The rash of publicity over Facebook’s public stock offering has even more business owners thinking about social media. Indeed, many small businesses are having great success promoting themselves on Facebook. But anyone who’s ever set up and managed a social media account knows that the time drain can be huge.
Busy local business owners don’t have that kind of time to spare, so deciding whether or not Facebook actually makes sense for your particular business is critical. In other words, is spending the time worth your while? In many cases the answer is a resounding yes. But not always, and taking a realistic look at what it takes to maintain a social presence is one of the first steps small business owners should take.
A good lesson comes from Sarah Skerik, a vice president and social media expert at PR Newswire, who recently helped a friend with a niche business decide whether or not Facebook was worth the bother. Skerik helped her friend systematically evaluate the social media marketing opportunity in the context of her business of boarding and training horses for people who actively compete in horse shows.
Sarah believed Facebook would be a great fit for her friend’s business. It has a good regional footprint, local associations running horse shows are active on social networks, and so are riders and trainers. That quickly answered the first critical question any business owner needs to ask: “Are my customers and prospects present on this particular social network?”
If the answer is yes, proceed to the next square. But in addition to being time-strapped, many business owners are not terribly inclined toward social media generally, and Facebook in particular. Most are simply not heavy online networkers, so that’s a factor too.
That’s a disadvantage because in order to get the most out of a social network, you must have a decent, if not proficient understanding of how the network works and how to use it specifically for business purposes.
As you consider these issues, be realistic about your willingness to spend time learning. But also be aware of how spending that time can benefit your business. Those benefits include:
- A way to build awareness among a specific community or group of people who are interested in what you provide.
- Staying ‘top of mind’ with your market through an ongoing stream of messages.
- The ability to rapidly communicate with audiences once you’ve established a good following.
- A way to subtly communicate with potential customers, and spark word-of-mouth recommendations.
Facebook is not a one-way street, notes Skerik, who manages social media for PR Newswire. “It’s not simply a conduit for marketing messages. You can’t just post sales pitches and expect to gather any sort of audience.” Here’s a realistic baseline of what you’ll need to do:
- Commit to posting content – a mix of text, pictures and video – every few days. Daily would be better.
- Keep an eye on your Facebook “wall” to ensure that content posted by others is relevant to your business and not spam, and to watch for comments or questions.
- Respond to any comments. You don’t need to be a slave to Facebook and constantly obsess over comments, says Skerik. But you should check them nightly and respond to anyone who took the time to write on your page. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on it, but you must pay attention.
- Build social media connections with related businesses and experts on Facebook. Connecting with these people builds your network over time and increases visibility for both you and your business.
Too many local businesses get sidetracked on social media by establishing a page that either doesn’t help them or they can’t realistically maintain. Having a Facebook page might do your business a world of good. But only if you are ready and willing to do your part.
[Unlocking Social Media for PR by Sarah Skerik is an excellent ebook and available for free download.]
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.