Unless you've been in a coma for the past five years, you're already familiar with Facebook.
Facebook is a social networking site with more than 400 million users, at least half of which log on to the site everyday. Approximately 1/3 of the total U.S. population is on Facebook (we're talking every man, woman, and child) – and that makes it a ready-made marketing resource for small businesses.
Yet for the most part, small business owners (many of whom have personal Facebook accounts) have only scratched the surface of Facebook's potential as a marketing resource. Savvy business leaders recognize the value of social networking as a channel for connecting with their customers and are making sites likes Facebook integral parts of their marketing strategies. Here's what you need to know to start marketing your company and your products on Facebook.
- Pages. For most businesses, Facebook Pages is the starting point for a Facebook presence. Unlike a personal profile, a "Page" is a branding tool that can be used to connect users (fans) to your business. Users can't invite their friends to be fans of your page, but they can share your page with friends and their networks can see your brand's page on each fan's News Feed.
- Groups. Groups are designed to encourage active conversations around a specific topic or brand. Discussions, photos, links, etc. can be shared and group members can invite their friends to participate. The downside of groups is that they require maintenance. Even though a group can be a more lively way to market your products, be prepared to invest time weeding out inappropriate posts from the wall of your group page.
- Places. Places lets users check in and notify their network that they are currently at specific locations, e.g. a store, restaurant, etc. With more and more consumers using mobile devices to connect with Facebook, Places can be a great way to raise your business's visibility among local Facebook users.
- Plug-ins. Plug-ins make it possible for consumers to "Like" your company or products directly from your primary website. There are many different kinds of plug-ins that are worth considering, but the point is to encourage Facebook users to take an action that ties your brand to their Facebook News Feed, even if they aren't connecting with you through Facebook.
- Events. Facebook's "Events" feature lets businesses create a page for brand-related events. You can describe the event, invite friends, maintain event discussions and even solicit RSVPs from attendees.
- Facebook ads. Facebook also offers a paid advertising option. Small businesses can purchase ads on a "per view" or "per click" basis and target the ads toward highly segmented groups of Facebook users. Although businesses report mixed results from Facebook ads, it's cost effective to test a few ads for your business.