Facebook recently just hit the 1 million advertisers milestone indicating that a lot of small and medium-sized businesses invest in Facebook. Which means, if you’re ignoring Facebook, you’re ignoring customers.

Facebook is focusing more on small and medium-sized businesses. It now aligns its ad products with a marketer’s business goals. An advertiser can come to Facebook and tell them what they are trying to achieve, and Facebook’s ads tools will automatically suggest the right combination of products to help them achieve it. Investing dedicated time and energy into Facebook can get great results for your business!

In this Interview, Sachin Rao, Country SMB Manager of Facebook India shares how Facebook can be a powerful platform for your marketing efforts.

How can Facebook be a powerful lead generator for Small businesses?

Sachin Rao, Country SMB Manager of Facebook India

Build Targeted fan base

To begin with, what you need to do is go through Facebook, to give you an idea of the basic genesis. You start at the bottom, then develop your fan base, and based on their demographics, their interests, start building your fan base, following which you can start conversing with them. You can build a fan base that is relevant to your brand and start by engaging them.

Run targeted Ads

You will find that there are different types of ads. There is a page-like ad format, a page post ad format, a page post link ad, and the main ad. Multiple sets of ads can help you reach a different kind of audience type, and this depends on the way you want to customize it, making it specific to landing people on your website. Today there are multiple ad formats that can help you do just that, with businesses of all sizes finding success.

But what I’d like to focus on is the branding format, fulfilling the demand of the marketing format and seeing how Facebook works on all parts, whether it be demand generation or demand fulfillment. If you are in the traditional sector of brand equity or brand recall, the effort you would have had to make would have been phenomenal.

Retain customers by engaging with them

Instead, today, because of the platform, its targeting ability, and the ability to use and engage in a two-way conversation, they are able to get to a successful business in no time. There are plenty of companies who have built their entire businesses on Facebook. Let me give you a personal example: I am a big Royal Enfield fan and I sold my bike about a year ago, but I’m still connected to their page. As I read about the rides of their current riders, their experiences, the new destinations they have traveled to, I am tempted to buy an Enfield again and revisit my adventurous days. Especially when they put these up in a visually rich and engaging manner.

So for someone like me, who was an existing customer, left the brand and is thinking of becoming a customer again, I will be doing this because of the affinity the brand has built with me through their Facebook Page. Now, if you look at all other forms of advertising, they don’t give you that conversational ability that can transform itself into success and Social Marketing. We also did a survey with users to find out how they interact on Facebook and found that one out of three users made a purchase based on recommendation. They are likely to purchase a product because a friend told them.

What we should ask ourselves now is, how we can translate this into what we provide for the advertisers. If you find that the user is ready, and we have ad formats that help businesses to convert, use social connections to draw more business. For example, we can use a page post ad where I post an ad on a user’s page. The decision as to whether they’d like to come to my network, or to get more people to connect and engage with my network, is entirely theirs.

Using word of mouth for Lead Gen

So at the end of the day, if you look at any business, whether it big or small, we are all trying to leverage upon the customer experience through word of mouth. And Facebook is the only platform that can do it for you on such a scale that no other platform can. They do it in a place where you can engage with your friends and your friends can look at the content that matters to you, the product that matters to you and all of this is available to them on their news feeds. Having such a personal experience with rich content is more likely to convert users to your brand’s customers, and this has been proven because most businesses have found Facebook fans to be most likely to engage with them on Facebook than on any other platform.

Target Feature Phone Users

Looking at all the spectrum of the marketing funnel and the options and features we offer are very appealing in that context. Let me give you an example here as well; India is a market with a wide base of feature phone users and the internet. So, it can be concluded that feature phone users interact on a regular basis. With this information in mind, we have launched an ad for feature phones. As an advertiser, I can target users of feature phones and reach out to them. In a market like India, if you look at the numbers, you will find that they suddenly change the magnitude for small businesses, because I can reach not just the 78 million people, but other people too.

Can target Global Users

There are many travel businesses that target global people. If I want people from the US or Europe to visit India and come to my destination, say Ladakh, I can target that in a much more rich and targeted matter. When I know that 24-28 year olds from the US are more likely to visit Ladakh than 32 year olds from Europe, I can target that segment. We can even attract new customers using the broadcast features. So our rich targeting features allow businesses to find customers not only in India but also across the globe.

The proof of this fact is that you have 1 million advertisers globally finding value on this platform, and consistently growing. Then we have 15 million local businesses globally who are building a presence, growing and having a rich conversation with their customers on a regular basis and they are doing this through multiple devices. Through tablets, desktops, phones and so on. For me, the benefit of being on Facebook is that customer relationship is unprecedented and they find that they can instantly build a mobile marketing strategy by just building a page on Facebook at a low cost.

Can start small and control Budget

Today an advertiser can potentially start advertising for as low as $5 a day. Even with the present high dollar rate which is still Rs. 300, as a business I have control over what budget I want to put in, so I can decide I want to spend only Rs. 500 a day. I can specify a limit and advertise around it. This sort of control is something most platforms don’t have.

What are the best ways small businesses can leverage graph search?

Graph search is all about the way of social connection. So the first step, as always, is building a presence on your page, so get on with it, connect with your friends and ensure that you are having a rich engagement on the page. I’ll give you a great example; I was in open Mumbai when I found Rock Pub. My first thought was that this was a place for people who enjoy pubs and rock music.

Having friends who fit the description, I went with all my friends to visit it. Now that kind of discovery is possible if you start building your presence, start acquiring the right kinds of fans, and ensure that you are engaging with them.

The starting point should be building your page. You have a page where you fill out the information that is available on the page. Ensure that you fill in detailed information like location, the kind of business that you are, the about section and ensuring that you have captioned all that in detail, so that you become more receptive to the search. When I’m searching for businesses in Mumbai, specifically for say, cafés in Mumbai. So having that page and building it with relevant information is going to be the first step. And the next steps are similar, strong engagement. You build a strong fan base and you simply amplify that message.

How influential are Facebook recommendations for SMBs?

60% of Facebook users who have been surveyed said, they are likely to purchase a product based on recommendation. 1 in 3 users made a purchase based on a friend’s recommendation. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing. Today, the platform is built in such a way, that you can create an effect on a massive scale.

Think of Facebook as a word of mouth megaphone for small businesses, and that is a great tool to have for a business of any size. Especially for small businesses, since you are able to do it in a cost effective way which no other platform can give you.

What can businesses do to become more mobile friendly? How is Facebook adapting to the emergence of Mobile technology?

Today Facebook can be accessed on different devices like tablets, mobile phones, feature phones, and desktops. So what we do is make certain that the rich experience on your news feed doesn’t get diluted over the portals. You get the same experience on your mobile, desktop and tablet. The one way in which businesses can ensure that they are targeting mobiles is when they are using promoted posts and all the features that allow them to be on your screen.

If you target mobile phones, then your post won’t be projected on any other device. So, for them to have a successful mobile strategy it is important that they have a page and that they are dragging most of the sponsored stories and ad formats, and ensure that you are benefiting on news feed on multiple devices.

Other things successful businesses are doing can be explained if we take a local example, restaurants or coffee shops or even somebody like Yatra. They are using great themes to talk about their products. For example, one can use visually appealing photos and experiment with them and take feedback from their customers. Yatra did it, with the ‘Happy Travelers’ theme where they asked people to post pictures of vacations that they had and their happy experiences.

That is a great way to ensure that you are engaging your audience and also ensuring that it is visually rich. Use different posts and see which of these posts is generating more audience and then use page insights to find out which part of your audience is engaging with what post and then building on it.

How should one encourage customers to check-in on Facebook at their business location?

The most successful ones do it by having a check-in, at their business stores. We have on our Facebook location the ability to download our check-in image and text based Facebook message. Some businesses have a great way to ensure check-in.

For every check-in that you do, especially when you are at a café and restaurants, they offer you a 10% discount. What the restaurants are getting is a bunch of people checking in on their page, while they are offering simply a 10% discount, and thereby ensuring a connect to their page. So the more successful businesses offer some kind of a deal when you check-in at their place.

In what ways is Facebook assisting SMBs to drive business online?

There are different kinds of occupancies that businesses have. So as a starting point we try and make the product really simple. Right from the page you can boost your post, right from the post where you are listed as a page admin. Similarly, we have a page manager app that makes it simple to post and engage on a regular basis. It is available both on Android and iOS.

The other thing we have done is that we have taken a lot of feedback and, as an advertiser, you can optimize the post for likes, for engagement, especially for the objective that you are choosing. That’s the first thing we have done to make it easy for businesses to build their ad strategy on Facebook.

The other part is that there are some advertisers who need on-board support, so for them we have a 28 days on-boarding program. Our strategy is mostly to make it a self sufficient platform. Looking from a delivering point of view, managing a page is almost similar to managing your profile. The elements are the same, the way you engage with people. There is a timeline. You can pin posts that are most relevant to you. It doesn’t require a lot of figuring out to do. At the same time we are taking feedback, simplifying the product to ensure that businesses of all kinds can find value. For those who still need support we provide an on boarding program that is useful, easy and effective.

You mentioned about the Start-to-Success program, so how has been received in India.

Facebook has recently launched a new program designed to help new advertisers get started on the platform. This program, Start to Success, includes one-on-one support with a Facebook Marketing Expert who will take you through the fundamentals of marketing on Facebook including building a Page, growing your fan base and driving relevant and authentic engagement with your business.

Provided our program spend minimums are met you will receive one-on-one support to get you started during your first 28 days and ongoing support from a dedicated team primarily via email.

It is finding great value. It is helping them identify what part of the business or what part of platform they require. It is helping them understand that it is about growing your fan base, building your community of customers and potential customers, building relationships with the fans and then leveraging them for your business goals, creating brand recall.

So helping them understand that has been extremely successful. We find businesses that go to the program, are more likely to find success on the platform. So it’s been great so far on that front and we will try and help as many businesses that we can.

Can you share a success story where Facebook advertising has proven beneficial for small businesses?

I’ll go back to the example I was sharing earlier, only this time it was promoting an event in Pune. The event management company found that they had 30x ROI on their ad on Facebook. For a small business this is a phenomenal number on Return on Investment. They spent x amount on ads spent. They found that they could sell 10,500 tickets through Facebook ads. Now when you look at the ticket size and the amount, you can calculate the ROI. It is the metric all small businesses look for.

If I’ve spent x amount for ad spent, these are the number of tickets sold and this is my return. The ROI differs, but in this case it was about ticket sales and 10,500 tickets were sold through Facebook ads. We also found out that 35% of all ticket buyers were invited by a Facebook friend onto the page. For example, I liked the page, I looked at the event and I invited my friends who I know are fans. So I will share it with them saying “Hey, have a look at this. We should go for this.”

Now for a small business, this is a phenomenal. Tell me how else can you sell 10,500 tickets without going door to door, campuses and other places and sell them individually? Which kind of platform gives you that? Other example I can give you is Kaya Clinic. They found that 20% of their sales were actually through Facebook and 22% of their web traffic came from Facebook. So that is definitely meaningful ROI for them. They are looking at both sales and referral traffic, and on both cogs they are finding great value.

The future of e-commerce looks promising for small business. Tell us about some e-commerce features that Facebook is experimenting with?

The way to think about this is that Facebook is a marketing platform. It allows you to find customers in many ways. What do I mean by that? Today, as an e-commerce business I can use Facebook to build fans, drive traffic to my website or if I don’t want to have a separate website I can have apps and shopping karts for Facebook itself. Successful businesses are doing both. They are building a community of customers and potential customers on facebook, talking to them about new products, offers and then dragging them off to their websites.

They are also trying to complete the fulfillment right on the page with shopping apps and karts. So as a platform, we give that ability to advertisers and then they can decide whether they want to drive traffic outside or have a shopping app right on the page. I’ll give you a great example of Yepme. I don’t have the exact stats to give to you, but Yepme is finding phenomenal success, Myntra is also finding great success by using Facebook for e-commerce and their business has grown phenomenally when they started leveraging Facebook.

There are other big brands that are doing leveraging on Facebook as well. So overall, Yepme found a 125% increase in conversion rate when they started using Facebook ads. Page post ads in the news feed gave them a 20 times higher click rate than ad from the right hand side. Overall, they found a 4.5 ROI on results. They are now saying that they are allocating 80% of their budget on Facebook as its performance is better than any other online network. So, if you look at somebody, small or big, they are finding great value driving ecommerce to their Facebook page or website using Facebook as a platform to get more customers and more sale from existing customers.

How is Facebook helping small businesses to drive innovation?

I think one of the best ways businesses are using Facebook is to get product. They are launching new products and trying to figure out what customers want. A great example would be a coffee shop that wanted to introduce a new coffee, and it wanted to figure out what flavors to use and they used their Facebook fans and their friends to figure out what new range to introduce in their coffee shop. Now that’s product innovation for the coffee shop. As a small business, I’m not trying to invent the next new product.

I want to make product lines that work for my business and have consumers come to my doorstep. This is how most businesses are using Facebook to find innovation. I’m going to use an example from New Zealand, but it’s a wonderful case study. They discontinued a product line and their customers started talking about it. They said it was a product that they used to buy.

The company used this opportunity to create a new marketing campaign. They got customers involved in getting the brand back. Facebook was able to provide the social context and social conjugation and the two-way conversation with customers and business owners. Today, this can happen because you are engaging with your fans on Facebook.

What per cent of local businesses are able to generate direct sales through Facebook?

Like I said, one million advertisers are finding value and are continuing to grow. Large parts of them are SME’s and large parts of them are local businesses. 16 million local businesses globally have used Facebook and this is a growing number. They are driving engagement, they are driving conversation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Multiple sets of ads can help you reach a different kind of audience type, and this depends on the way you want to customize it, making it specific to landing people on your website.
  • Facebook did a survey with users to find out how they interact on Facebook and found that one out of three users made a purchase based on recommendation.
  • Facebook has 15 million local businesses globally who are building a presence, growing and having a rich conversation with their customers on a regular basis and they are doing this through multiple devices.
  • There are many travel businesses that target global people. If you want people from the US or Europe to visit India and come to your destination, say Ladakh, you can target that in a much more rich and targeted matter
  • Today an advertiser can potentially start advertising for as low as $5 a day.
  • Ensure that you fill in detailed information like location, the kind of business that you are, the about section and ensuring that you have captioned all that in detail, so that you become more receptive to the search.
  • 60% of Facebook users who have been surveyed said, they are likely to purchase a product based on recommendation. 1 in 3 users made a purchase based on a friend’s recommendation.
  • There are some advertisers who need on-board support, so for them Facebook offers a 28 days on-boarding program – Start to Success!