In a recent article on MarketingProfs, Paul Chaney identified what he sees as the “big three” social networks for business: Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
The first two I understand… but Facebook? It seems to me that lots of companies set up Fan Pages or Groups. They use them to collect friends like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter. They even might post a few photos or press releases or blog posts. But then, the pages languish. So is Facebook really a good tool for business?
Paul says, unequivocally: Yes. The author of The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using Social Media, Paul schools me and (I hope) you in how businesses can leverage a presence on Facebook.
Ann Handley: I like Facebook, but I struggle with how to use it a business platform. Is Facebook really great for business?
Paul Chaney: Is Facebook really great for business? With over 300 million members and growing (50 percent of which log on to Facebook daily), it has to be… especially if you're a B2C company.
From the perspective of a company using Facebook, the only legitimate options are Pages and Ads (aside from creating Facebook apps of course, and using Facebook Share or Connect, which we'll discuss later). If those are the options, then it's a matter of making the most of what's available to you.
I believe you have to view the creation of a Facebook Page the same as you view creating a community, for that's what it is. Facebook may call them "Fans," but I think of them as community members.
Therefore, the same principles that make for vital online communities apply here: Regular updates with fresh content, incentivizing fans to spread the word about the page, and encouraging them to comment on posts made by the administrator as well as upload content themselves.
Maintaining personal contact is vital as well. In other words, friend your fans and interact with them more personally. A company can also launch events from a Facebook Page, so that qualifies as legitimate use.
AH: What about if you are a small or sole business owner?
PC: If you're a representative of a company (a sales rep, for example), then you have the option to use your personal profile as a way to build relationships that lead to business transactions. That includes such things as participating, or creating, topically-related Groups, for example. (Or playing Texas Hold'em for that matter... hey, you never know where a lead might come from!).
Understanding that Facebook (or any other social media outlet) is not a place where you make over-the-top sales pitches, it can most certainly be used. Win the right to be heard by providing useful information and let people know what you do. There's no shame in that.
AH: What are the top 3 things that a company might do to get started on Facebook?
PC: First: Create an interactive, frequently-updated Fan Page (I prefer the term Business Page).
Second: Use Facebook Ads to market the Page or other offers. It's cheap to do, but don't expect a huge return.
Three: Market research. Facebook offers, especially through Ads, Insights (tied to your Facebook Page) and Search a lot of marketing data.
And four… you said four, right? (laughs) Create a killer app, especially one that puts your brand as the centerpiece.
AH: Does every company need a Facebook Fan Page?
PC: Every company with a customer base that uses Facebook needs a presence there. A Facebook Page is the most legitimate and easy to implement option.
AH: What is Facebook Connect? Can you give me an example of how Facebook Connect might work for a business?
PC: Facebook Connect is a way for a business to take its Web site into Facebook via the actions of Facebook members.
For example, a business can deploy Connect on its blog so that when a person leaves a comment to a post, it's reflected in their newsfeed so their friends can see it. If a business has an ecommerce site, when a person makes a purchase, Facebook Connect allows that action to be published to the newsfeed as well.
Connect can be used with pretty much anything that requires some type of interaction on a Web site.
AH: You talk about App-vertisements in your book. What is that? What's an example of an effective App-vertisement?
PC: Some applications can be used to promote your business inside Facebook. One way to do so is by developing branded applications, or "app-vertisements," that connect your company and the people you wish to reach in a more useful, meaningful way.
For example, BuddyMedia, a company that develops branded applications, has launched dozens of campaigns for leading brands. Their data show measurable success in engaging users.
AH: Okay, got it. So clearly Facebook is one of the big three social platforms!
PC: I don't see Facebook as less legitimate for business use than any other social network, LinkedIn and Twitter for example. I realize people don't go to Facebook to interact with brands. That's not to suggest they won't, however.
Fact is people talk about brands and their products and services every day. Doesn't it make sense to be available to engage them on that turf? I think so.
Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg