As long as you can self-regulate and stay on strategy with messaging, Facebook is a great way to build relationships with key audiences. To help you get started, here’s a whistlestop tour to some of the ways it can work for your business, whatever the size or industry you’re in. This takes a predominately PR view, so be aware there are other services available such as advertising and Facebook Connect, which allows users to log into and share updates via third party mediums with their Facebook identity. Home to about 400 million people who use it to connect with friends and contacts, Facebook offers a unique opportunity to engage with your target demographic in a non-traditional marketing way. This means disposing of the old advertising tools and instead using new routes to expose your messages to key audiences - who will become brand ambassadors and spread the word for you, if you get the approach right.
As a business, three easy ways to exploit Facebook are by creating groups, pages and events. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses but there is no reason why they have to be mutually exclusive, as you’ll see.
Groups are great for starting marketing discussions and therefore generating interest in your brand. Perfect for posting messages, videos and photos, the aim is to generate a response and two-way communication from your members, so if you don’t want positive or negative feedback, this option is probably not for you. Looking for a good example is always the best place to start and the Marmite group is fabulously tongue in cheek, asking members to comment on whether they love or hate the taste – reinforcing the marketing campaign rolled out elsewhere.
Once joined, a group name is posted on a user’s profile page, which helps spread the word and people can also invite friends to join the group they’re in – a fast way to grow membership and generate buzz. A little known fact is that you can create open, closed and secret groups, all of which allow differing amount of access. Ultimately groups work best when you want to get as many people as possible to know you virally but as always, the choice depends on what your objective is.
Pages are preferable for brands that don’t necessarily want open discourse with their audiences and wish to benefit from tailored applications – for example music pages have video players built in.
Instead of members, pages have fans and logos (rather than group names) are shown on people’s profiles. Many Facebook users become fans of the same pages that their friends like, clicking through after browsing their profiles so this is important for increasing followers, just as providing the right targeted content is. Pages work best when you have a lot of information to disseminate to large numbers of people – which makes this option highly appealing to politicians, health organizations, celebrities, large brands and the like. A downside is that users can’t invite friends to join a page but instead have to share a link, which is slightly more difficult.
Last but not least, event pages are the most obvious way to publicise any event a business might want its clients or target demographic to be aware of – from launches, anniversaries to discount days. Invites are quick to draft via a template that can be personalized and are sent to your existing Facebook friends, who (if you so wish) can be empowered to invite their own friends along to widen the reach. As there is an RSVP function, it means the organizer has a clear view of how well attended the event is likely to be.
There are lots of beneficial ways to use Facebook, but as with anything it takes time to choose the right approach. Remember that content is king and whatever you post will only go viral if it is interesting to those it is aimed at. Most of all don’t do anything that distracts from the user’s social experience or you’ll alienate people straight away. If you need more help, books like Steven Holzner’s Facebook Marketing can provide a step-by-step guide to getting started.