Alison Zarrella is a social media consultant and author of The Facebook Marketing Book from O’Reilly, which she co-wrote with her husband, Dan Zarrella (aka, Mr. Retweet). She can be found on Twitter @Alison and on her blog where she talks about social media marketing, online shopping and of course, Facebook.
From a big name celebrity to a small local restaurant, there’s a market for a Facebook Page and huge potential to connect with fans in a new way. Facebook today is what websites were 10 years ago—it may be a relatively “new” thing, but your customers expect you to be there, and your competitors know this. In short, you can’t afford not to use Facebook for marketing.
Many people set up a Facebook Page and get discouraged by all the things they can’t do or don’t understand. But that doesn’t need to be the case. I asked her for a list of the fundamentals of Facebook marketing, and these are her top seven tips:
1. Use a Facebook Page. There are a few times when you may choose a Group over a Page, but for most marketing activities, Pages are the way to go. Groups don’t provide as many resources for Admins. Pages are the Facebook-preferred method for brand-to-consumer conversation and there are no restrictions on the number of Page members. They are also completely open, allowing anyone to find and join them. This also makes them a valuable tool for Search Engine Optimization. Groups are intended for fleeting, timely organization around very specific topics. You may want to use Groups to create subsets of your Page, but focus on Page basics first.
2. Create a content calendar. You need a content strategy. Without a clear idea of what to talk about and when, the endless possibilities for status updates are incredibly daunting. I like to set patterns and theme content so I know that contests are always on Wednesday and tips are on Tuesday. That immediately helps me focus. Aim to post at least once a day, and write content in advance so you don’t get sidetracked by other daily tasks. Focus on engagement (comments and “likes” on posts) to increase Page interactions, which boost your presence in the Newsfeed and help drive more “likes” overall.
3. Customize your page. You don’t need to hire a designer or build an application from scratch (although you certainly can). A little extra effort can go a long way to helping you stand apart from your competitors. Take advantage of the Page customization opportunities available to you for free, like a longer Page Icon and FBML tabs. Don’t worry about competing with the big name—and big budget—brands. Maximize your Page real estate with a Page Icon that’s 200 by 600 pixels. Create a custom FBML tab with an image and some keyword-rich text about your company and an incentive to connect or purchase. And add media wherever possible, especially in status updates. This gives people more to look at and helps them stick around longer.
4. Utilize Facebook’s own applications. There are tons of free and paid apps from independent developers that can help you customize your Page, but the easiest and most essential are the native apps developed by Facebook. Photos, Videos and Notes are applications that come standard with a Facebook Page and allow you to easily include media and format your content. Upload photos and videos to vary the type and display of content and call attention to your Page in the Newsfeed. Use Notes for longer articles, to call attention to special features, or to pull in an RSS feed.
5. Add a clickable link to the Info box. Many people miss one of the quickest and easiest ways to optimize a Page. Below your Page Icon is a small, editable, 250-character box. This Info Box is one of the topmost parts of the Page CSS, making it a goldmine for keywords. It’s also one of the first things Page visitors see, so it’s a great place to give a quick overview of your company. The part that most brands don’t realize? You can include a clickable link there as well. Drive people to your site or specific tab on your Page for maximum conversion. Just include the http:// part of the URL!
6. Forget Facebook advertising. Don’t get tricked into “promoting your Page.” At least, not just yet. Facebook has tons of data on users, allowing for more sophisticated targeting capabilities than most advertising platforms. But you don’t want to start paying to drive traffic to your Page as soon as you push it live. Take time to build up a core fan base and populate the Page with engaging and informative content. Otherwise, you’re sending traffic to an empty Page with little incentive for them to stick around.
7. Make sure to manage. It’s not enough just to show up on Facebook; you’ve got to interact. And it’s not all about broadcasting, either. Lovers (and haters) of your brand will inevitably post on your Wall, saying how much the enjoy your product… or hate your service. Thank your enthusiastic fans—it’s the best way to turn them into evangelists and make their positive experience even better. And respond to criticism or questions honestly and openly where possible, or take it offline if there are privacy concerns. Have a policy in place for responding on Facebook and off, and stick to it. Automated systems can help monitor, but you need to manage actual follow-up.
If you’d like to learn more about Facebook marketing, be sure to read The Facebook Marketing Book by Alison and Dan.