Monday, 12 July 2010

Facebook for Small Business Owners

I met up with some enterprising women from Staffordshire and Derbyshire at the local WiRE meeting last week. The highlight of the evening was obviously the delicious local Staffordshire food provided by Emily and Maggie of Simply Staffordshire in the relaxing environment of Dove Farm. The main notice of the evening was the launch of the WiRE Doves Networking pages on Facebook. To accompany the launch I was tasked with presenting on the subject of using Facebook for business. This post is a follow up for those that want to get started or work a bit harder at using Facebook.

A show of hands revealed that most of the women in the room were small business entrepreneurs who were either sceptical about Facebook or inactive users. With a couple of advanced users in the room we were well set up for some lively discussion.

1. Mindset for Facebook

Adopting Facebook does require a different mindset to having a web site and using email. To some, it is uncomfortable when their interface with the online world becomes potentially more personal, more visible, possibly less controllable. Maybe I was too harsh and modern when I suggested that it was time to 'get over ourselves'. But I said this with true passion to the women in the room simply because I really want them to take action asap to help their businesses. Right now there is still opportunity to get in on the act while this space is less crowded. If they wait until the culture is fully adopted and they are inured to this whole way of doing business then it may become harder to gain a foothold. And mistakes will be more obvious to the world. I was an early adopter and made some mistakes along the way - we all did at the start- but Social Media Marketing is becoming more established and part of this means that ways of conducting yourself are becoming established. Why do humans so love to create rules of conduct, I wonder?

2. Manage your Personal Brand on Facebook

I am always banging on about how your business has a brand, an identity, a personality, that it is not necessarily the same as that of the owner or founder. You and your business are different (I have a fun exercise on this for another time). But on Facebook you are required to join as an individual first. You have to sign up as a consumer and are encouraged to provide some information and a picture just to get going. Nb Leter when you set up a business page your identity and your business identity become seperate again.

  • Think really hard about the information you provide. Choose the Interests you list. This is info about you as a consumer and will drive the adverts and information that is placed on your page. E.g if you list Travel and the Far East as interests you will receive special offers and adverts from holiday companies operating there, that may be useful. By being female and over 40 you will be bombarded by dieting and debt ads. Obscure and quirky things may seem fun just to position you versus other people, but it all forms part of your online personal brand so please sanity check what you offer – and set your privacy for who can see this information.
  • Get comfortable with the Privacy Settings and activate them. They are much easier now than before. You need to be in control of this!
  • For more Privacy sophistication, put your contacts into Lists and control the privacy levels associated with these lists accordingly. Start as your mean to carry on with this. (Parents take note – your children, when they get savvy, might put you on a List and you will be in blissful ignorance of their real online outpourings).
  • The Wall is something to manage and understand. You can write on your own to distribute your status (aka a thought/deed/update) to all your Friends; you can jot something on your Friends' walls; you can also write something on the wall of a Business or Organisation e.g WiRE Doves Network or Alton Towers. Just remember that whatever you write stays with you publicly on your wall.
  • If you 'Like' something you see then click to say so. The fact that you have done so is shared to all your Friends. In organisational terms this is a great viral way to raise awareness of brands and issues. It also work conversely if you complain by writing a negative Comment – so use this tool to hold businesses and organisations to account. Organisations also have online reputations to maintain.
  • Quick word on Marketplace – it is a place to flog or give-away stuff, visible to your friends – and Groups – indicators of the collective state of mind and vehicles for the collective voice. Groups are mainly for lobbying and spreading trends. If you feel strongly about something there will be a Group for it or you could start your own.

3. Manage your Business Brand on Facebook

Really, really easy to set up a business page (once you have a personal account). And a lot less personal as there is no need for your mug shot or your name to be on the page (although you will be the first fan to join your page so at that point the connection remains obvious).

  • Think about the name you use for the page and picture/logo you add. As an example, the holiday cottage has benefited from being called 'Barks Holiday Cottage near Alton Towers' because it positions it clearly. On Facebook adverts this vital geographical fact has been in the headline. When people search Alton Towers on Facebook, up pops the cottage in their search list. FYI
  • Choose and add other pages: Add Notes, Info, Boxes, Photos, Video, Events and any other Apps (.e.g Twitter feed) that suit your business. Try and get it all sorted out before you get people to join/follow your page because changes are notified to your followers.
    Contact details – A good spot is in the little biog bit on the top left of your page and in the Notes section.
  • Set which page you want to act as the opening page – it is not necessary to have the Wall as the main page and wouldn't be suitable for some businesses.
    There is a place to show 'Favourite pages' of your business so add wisely to suit your business brand and ethos and to support your associates' businesses (e.g. other WiRE Dove networkers' businesses.)
  • Import your blog to your Notes page using the RSS feed from your blog. Choose carefully whether you want your blog posts to be published onto the wall (and thus automatically sent to your followers) as this may be overwhelming or may be perfect, depending on your business. The blog can be a good opening page.
  • Post status updates. How often? You know you get it right when interesting snippets please your followers and they post comments or click the Like. Gratifying sure, but more importantly they are spreading the word to all their friends. You know you get it wrong when your followers decide to hide your feed, or worse still leave altogether by unfollowing your business. A negative comment would be better than have them unfollow!

4. Facebook Business Targets

First Target = 100 Fans / followers: then you can set the page name for your business from a whole load of numbers and squiggles to a meaningful name that you can publish on your business cards. I will deal with how to find and keep followers another time.

Ongoing target and primary goal: Engage with your followers and fans

Right now this is relatively easy. Users of Facebook have not yet become so discerning about what they follow and like and join. There is still a level of innocence to it all, especially with the older users who are signing up in the droves right now. It doesn't take long before you want to start weeding out the 'noise' by paring down what you follow.

Management Target: to maintain the post quality and the number of likes and interactions so that you can measure and maximise the level of engagement you are achieving with your followers. Because Engagement is what it all about.

As a business using Facebook think really hard about what you post and how frequently. Your goal is to elicit Likes and Comments from your followers and getting testimonials and fan photos from them.

BTW – if you are a friend of the business owner, remember it is not helping them promote their brand and business if you write personal, non business-related comments on their wall. It could actually be damaging.

Engaging with customers and prospects so openly can have its downsides too. If you do get a negative comment then deal with it to your advantage - clarify, apologise, offer recompense, rectify as appropriate. (If all else fails there is always the Remove comment button.)

Long term target: If you can manage to get 10,000 fans you can get some serious analytical insights into each post and who read it etc. We'll come back to that another time perhaps when everyone is a bit nearer this target.

In the mean time, I wish everyone in the room every success with their online marketing.

5. And Finally

A quick plug for us - Henmore has services and packages that cover set up and management of most online marketing methods in case you, or anyone you know, is short of time or patience for handling all this Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc stuff. Drop me a line for further details or call to discuss.

This post has now gone on far too long, as did my talk. I admired the forebearance of those not interested in the subject of Facebook politely waiting to be allowed to sample the delicious desserts on offer; thanks for your patience. My effort of preparing and giving the talk was rewarded by those that set about creating or improving their Facebook pages the very next day. Thank you for your enthusiasm. I was amused by the Twitter activity between @HenmoreLtd and @SimplyStaffs next day. LOL!

If I can help you further please do get in touch.

If you would like further details of the WiRE Doves Network please visit the new Facebook page.

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