You’re the owner of a local small business and you are trying to figure out the best steps to get on to Facebook to drive new customers. It can be a daunting task and with little extra time in the day, how can you be expected to spend time promoting your business on Facebook? I completely understand the challenges of running a small business and after speaking with lawyers, florists, dentists, and many other small businesses, I’ve compiled the following list of strategies that should help ease the process.
1. Go Slow And Steady, Don’t Overdo It
Any form of promotion is like compound interest. It takes time to build up the residual returns but if you stick with it, the pay off can be substantial. Many people hear that Facebook is a great way to promote their business but after trying it out for a few days or even a couple weeks, they don’t see significant effects so they give up and decide to keep paying for Yellow page advertisements. Who knows how well Yellow Page ads pay off but that monthly check must be going towards something, right?
The difference between Facebook and more traditional promotional channels is that the small business owner needs to invest a little bit of their time. The extra effort can go a long way and can even provide a rewarding experience as customers begin to provide feedback and communicate directly with you. So how much time do you need to be spending? Not hours a day! While promoting via Facebook can become an addictive process, you can allocate little more than an hour a week to your promotional activities.
While it’s never bad to start off enthusiastically, you don’t want to waste all of your efforts in the first few days. Build up your fan base steadily and you’ll begin to see the benefits.
2. Contact Your Fans Directly
While digital media companies and large brands may have thousands upon thousands of fans, most small businesses don’t end up with as many fans, especially if they are local. When you first start growing, it’s a good idea to interact with each new fan on an individual basis. Send users a message after they’ve become a fan of your Facebook page. Build a relationship with each fan and they’ll become a fan and a customer forever.
Once you build a connection there’s a good chance the user will tell their friends. I’ll be discussing that strategy further in an upcoming guide. The main point here is that each new fan can be considered a new lead for a small business. Selling on Facebook though is subtle and should not be done in an overly aggressive way. Just because someone became a fan does not mean you should send them a message saying “Buy my stuff today!!!”
Instead, reach out to each new fan individually to welcome them to your Facebook Page and begin a dialogue. In many times these initial conversations will lead to lasting business relationships.
3. Don’t Spam
I’ve written about this before and it never gets old: don’t spam your users. As the owner of a blog, I get countless people who try to spam the comments and I’ve seen the same thing take place on Facebook. Spamming your users with too many links or trying “black hat” tactics to rapidly drive up your Facebook Page fan base is not worth it. Facebook is aggressive at stopping spam and there is a good chance that they’ll stop you somewhere along the way, and it can potentially cost a lot.
4. Consider It An Educational Experience
Rather than looking for an instantaneous return, look at it as a long-term educational experience. As you improve your strategy, you’ll attract more fans. It takes time to master Facebook promotion and time to reap the rewards but the payoff can be significant. The main point of this rule is clear: stick with it for the long haul. As I outlined in last week’s Facebook advertising guide for marketers, it’s important to plan for the long-term.
If you blow out your budget in the first few days and expect to have a massive response, you will be seriously disappointed. Learn from the experience, take notes, and improve your strategy over time. It may sound like a lot of time but you can do much of this in as little as 15 minutes a day. One other benefit of considering it an educational experience is that the whole process is deductible in your taxes.
You can write off the expenditure ad advertising or as education (you need to speak to your accountant to determine the best way to file an entry for this).
5. Limit Your Advertising Budget
As I just mentioned, more dollars on advertising does not always mean more revenue. Start off with a few dollars a day to test out Facebook’s advertising system. You can create your first ad here to test out all of Facebook’s targeting capabilities. Make sure that if you are spending money that you’re investing in some long-term goal, otherwise you’ll end up spending a lot of money aimlessly. Trust me, I know from experience! As your performance improves and you figure out which ads work most effectively you can begin to steadily increase your ad spend.
Figure that you’d spend a few hundred dollars on a Yellow Pages advertisement so be willing to test out a similar budget on Facebook. If all goes well and your business starts to increase, you can always invest in more advertising as necessary. As I mentioned earlier, this is an educational process and with so many resources on the internet, learning has never been cheaper. Don’t spend all your money when you don’t have to!
To most effectively manage your budget, start off with one Facebook advertising campaign which has a limited budget (as pictured below). For all of the initial ads use that same campaign rather than creating separate campaigns for each advertisements.
6. Create A Facebook Page, Not New Profiles
A quick way to get banned from Facebook is to set up multiple accounts and multiple profiles. I have multiple friend requests in my inbox currently from people who’ve set up separate accounts to promote their business. Don’t do this! You can go here to set up your own Facebook Page while keeping your existing profile. Under no circumstance should you be creating separate accounts. Not only is it against Facebook’s terms, but it provides no additional value.
I could spend more time explaining why this is flat out a bad idea but I won’t. It’s much better to spend the time focused on the activities you should be doing!
7. Use Coupons And Other Incentives
So now that you’ve got a Facebook Page, some ads running, and a few fans of your Facebook Page, what should you be doing? In addition to engaging users on Facebook, you also want to get them making purchases. Keep in mind, which incentives you use depend on the type of business you are running. For example, a florist may have price sensitive customers, and special deals may be an incentive to make a purchase.
A florist may want to post something like “There’s never a better time to show that special someone that you care. Today only we’re providing a bouquet of _______________, ______________, and _______________ for only $9.99, and we’ll deliver them to your work for free!” However if a dentist posted “50 percent off cavity fillings”, I have a feeling that they wouldn’t get the same response.
There are plenty of other creative incentives to drive people back to your page and to your business so test out different strategies and see which work best.
8. Emphasize Mobile Subscriptions
One of the best components of Facebook Pages is the ability to receive updates via your mobile device. Once updates come to your phone you can also reply to the updates, making it possible for instant two-way communication. It’s a model that’s similar to Twitter except that on Pages you get more features for engaging users. The mobile component adds an additional layer of interaction which can be used to build relationships with your new and existing customers.
As I outlined in the 5 phases of the Facebook sales funnel, Facebook is a relationship marketing platform, not a direct sales channel. That’s why it’s important to build your relationship with others through Facebook. Configure your Facebook Page to function with your current mobile device and communicate with users while on the go. This can make for some great, instantaneous dialogue.
Ultimately most internet based promotions are going the way of mobile, and it is in every business’s best interest to take advantage of that trend including on Facebook.
9. Post Occasional Entertaining Statuses
When was the last time you saw an update from your dentist in your news feed? You probably never have and you may even be weirded out to see one, unless of course it was a funny joke. For example if the dentist posted occasion updates about eating candy and junk food in general, you may get a quick smile and possibly even post a status update. Whatever the response, at least you are getting one, which is one additional level of interaction that you never previously had with your customers.
Keeping your fans engaged is an important component of any good Facebook strategy. How much time does it really take to come up with a clever status update? If you’re like me then catchy ideas occasionally pop into your head (or at least ones that you think are clever) when you are on the go. If you’ve properly configured your Facebook Page to work with your mobile device, you can instantly update your Page’s status while on the go.
It takes very little extra effort to bring a smile to your fans and it’s something that they’ll remember.
Every small business can take advantage of the promotional opportunities that Facebook presents. By using some of the tips listed in this articles, small businesses can get a great start on promoting their company on the site. While there are many other strategies to increasing the number of fans you have on the site as well as driving new business, much of that can be learned through experimentation. The best thing to do is to get started and figure it out from there!