With over 1.3 billion people using Facebook, it's easy to see big potential marketing opportunities on Facebook. After all, no other social media outlet has as many users. But without a plan, it's easy to put in hours and hours of effort—to have your posts viewed by less than two dozen people. Despite being the most popular social media outlet currently, it can be a big challenge for small business website owners to reach the right customers with the platform. To turn Facebook into a marketing opportunity instead of a black hole of wasted time, businesses must first understand why Facebook can work for them, how to get started, and the dos and don'ts for posting content and generating a following.
Why Facebook? The Pros and Cons
Facebook is the biggest social media outlet out there with over 1.3 billion users—so some of the positives to using the platform are a bit obvious. After all, if you want to reach people, go where the most people are, right? Facebook company pages also tend to rank high in the search results—type in the name of a company that's on Facebook, and the Facebook page will often be listed near the top. Facebook is also an easily accessible place for information—businesses can add their location, website, phone number and other essentials, making them accessible to potential customers.
So you want to start a Facebook page for your business. Great—starting a new profile is actually the easy part. Visiting Facebook's Create a Page gives you six options:
- Local business or place: This option is for businesses with physical locations open to the public. It will automatically ask you for an address, which will be listed publicly. (If you have more than one location, consider the company option as well.)
- Company, organization or institution: This one is for businesses without a physical address, or for businesses with multiple locations, such as a franchise. This is ideal for e-commerce ventures.
- Brand: If you don't have a physical location that's open to the public, but sell your products through multiple websites and brick-and-mortor stores, the brand designation is for you.
- Artist, brand or public figure: This option is more for individuals, like authors, actors and singers. If you're feeling really ambitious, you could opt to run a business page and a public figure page separately, promoting yourself as a professional on the latter.
- Entertainment: An option for a radio station, TV show, book or other form of entertainment.
- Cause or Community: This option is best for simple communities such as sharing pictures to cheer up hospitalized kids—most nonprofits should use the company, organization or institution designation.
Once you select your type of page, you'll be asked to fill in a few fields, depending on the category you just selected. Facebook then takes you through, step by step, various places for you to fill in information, including an About section and profile and cover images. Make sure to fill everything in the best that you can, so your followers have complete information. That's it—your page is set-up! Simple, right? But now…what do you post? The possibilities are endless, but there's a few dos and don'ts that seasoned Facebook veterans have discovered to make the most of your page.
Facebook for Business: The Dos and Don'ts
Do develop a plan
What is your goal for using Facebook for your business? Whether it is generating more website visits or simply increasing awareness, having a set goal and plan will keep you on track. Write down your goal, and how you plan to achieve that. How often will you post? What type of things will you post? Sit down and brainstorm, then jot a few things down so your team is all focused on the same goal.
Don't sell 100% of the time
Sure, that goal you just wrote down probably has something to do with increasing your profits in the long run. But if all your posts are selling your product or service all the time, you'll actually loose followers. Make your content helpful, entertaining or interesting first, then mix in a few posts directly related to your business. The 80/20 rule suggests making 80 percent of your posts simply social (though related to your industry), with only 20 percent designed to actually market your product.
Do give your business a face
Social media is a great way to show customers that your business is made up of people too. “Small business owners should always remember that people do business with people, they don’t do business with brands,” said digital marketing expert Sandi Krakowski. “I have found, from the small business owners that I’ve worked with, that if they put a picture on their Page — whether it’s of the team or a key figure that the audience would connect with — engagement often goes way up. People connect with people way before they connect with a brand.”
Don't write lengthy posts
One study showed that posts with 80 characters or less received 66 percent more engagement than longer posts. Users visit Facebook to be social, not to read a novel. Keep your posts short, sweet and to the point. If you really want to share a longer post, try breaking it up into smaller pieces and doing a serial post.
Do remember to be social
Social media isn't like traditional marketing—the keyword there is social. Don't simply write posts—respond to comments as well. Ask questions and read through and like the responses. Answer questions that followers post, or send out a quick “Thanks!” when a customer compliments you. “Respond as much and as often as you can,” says Social Butterfly Guy DJ Waldow. “Years ago, I heard the analogy that social media is like the new telephone. If someone calls your office, you answer the phone. My advice: Do the same when it comes to social media. Do your best to respond to everything. You never know where your next client, partner or friend may come from.”
Do offer something useful
You won't get many followers if you are only marketing your product on your page—offer something helpful or entertaining. “Social media plays by the same rules as life,” says Jason Keath of Social Fresh. “Want to stand out? Be remembered? Rise above your competitors? The answer is simply to help your audience. Teach them with ‘how to’ content. Introduce them to experts and peers that can improve their business. Help them get a new job or a new customer. Invite them to events they will love. Improve someone’s life in a meaningful way, and they will remember you. In social media or otherwise.”
Don't use just text
On Facebook, images tend to get much more engagement then simple text. “The best way for individuals or businesses to stand out on social media is to take a visual approach,” says Neal Schaffer of Maximize Your Social. “Visuals appear prominently in news feeds of social networks, so take a visual approach to not only posting information but to communicating as well. Combine this with your own unique branding and perspective, and you’re bound to stand out in this noisy social media world of ours.” Facebook is a must for many businesses—but not done right, it's simply wasted time. Understanding why Facebook works for businesses (and why there are challenges) is essential. Then, once a businesses starts their page, sharing the right kind of content—and avoiding the wrong kinds—is a must. Done right, Facebook can be an integral part of not only marketing, but customer relations as well.