The other day I stopped in to visit my friend Lisa at her store, Bonbonniere and The Shoppes at 301, which I would describe as a gourmet candy shop. During my visit she related to me a recent conversation she’d had with several other local business owners about some of their social media frustrations. They were discussing the difficulty in building their Facebook fan base, and discovered that they all used their personal Facebook profiles rather heavily to share information about their businesses because their personal friend base was larger than their business fan base.
Another reason they gave for the effectiveness was that on their personal profile they were themselves, not just some faceless business (my paraphrase). Lisa and I discussed some of the reasons for this, and that has prompted this post. I think there are several important factors which, while they won’t guarantee you success on Facebook, will at least give you a better shot. I’ve discussed these things individually any number of times, but thought it might be helpful to put them all together here in one list:
1. Facebook is not a marketing tool – Do not approach the platform in the same way you approach traditional media and advertising. Facebook is first, and foremost, a social platform. It’s where people gather to be social, not to be sold to. That is important to keep in mind, and if you meet me in person, I’ll tell you this ’til you’re ready to punch me in the face. Don’t think about it as just another place for pushing out your messages. Yes, that is part of it, but it’s only a small part. When GM recently dropped their Facebook advertising, they decided they were going to focus more on their Facebook Business page. Mary Henige, their social media director noted:
“If we are acting too much like a marketer, nobody is going to want to listen to us. What we’re trying to do on the GM page is build a community.”
This is what we’re aiming for. If a major corporation like GM can “get it”, so can you.
2. Fans don’t materialize out of nowhere – You can’t just create a page and sit there and wait for it to grow. Remember, social media is social. And when we’re social, we talk to other people. It’s built on word of mouth, which is perhaps the most important source of new business for most small businesses. Now, think about it, who creates word of mouth for you? Your existing customers! You need to find ways to encourage your existing customers to connect with you online. And that might mean using offline methods to get them online. They won’t connect with you on Facebook if they don’t even know you’re on Facebook. What kind of signage and calls to action are you using in your business to get them to connect while you have them as a captive audience?
3. Think of Facebook as your digital storefront – Spend some time thinking about everything that goes on inside the four walls of your business. People come in or call. They have questions. They browse. They have complaints. Whatever happens inside your brick and mortar business will happen on Facebook. And the way you treat and respond to your customers is how you should treat and respond to them online. There is no difference.
4. Be personal on your business page – My friends said they liked using their personal pages because it was more personal and people knew them. This is great, but all you have to do is transfer that mentality to your business page. If you are closely identified with your business, post on your business page in a way that people know it’s you, not just some faceless person behind a computer. Let your personality shine through. I think one of the best examples of this is Dave Warren at Dave’s Ace Hardware in Michigan. His Facebook page is all him, and people interact with him in a very personal way.
5. Be active – Don’t just sit and stare at your Facebook page. Don’t over think it. Don’t neglect it. Make sure you use it, early and often. Several updates a day, and responding to comments, are important to the growth of your page. You can only be social by being present.
6. Give them a reason to be there – People like Facebook pages for a variety of reasons, but the number one reason people connect with brands on social media is to get special deals or offers. Yes, providing great content and information is important, but people love when you can give them some sort of discount or offer. Also, connect and engage with them in ways that make them feel like insiders.
7. Integrate – Facebook does not exist in a vacuum. Coordinate what you’re doing on Facebook with what you’re doing on other social and traditional platforms. If you’re running a special for your email subscribers, use Facebook to talk about it and get people to sign up for your email. Share your new television commercials across your online properties. Don’t think in terms of Facebook; think in terms of the big picture. In short, integrate everything, including your online and offline efforts. Integrate traditional with digital. Integrate, integrate, integrate.
There are certainly plenty of other best practices when it comes to using Facebook, but I think these are the most important ones as you get started, and work to maintain a strong social presence.
Oh, and if you’re in town, stop by Bonbonniere, and tell Lisa I sent you. And do yourself a favor and buy a few of the sea salt caramels. They are, as they say, to die for.
Did I miss anything? What do you think are the most essential things that businesses need to remember as they approach Facebook?
Note: After I finished and published this post, I found this great article at V3 Integrated Marketing by David McBee on how Facebook’s algorithm works, with some great tips on how to increase engagement. Check it out.
- Facebook Alert: Advertisements in your newsfeed? (epiphanysearch.co.uk)
- Facebook’s Post-IPO Mobility Lag & 5 PR Tips (v3im.com)
- Social Media to Replace Traditional Media Says CEO Study (spinsucks.com)
- Six Step Process to Clean Up a Company’s Online Presence (spinsucks.com)