For example, Facebook has more than 500 million active users -- 50 percent of whom log in during any given day. The average user has 130 friends. And Facebook denizens spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on the social network.
Not surprisingly, SMBs and corporations alike have built Facebook Pages to try and grab some of those 700 billion minutes. Facebook Pages are, in essence, free Web marketing that helps you engage with customers. According to the Website Monitoring Blog, there are more than 3 million active Facebook Pages, with more than 1.5 million of them from local businesses.
But just because you can set up a Facebook Page doesn't necessarily mean you should -- or that if you do, you'll get lots of fans. What follows are 10 tips to help your small business develop a loyal following on Facebook.
But first, a little background.
A Facebook Page isn't the same as a Facebook profile. Profiles are for individuals -- you know, those people you went to high school with. Anyone with a Facebook account can create a Facebook Page, also known as a Facebook fan page.
A Facebook Page can offer a variety of relevant information about your company -- it can even serve as your website (though you're fairly limited in terms of design). Major brands such as Starbucks (more than 16 million fans), Coca-Cola (15.6 million fans), and Netflix (more than 337,000 fans) have created popular Facebook Fan Pages, as have many smaller companies, such as Naked Pizza (2,813 followers) and boutique laptop/travel bag maker Tom Bihn (1,018 followers).
Top 10 Tips for Facebook Page Success
1. Decide if a Facebook Fan Page is right for your business now. There's so much small business marketing to keep up with these days -- your website, blog posts, email marketing campaigns, YouTube videos, tweets. Adding yet one more thing to the mix can feel overwhelming. And the last thing you want to do is create a Facebook Page that's rarely refreshed with new content.
Marketers at business-to-business (B2B) companies might also wonder if Facebook -- aimed at consumers -- is a good fit in the first place. While plenty of B2B companies are experimenting with Facebook, some are finding it difficult to get fans. B2B "isn't sexy," Michael Greene, a Forrester Research analyst, told The Wall Street Journal.
Still, B2B customers are people. People are what Facebook is all about. And people spend money on products and services. It's been estimated that Facebook users spend an additional $71.84 they wouldn't otherwise spend on products they are fans of, according to social media metrics firm Syncapse.
A Facebook Page is probably worth your while -- if you have the time, knowhow and resources to do it right. Some use a Facebook Page in lieu of setting up a small business website. At a minimum, some B2B companies find that posting regular updates on Facebook (as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn) help them stay "top of mind" with customers.
2. Promote your Facebook Page on your website, blog, and Twitter and in press releases, print ads and in your email signature. Use all your communications channels to let customers know about your Facebook Page. Put a "Like" button on your website, too. Whenever people click the "Like" button, the fact that they like your company shows up in their Facebook News Feed, exposing your business to more people. Consider putting the "Like" button near your email sign-up form or when engaging with customers in other online opt-in activities.
3. Decide who's responsible for updates. Do you have someone in-house who has the time (and passion) for Facebook and other social media updates? If so, great. If not, consider outsourcing the job to a freelance social media manager -- preferably someone in their 20s with an hourly rate of $20 or so. Either way, establish best practices -- what's appropriate to post and what isn't, for starters, as well as who your target audience is. Some businesses with Facebook Pages establish an editorial calendar, with updates planned in advance to coincide with calendar events such as Halloween, the World Series, Thanksgiving, and so on.
4. Add a picture to your updates -- and post them on Friday mornings. Facebook updates with images posted on company 'fan' pages are clicked on 54 percent more than text-only updates and 22 percent more than posts with video, according to a recent study by social media marketing group Vitrue. The study found that updates posted before noon are clicked on 65 percent more often than those published after 12 p.m. Fridays are the best day of the week to post status updates on company pages; weekends are the worst.
These are generalities, of course, and might not apply to your specific type of business. For example, the survey also found that "quick serve" restaurant brands such as McDonald's get more clicks on their updates on Wednesdays, perhaps because people want to treat themselves to a meal out during the midweek malaise.
5. Don't talk about yourself. Talk about your customers. If your Facebook Page updates are all about how fabulous your company and its products are, followers will quickly lose interest. And it's doubtful they'll want to share this information with their Facebook friends. Instead, provide content that's interesting, useful, thoughtful, even slightly controversial (within reason), whether it's text, video, or photos. Ask your followers for their opinions. Engage them in a dialogue. Talk to your customers, not at them.
6. Be newsy. Focus your status updates whenever possible on what's new and interesting, such as relevant and emerging trends you're spotting; new promotions (it's smart business to reward your Facebook fans with deals and promos); new products; and so on. Fun, compelling, newsy status updates are the kind of thing Facebook users tend to "Like" or otherwise share with friends.
7. Be authentic and human. Social networks like Facebook aren't the place to avoid addressing customer issues and complaints or hide behind corporate rhetoric. Be real, and people will connect with you. Be phony, and you'll not only get unfriended, you might provoke a backlash.
8. Don't go overboard with updates. Keep Facebook Page status updates to no more than one or two per day. If you bombard followers with lots of updates, they'll start to tune you out. According to the Engage:GenY blog, a Gen-Y consumer, participating in a focus group about social media, summed it up nicely: "There's a fine line between being informative and being spammy. If a single brand becomes really trigger-happy with status updates, I get annoyed."
9. In a rush? Too many social networks to update? Use one tool to post to all. If you've got a Facebook Page, you're probably also on Twitter, LinkedIn and a few other social networks. Ping.fm is a free tool that will post the same update to multiple social networks simultaneously. HootSuite (offering free and paid services) is another. HootSuite also offers the capability to have multiple people contribute to one social media account; write updates that are posted at a prescheduled time; and get analytics about who's following you.
10. Optimize updates with keywords. Facebook will be bigger than Google in five years, according to some pundits, meaning that many people will turn to Facebook for information rather than "Googling" to find it. Regardless of whether this pans out or not, it's important to note that Facebook Pages are indexed by search engines. For example, public updates from Facebook Pages, unlike Facebook profiles, often show up in Google's real-time search results. So keep your most important keywords in mind when writing updates, adding information about your company to its Facebook Page, and so on.
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