Can Facebook help Grow your Business?

When I first started using facebook, it was mostly used by younger people wanting to keep in touch with friends (although statistics show still that 55% of users are under the age of 35). As time passed, I began to notice more and more business orientated groups appearing. Now, if you are in business, you will find loads of groups related to what you do and you can even start your own group or fan page. It has been shown and proven that if used effectively and with the right focus in mind, Facebook can be good for business!
I’d like to talk about what to consider when promoting your business, how to promote your business and general etiquette when doing so.

What to consider:
Your Profile! this is a well-discussed area… What do you have on your profile, how much of it would you want potential clients to see and how do you keep friends and family pictures seperated from networking prospects?… A general rule of thumb is that you keep your profile ‘clean’, which means that before you post anything on to it, think ‘would I mind or be ashamed or be embarrassed if a potential business client saw this?’, if the answer is ‘no’, then fine go ahead, but if it’s ‘yes’ then reconsider! I have seen some dreadful profile pictures of half-naked people and they’re promoting their business (and it wasn’t to do with what their picture suggested :))
My personal opinion and the advice that I give to clients looking to launch their business on facebook is this: ask yourself the ‘happy for clients to see this’ question about everything you post; have a personlised or business photo on your profile – but make sure it’s not too personal; start a seperate profile for your business using your business name or logo; or keep facebook strictly for business or personal.
According to some forum sites, there are now new security features in place where you can limit who vies what on your profile. Worth checking out if you want to use your profile for both business and personal.

How to promote your business:
There are various ways to promote your business on facebook, these are some of them:

Facebook Pages — Facebook “Pages” (that’s with a capital “P”) were created to give businesses their own profile on Facebook. Pages give your business or brand an identity on Facebook. With a Page, those interested and following your brand can become “fans”, and when they do so, all their friends will see this. You can store photos, videos, information about your company, and custom applications on your Page. All activity on Pages gets posted back to your Mini Feed for all your friends to see.

Groups — Groups on Facebook are similar to Pages, but are meant to be built around a group of people rather than an individual business or brand. Groups have no “become a fan” feature, and do not share as much information with users’ friends as users interact. You can use the groups to grow your database, join other groups in a similar industry which then allows you to network with a targeted market and you can ask the creator of other groups to message their members and do the same for them. you can also post photos, links and other information, as well as being able to message your whole group at one time. Find The Small Business Angel group on facebook too.

Applications — Facebook has a very powerful API that you can have developers write software for to help promote your business on Facebook. Applications give you full power to say or promote anything you want about your business, and use the social tie-ins provided by Facebook to do this. For instance, Visa created the “Visa Business Network” application, which takes information about users and allows them to better network with other small business owners. They even integrated with Facebook advertising by offering those that install the app a credit towards advertising on Facebook.

Advertising — Facebook has a powerful advertising engine that enables businesses to specify a specific demographic target, see how many people that demographic will hit, and advertise to that demographic.
The advertising with facebook works on a pay per click basis and is very easy to set up, allowing you to target very specifically who your market is by age, gender, location etc and it also tells you then how many people will see your ad. Facebook has also provided even more customized options for other areas of the site which businesses with a larger budget can advertise through. You can access the advertising features through the Advertisers link at the bottom of Facebook.

Polls — Facebook Polls are great for marketers looking to get a quick answer about a particular feature they’d like to implement, or just to find out information and opinions from a specific demographic.

Facebook Connect — Facebook Connect enables your website to easily integrate with Facebook. Now you can integrate Facebook into your login process, retrieve users’ friend information, and even post data back to users’ Mini Feed so all their friends can see their activity.

Etiquette when using facebook to promote your business:
So now that you know how to promote your business in the form of groups, pages or whatever else you decide, it’s important to remember that there are also people on facebook trying to promote their business. It should always be about ‘how can you help each other’? I network with many people on facebook and if their business or group is relevant to what groups I run, then I offer to promote them to my group in exchange for the same favour. At a time when big companies are struggling, it’s imperative that smaller companies and businesses help each other to stay afloat and build their database.
Think about this for a minute… who’s group do you belong to that you can either promote to your group (if you have one) or invite your friends to join? Remember that on facebook it’s about you and your extended network, so when you join a group, invite your friends to also join if applicabe for their interests.
It’s the ‘bacteria theorem’ – you invite 6, those people each invite 6 and all of a sudden you have … loads more people (where’s my calculator? :)) joining your group.
Another point to consider is that when you are running a group on facebook, dont spam your members by sending to many messages at once. Your communication with them should be frequent, about once a week is a good amount, and concise. Remember that the people you have on your group are likely to belong to many other groups and if all of those groups message them more than once a week, they’d have loads of email to get through in their inbox and would be likely to either delete them or leave the group. So keep it short sharp and sweet or post it on the wall of your group and invite members to view the message there.

So, yes, facebook can work for business promotion, but it really relates to how much action you take and how you treat others who take action to join your group.

I’d love to hear about your trials and tribulations on facebook for business, so please feel free to leave a comment (and you’re welcome to also include your website address).

A great blog on applications to use for business on facebook.

If you are a company owner with more than one employee, here is an interesting article from the BBC on using or banning facebook in the workplace: Bosses Should Embrace Facebook.

On Friday: using Ning to create your own social network

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3 Comments

Filed under Marketing, Social Networking for Business

3 responses to “Can Facebook help Grow your Business?

  1. I just wanted to thank you for this article. There is so much of a valuable information here; I had no idea that there are so many options on facebook to promote your business. I took your advice and created a page and group for my business.

  2. Very interesting article ! I’m in charge of Internet strategies for a company that publishes content aimed at managers. I’ve been studying facebook and other social networks, to see what’s good and what’s bad, what’s really attractive and what’s really dangerous. For example, facebook has so much data on its users, it’s a marketer’s dream come true: you can target your audience with laser-like precision. On the other hand, having a page here and there, to increase your company’s presence on the web can be quite tricky if not well-maintained. A blog or an interactive ad campaign may seem like a great and hip idea, but if can backfire too. A blog where the last post is dated from 3 months ago is not only boring, it’s plain wrong ! facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, so many networks, so many possibilities ! At times it seems scary and it’s hard to see what’s good from a business point of view. How can you add value, how can you use these tools and turn them into opportunities ? A lot of questions, but no easy answers, I hope to hear from what others have to say.

  3. I agree, this is a very informative article, but, I think you need some editing and spellchecking 🙂

    Thanks

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