Getting your business on Facebook

Facebook is the fastest growing social platform in the world. Which means that even if you decide not to use it for business purposes, you at least need to have a good grasp of what it's all about. Of course, if you do decide to use it, you have the potential to market your business to a whole host of people without spending a penny.

What is Facebook and how does it work?

  • It's a social network with about 200 million active users per month from countries all around the world.
  • The bulk of users are mid-20s to mid-30s, but through its sheer size it encompasses pretty much all walks of life and age-groups.
  • Users create profiles - essentially individual web pages within Facebook - with as much personal info as they want to give. (Privacy settings allow users to reveal as much or as little info as they like to whoever they please.)
  • You add other users as 'friends' - they have to approve your request first.
  • Friends keep each other updated by posting pictures, updates and messages about what they've been up to.
  • Friends can write public or private messages to each other. Doing it publicly on another person's page is writing on their 'wall'.
  • There are then various other applications that enhance the user experience (more below).

Creating an individual Facebook profile as a business owner

  • Create a profile for yourself if you think contacts and customers would want to interact with you on Facebook and to keep existing friends and contacts up to date on what your business is doing.
  • If you'd feel comfortable sending someone a personal email, you probably know them well enough to connect with them on Facebook.
  • If not, look at the options below for what might be a more suitable fit.
  • If you have a few existing friends and contacts on Facebook, it's probably worth creating a profile to give yourself another channel of communication with them and to open them up as potential marketing sources for you.
  • Your profile should make you look interesting. If people are drawn to you as a person, they'll want to find out more about you as a business. It's about building rapport.
  • Think of your profile as a cv for your personality.
  • Fill out interests and hobbies only if they are genuinely interesting - stick to the unusual and unique. 'Travel' and 'sports' instantly sound dull, but 'mountain climbing' and 'ice-skating' are a talking point.
  • Put in music and TV if you like - but lay off shouting about any death metal bands. Remember you are still being viewed by potential customers.
  • Choose a smiling, relaxed picture of yourself - not drunk or cheesy. Keep the image consistent across other social media platforms if you use them.
  • Introduce your business by writing about it in your profile.
  • Keep the description brief.
  • Always include links to your website.
  • Give insight into why you're passionate about it.
  • Use what you say to subtly deliver brand messages.
  • Post interesting content regularly: industry-relevant articles, photos (remember to keep your professional reputation in mind though) and status updates keep your page fresh and keep you in people's minds.

Use Facebook friends to market your business by

  • Only sending them messages about your business occasionally (once a month max) - including deals or exclusive offers will make them far more receptive.
  • Politely asking friends you've established good, frequent communications with online to spread the word about your business if they think it's any good.
  • Identifying which friends have the most friends themselves and working on building a strong relationship with them, as they have the most leverage on Facebook.
  • Check out friends of friends to identify people who could be of use to your business by checking out their profile info (if it's public) - then suggest an offline meet-up to build rapport, obviously explaining you have a mutual friend.
  • If you are friends with customers or clients, send them occasional friendly messages to make them feel valued ("How are the kids?") and also to follow up any orders ("How did you find the meal you had with us last night? Hope all was okay!").
  • Create event pages if you are holding a launch, special sales day or any other kind of event, invite all your friends, make it an open invite and encourage friends to invite people they know.

Creating a Facebook group to help your business

  • Creating a group can be a good way to keep good friends (the ones you know well offline as well, typically) in the loop about what your business is up to.
  • But you need to think carefully about whether it's actually worthwhile creating and maintaining one.
  • Transaction will only happen on your website anyway, so would you be diverting traffic to your website or away from it?
  • Will people have a genuine interest in checking out the latest news on your business? Or would your time be better spent nurturing relationships with online friends in a more personal way?
  • On the other hand, are you likely to want to send out large batches of messages to people in one hit - this is achieved much more easily sending to members of a group than sending from your individual profile.
  • If you do create a group, you need to be very careful not to bombard them with messages, which will inevitably annoy them and make them switch off.
  • If you are going to create a group for your business, stick to telling members about exclusive deals and offers.
  • Message members no more than once a month.
  • Creating one based around a product can work if you're going for a slightly cultish appeal (Wispa achieved this very well), but otherwise it ricks being a bit pointless and tedious.
  • But you might want to build it around some kind of networking activity that implicitly introduces your product further down the line - a London swimmer's group for a new type of swimwear, for example, or a 'How bad is office IT' group if you've developed some helpful software.
  • If there are only existing groups whose members are likely to be interested in your products (you can search groups), join them, establish yourself by engaging in conversations with other members and posting interesting content, then gradually introduce your products after a month or so.

Creating a Facebook fan page for your business

  • Fan pages are individual pages for products, celebrities, TV programmes, and so on - think of them as mini fan-websites within Facebook.
  • They can be used in much the same way as groups - but again, you need to consider whether it'll really be worth your time maintaining a group (see points above).
  • There's little advantage in creating a page for a product unless you think it's likely to gain a slightly cultish appeal - Wispa did this to great effect with their Bring back Wispa campaign.

Using apps on Facebook

  • Apps (short for applications) are little add-ons to your profile - anything from games (Scrabble, 'throwing' items at signed-up friends) to drawing to Obama-izing yourself or becoming a pirate.
  • There's a lot of useless stuff, but there's also a whole section on business apps worth checking out.
  • Social media guide Mashable.com has done a great round-up of the best Facebook apps for businesses.
  • Developing an app can get you viral marketing attention, but you'll most likely need a serious developer or advertising on agency onside to really leverage the potential of that possibility.

Placing ads on Facebook

  • You can place small box ads on Facebook.
  • You create the ad onsite - copy is limited to a 25-character title, 135-character body copy and small image and hyperlink.
  • You can choose to target specific groups, based on the personal info they've provided in their profile (location, gender, age, relationship status, etc).
  • To pay, you use either pay per click or by number or impressions (per click is advisable though, as it's the click-through that really counts). You can set a daily budget and choose which dates you want your ad to appear, bidding for click prices.
  • You monitor results with analysis tools Facebook provides.
  • While the targeting is advanced, though, many advertisers don't get particularly good results. Users are usually too engaged by the content to look at the ads.
  • One-off deals are probably the most worthwhile things to advertise, as people are more likely to pay attention to a discount than just a business in general on Facebook.

Resources

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