Promoting your brand with Facebook, Part 1: Do you need to?
Facebook has been around since 2003, but what started simply as a MySpace alternative solely for students has become the epicenter of the online lives of millions of people. Like any online system, companies want to utilize the gathering of people to market and promote their brands. Thankfully Facebook has built a rather robust means for brands to set themselves up, gather followers, and drive their message home.
Unfortunately, while some large players can afford to hire highly-paid "experts" to utilize the site, most businesses are flying blind on how to really use Facebook. This article is the start of a three-part guide on how you might be able to effectively use Facebook to promote your brand and/or business. I do not claim to be the ultimate expert, but I'm sharing proven practices that anyone can try.
I know most clients I encounter now talk all about "social media", but fail to realize how much of an investment of time and energy it takes to really build a solid brand on a social media site. Especially when it comes to small businesses, the job has to be taken on by the client themselves. That means they're posting material and communicating with their client base, simply because they cannot afford to pay someone to do it all day for them.
Do you need to make Facebook a priority?
This is the very first question you should really ask. Any "expert" will proclaim "YES!" at the top of their lungs, but I also question how much those "experts" are really driving home ideal solutions versus wanting to get more money out of a client.
Believe it or not, Facebook isn't the ideal social media solution for every business out there. I will not say one should not bother with Facebook, but I will say depending on your business, you might end up wanting to prioritize your Twitter presence or utilize Yelp and Foursquare over Facebook. Right now I have a Facebook Page set up for myself as a professional entity. This page can be publicly viewed while my profile cannot. I use this page as my professional presence on Facebook.
At this point I have only six fans, so any social media guru would think I don't know what I'm talking about, but the experience more or less showed me the difference between how users look at Facebook over how they look at Twitter. In terms of social media, my site here is similar to the many tech blogs and designers all over the internet. What I notice is I and many of my kind tend to follow each other on Twitter more than Facebook because we like the no-nonsense list of links to check out. With Facebook I tend to use it more for entertainment. Funny videos, chat with friends, see some regular news postings around the globe, etc.
Now I can and do post things on my page the way I would on Twitter, but I notice I gain followers easily on Twitter while I'm not gaining much ground on Facebook. This tells me mainly that people on Facebook, even the same ones who follow me on Twitter, simply do not want to find tech news and such on Facebook. It's the same ideology as to why people aren't posting mindless status messages on LinkedIn. Each site has their niche and thus you as a business owner should recognize what works and what doesn't.
So what businesses do I think should not make Facebook a priority? When I talk about not making Facebook a priority, I'd mainly say you should set up a fan page, post on it what you would on networks like Twitter, but not worry to death if you have thousands of fans or not. I'd honestly tell large-scale non-consumer companies to not make Facebook a priority unless they need it as a public-relations engine. I don't fathom many average people would care about a large financial firm or a factory that makes machine parts. It doesn't mean all non-consumer industries are out, but you simply have to first ask if your client base is on Facebook and would they use it for business purposes.
For this exercise, I'm going to refer to three hypothetical businesses that could benefit from Facebook. You'll see me mention them as examples in all three parts:
- A small finance/investment firm
- An online clothing boutique catering to young women
- A local café and restaurant
I came up with these three hypothetical businesses simply to try to show diversity in how businesses can utilize Facebook. One is a more "non-consumer" business that most might not generally get into, plus they might be dealing with some social hatred due to the recent disdain society has lashed on the banking and financial industry. The second one can represent most online retailers in general, while the third one more represents the actual brick-and-mortar place that isn't selling something online.
Use a page for your brand, not your profile
The biggest mistake any business can make is to use a personal profile as their "Facebook entity". Some will name their profile after their business while others more or less have the President or owner logging in as himself and posting. Some find that it's easier to simply friend request the 5000-person limit and go from there, but you have to ask yourself how effective that will be.
The investment firm would gain nothing out of this practice, plus if the user of that profile intermixes business and pleasure, then it will put the wrong face forward to potential clients. I mean, who would want to take an investor seriously who one day had baby photos posted by his mom and the next day found himself tagged on a photo with two strippers?
The online boutique and the café are the same story. Using a Facebook page over a profile is not only about separating your personal life from your professional life, but also about showing how strong your brand really is. When someone presses "Like" on your brand, then it means they want to hear your message. In the end, you want to be able to go beyond 5000 fans, and have them all be a captivated audience, not people hiding your posts.
The other big tip is to make sure you BRAND YOUR PAGE. That means your profile image is of your logo or has it in there somewhere. You also pick a category and fill out the information areas as best as you can. In the case of the café there should also be photos of the venue and the outside in the photo section and the address to get there clearly shown.
Do you have a Facebook page for your business? Do you use a profile instead? Let me know why you made the decision you did.