When even President Barack Obama admits that we are a “Google and Facebook nation” you know it’s time for your small business to get social and get active. Obviously there’s plenty of debate on whether the trend of usage is moving towards Tumblr, Twitter, or Google + and whether Facebook even has any value for small businesses anymore. A quick look at the numbers on Visual.ly should settle the debate for now. With over 500 million worldwide accounts, and at least 50% of those active every day, you’ve got a pool of almost 250 million people daily that you can target your business to via Facebook. Still not convinced? From stats taken during an average week in June of 2013, all Facebook business pages got an aggregate of 645 million views and 13 million comments. That gives the potential for over 33 billion views of all Facebook business pages for an entire year! Is your business page getting some of that traffic?
Before you come away from this thinking I’m some Facebook sales & marketing exec in disguise, I’m not. I do get paid by various small businesses though to manage their social media presence, and have a few tips to share for those just starting out. I’ve been at the start of this road too, many years ago, and it can seem like a daunting task to jump into the Facebook arena and somehow turn a blank local business page with 0 likes into a local marketing powerhouse of 8-10K or more followers for your small business. While you may not reach the heights of the million-plus followers big brands have, getting a good share of your local Facebook market will help boost brand awareness of your business, drive traffic to your site that will actually convert, and give you a platform to interact with your customers.
The end goal of a good business Facebook page, at least in my book, is one that has an active following of people who actually have interest in your product or service, share your content, and can be turned into traffic and sales/leads on your actual web site or straight off of the Facebook page. If that’s what you’re looking for, then please read on!
Here are three simple steps I’ve outlined that I’ve personally seen work for various small businesses I manage. They are not quick and easy, they are not overnight success plans, but with hard work and the right approach, it should work every time. We’ll go through some basic steps below on how to build your page, build your audience, and then engage your page for maximum effect.
1. Build Your Page
First things first. If you don’t have a Facebook business page, you can’t even get started. I’m assuming you have a personal Facebook account (if you don’t, sign up right now before going any further in this article). From that account, you can set up your business page here: Facebook Page Creation. It is pretty self-explanatory, just make sure your business information is correct and you have a phone number on there. A good technique to gauge page performance is to put a unique 1-800 number on the page that you only use for Facebook, that way you know who is calling you from Facebook as opposed to your actual website.
Once you fill out the basic business information, all you have is a blank template. Start out by uploading your business logo or some other relevant thumbnail picture. To make your page a little more visually appealing, take advantage of the cover photo feature, and upload a high-quality cover photo cropped to 851px wide by 315px tall.While you can just upload a nice snapshot of your storefront from your iPhone that you cropped in iPhoto, I would recommend hiring a designer to make a nicely presented cover photo with some design features and ad copy relevant to your business. I do these in-house for my clients, but there’s plenty of designers you can Google for this service.
Now that you have the shell set up, you probably see that your page is still devoid of any content. I’ve found it good practice, even before you start marketing your page in step two, to at least put 3-5 posts or photo galleries on there for people to see when they get to your page. Good starter posts would be a well-written link-back post to your website’s main page, a couple photo galleries of different products you offer, and other content that shows the best about your business.
2. Build Your Audience
Now that you’ve got a good looking business page that tells the story of your business and products clearly to your potential customers, you need to find the people that will actually want what your business offers. While most people would immediately think of sharing links to their friends and family on their personal Facebook page and asking them all to follow your page, that is generally not the best approach. Think about it; your friends and family already know about your business, probably already buy your services (hopefully!) and already tell their friends about you. While getting in their Facebook timeline can be helpful, what you really want to find is the person out there who doesn’t even know you exist but really wants what your business has to offer.
This is where Facebook makes their money. For a small daily price, you can sign up for their ad service and start promoting your page to the broadest or most granular audience demographic that a business marketer could imagine. Does your business sell handmade wool comforters imported from the Netherlands with a general customer demographic of married 18-35 year-old females? Guess what, Facebook Ads will help you find people in your geographic area who fit that exact demographic and have shown an interest in wool comforters, the Netherlands, etc…
Setting up ads can be somewhat complex to get right and not waste money targeting people who aren’t really interested in your products. Facebook has a helpful getting started guide for the uninitiated on their site. Many businesses don’t want to hassle with it and outsource their ad management, which could be an option for you as well. Getting your page promotion in front of your target audience is one thing; getting them to follow your page is another. Whether you do the ads or hire someone else to do them, ensure you have engaging visual content, high-quality pictures, grammatically correct ad copy and a clear call to action in your ads that are going to run. Put your best stuff out there, and inevitably you are going to find the people looking for your kind of business and gain their ever-valuable page like.
One important thing to note is that the end goal of building an audience is NOT to just have warm bodies in the room. What I mean by that is numbers themselves are meaningless, unless the number of Facebook page followers reflects real people who actually have interest in your product. Keep a steady post feed to your Facebook page of original and curated content that you compile that is related to your product or industry. When people come to a car dealership, they expect the salesman to tell them about cars and not start talking about the latest weight loss supplements. It might seem hard to keep posting good content (and it is!) but you can mix it up by linking back to blog posts on your site, or making readily shareable images related to your business/industry with some text overlaying a picture. To gain a real, relevant audience I would discourage, in general, the following:
- “Like-gating” campaigns where people win a gift card for liking your page. Why are they following your page? To get a few bucks, not because they actually have interest in your product.
- Promoting general content that has nothing to do with your actual product or service, such as the viral “cute kitten playing with a laser pointer” YouTube videos, and so on. Let’s say you promote that or post it on your page for a plumbing service and some people follow it. All you’ve gained is a few people who like kittens, not someone actually interested in your product.
- Buying Facebook followers. I wouldn’t just discourage this, I would strongly discourage this! It’s easy enough to find some guy overseas willing to sell you 10K Facebook followers for about $100 or more. It might make your Facebook following look impressive, but now you have 10K followers who don’t care at all about your product, won’t provide any meaningful engagement with your page, and are most likely “zombie” accounts, and you’re out $100 you could’ve spent on real advertising to real people. Just don’t do it.
3. Engage Your Page
Now that you have a growing following, it’s time to engage your page. There’s really two things to focus on at this point. One is staying on top of comment engagement. Your page followers will inevitably make comments on posts and photos. Reply to them promptly, honestly, and with a note of thankfulness in your voice for them engaging your page. A recent study shows that 71% of Facebook users expect a response to their social media comment from a brand or page within one day.
The second thing is engaging content. The burden is on you as the business page to continually supply posts, pictures and links to content related to your product or industry that will keep your audience interested and spark the hoped-for viral sharing response among them. Not every post has to be a home run though, but keep it simple, fresh and relevant. Some suggest a ratio of about 80% related curated content from other sources on the web, and 20% promotional/product related. I would say a 50/50 or even 70/30 ratio is acceptable from my experience, as long as you are not overusing and abusing the spammy and annoying “check out this great deal on product X” verbiage all the time. Frequency varies with your audience; some people want something every day, or 3-5 times a day, others will un-like your page and commit you to the spam graveyard if you fill their timeline more than 2-3 times a week.
What’s The Point?
So let’s say you’ve followed this 3-step process above and find yourself with a couple hundred, or a couple thousand, page followers for your small business. What good will that do you other than the obvious brand awareness and peer-to-peer recommendations? You now have a pool of people with express interest in your product that not only can and will become customers themselves, but are a valuable channel to also reach their friends and others interested in your products. It is not uncommon for me to promote a page post with relevant content linking back to a client’s small business site, and find a traffic spike related to that promotion providing site visitors for almost 1/10th the cost-per-click of some of the big-name PPC providers, and multiple conversions as well.
But it all begins with the basics of hard work, doing your homework and providing quality content. Ensure you are providing relevant, fresh and engaging content to an interested, real audience and you will undoubtedly continue to see your page, and business, grow!
About the Author
Dan Sem is a photographer, web developer, and inbound marketing director of Inbound Horizons, a US-based tech firm serving small business clientele. When not involved in the day-to-day operations of a growing agency, he tries to write articles aimed at helping other small start-ups like his own better serve their customers and the online community.