Sure, Facebook may have been created by a couple of college kids for college kids originally, but today everyone and there grandmother is interacting, “friending” and “Liking” on the uber-popular social networking site. More than one billion users are active on Facebook today – including many in your community. Neighbors are chatting about the takeout they just had. Parents are recommending kid-friendly excursions to one another. Colleagues are sharing career tips and beach reading suggestions.
As a small business, Facebook offers a convenient, and often free, avenue to connect with potential customers, build relationships with existing customers and become a fixture in your community, whether that’s a small town or a worldwide virtual network of fans and aficionados.
When people Like your Facebook Page, they’re opening your message to their own social network. When they comment on, or Like a status update or post, it will appear in some of their friends’ Facebook news feeds, sending your business viral – whether on a small or large scale. And when they Like your page, there is an opportunity for them to tag you in their own updates as well – again, opening you up to their friend list.
The Facebook Page: It’s like your personal account page, but instead of having to approve friends, anyone can come along and click the Like button, saying “Hey, I’m a fan.” Your Page contains information about your business (as much as you want to add). On your Page you can update your status, add links to interesting articles or webpages and receive comments – both privately and publicly. If Facebook users Like your page then your updates have the ability to reach more and more people as those who Like you interact with your Page.
The number one key to an effective Facebook Page? Engage your fans. You want the people who Like your Page to read status updates, comment on and even share your updates with their friends. This is important because the way Facebook decides what to show users in their news feed is based on whom they regularly interact with. If you want to be part of that – without paying for the privilege – then you need to be worthy of their interaction. Facebook Pages aren’t for the lazy, but neither do you have to be an expert, or post to your Page a billion times a week. In the next sections you’ll learn how to create an effective Facebook presence and have plenty of time to run your real-world business.
Setting Up an Effective Facebook Page You’ve probably already created your Facebook Page. But do you have the right information on it? It’s not enough just to create a Page. You need to create a useful Page that is regularly updated and managed in a professional manner.
Start by making sure the information on your About page is up to par.
What to include on your About page
Your About page is where folks go to learn about your business. This isn’t the place for selling, but rather for a friendly introduction. There are many potential fields, but you should know that you don’t need to fill them all out. Furthermore, you don’t have to write novels for the ones you do.
For brick-and-mortar establishments, you’ll want to fill out the Basic Info section (make sure your page is classified as a Local Business) with your price range, attire, hours, services, products and payment options, as appropriate. These are the things that customers – particularly new customers – want to know before they check you out in person. Can they use their debit card? Or will the trip require an ATM stop first?
Facebook Pages 101
Start by creating a Page. Go to your Facebook Settings page and click the “Create a Page” link at the bottom of the screen. While this link is on all Facebook pages, it’s easiest to get to here.
You will be prompted to choose from six identifying options for your page. Choose the one that best fits your business. For instance, if you are a local establishment, choose the Local Business option as it will automatically set up your Page to include key business information like your business address and operating hours.
The good news? This can be changed. No matter what category and designation you choose, you can always edit and change the selection via your Admin panel.
Now, follow the prompts to fill out information and set your Page to “live.” If you need more time to work on getting it just right, you can leave the Page offline (others can’t see it or Like it) until you are ready.
You should also include your address phone number and website so customers can find you.
Next, fill out the other About sections like Mission, Company Overview and Description. Remember to keep your words succinct but evocative – and remember that you are wooing customers, not petitioning for an award. So speak to customers in these sections about who you are as a business and what you offer.
How often to update
Be sure to keep your About page up-to-date. Review the page at least quarterly to ensure its accuracy – and remember to update the listed business hours as soon as you change them. It doesn’t make for happy customers if your posted hours don’t match your actual hours.
Facebook Success Spotlight: eCreamery in Omaha, Nebraska
Check them out: www.facebook.com/eCreamery
Created in 2004, eCreamery is an ice cream shop in Omaha, Nebraska, that also sells its ice cream and gelato for mail order via their website, www.ecreamery.com. The unique business has been on Facebook for about five years, says owner Abby Jordan.
On the Page
On the Facebook Page, eCreamery shares pictures of their ice creams with short updates about them. They also share occasional links and photos of new mix packs available for mail order, as well as the custom labels that customers can order. The updates and photos generate many Likes and comments.
“It’s just a really great way for us to talk about our new products and to showcase some of the fun things people are doing with their customized labels,” says Jordan.
And with more than 6,000 Likes, the page is reaching many people with their creamy, dreamy mission while also finding new eyes.
“It’s a good place for people to go that don’t know about our business to learn about what we’re doing. It’s been a great sounding board for our customers to check out what others are saying,” says Jordan, who says Facebook has been good for spreading the word about their new products, press and other news.
eCreamery’s Facebook Strategy:
Keep it fresh
Jordan says that by sharing smaller updates about single flavors and info about batches of ice cream, they are able to keep the content fresh without always looking for the biggest thing to share. “We take pictures one afternoon and then we use that for the next few weeks or months,” she says, which makes posting a little easier. But don’t confuse that for easy. “It definitely takes time,” says Jordan.
Posting on Facebook
Facebook isn’t like an ad or website that can be created and left alone. It’s something that needs to be nurtured, updated and kept active regularly. How often is regularly? That’s up to you depending on your time and the availability of new content and ideas. A good rule of thumb is to try to update every few days – at least once a week, though more is better. That said, you don’t want to update too often or your message will be lost in a sea of posts.
Updates 101: Writing posts that get responses
If you are a business selling food or products, quality images accompanied by one-liners that intrigue and enlighten make for great Facebook posts. For instance, eCreamery recently posted a photo of a fresh batch of cookies-and-cream ice cream with text that read, “A delicious standard. Cookies & Cream.” That simple post generated 68 likes, eight comments and one share. Just remember that when posting images they need to be either your own images or ones used with the permission of the photographer.
So, how do you write posts that get responses? Keep it simple. Keep it interesting and evocative (a mouthwatering photo of ice cream is both of these things!). And don’t be afraid to celebrate successes – but not too often. Much like in life, you don’t want to brag too much.
You can also share links on your Facebook Page. These may be links to blog posts or specific pages on your website. Or you can share the love with other local businesses or topics related to your business with links. Always include a brief line or two of text so people know why and what you are sharing.
6 Ideas for Good Facebook Updates
- Photo with a brief description
- One or two sentences about something happening locally
- Good news about your business or the local community
- Specials, promotions or sales (keep it brief but packed with info)
- Links to relevant blog posts or website pages
- Links to media mentions
Paying for exposure on Facebook
Facebook now offers the ability to create ads and promote specific posts. You pay for these services, setting a specific amount you are willing to spend on each campaign. The cost of ads and promotion is directly related to how many fans your Page already has. For instance, if you have about 100 fans, then your promotion could reach three to six thousand people for just $5-$10. However, when you have thousands of fans, the cost of promotion rises sharply.
Facebook Ads: This offers a way to gather a wide range of Facebook users. On your Facebook Page, you can create ads by going to “Build Audience,” and then clicking “Create an Ad.” From there, you can create an ad designed to get more Facebook Likes, share your latest status in an ad or create a custom ad. You can also choose to limit the promotion to a certain geographical area – such as your town. And you can set a daily budget and time frame. There’s also an “ongoing” option if you want the ad to run indefinitely. What’s great about these ads is that you can really zero in on the users you want to reach.
Facebook Share: The Facebook Share promotion (seen as a small “Share” link on the lower right of posts) is for specific posts on your Facebook Page. Promotions last for three days, or until the budgeted amount for the promotion is reached (whichever comes first). This option allows you to reach all the folks who like your Page as well as their friends. The post appears with a “sponsored” designation on Facebook news feeds. While this option can lead to new Likes on your page and more interaction, it should be used sparingly, with a focus on posts that contain an urgent message (think contests) or that you most want to be seen. What’s good about these ads is that they are simple and fast to create and let you easily promote specific messages.
Understanding the Page Admin Tool
Notifications: In this section, you can see the latest activity on your Page. It tells you who commented and Liked your status updates as well as those who left messages on your Page.
Messages: These are private messages from Facebook users. Keep an eye out for new ones here, as they are easy to miss and should be responded to (even if it’s just with a “Thanks!”).
New Likes: This section shows you who recently liked your Page and when.
Insights: This graph has a lot of info packed into a little section. Here you can monitor the effectiveness of your posts. It shows how many posts you’ve put up, how many people are talking about your page and how many people are reached through your posts. Hover over the charts for numbers and information. You can also download an in-depth spreadsheet with detailed data about your Page followers and their engagement.
Invite Friends: This handy little section lets you know which of your personal Facebook friends haven’t yet Liked your Page. In a simple click, you can invite them to do so, growing your audience easily.
Facebook Management in a Jiffy
Should you schedule Facebook updates?
Posts can now be scheduled in advance on your Facebook Page. Simply go to the Page, create a status update and then click the timer icon in the lower left corner of the status box. From there you can schedule the date and time of your post. Using this option allows you to plan posts in advance and consolidate the time it takes to manage your Facebook Page. Should you use it? Yes, for topics that don’t change with time. However, be sure to keep track of your future posts – and delete or move them if inappropriate. For instance, in a time of tragedy, you shouldn’t have chipper pre-planned posts going live as it’s inappropriate and your fans won’t like it.
Depending on your business, you can create a calendar of what to post and when. Always add fresh, recent content or your Page will seem stiff and dated.
Responding to criticism
In any open forum, criticism will happen. It’s how you respond to it that matters most. First, don’t be defensive. Criticism of your business isn’t a personal attack . Listen, respond appropriately and take it offline if it gets too heated. Avoid deleting criticism (that always looks bad) unless the attacks are personal or offensive to others. As eCreamery’s Jordan says, try to make it right. “Everybody’s going to make mistakes. No business is perfect,” says Jordan.
The Bottom Line
Facebook is a social media marketing tool that gives you many opportunities for organic and paid promotions to spread the word about your small business. Jump in and get started using the tips in this guide and have fun.