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by: Simon Dance

Of course the colossal media attention that Facebook has received – and it’s absurd valuations – coupled with the increasing number of member has certainly been a pull for all sorts of businesses to harness the platform, but the question is? How are they? And how are you – and your business – harnessing Facebook pages?

Have you just reactively just thrown up a Facebook profile without really thinking strategically about what you really want to gain from it? And are you aimlessly collecting friends with no real clue as to how to get these members to your website?

The Facebook business pages go in some way to organize the range of business that currently have traditional profiles by offering an easy to manage template where business owners can include their address, logo and contact details – and best of all they’re free and easy to set up.

These pages are, in my opinion, far sleeker than the “teenage” bedroom walls of traditional pages – with the added difference that “Friends” are in fact “Fans” who are available to post reviews, comments, photos and comments about the company.

But benefiting from Facebook pages is not about just throwing a profile up, so before glancing over the ‘how to’ guide, ask yourself, “why do I need a Facebook page?” Is it for increased visibility? And if so, how do you propose to attract and keep these customers? Or is the objective to be more customer-centric by listening to their recommendations and criticisms in order to add value to your business? And if so, do you have the resource to manage this strategy effectively?

Whilst any tentative approach into arenas like Facebook are of course likely to allow one to learn from their mistakes, something has to be said for missing an opportunity to be great, to capture the attention of your customers once and have them be ‘fans’ for eternity.

The following five steps explain how to get started:

1. Visit and click on the “Create a page” button

2. You’ll then be presented with a range of categories including “Local”, “Business / Product” or “Artist, Band, or Public Figure”. Pick the category applicable for your business.

3. On this same page, either the name of your business, product or artist name and click the “Create Page” button.

4. At this stage, you’ll be presented with a template which you’ll need to populate with your business information. A short description, web address, contact details and a company logo is a good place to start, which you can include by clicking on the “Add Information” link at the top of the page.

5. Once you are happy with how your page is looking, click back to the ‘Add Information’ page and click on the “Publish this page” link. (You page will not be accessible by the Facebook community until you do this).

Now, you’ve got your basic Facebook page you’re a third of the way there… and whilst in this article I won’t discuss promoting your profile or recruiting friends I will instead brainstorm a few ideas as to how you can add value to your page by encouraging users or ‘prospective’ fans to interact with you and your business – this is, after all, “Social” media.

Let’s say, for instance, that my client is a local produce company that sells via its central Brighton retail premises in addition to having concessions in a number of farm shops and cafes. Their online sales are increasing steadily, particularly its hampers at Christmas time, however with competition from the major supermarkets they really want to step up they ‘local’ exposure online. They known their produce is far superior than that of their competitors, but they just need an avenue to communicate this to both their existing and prospective customers.

They’ve already ventured into Facebook (as just one tool in their arsenal) but this has had limited success, they now want to know how they can ‘use’ their Facebook page to increase awareness and ultimately drive traffic into the shop and the website. My advice would include:

Add value to your page:
Adding ‘value’ or ‘usefulness’ to your page is essential in order to increase the time spent on your page and ensure your ‘Facebook fans’ return to it. A worst case scenario would be that prospective users, on their first visit to your Facebook profile merely decide to become a fan without ever actually engaging.

Think about consumption.
The Produce Shop could include extensive details of where their retail shop is located, including a map and a link to a section of their website where they’ve highlighted the nearest train and bus station and the best place to park.

They could go further to include their opening times, their telephone number and web address, details of new products that have come into the shop this week, special offers, local events they recommend, short interviews with local producers and farmers, an up to date news feed of what’s happening in Sussex and the regular posting of photos both in the shop, and local farms.

Allow and Encourage Participation:
Whilst we are aware of the large collection of users and vast number of groups within Facebook it more difficult to predict how users will interact with these groups, but it’s safe to say that with any communicative means, interaction and participation is likely to merit the more valuable response.

The Produce Shop could ask users to submit their own images of what “Local” means to them, or perhaps photographs of particular meals they have cooked with local produce including the recipe. This idea could be expanded by staging a “Facebook” competition, to win, say a hamper, whereby users are encouraged to submit photographs and ‘get involved’.

Posting ‘thought’ provoking points for discussion such as “Is Tesco right to compete on price with battery Chickens?” will encourage users to post their feelings within your profile as well as check back for follow up comments.

In this way, the ‘fans’ (of your brand, product or service) become an active community.

Post a ‘Facebook’ event:
There is nothing like a good wine and cheese evening, but how about extending this and having a late night opening of the shop and offering customers a tasting session of a range of local cheeses and wines. The Produce Shop could post a ‘Facebook’ event about this evening, which would then be shared to all of the group’s members, who might in turn ‘accept’ or ‘decline’ their invitation. The beauty of this feature is that their decision will be posted within their ‘mini feed’ (a sort of list of what they have been doing on Facebook – viewable by their friends) which feature promotes the event.

Photographs of the evening (which could be doctored with a ‘Produce Shop’ logo could then be posted on the Product Shops Facebook page allowing users to tag themselves. Again, this is excellent for branding, and using free tool to your advantage.

Start a Facebook group:
Facebook allows members to start and join groups, ranging from all sorts of subjects and the produce shop could start a group, such as “I vow to Keep it Local” or “I love Sussex Produce” which might feature a lengthy description and photos on the excellent range of produce available within the region, where to buy it from and why it’s important to think locally. The Produce Shop might wish to team up with other retailers, cafes and shops who can all promote this Facebook group, which might also venture offline as well as they all campaign for local product, whilst also championing their businesses.

But with any foray into social media you have to be prepared to listen to your customers, who might have both good and bad things to say about your business, your staff and/ or your products.

Don’t just burry you head in the sand or delete any negative comments; instead use this to your advantage.

If a user was complaining –at length- that their Christmas hamper didn’t turn up until the New Year as a result of an administration error then this is an idea opportunity to post a response asking for them to contact you, or perhaps offer your apologies and promise to send them a gift voucher or a complimentary bottle of Sussex wine.

Demonstrate that you care about your customers; you are prepared to listen and make the necessary amendments to ensure complaints are minimized by tackling the root of the problem. If you have failings within your business, then you can guarantee your customers will point them out, but by being seen to listen to your customers, the perception of your brand will be heightened, over competitors who are busy burying their heads in the sand.

In conclusion Facebook pages can:

  • Heighten Brand Awareness
  • Create Brand Evangelists
  • Provide Valuable Customer Feedback
  • Widen the potential pool of prospective customers
  • Increase Sales (offline and online)

It is just about taking that first step, jump into social media and engaging with users…… your efforts WILL be reciprocated.

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