It’s easy to set up a Facebook fan page for your business. It’s not so easy to make your Facebook fan page a place where fans constantly engage with your brand.

With the right strategy and commitment, you can turn your fan page into a thriving online community for your clients. Bright Pink’s Facebook fan page is a perfect example.

Bright Pink is a national non-profit based in Chicago that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Executive director Lindsay Avner, 27, founded Bright Pink in 2007. Two years earlier, Avner made national headlines when she became the youngest patient ever to opt for a preventative double mastectomy. Avner had tested positive for a mutation on the BRCA1 gene, indicating that she had a lifetime risk of up to 87 percent of developing breast cancer and 54 percent of developing ovarian cancer.

Today Bright Pink has 10 chapters, nine educational and support programs, and more than 30,000 members nationwide.  Its corporate sponsors include Wrigley and American Eagle, and Bright Pink has raised more than $1.3 million.

“Sassy” best describes Bright Pink’s brand approach. For example, “Underwire Alerts” are monthly text messages to remind women to be breast self-aware. “Treasure Your Chest” was the name of a recent live webcast Avner hosted with celebrity Giuliana Rancic.

Facebook is key to Bright Pink’s marketing strategy, particularly because many of its supporters are in their 20s. Bright Pink’s Fan Page is just shy of 10,000 fans, and Avner and her team are on a mission to hit 10,000 by New Years. “We’ve suggested our page to everyone we know and asked them to suggest our page to all of their friends,” Avner says. “And no matter who walks into our office, we make them ‘like’ Bright Pink before they leave. That includes the delivery men.”

What’s striking about Bright Pink’s Facebook fan page is how much it looks and feels like an online community of young and sassy women. That’s because it is an online community. Says Avner, “We have a forum on our actual website, but most people end up talking on our Facebook fan page instead. It’s just a natural fit for them.”

We recently talked with Avner and Leah Drew, Bright Pink’s Chicago events and outreach coordinator, about the strategy behind their successful Facebook fan page. Here is the advice they offered to other businesses.

Make your brand front and center.

“With our Facebook page, we really kept to our original branding,” Avner says. “Our profile picture is our main Bright Pink with her hand on her hip—she has so much sass and attitude, yet she’s feminine and ready to take on the world. This woman really embodies the attitude of the organization. She’s bold and brave—she’s not afraid of anything.”

Avner worked with her designer to make sure the profile picture includes two elements. The first element is the illustration of the original Bright Pink girl. The second element is the Bright Pink logo at her feet. The logo’s size and placement within the picture allows “Bright Pink” to appear directly in a user’s news feed. Meanwhile, Bright Pink’s profile page features its Bright Pink girl.

Get to know your audience.

“See what your fans respond to and don’t respond to,” Drew says. “Facebook Insights lets you see all of these stats, including who is looking at you, how many people are clicking on your posts, how many people are liking and unliking you.”

Have a consistent message.

“You need to have a fairly consistent message,” says Avner, who worked as a marketer for Unilever before founding Bright Pink. “A lot of fan pages will post some events they’re having, some messages related to their programming and then they’ll post something that doesn’t apply to their message at all—like celeb gossip.”

To stay on message, every morning the Bright Pink team decides on a strategy of the day. “We look at the news and we talk about what three things we want to communicate today,” Avner says. “You can’t post it all at once on Facebook. You have to space your posting out or it will get lost in the clutter.”

To that same point, if Bright Pink doesn’t have anything meaningful to say, the organization will refrain from posting on its fan page. “You don’t want to just post something for the sake of posting,” Avner adds.

Update your page when your fans are most likely on Facebook

Drew uses Facebook Insights to track when Bright Pink’s fans are online and likely to respond to its posts. “You want to be in the news feeds when people are actually on Facebook—otherwise there will be too many posts to compete with later,” she says.

On a typical work day, Drew posts to Bright Pink’s fan page at 10 a.m., during lunch and again in the late afternoon. “We found that people are most active on Facebook when they get to work, at lunch and later in the day when they need a sugar break,” Drew says. “Those are times when we get the most feedback to our posts.”

Keep all of your stakeholder groups engaged.

Like most businesses, Bright Pink’s Facebook fan page reaches many different audiences. The trick is creating posts that will interest some groups and not isolate other groups.

“We’re talking to so many different people: women with breast or ovarian cancer, family and friends, women volunteers, random people who think Bright Pink is a cool cause,” Avner says. “We really have to manage the messaging so we’re not talking only about high risk women or only about events happening in certain cities. “

Pay attention to the news.

Breaking news on a Facebook fan page is a smart way to create content that is interesting and relevant to several different audiences. “We set up a ton of Google alerts—anything from breast and ovarian cancer to cancer prevention to young women’s health,” says Avner. “We get those alerts throughout the day, and they’re what we use to filter news and information to our fans.”

A recent example is when news broke that Elizabeth Edwards had died from complications of breast cancer. Drew immediately posted about it on Bright Pink’s Facebook page, and within minutes, several fans had liked and commented on the post. The post ultimately received 34 likes and 9 comments.

“It was really interesting to watch because people were specifically coming to our page to talk about her death and pass along their prayers,” Drew says.

Encourage fans to interact with each other.

As Avner and Drew developed the Facebook fan page, they focused on figuring out what drove fans to comment. “When we ask questions, we tend to get a lot more responses,” Drew says. “So we mix it up—we might ask what they’re doing this weekend, what’s their favorite part of the holidays, what’s going on at the Bright Pink office.”

Simple posts can often develop into long threads of comments. For example, Drew recently posted, “This holiday season we are remembering the women who can’t be with us.” A Bright Pink fan responded to the post, commenting “I lost my mom last year and the holidays are hard.” Another fan responded to that post by commenting, “I lost my mom too—here’s my email address and let’s talk.”

When interactions like this happen, Avner watches in amazement. “People just automatically provide that support—I never thought Facebook would do that so naturally,” she says. “We see more engagement on Facebook than on our website’s forum page that was created for that.”

Mix things up to draw attention to your page.

To mix up Bright Pink’s posts and to draw some new attention to their page, the team will do themes for a certain month. For example, March Madness was all about the men in their lives.

“We sent out emails to a bunch of our girls and asked them for feedback from the men in their lives—specifically how has Bright Pink influenced them,” Avner says. “Every day they’d feature comments from a different man—boyfriends, brothers, dads, grandpas.

Avner recalls a husband who wrote a particularly touching post. He wrote, ‘I thought I loved my wife, but after seeing her go through a preventive mastectomy, I keep thinking I am married to the best woman in the world.”

Always be grateful to your fans.

Avner and her team try to infuse gratitude into everything they do—both on Facebook and in real life. This holiday season, they sent 400 handwritten notes to anyone who touched Bright Pink in a special way during 2010.

On Facebook, the Bright Pink team dedicated November to gratitude. “We covered all of our bases—we talked about how grateful we were for our programs, volunteers, events sponsors,” Avner says. “We talked about silly ones, too, like the Starbucks on the corner that keeps us caffeinated. All in all, it was a very fulfilling month it was great for engaging our audience on Facebook as well.”

Have fun.

“Social Media is ultimately about engaging with people across the globe in conversation, networking and information sharing,” Drew says.  “You should make sure it’s always fun for your followers. For us, applying the nine other pieces of advice is fun–and it should be. Honestly, I think any time we engage our audience, we achieve the fun factor.”