A large and growing number of some of the most valuable demographic groups are devoting more of their attention to Facebook versus other media channels. With 300 million active users and counting (plus 500,000 new users every day), Facebook is no longer just a virtual community for college students to share photos and news with their friends. Adults and professionals from around the globe have embraced the platform, including 90 million in the U.S.
This has businesses large and small asking themselves: Will Facebook really help my business? Does my company need a Facebook Page?
Why is Facebook Important to Marketers?
Facebook offers a unique marketing opportunity for businesses. More and more people are migrating to social networks, and that’s where they’re choosing to research companies, products, and services. Marketing on Facebook has a viral effect, as it does on most social media sites.
Microsoft’s recent partnership with Facebook to integrate Facebook updates with Bing paves the way for more real-time search results. Google likely will do the same with Facebook in the near future. So having an understanding of Facebook can open up new ways for marketers to reach out to their audiences and brand themselves.
Consider some of the benefits of using Facebook as a business branding tool:
- Customer acquisition: As people become fans of a company’s Facebook page or post comments on it, they get a notice posted on the wall of their own page — where their networks see it. This increases visibility, and the viral aspect often leads to new fans. Facebook pages can also be linked to other social networking sites, increasing a brand’s reach.
- Customer interaction: Facebook provides a forum for dialogue between a brand and its customers. This enables companies to build better relationships and to demonstrate to their customers that they care about what they think.
- Reputation management: Direct contact with customers via comments and feedback helps companies gain a deeper understanding of how their brand is perceived online and offers an avenue for brand enhancement and, if need be, damage control.
- Traffic generation: As traffic increases on a company’s Facebook fan page, traffic to the its Web site increases, too. Facebook Pages also appear in search results.
- Targeted advertising: Facebook ads enable businesses to advertise an event, a Web site, a product – any content, really. Companies can target the reach of their ads by gender, age, interests, and location. With custom filters, Facebook automatically updates the count of people who fit the criteria and gauges the size of the target market on Facebook.
- Increased exposure: An important reason to invest time in creating an engaging page is that all the activity of your fans (from becoming a fan to posting a comment) is shared with a greater network.
- Branding: In addition to a company’s Web site, a good Facebook Page can create brand awareness for new audiences and reinforce it for current customers by sharing valuable information with its fans and emphasizing the company’s position in its industry. Developing and nurturing an active community enhances a brand.
- It’s free: What’s not to like about using a new, viral channel for customer interaction without paying a cent?
Here are some brands that have embraced the Facebook Pages platform and successfully leveraged it to engage their audiences and create a real community for their fans:
Coca-Cola (4 million fans)
Starbucks (5 million fans)
Pizza Hut (1 million fans)
Sears (148,000 fans)
Best Buy (1 million fans)
Walmart (55,000 fans)
Nutella (3.3 million fans)
Pringles (2.8 million fans)
9 Things to Think About As You Create a Facebook Presence For Your Business:
- Start with a strategy: Just like any kind of marketing, having a solid strategy in hand from the beginning is key. What is your message? Who are you targeting? What’s in it for them? How will you reach them?
- Be creative: You need to have a strong creative execution. What is exciting or interesting to your customers/friends/fans? How does your page content add value? Creative execution includes sharing photos and videos, running contests and promotions, having lively conversations with members, and doing things that are just plain interesting that will keep your fans coming back.
- Engage with your fans: Many businesses create a fan page, invite people to join, and then seemingly forget that the page exists. Active fan engagement is the key to an effective Facebook presence. Have a content plan in hand that’s engaging and germane to your target audience. What will you post? When will you post it? How will you inspire your fans to participate? Don’t just create a page – create an engagement plan.
- Communicate consistently and frequently: The most successful and fruitful social media campaigns promote a strong message that is repeated often and is consistent in voice and tone. This increases brand awareness and sales potential by keeping your brand messaging top of mind with your target audience.
- Own your fan page: Some company fan pages are created and managed by an actual fan instead of the company. Fans expect company pages to be run by the company itself, and they want the company to play an active role. Issues around having a fan own a company’s page might not immediately present themselves, but not having control of a brand’s messaging might cause problems down the road – even if the owner is the company’s biggest fan.
- Monitor discussions: It looks pretty bad when a business is inactive and doesn’t respond to its fans. It’s important to monitor your fan page for activity and respond to relevant questions and comments. It’s a good idea to have someone who is dedicated to this effort and empowered to engage on behalf of the company.
- Pay attention to analytics: Facebook fan pages offer analytics and insights, so you can learn how engaging your page is. These great tools will help you understand what is and isn’t effective, aiding you in your efforts to constantly improve and refine your page.
- Don’t focus on the number of followers/friends/fans: Many businesses focus on the number of fans they have. This measure lacks relevance, since it’s not difficult to get followers or fans. These numbers shouldn’t be used as a key metric – what matters is how you engage your followers. A balanced approach measures what’s really important based on your strategy.
- Be transparent and honest: The importance of establishing integrity, honesty, and transparency up front cannot be overstated. Once credibility is lost, it’s very difficult to get it back.
Facebook has quickly morphed from a fad into a highly effective business tool. If you have the time to devote to building and using social media for marketing, Facebook may have potential for your company. It can be a powerful avenue for establishing and enhancing a strong online brand identity.