As much as Facebook may not be kind to businesses, it’s still a tremendously valuable business tool. After all, Facebook could eat the web. In fact, you’re likely spotting the shift; instead of companies posting their URLs on television commercials, they’re asking their followers to join them on Facebook. Therefore, it’s a force to be reckoned with. Let’s just take a look at the potential of Facebook for business for a moment here and review the various options business owners have in order to be effective with Facebook business marketing.
Profile Page versus Fan Page
The average Facebook user uses Facebook not for business but for personal communications. I am one of those users. In fact, I explain my Facebook usage by stating that if you want to follow me in a professional capacity, you can use one of my two fan pages. Simply stated, for a business, you should create a Fan Page. Want one? Go here. If you are officially representing your company, you’d want to create an Official Page.
Don’t use a Facebook Group. They are outdated (from Facebook’s early days) and do not support Facebook Markup Language (FBML) or Facebook Apps, so they are not as interactive and thus do not make as strong of an impact. Additionally, don’t create a personal account (a regular Facebook profile page) for your business. You’re supposed to use your real name and you’re also only supposed to have one account. Your Facebook Page should be created under your primary Facebook login. If you elect not to have one, you can still create a Facebook page by following the steps after you fill out the relevant data for your business Facebook Page.
For your page, consider using a title that’s memorable here because you won’t be able to change it later. It’s preferable to reflect your business and use a business name, not a funny character or other business persona that nobody can relate to. People will be looking for your business on Facebook, so make it easy for them to find you.
Once you get 25 fans, you can set up a username which makes accessing your profile a lot easier. Make sure you apply the username to your Facebook Page, not your personal profile, and be sure to use something memorable that people can find by plugging in the URL. I have a hard time believing that Facebook will address errors like these without an intellectual property complaint.
Customizing Your Profile Page
Great! Now that you have opted to create a Fan Page, you need to customize it. Simply stated, you can upload a profile picture (200 by 600 pixels maximum, though there are some reports that 180 by 540 pixels might work instead) and start filling out the relevant details about your business. Tell people how to find you and give them a history. They’re there because they want to learn! Depending on what type of page you are creating (for a business, publication, celebrity, etc.) the text fields differ, but utilize what’s available to you to your advantage. Don’t shy away from giving your community the information needed to find you elsewhere both online and offline.
If you want to be more creative, start thinking about building upon your profile with the aforementioned Facebook Markup Language (FBML). Here’s how to create a memorable Facebook Fan Page via FBML. In short, you’ll need to install the Static FBML app, add a custom tab, and learn the language, which is very similar to HTML, to create content that is appealing to your customers and prospects. Need some inspiration? Check out the screenshots for some current implementations below.
Reese’s uses its Facebook page to welcome users and compels them to join. It also reminds you that Facebook is one of their social destinations on the web, but that you might be interested in their YouTube page. (Their YouTube page, ironically, only features a playlist of videos that they love but does not show any videos made by themselves, such as the process of making a Peanut Butter Cup. Wouldn’t you love to see how they’re made? I know I would.)
Promotional products company rushIMPRINT features on its Facebook page a tab of products for sale. These tabs take the visitor back to their website where they can complete the purchase. This method is smart because it helps build interest on another platform and drives conversions directly on their home base. (Disclosure: I helped plant the social media seeds for rushIMPRINT.)
Lisa Barone calls this specialized content, and that’s exactly how you should see it. Give people a reason for telling the entire world that they like you.
The big question of return on investment comes up often. How do I know if there’s ROI in Facebook? One way is to see is by giving exclusive deals to Facebook fans. You can elect to do this one of two ways. You can offer deals exclusively to Facebook followers only. Don’t cross promote to Twitter (offer a different incentive on Twitter). Don’t post it on your blog. Don’t share it on your email newsletter. This is a good way of checking specifically if your Facebook efforts are working when you see that the Facebook coupon codes have been redeemed.
On the other hand, you can also share the same discount code across all social platforms. What if you want to offer 10% off? Share the 10OFF discount code for everyone, for example. Let it be posted on every social platform of choice and then watch as it seeds through other communities (which is likely to happen and shows that your marketing is viral).
Of course, you can also just use a Facebook application for that.
Buy something, get something. That’s how Baskin Robbins is doing it besides making an interactive page that visitors might be interested in exploring further.
People interact with brands online because they want deals. Try to offer some every so often.
And while you may not be able to easily run contests within its rules, you have some flexibility with the Wildfire App platform, so consider that as well if you’d like to offer incentives of some kind.
Encourage Community Interaction
In the simplest form, have a Facebook wall and ask your fans questions or share cool company or even personal insights with them. Give them a reason to want to communicate. Better yet, to show that the page is active, give the users control by letting their Fan posts show up on the front page. (Not all companies will be comfortable with this option as it will require frequent moderation.)
Instead of using your updates as the default view, let your fans take over. In the screenshot above, control is shifted to everyone and empowers your community members. As a result, engagement goes up as the page appears very active.
There’s a cost to this, though. The page should appear active but it should also appear like you’re not neglecting your community. Therefore, beyond letting them have control, grab the mic regularly (a few times per week and daily if possible) and engage your community.
The more you engage your community, which could be as simple as asking your followers how they are going to be spending Mother’s Day or sharing a link of interest to your followers, the more visible your page is to your Fan’s friends. After all, every interaction shows up on the Fan’s news feed. And that translates to more visits, which you’ll start seeing when you receive a weekly email from Facebook entitled “Your Weekly Facebook Page Update” that features fun statistics like these:
+41 Fans this week (3,284 total Fans)
31 Wall Posts, Comments, and Likes this week (68 last week)
1,477 visits to your page this week(1,869 visits last week)
You might also be interested in learning more about EdgeRank, Facebook’s own algorithm to determine visibility on a user’s home page. This algorithm takes hold from three main components: (1) the affinity score between two users: how often do they interact?, (2) the type of interaction (is it a like? a comment?, etc.), and (3) the length of time since the action was done. Based on this information, fresh content with actively engaged brand adopters are is key. Give them a reason to be actively engaged. This is basic News Feed Optimization.
Engagement is not limited to wall posts. Post photos of your service and product offerings and invite your fans to do the same. A tremendously wonderful execution of this is on Graco’s photos tab. You’ll learn about their products but you’ll also see a plethora of user-submitted images — complete with cute babies.
And that’s not the only thing you can do to encourage online interaction. Why not solicit reviews from your community to see what they think about you? If you offer great value and have firm believers amongst your midst, you have nothing to fear. Online retailer Newegg isn’t afraid and proudly displays its Facebook reviews for all to see.
Of course, there’s also the potential to encourage community interaction within Facebook using the Facebook page as that home base. The EA Mobile Human Tetris project takes you to a Facebook application where everyone participates in a game of Tetris.
Such games require expertise of a Facebook Application developer but could have lots of potential as long as your Facebook Apps resonate with your audience and compel users to install them.
Aggregate Your Other Social Streams
If you’re only on Facebook, this step isn’t for you. Hopefully, though, you’re considering other social networks to broaden your social media reach. If so, you should show your Facebook fans what you’re up to elsewhere! Hootsuite, for example, has multiple tabs that highlight their social involvement elsewhere on the web.
There are takeaways from this. Offer different content to your different audiences. Don’t just broadcast the same messages to your Twitter and Facebook followers.
Facebook confines you to its site and its feature set, but clearly we can see that they do have a pretty rich feature offering. You can do many things to market your business, add value, and empower your customers. It might be a good opportunity to build upon that to further your mark in the online space.
You’ll find that as your page grows, you’ll likely be tasked with handling customer service issues. People don’t care who is running the social media presence online; if it’s the marketing department, they’ll still demand technical support. Help them where you can or redirect them to the phone number, email address, or contact link that gives them direct contact with your support representatives. Be on your best behavior — after all, good customer service is good social media marketing.
Growth can be a good thing. You may find opportunities to host real life events, be them at conferences or whatever else. This is especially true of businesses who have a brick and mortar location and even better for businesses. Why not invite your Facebook fans to a special event at your venue? Let them connect with each other and build bonds.
There are a lot of different opportunities here, and with such a tremendous penetration, it’s silly to ignore Facebook altogether.
Your Facebook page might be a great opportunity to market your business, but it’s earned media, so keep in mind that it’s a community too. Give your Fans a reason to want to come back.
Evaluate Your Needs and Tread Carefully
Ask yourself what you want to use Facebook for. Is it to communicate with friends and family or is it to drive prospects? Are you joining Facebook’s social network with the intention of spamming your friends with marketing messaging? If so, don’t. Brent Csutoras ruffled my feathers when he said that he doesn’t use Facebook for marketing and “maybe that is why I still have so many friends.” The truth of the matter is that to an extent, he’s right. Of over 1500 friends that I have, I’m constantly being pitched to join groups I have no interest in. What I didn’t like about Brent’s statement is that most savvy marketers do understand the fragile nature of online (and even offline) relationships and that smart ones do not abuse those relationships at all.
If you’re a business, ask your customers to follow you — don’t force it out of those people you are already connected with for other reasons.
Facebook is One Piece of the Pie
With more than 400 million members, if you want to go where your customers are, you’ll probably find most of them on Facebook. That said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You should still consider your blog or website as a viable way to build community and/or to drive sales and conversions. If nothing else, that’s the official channel to communicate your business objectives, and you have total control over the process there without risks or usability concerns.
Use Facebook, but use it wisely. It should be considered a subset of your overall online marketing efforts.
What other tips would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments.