Facebook is everywhere: The Shareholders Like This.
From its un-likely beginnings in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Dorm Room Facebook has become a truly global phenomenon.
Since its launch in February 2004 its ubiquity has reached such a level that it boasts over 400 million active users. It has been banned in Iran, Syria, Vietnam and China, and is even used by the Australian justice system to serve the odd court summons!
Why Should I Care?
As small business owner what does this mean to you? If social networking is based on a series of natural human interactions in an online space then how can the money crazed world of commerce hope to get involved and make it work?
There is of course a solution to every problem but we have to be careful. The peer-to-peer referral of a product, service or experience in an online or offline social network has to have belief behind it. People have to believe in your product or service before they’ll spread the word on your behalf. You have to start conversations with your customers and inspire them just enough to have them spread the good news.
To Poke or Not to Poke
The first question you have to ask is whether you should get involved in the first place. From the first bit of research and test marketing you did when you started you’ve been asking these sorts of questions anyway so don’t worry – the answer is written down somewhere.
Is your product or service relevant to the medium? Marketing Equity Release Schemes through Facebook probably won’t work, but marketing a fun new juice bar just might so have a think and ask around. If you don’t think it’ll work for you then don’t go any further – you’ll dilute your brand and waste valuable time and effort.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
So what to do now? Do some research into what your competitors are doing and make some judgements about what seems to work and what doesn’t. Ask your friends and customers what they think and what they would find of value. Write it all down and decide what your objectives are going to be. Here are some examples.
• I want to get the world at large to engage with my brand or business
• I want to use Facebook to stay connected with my existing customers
• I want to use Facebook to engage with potential customers and keep in touch with them until they have a need for my product or service
• I want to use Facebook to improve the chances of my website being found through organic search
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but the point is to have an objective in mind and skew all of your actions towards it. If you are not mindful of your ultimate goal and if you do not have a strategy you won’t have the impact you want.
Start at the Beginning
Let’s assume that you’ve done your homework, decided on an objective and are good to go – what do you do now?
First of all you need to build your page. It’s a simple process so I won’t go into the details here – just suck it and see. But you do need to bear in mind a few points.
Do you want to make your group public?
The answer to this may seem an obvious and resounding no but think about it for a second. If you want your Facebook page to be an exclusive space for your committed customers (Friends or Fans) then keeping the group private is an obvious way to promote a feeling of exclusivity.
Let the people in
An easy way to create loyalty and “buy in” is to give a little away. Use your status updates to tell people what’s going on in the office and don’t be afraid to make it completely un-commercial. Share your thoughts about whatever you like but make sure it’s relevant and not at all banal. Think about putting some informal pictures in your Photo Albums – a few snaps of the office Christmas party perhaps? Or maybe some pictures of the boss doing a marathon for charity. Keep in mind that you are looking to engage with people on a human level so keep the conversation informal and give away the odd secret occasionally.
Make Your Friends feel Special
Your followers should have an incentive to be a Fan of your business so give it to them. Think about giving them first refusal on a new product, or releasing a product to them a week before the rest of the world. Give your Fans and Friends a discount or offer specific to them or invite them to a “Friends Only” Event. Again, give a little away and you’ll get it back. And remember, don’t message them exhaustively, Spam is still Spam regardless of where you receive it.
As with any kind of Social Media and Online PR you have to stay committed to build your audience and user base. Don’t rely on employee goodwill to ensure your page is updated; put it in someone’s job description and make sure they are logged in all day. Think about how a customer will feel if you respond to their message, wall post or comment quicker than a flash. You’ll build a relationship with them and word will spread.
Spread the Love but not too Far
A common mistake is to add everyone you ever come across as a friend. Be careful here as Facebook will know, and they will take action. Try and push people towards becoming a Fan or a Friend and let them jump the last hurdle themselves. Start off with your existing customers and suppliers and you’ll pick up more friends as you go. And don’t ignore a cardinal rule of online PR – just because it’s there the people won’t necessarily find it so make sure you shout about the fact you have a Facebook page. Mention it in your Offline PR and Marketing and tell your customers every chance you get.
The Bottom Line Likes This
That should give you enough to get started so go and graze your knees. Mistakes will be made but just be mindful of a few basic principles and you won’t go far wrong. See? Facebook isn’t just about stalking your ex’s is it?