Ah, Facebook, the behemoth of websites that seemingly changed the face of the internet in less than a decade. With more than 750 million active users, of which 50% log in at any given day, there is a vast ocean of potential clients, customers and opportunities.
At the same time, this powerful tool is still new and very, very vast. It’s easy to get lost in the lingo, etiquette and technology that has been specially-made for this service, especially for those, like many, who just learned how to attach a file to an email. But never fear, I’ll help give you some basic pointers that make Facebook work for small businesses.
Engage, engage, engage!
The number one key to Facebook’s popularity is that everyone can interact with everyone. They build and maintain relationships with their friends from long distances, times long gone and impossible to meet like never before. Many companies make the mistake of using Facebook as a spring board to broadcast their message to the masses, which can happen, but no one will listen and they will hide your posts. They key is to respond to what your fans are saying, replying to posts on your wall and producing content that is engaging and fun.
When trying to gain rapport with your fans, you also have to remember that social media isn’t in high school anymore. Facebook isn’t about how many, it’s about what kind of fans. Having thousands of “likes” does nothing if you aren’t getting any input from them. Developing strong relations with few key fans will get them to influence their friends towards your business and what you’re doing. THEY do the advertising for you, and that’s the whole point of social media.
It’s also important to let people say what they want to say. If people have honest gripes with the company, don’t censor them. Use it as an opportunity to learn, grow and help fix their problem. If you have a strong relationship with the community you’ve grown, they might even step in and defend any naysayers who post on your page.
Engaging with your followers will also help understand how they are using Facebook. By having a solid understanding of what aspects of Facebook your followers use will better equip you for adapting or drafting a social media plan or purpose and help target your online demographic of like-minded users.
Use the tools you’ve been given.
Go ahead, grab a sandwich, and spend some time to look over all the fun and free-to-use tools, plug-ins and apps that is offered by Facebook. They may not have the simplest of instructions or explanations of their use, but asking a few questions to the right people who can help will only benefit you in the long run.
There are plug-ins on Facebook that enable you to do many exciting and engaging things. “Fan of the Week” is a plug-in that allows you to recognize the fan that has interacted with your page the most in a given week. You could offer a discount or free sample of your product to that special fan. “Fan Voice” gives you the chance to interact better with fans by creating a Fan Feedback tab on your page. While plug-ins are great, the important thing is not to go overboard. Pick three or four plug-ins that you think will keep your fans (potential customers) engaged and start there first.
There is also a tool that provides business owners with detailed metrics about the effectiveness of their page content, analysis of user growth and demographics and other concerns. Log onto: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/insights/
It takes time to invest and develop a Facebook community and strategy.
Imagine being Kevin Costner standing out in a corn field on a warm summer night with a gentle breeze blowing through the stalks as they dance back and forth in a rhythmic cadence. You hear a whisper, “If you build it, they will come.”
Unfortunately, in reality, the 80s are gone and Facebook is not Field of Dreams. Many companies believe that if they set up a business page that it will set its own course. It’s not just fan growth that will suffer from this philosophy; it may also damage your relationships with existing fans, especially customers who have come to expect timely responses to their posts and queries.
There are programs out there will automatically update your pages with whatever you want. People see right through that, and you’ll lose A LOT of credibility
Many companies deal with sales, and the salesmen who are the most successful at their job are the ones who build relationships with their current and potential clients. Facebook is no different. It is vital to update and monitor the page constantly, and that will take time, effort and purpose.
You should be consistently evaluating what you want to get out of Facebook. Set clear goals. For example, are you hoping to attract 50 new fans who could become potential customers in a six-month time period? How are you going to do that? Have you designated someone within your company to maintain the page? How often will you be able to post fresh content?
Buckle up, it’s the law!
Facebook has a very strict Terms of Service regulation, and it can be surprisingly easy to violate one or two of the smaller clauses by mistake. Don’t fret, the vast majority of them are common sense, but it’s good to know some of the more common offenders to be sure you stay out of Facebook’s line of sight and not get your page deleted.
First off, don’t even think about tagging people (linking a part of an image to someone’s profile) in an image without their permission. Getting peoples’ attention by tagging them is not only a violation of the TOS, but can be reported by those being tagged as abusive behavior; which brings your violation to Facebook’s attention and opens your page’s content to review… and you DO NOT want that.
Everybody wants to see their fan count grow quickly, but don’t be tempted to create fake accounts and then become a fan of your business with them. Facebook can often detect fake accounts, which are a violation of the TOS. If you’re caught, you will lose your page and the marketing power that comes with it. But I’m sure you’re better than that, right?
Spice it up!
I can’t express how important the last tip is. The reason people go to Facebook is to enjoy funny, interesting and useful content. This is where small businesses can really shine, mainly because most don’t have any legal departments to get approval from. This is your opportunity, so loosen the tie, un-tuck the shirt and have fun!
Status updates alone get boring. But photos, videos and other forms of multimedia as a whole can get boring too. Your job is to mix it up. If you become predictable, boring or annoying, fans will hide you from their feed. So keep it varied and personal; a video here, a photo here, a tag of one of your fans there.
It’s your chance to showcase your business’ personality and brand. See what your competitors aren’t doing and do it. It’s ok to let loose and be creative. It’s about building a community and relationships, and it can’t be done if you’re being overly professional.
Go ahead and think outside the box. The better you start understanding your fans, the better you’ll get at finding what they relate to and will allow you to play around with what gets more responses with them. You want them to like your content that they share it on their own.
All in all, invest time in learning about the Facebook platform, educate yourself on how to build and sustain an audience, and don’t forget to engage with people like you do in real life. What sets small businesses apart from large companies is their ability to make personal connections with customers. They tend to forget this, yet it’s their biggest strength and asset.