It’s no secret: U.S. consumers continue to spend increasing amounts of time on Facebook. Consequently, marketers — lured by Facebook’s suite of highly targeted marketing products and the site’s smooth ability to spread information across networks of friends — are investing increasing amounts of capital in the platform.
Facebook‘s proposition is especially attractive to small business owners, and not just because it enables them to hone in on potential customers through highly targeted, paid advertisements. Facebook also allows them to grow their business in a way that is familiar to many of them — through word-of-mouth marketing.
“Ask [small business owners] how they get customers, and they’ll tell you that someone walks in, has a great experience, walks out and tells a couple of their friends,” says Emily White, senior director of local at Facebook. “Now, that word-of-mouth marketing model is happening online, and Facebook is enabling to happen that at scale. Now [small business owners] aren’t just reaching a few customers’ friends, but all of their friends, mimicking these long-term behaviors in a way that small businesses can actually control,” she explains.
With these ideas in mind, we’ve compiled this six-step guide for getting started on Facebook.
1. Set Up Your Facebook Page
Setting up a public Page for your small business is as simple as visiting facebook.com/pages/create.php, selecting a category that describes your business and filling out a few basic details, such as the name of your business and, if applicable, its address.
Facebook will then send you to a template of your Page, which you can spruce up with a profile photo, further details such as hours (see Info tab on left-hand sidebar). You can also identify additional Page administrations (see Info > Manage Admins), add more multimedia and events (Info > Apps) and adjust the settings to control how users can contribute to your Page (Info > Manage Permissions).
It’s also a good time to post your first status update welcoming fans to your Page. You can share your updates with everyone, or target by location or language — a great option if you run a business in multiple locations.
2. Invite Your Friends
Go to the Username page, select the Page name from the dropdown menu and then write in the name you’d like to use. Keep in mind that you can’t change the URL for a Page once you confirm.
3. Customize Your Page
There a number of apps to help you customize your page beyond the standard layout, which can be found in the Applications Directory.
4. Convert Your Existing Customers Into Likes
Once you’re feeling confident about the look of your Page, your next step, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow suggests, is to leverage all of your owned media assets — your mailing list, e-mail newsletter and signature, store window, website, business cards, etc. — to grow your fan base. Let them know you’re there, and provide an immediate incentive for them to connect, such as a discount or giveaway.
“This will increase your conversions significantly,” Lazerow says. “Since your Page is a ghost town at this point, you need to give people an incentive to connect at the onset. The best way to do that is to give them a ‘thank you.’”
As you build up your fan base, you’ll want to provide a stream of interesting content that will entertain and engage your fans.
Anna Strahs, the owner of a gluten-free bakery in Richmond, VA, attributes half of her business to Facebook. She says she keeps fans coming back for more by posting pictures of the items she’s baked that day.
“When we post pictures of specific items, we immediately get orders for those items,” she says — and it’s no wonder, because they look delicious. Strahs says she will also post little quizzes in exchange for free baked goods, which winners can pick up at one of two farmers market locations two days each week.
Her advice? Post often and make the posts count. She emphasizes that beautiful images with contextual captions go a long way. “The whole point is to get people to comment and interact with your Page so it shows up in others’ newsfeeds,” she explains.
It’s also important to keep content fresh, update in an authentic voice and to evolve your Facebook strategy over time.
Remember to keep track of analytics on your Insights page to see what kinds of posts performance best in terms of engagement. And seek feedback directly from your fans. Are you posting too little or too often? What kinds of things would they like to see?
Once you’ve converted most of your existing customer base into Facebook fans, you’ll want to start reaching others through targeted Facebook ads, which is still the most effective method for increasing your number of “likes,” says Maureen Mullen, chief researcher at luxury think tank L2.
You can target users in your immediate area by gender, age, alma mater, employer, and even those who “like” your competition. You could also target users on their birthdays, offering them a free ice cream cone, for instance, if they stop by your store that day. You can also target existing fans with coupons and other incentives to encourage them to stop by your retail location or place an order.
Facebook also has a Sponsored Stories product that enables you to reach the friends of your current fans. In your advertisement, a user will see that one of their friends has endorsed your company, essentially enabling a fan to market on your behalf.