Today’s post isn’t about email – not directly anyway. I talk and write frequently about Email in the Marketing Mix, with the point being that email works best as part of a pan-channel communications program. Unless you have 100% open rates, you’re not reaching everybody on your list as it is, so it makes sense for marketers to fan out across other channels to better reach people who aren’t always responsive to email, as well as customers and members who do not subscribe to your email lists at all.

For many of our clients, the other channel that has the most appeal is social. Like email, its principal resource requirement is staffing time, which is easier to allocate these days than marketing budget. Yet despite its attractive cost, social – like email – has almost unlimited scalability. Successful initiatives there can reach 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 people with the exact same resources allocated. But for all my praising of social channels as an ideal complement to email, I’ve so far written very little about how, exactly, to go about growing and using them. That ends today. Here are a few ways your organization can use Facebook to amplify your content and drive the type of engagement that yields actual business results:

1. Add the “Like” button to your company’s blog posts and website features. Facebook makes it really easy to integrate the “Like” button into your blog, event homepages, and other parts of your website you think will drive a reaction. That’s the key point about the “Like” button – targeting it based on content. Slapping it indiscriminately all over your site will clutter your site and confuse your audience about what, exactly, they might be “liking.” Worse, if it’s on a page that doesn’t have anything worth liking, it won’t get a response at all. Instead, add it to your blog template, since blog content is usually the freshest and most conversational, giving the Like button a little more activity. If there are other features on your website that are uniquely qualified to drive a response, add it there as well. Every time somebody clicks a “Like” button, the content associated with it is shared in the News Feed of that person’s Facebook friends.

2. Find the content that provokes a reaction on your fan page, and make more of it. Even your most dedicated Facebook fans won’t “like” a post on your Facebook page about the appointment of your new COO, but many of your fans may be likely sound off on the headway you’ve made in DC on an important public policy issue, or a price reduction at your annual meeting. Every time someone comments – good or bad – this activity shows up in the News Feed of the person’s friends. The right content – inquisitive, provocative, unusual, funny, or otherwise remarkable – can start comment conversations that bounce around Facebook for days. Try all types and see which ones are more likely to result in a cascade of comments. Then create more of it.

3. Post photos and videos. Multimedia on Facebook drives huge interaction, “likes” and comments. And the best kind is the type most organizations are equipped to post anyway – pictures of customers, members and other Facebook fans at events. People not only consume this content like handfuls of popcorn at the movies; they are also likely to tag people they recognize (including and especially themselves) and leave comments. Taking pictures at every event, dinner, conference and meeting should be as rote as bringing name badges and a boring powerpoint presentation. As soon as you can (even in real-time if possible, since so many people at the event are accessing Facebook via mobile devices) upload them to Facebook in an album dedicated to that particular event. (The album encourages people to look at all the pictures from the event.) Be sure to add a caption for each to kick off the commentary, and go ahead and tag people you recognize to break the seal on that activity as well. When people are tagged they receive a notification, which prompts them to go look at the photo. Is this narcissism? Maybe, but if it it results in higher engagement then we consider it a virtue, not a character flaw.

4. Reply to comments. The way Facebook determines how relevant an article is for inclusion in a News Feed is based on the total volume of activity in the comments – yours included. So when someone comments on your Facebook post, add your response as well. Not only does that promote more conversation and show that your organization is engaged, it also trips the algorithm that measures relevance and moves the post on your page into more prominent places on News Feeds across all of Facebook.

5. Create a separate Fan Page for big events. In addition to the Fan Page for your organization, create one for your major events as well. This will mean adding specific content about the event to the page, but you’re already thinking along those lines for your email program so replicating the narrow event-specific content on the page is easy enough. Like your main Facebook page, all the comments and photo tagging will be amplified across Facebook. But a page for your event has a unique advantage. If you give it address of the event itself, your attendees will be able to Check In on Facebook when they arrive. When they do, they’ll see how many others have already checked in and will be able to immediately identify who from their friends is there. And their check-in will show up on News Feeds as well. Use signage at the event to prompt Checking In on the event’s Facebook page to drive more interaction online, which drives more interaction offline at the event itself. (I recommend that the page is not specific to the year, and is re-used annually. For example “Organization Annual Meeting” is preferable to “Organization Annual Meeting 2011” because all the people who Like the page for 2011 will still have it liked when you begin using the page in advance of the 2012 conference.)