Introduction to Facebook pages for business
Facebook is the king of social networks and as such, almost doesn't need an introduction. It is likely that you are already familiar with Facebook and probably have your own profile. With over a billion users, it's the biggest social network with a user base that is still growing.
As with other social media platforms, Facebook allows businesses to build a community with the potential of turning a proportion of those community members into customers. By clearly showcasing a combination of the attractiveness of your goods and services, your customer service and your brands personality and/or USPs, you can use Facebook to attract new customers to you and foster brand loyalty in your existing customers. Just like on your website, your aim is to make people stick around long enough that you get the opportunity to persuade them to buy in to your brand and become a customer.
Don't make the mistake of using Facebook like a one-way sales channel. Bombard your Facebook fans with offer after offer, and you'll find this is the quickest way to lose potential customers (unless you have a deal based business model such as Groupon or Wowcher). As a rule, no one wants constant hard sell filling up their timeline. The key to successful use of Facebook for businesses lies in your ability to engage followers, listen to them and to balance the content you are publishing.
What's the point of Facebook?
Facebook provides businesses with the ability to create and grow an engaged community of customers and potential sales leads.
Building communities and individual relationships
Facebook provides an excellent means by which a company can not only demonstrate their expertise in any given area, but they can actively create a brand personality, in keeping with brand values and marketing strategy and promote their unique selling points.
Facebook is all about engagement and adding value. As a result of reaching out to your customers, you'll obtain highly valuable insights that will shape your communications (extending to other social networks and even transferable to your traditional marketing channels), making them even more effective.
Successful use of Facebook relies upon effective engagement and in your ability publish fresh and interesting content.
Building a community doesn't come easily and it certainly won't happen overnight. You will need to commit to and invest in a long-term strategy that will underpin all of your social media activities. If you are after a quick win or instant results, then social media is not going to provide that, unless you are using paid advertising.
Whilst this introduction to Facebook deals primarily with the free page all businesses can set up, you do have the option of enhancing your presence further by taking advantage of promoted posts and Facebook ads. Similarly enhancing your page with free or paid-for Facebook apps, can help to improve the quality of your content and help you to attract more visitors.
Facebook pitfalls to avoid
Ignore your Facebook Wall at your own peril
Checking your social media pages every now and again just isn't enough, and for any page with more than a few hundred Likes or followers, it is critical that you are regularly monitoring interactions.
Consider this scenario. An irate customer posts on your Facebook wall complaining about a customer service issue. Respond to such a post quickly, providing an apology, reason and resolution and you can effectively turn the situation into a positive PR opportunity. Consider that same irate post on your Facebook wall left un-answered for several days. This makes it look like you don't care about customer service and also shows that you don't pay attention to your Facebook wall, sending a very negative message to anyone visiting your page and it certainly won't help you convert new customers.
Once set up, the single most important thing to remember is to monitor your Facebook wall. Whilst daily monitoring is acceptable, for active Facebook communities, then you are going to want to check your wall for any mentions, pre-sales questions or customer service issues several times a day.
Fake likes are largely worthless to you
You are likely to come across companies offering to sell you 'Likes' and for a new page, this can certainly be tempting. Consider this though - why do you want to buy likes? What benefit do you get from appearing to have more likes? The real value of Facebook comes in the form of genuine fans, which should largely be made up of existing and potential customers - these fans are receptive sales leads and so have an intrinsic value, making it worthwhile to invest your time into engaging them.
Buy likes and your new fans will have no real interest in your brand and as such can't be categorised as potential sales leads, in which case they are of little or no value to you.
Failing to engage sends out negative signals
To make Facebook work you need to give people a reason to come to your Facebook page; when they are on your page, your goal is to ensure that they see something they are interested in, resulting in a desirable action, such as clicking through to your website. If you rarely update your wall you aren't giving people a reason to come back. If however your content is interesting and fresh, then people will like your page and will keep coming back.
Facebook and all social media, is about crafting two-way conversations. Engaging fans isn't about constantly pushing out content; it's about publishing content and then pausing to listen to your fans responses. This way you will learn what they like and will be more able to understand how to reach your target audience. When a fan is actively engaging via activities on your wall, they are highly receptive. Give them what they want and engaged fans can turn into customers.
Controversy can increase the viral potential of content but is unlikely to win you customers
Some believe that posting controversial content will help that content spread and go viral. Whilst this can be an effective strategy for achieving viral spread, it isn't recommended. Controversy often stirs up strong emotions which can have very negative implications.
Stay away from being too controversial, you don't want to polarise or alienate people; you might have strong political or personally held views, your business's Facebook wall however is not the right place for you to express them.
Beware of the Facebook Troll
Lurking online is a special breed of person, known as a Troll. Simply put, a Troll is someone who is purposely antagonistic, argumentative and/or offensive. They will often respond to posts just to create an argument or cause a reaction and will frequently use abusive or offensive language.
Depending on your point of view, you might see them as a harmless nuisance or you might see them as anarchistic trouble makers. Once identified as a Troll, my own stance is to block the offender from posting. Blocking or banning should not be taken lightly though - if someone has a real customer service issue or complaint to air, it is always advisable to deal with it rather than simply removing the post and banning the user.
Don't be tempted to deal with the potential threat of the Troll by locking your profile down and stopping people from posting on your wall altogether though. If you do that, you will no longer see any of the true benefit that social media provides, as you will no longer be inviting two-way conversation, turning Facebook into just another one-way marketing channel.
Part two of this introduction to Facebook will be published later this week and will provide you with some facts and tips that will help you get the most out of your Facebook activities, as well as some suggestions for engagement activities that you can take away and implement.