By Cameron Chapman
As the largest social network in the world, it has more than 500 million active users, half of whom log in on a daily basis. They rack up a total of more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. People share more than 30 billion pieces of content every month, including links, news stories, blog posts, photo albums, and notes.
With numbers like those, ignoring Facebook isn’t really an option anymore for most marketers. The problem is, how are you supposed to use it?
If you’re not an active user, it can be confusing. Sure, catching up with old classmates is easy enough, but how do you turn all of those little messages and profiles into actual results?
Well… it’s simpler than you might think. In this post, I’ll show you the basics of how to use Facebook to your advantage. It’s aimed at the beginner who maybe has a personal profile but has done little else, and it’s restricted primarily to marketing on Facebook, not with all the FB social add-ons recently released.
Let’s get started.
Who’s On Facebook?
Let’s get one common misconception out of the way right off: Facebook is not just for college kids anymore. Sure, it started out that way, as a social network specifically for college students, but Facebook now has millions of members across the demographic spectrum.
The largest segment of Facebook users fall into the 35-54 age range, while the fastest-growing segment is over 55. So regardless of how old your target market is, Facebook can be a great way to reach them.
How Can You Market on Facebook?
Facebook has three tools that can be used by anyone. Each of these options has its own purpose, and can be combined for greater reach.
Facebook pages are similar to profiles, but for businesses, organizations and public figures.
While profiles require a mutual relationship between friends, pages can be liked by anyone, without a requirement for the page creator to accept a fan. They also don’t have the same restriction on the number of friends/fans they can have, unlike profiles (which are limited to 5,000 friends).
Advantages: They’re free and easy to set up.
Disadvantages: Can be hard to get a foothold and build a fan base.
Facebook offers a fantastic targeted advertising platform. You can create ads targeted at specific geographic areas, age groups, and even things like college major. Facebook also lets users like ads or close ads they don’t like, meaning that Facebook is constantly delivering better-targeted ads to their users.
Advantages: Powerful targeting parameters.
Disadvantages: Can get expensive, depending on your goals.
Facebook groups are similar to discussion forums but with additional features similar to what pages and profiles have (like a Wall). You can create groups related to your industry or product offerings as a way to reach out to potential customers.
Advantages: Free and high levels of engagement.
Disadvantages: Can be very time consuming.
How to Market with Pages…
Facebook pages are the simplest, easiest way to get started marketing with Facebook. They’re free, relatively easy to set up (at least in their basic forms), and incredibly flexible. There’s not much of a downside, either.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t use them to their full potential, or worse, use them badly. These guidelines will prevent you from doing either.
Don’t Ignore Your Info Tab
Think of the info tab on your Facebook page as the equivalent to the “About Us” page on your website. It’s where people go if they want to know who you are and what your company does.
Make sure you put good information here, telling people what you’re company does, why you’re different, and other interesting details. If you can, take the time to write it specifically for your Facebook audience. You can also copy the text from your about page of your website or blog, if you’re in a pinch.
Just remember to keep it friendly and informal. A casual tone usually works best on Facebook.
Create Custom Tabs with FBML
FBML is Facebook’s own, special version of HTML.
Create Landing Pages for Different Users
One thing to use those custom tabs for is creating landing pages for different users.
For instance, you might want a special landing page for people who already like your page that showcases special discounts or offers only available to fans. You might want to show a different landing page to people who aren’t yet fans that showcases why they might want to become a fan.
There are a number of companies who have fantastic landing pages on Facebook:
- Vizio sends you to a sweepstakes tab when you land on their page
- Vitamin Water has a special home tab that gives you some information on why you’d want to like their page as well as product info
- Coach has a page that showcases their products and encourages you to invite friends to like their page
- Starbucks has a tab devoted to their rewards card when you land on their page.
These are all great examples of companies doing more than just sending you to their wall or info tab when you land on their page. Use them for inspiration.
Post Useful Info to Your Wall
What you post to your wall will show up in the news feeds of everyone who has liked your page, just as it does when you post something to your personal profile.
So, make sure what you’re posting is useful to your fans. Don’t post endless updates about the same thing, or post too many updates, clogging the news feeds of your fans.
Here are some ideas for the kinds of things you might want to post to your wall:
- Links to articles related to your company or your industry
- Coupon codes for fans to save on your products
- New product announcements
- Links to online tools your fans might find useful
Again, make sure that your posts are useful. Also, don’t post more than a few times each day unless there’s some special event going on.
Ask Your Fans Questions
Getting your fans involved with your page is a great way to inspire loyalty.
Asking questions in your updates gets people involved, but on their own terms. What you ask depends largely on your product and your niche, but asking open-ended questions usually garners the best responses. Asking opinions on a new product idea or project can also be a good way to convince your fans that your company cares about what they want.
Contests can be a really effective way to not only inspire fan loyalty, but also to get new fans.
One of the best examples of a contest run by a local company via their Facebook page was a superhero face-off run by Vermont’s Barre Army Navy, a military surplus store with a robust online business. The contest was a huge hit and got them a lot of attention.
Here’s how it worked:
There were a certain number of entry slots available, and it was on a first-come, first-served basis. Contestants entered by posting their “superhero name” and abilities to the page’s wall. Entrants were then pitted one-on-one against each other in a series of ten minute heats. During each heat, the entrant who got the highest number of “likes” on their status moved on to the next round. The catch here was that only people who are fans of the page can like the updates.
Of course, what this did was inspire entrants to get their friends to like the page and then like the status update for their entry. The contest ran over a few days, with the final heat running twenty minutes. The prize was some camouflage netting, something that normally costs over $100.
A number of factors came together to make this contest a success:
- It was something different. Many companies run simple sweepstakes or contests where the first to answer a question correctly gets a small prize, but this was intense and much more of a game.
- It got people involved. Entrants needed votes, so they recruited their friends.
- It was active. This wasn’t just a contest where you submitted an entry form and waited. You actually had to do something to have any chance of winning.
- It gave away a valuable prize. Nobody’s going to put that much effort into it for a $10 prize.
- It was drawn out. The fact that the contest ran over multiple days offered more opportunities for people to get involved with the contest and recruit others.
- It was fun. This might be the most important point here. The contest was not only fun, but it got downright hilarious at times.
In exchange for roughly $100 worth of product and a few days time, this page gained hundreds of new fans. That means all those new fans are now getting the updates they post every day. Most people won’t bother un-liking a page after they’ve gone to the trouble to like it, unless you do something they perceive as very negative (like clog up their news feed or spam them).
While this exact format wouldn’t work for every company, it’s an excellent example of how trying something different can be a great way to get more fans for your page and your company. Don’t be afraid to try something a little off-the-wall!
Spam is one of the quickest ways to lose fans. If you do nothing but send out promotional blurbs about your company, without ever adding anything of value, then you’re going to have a hard time getting and keeping fans.
Before you send out any update, ask yourself if it is honestly adding value to the conversation. If not, don’t send it.
Study Your Statistics and Results
Facebook offers some really great analytics for pages. Pay attention to them. If you see a big surge in fans (or a drop off), look at what you’ve posted recently and see if you can figure out any trends. Then post more of that kind of content (or less, in the event that you’re losing fans).
Because it gathers so much demographic information about its users, Facebook has one of the best targeted advertising programs online. You can target users based on virtually anything you might find in their profile, as well as track your success with each segment.
Ads can be run on a per-impression or per-click basis. Facebook shows you what bids currently are for ads similar to yours, so you know if your bid is in line with others in your industry. You can also set daily limits so there’s no risk of blowing your budget.
Types of Facebook Ads
There are a number of ad subtypes you can choose from.
You can create ads that direct to your Facebook page, or to a site not on Facebook. You can also create ads to promote a Facebook event, complete with an RSVP link. Ads can be created for FB groups and applications, too.
Users Can Rate Your Ads
Other than the FB event ads, any ad you run on Facebook will include a Like button.
If users click on the “Like” button, it increases the effectiveness of your ad. If your ad is being run for a FB page, then clicking on the “Like” button automatically makes that user a fan of your page, and ads an update to the user’s profile, further promoting your page.
Facebook users can also close ads they don’t like, and then specify why they didn’t like it. It’s valuable information, providing insight into why your ads might not be doing very well.
Powerful Targeting Options
As already mentioned, Facebook has some of the most powerful targeting tools of any online advertising program.
You can target by virtually anything on a user’s profile. You might start with the location, if that’s important. You can specify either city or country, which works particularly well for local businesses. From there, you can choose basic demographics, including relationship status, age, birthday, and likes and interests.
The potential uses are limitless.
Say, for example, that you have a product that’s targeted at baseball fans. You could enter baseball in the Likes & Interests field.
Or maybe you’ve written a book and you’re sure that people who like a certain other book will also like yours. Enter the book’s title under Likes & Interests, and you’ll specifically target those users.
Custom-Tailor Your Ads
The other big advantage to tightly-targeted ads is that you can create different ads for different demographic groups. Better-targeted ads are going to garner better results.
If you’re targeting baseball fans, you might create individual ads for different popular teams. You could have one ad specifically aimed at Red Sox fans, one at Yankees fans, and another at Cubs fans, and then have those ads shown only to people who have indicated their fans of those teams in their Likes & Interests.
Or let’s say you’ve targeted people based on their love of a particular book. You could then mention that book in the ad itself, which is more likely to catch a user’s attention. Create different ads for different books, and then target accordingly.
Facebook Groups are another great way to foster a community around your company and products. While groups are generally much less commercial than pages, there’s still room for some marketing. The advantage to groups is that they can encourage discussion and participation better than pages in many cases.
Don’t create a group based on your company. Instead, create a group based on the industry or niche your company serves.
The backbone of any successful group is an active discussion tab. Again, this is just like a forum, though less organized than most online forums. Discussions can be started by any group member, and any other member can then comment.
Discussions require some moderation and care. You’ll want to have a clear set of content policies prior to starting your group. Make sure you post those policies where all your members can see them. You’ll also want to moderate the discussion boards to make sure you’re not being overrun by spammers.
Best Practices for Group Messages
Groups also allow you to send bulk messages to all of your members. It works almost exactly like email, allowing you to send members messages similar to newsletters. You can also send messages to highlight certain discussions that members may be interested in.
Just be careful about spam. Although group members aren’t giving you their email address, they’ll still be upset if you send them messages too often, or if everything you send them is nothing but advertisements for your products and services.
Creating and managing your own group can be time consuming. The alternative is to join groups related closely to your niche, where your customers are also members.
While this is a great strategy for building awareness, there is one big pitfall: many groups have very strict spam policies. If the admins see you posting commercial content, they’ll ban you from the group at worst, or just delete the offending messages at best. In either case, you’ve wasted your time and lost goodwill.
Be sure to check out what the group’s policies are for posting commercial content, and if they’re not displayed, ask an admin. Some allow certain types of commercial posts on their walls. Others have dedicated discussion threads for commercial content. Still others ban it entirely. It’s good manners to abide by the rules of any group you join, so be sure to adhere to whatever policies they’ve set up.
Facebook isn’t just powerful. It’s flexible. No matter what type of company you run, it has enough different marketing options that you can tailor your marketing efforts to fit your company, your budget, and your time constraints.
Yes, it can take some time to get to know of its features, but it’s worth it. Facebook is still growing at a rapid pace, and every day it becomes a more indispensable part of social media marketing.
It’s also important to strike while the iron is hot. For the moment, companies who are savvy about Facebook marketing still enjoy an early adopter advantage. Once more more traditional marketers start transitioning into the space, competition will go up, advertising prices will increase, and users will become much more picky.
If it’s not a current part of your marketing campaign, it should be. Set aside some time to tinker around, start a few test campaigns, and see what happens. Like anything, it takes practice to get good at it.
My advice: get started now.