with several titles, including Tri Lanzarote