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Small-Business Guide – Marketing Your Business With Facebook

Business owner, you might want to friend Facebook.

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Quick Tips:

  • Identify a short list of goals before you begin.

  • Show some personality in your page.

  • Don’t shill. Use your page to engage-and trust that sales will follow.

  • Use Facebook data to analyze your customer demographics.

Suggested Resources:

  • A Facebook guide for advertisers.

  • Advice on getting started from Mashable.

  • Strategies and a tutorial from All Facebook – “the unofficial Facebook resource.”

A growing number of businesses are making Facebook an indispensible part of hanging out their shingles. Small businesses are using it to find new customers, build online communities of fans and dig into gold mines of demographic information.

“You need to be where your customers are and your prospective customers are,” said Clara Shih, author of “The Facebook Era” (Pearson Education, 2009). “And with 300 million people on Facebook, and still growing, that’s increasingly where your audience is for a lot of products and services.”

Start Small

For most businesses, Facebook Pages (distinct from individual profiles and Facebook groups) are the best place to start. Pages allow businesses to collect “fans” the way celebrities, sports teams, musicians and politicians do. There are now 1.4 million Facebook Pages and they collect more than 10 million fans every day, according to the site.

Businesses can easily create a Web presence with Facebook, even if they don’t have their own Web site (most companies still should maintain a Web site to reach people who don’t use Facebook or whose employers block access to the site). Businesses can claim a vanity address so that their Facebook address reflects the business name, like Facebook pages can link to the company’s Web site or direct sales to e-commerce sites like Ticketmaster or Amazon.

Facebook offers an array of tools and networks, and it’s easy to wander down too many paths. Ms. Shih recommends that newcomers start by asking themselves a simple question: What is your basic objective? Is it getting more customers in the door? Building brand awareness? Creating a venue for customer support? Once you have set your goal, you can strategize accordingly.

“You can waste a lot of time on Facebook,” said Ms. Shih, founder of Hearsay Labs, a Facebook marketing software company. “But if you’re a business, you don’t have any time to waste. Figure out your objectives first, start small and do things that help you accomplish your objectives.”

Ms. Shih suggests that businesses ask friends and family to become fans of their pages so that they display a respectable crowd of supporters when they debut. Pages can grow organically by word of mouth — the average Facebook user has 130 friends on the site — or by advertising or promotion.

You can enliven your page with photos, comments and useful information. As you grow more comfortable, you can add videos or business applications. Flaunt your personality. The page of an ice cream parlor should feel different than that of a funeral parlor. “The pages that are most successful,” said Tim Kendall, the director of monetization at Facebook, “are the ones that really replicate the personality of the business.”

It’s Not All About Selling

Art Meets Commerce, a New York marketing firm, has struck up a never-ending conversation with fans. The company uses Facebook as a crucial part of its publicity campaigns for theatrical productions. Its Facebook page for the show “Rock of Ages,” for example, has more than 13,000 fans.

Staff members constantly update the page with new photos, videos and quotes from the cast. They’ve also learned what not to do: Once they posted a video of Paris Hilton plugging the show and got negative feedback from fans who professed to be sick of her.

But it’s not just about marketing — or, at least, it’s not just about selling. “You end up moving away from being an Internet marketer and go into almost customer service,” said Jim Glaub, creative director at the agency. “A lot of times people use Facebook to ask questions: What’s the student rush? How long is the show? Where’s parking? You have to answer.”

Some basic rules: Buy-buy-buy messages won’t fly. The best practitioners make Facebook less about selling and more about interacting. Engage with fans and critics. Listen to what people are saying, good and bad. You may even pick up ideas for how to improve your business. Keep content fresh. Use status updates and newsfeeds to tell fans about specials, events, contests or anything of interest.

These interactions can take a vast amount of time — the “Rock of Ages” page has 300 to 600 interactions every week — but they can also provide a big payoff. Facebook is one of the show’s top sources of new ticket sales.

Last year, Art Meets Commerce introduced a Facebook ad campaign to promote an Off Broadway run of the musical “Fela!” The campaign aimed at Facebook users with interests like theatrical shows or Afro beat. According to the company, it generated 18 million impressions, more than 5,700 clicks and $40,000 in ticket sales — all for $4,400 spent on advertising.

Here’s an interesting article about business using facebook. Nothing new there, BUT read the 4th paragraph: “Businesses can easily create a Web presence with Facebook, even if they don’t have their own Web site (most companies still should maintain a Web site to reach people who don’t use Facebook or whose employers block access to the site)”

This is a signal statement, mirroring something I have been saying for a couple of months now – social networking is going to replace the web within the next 5 years. Obviously, social networking IS the web, but what i mean is that the act of networking and personal broadcasting by individuals and brands is going to fundamentally shift the user experience of the web in ways we can hardly imagine. Particularly when you add in location-aware devices like iphones that can potentially intelligently relate your facebook update with the proximity of your networked relationships, things really change. Read on in the article also to see how FB and twitter can potentially replace help desks and other forms of static customer service. Very interesting food for thought.

Posted via web from Kevin Sprague