Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Facebook. Facebook this, Facebook that. It seems like everywhere you turn these days people are talking about Facebook.What is Facebook, and does it have a place in the way your business goes to market?
In case you somehow don't know, Facebook is the world largest social network. As of March 11 of this year they report 963,812,360 users worldwide and almost half of them are in the United States! What are all of those people doing? Well, they are sharing what they are doing and what they like with their friends and they are seeing what their friends like and are doing. In other words, they are communicating with each other. Like any form of communicating, some is serious, some is joking, some is important and relevant and some of it is just chatter. But it is communicating, and isn't that what you want to do with your customers?
How this works is the users post to their status update whatever it is that they want to share, such as comments, pictures, links, etc. Facebook then takes what it considers to be the most interesting posts and presents them in a timeline that is constantly updated as new items are posted. Each user sees a different timeline based on who their friends are and the subjects they have clicked the "like" button on. You can then indicate that you "like" what has been shared by clicking on a "like" button at the bottom of the the post, or you add your own 2 cents by commenting at the bottom of a given post. This is where communication occurs.
There is no charge for setting up a Facebook account. When you create an account with Facebook, you will create a profile for yourself-as an individual. If you are approaching Facebook as a tool with your business, you might be tempted to set up an account in the name of your business. I would recommend against that. Facebook allows you to create a page for your business separate from your personal profile. In fact, to set up your account where your main profile is your business actually violates the Facebook terms of service. If they catch you, they can close down your account and all of your work on the site would be lost.The thing to do is to set up a profile for yourself as an individual, then create a Facebook page for your your business-take the time to make fill out your business pages profile. Include hours, what sort of business you do, areas you cover, brands serviced, and any other about your company you would like to share. You will also be able to include a picture for the header at the top of your page as well as your "Face" that will show up alongside all of your posts. This will introduce yourself to people who visit your page. Creating your business page allows you to stay within the Facebook terms of service. It also has an advantage in that Facebook pages are publicly viewable and can show up on search engines, like Google or Bing. You want that!
Now that your page has been created you will want to get involved. Take some time to find and "like" pages that are relevant to your business or would be of interest to your target customer. For example, our timeline includes customers, suppliers, and a few local sports teams and news outlets. Now why would we include the sports teams and local news? It's because if we find a post worth commenting on or "like"ing from them, our reply will reach everyone who follows them on Facebook which could be exposure to people who were unaware of WL May prior to that communication. A well known member of the United Servicers Association follows Susan G Komen Run for the Cure and the local sports radio station. By doing that he has found an way to reach many of the women and men in his community. What's nice is he is meeting them while their appliance is working (under good times) and it helps establish trust (which is essential to any sort of repair specialist). This works best (some would say it works ONLY) if you are engaging with other users. You don't wan't to just post ads about your business, take the time to post interesting items and to comment on others posts. An occasional advertising type of post is ok, but less than 20% of your activity should be that kind of thing (ideally much less).
As you can see, Facebook can help your business reach out to your community in a number of ways. However, Facebook is not a one-size-fits-all way of reaching your marketplace. It has a few disadvantages. First it does take some time to set things up and to monitor your page, although in my experience that process was fairly fun and interesting. Once you are set up, in order for someone to see your posts they need to take the time to visit your page and click on the "like" button. Also, once they do that they may not see every thing you post on their timeline. They will see all of your posts if they visit your page, but many Facebook users primarily read what shows up in their timeline. Luckily, Facebook says how it chooses what to include in timelines. The have an formula they use called "edgerank" which gives your post a score based on a number of variables such as if you include video or images, how many followers you have, how frequently you post, and how much interaction you have with other Facebook users. So, in order to effectively use Facebook you need to engage yourself with your customers or followers. Also, as of late, Facebook has tried to increase their income by requesting payment to make sure your posts show up in your followers timeline. Is this worthwhile? The jury is still out on that one, but it does remove the attractiveness of free from the equation.
Facebook is a complicated subject and a Google search of "using Facebook for business" yields almost 2 BILLION hits. Obviously, there is a lot to say on the subject and I am just scratching the surface. Ultimately, there is no replacement for quality work and good service. Facebook just gives your customers the opportunity to share their positive experiences with your company. And it allows you to share ideas and tips with your customers which makes you a trusted expert. And isn't that what you want? The more you show show yourself to be an expert the more your business will grow. Don't be afraid to try something new and good luck out there!