Q: I’m new to using Facebook for my business and don’t really know what to post about. Can you give me some basic starter tips? — Debbie
A: The duality of the social and mobile revolutions have been both disruptive and empowering, especially for small businesses.
This disruption of the traditional marketing model has convoluted the structure that used to exist as the “tried and true way” to grow a business.
The “gatekeeper” model that has driven business from the beginning of time is being dismantled by these technologies that allow anyone to connect with anyone else in real time without having to involve them (and usually at no cost other than time).
Gatekeepers such as newspapers, phone books and television and radio stations used to be the primary way to get to a large audience in the past, but the costs to leverage those gatekeepers was usually (and still is) a barrier for small businesses.
Social technology should be viewed first as a communications tool (just like your telephone), then as a way to “market” your business. Learning the proper protocols for using this new “telephone” is your first step (the easiest way to learn is study what others, especially in your industry, are already doing).
Facebook as a communications tool is awfully compelling with its 600 million (and growing) user base, so here are give basic starter tips for anyone that’s ready to dip their toe in the water.
• Separate your personal Facebook page from your business page.
Personal Facebook pages have a “friend” limit, aren’t indexed by search engines and require that you approve everyone that wants to connect (this early misstep is amongst the most common for new business users). The complete FAQ for Facebook’s Business Accounts is located here: http://on.fb.me/e6foOl.
• Don’t just use your logo as your profile picture.
It’s called “social” networking because it is supposed to be social and it’s hard to be social with a logo (unless you are a large brand with a passionate fan base). If possible, make sure you have humans along with your logo as your profile picture to increase your chances of making connections.
• Use targeted “keywords” in your profile description.
Remember, a business page can be indexed by search engines (and many of them are focusing more attention on real-time search) so having the keywords that you are targeting for your public website should also be used in both the profile and any relevant posts, pictures or videos on your page.
• Don’t post inane corporate updates or your standard marketing materials.
We are in the middle of the Information Age, so if all the “information” you are posting on your business page is clearly self-serving marketing messages, your fan base will consist of your employees and friends and family and not much more.
Instead, focus on useful information such as tips and tricks in your trade, business related news from your industry and the mother of all topics, Facebook itself. Since everyone coming to your Facebook page is using Facebook, this one will always be relevant to every visitor.
If you establish that you are a valuable source of information, then sprinkling in new store openings, new products and services, etc. will be relevant because your community will care about your business because of your contributions.
• Engage; ask questions and promote your existing customers
Engagement is the key to any social technology strategy and the easiest way to get engagement started is by asking questions. We’ve used our Facebook page to decide on marketing slogans, vehicle wraps and even to help me name my recently adopted rescue dog.
After my dog got its name, I asked for others to post pictures of their rescue dogs as well, even though we are a technology services company, because we are people too (and animals and kids are no-brainer topics for any “social” network).
The more folks Share, Like or post to your page, the more likely your posts will appear on a regular basis in their News Feed, which allows you to continue the engagement.
The final thing to remember is that none of this is going to happen quickly or without making mistakes, so don’t be impatient, don’t be afraid to make mistakes (Google “common social media mistakes” to avoid them) and remember the primary driver of social is “Give, then Get!”
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services, Data Recovery & Forensics Labs, Franchise Systems — http://www.datadoctors.com. He also hosts the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show http://www.datadoctors.com/radio.