If you want to build a vibrant and successful Facebook community for your business, it might pay to take a moment and look at Praetorian Group's FireRescue1 page here. Praetorian is the publishing arm for the trade associations that represent public safety workers. Clearly, their social media strategies are on fire. But the reasons for their popularity and reach of their Facebook and Twitter sites are so simple, you won't need to summon an EMS to implement them in your shop.

I found this article from my podcasting partner and social media author Paul Gillin in his column in BtoB magazine here. Gillin mentions several factors that have driven traffic to the group's Facebook pages and enriched its discussion groups and various Web publications:

  • Stories that inspire strong emotions are key. Certainly, having a publication that features life-and-death moments helps. I can't remember the last time some IT manager faced such odds over a router upgrade (but you never know). This is probably equivalent in our universe to stories on Mac and Linux, which always generate lots of comments. Something to think about for your particular audience.

  • Ask questions about topics or concerns that members have in common. And sometimes the simplest questions can elicit lots of responses, like when they asked where their readers live or would they rather rescue a cat or a dog from a burning building. EMS folks want to connect with each other in meatspace, something Facebook excels at facilitating.

  • Wait until you have critical mass before you even utter the 'm' word, as in monetize. I know so many site operators that are itching to get some of that Facebook/Google/Amazon cash pile. Forget it. Focus first on building your community, and when it gets big enough, then start thinking about how to make money.

  • Use contests and giveaways. There are lots of contest organizers that can be used to outsource this, as we last mentioned in this article last year.

  • Don't be too cute, remember, this is a b2b audience we are talking about here. Keep things on track and hire a community manager too.

  • Don't be afraid to do some audience development, which could be another job function of your community manager. The Praetorian Group uses Facebook's Sponsored Stories that picks comments and displays them in ad blocks, which drives traffic that might otherwise move off the screen quickly in a large active discussion group.

Their strategy is working. The FireRescue1 Facebook page has close to 200,000 "likes," its Twitter page has 3,400 followers and Facebook is now driving more than a quarter of the traffic seen on some of their Web publications.