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A 10-Step Facebook Cheat Sheet for Biz Owners

Despite its massive reach and wide adoption, Facebook remains baffling to many business owners. Facebook itself has never really understood small business, and hasn’t done a great job explaining how biz owners can use it to grow sales.

To Facebook’s credit, that’s starting to change as they provide more and better tools top help small firms, local businesses, professionals, start-ups and others leverage a platform that now claims over 1 billion users.  If you have a Facebook business page, you’ll be hearing more from Facebook as it roll’s out a variety of new ways for small companies to use paid advertising.

So far, however, the vast majority of local businesses are sticking with what they can get from Facebook for free – which is actually quite a lot.  Only about seven percent of small businesses surveyed recently by Merchant Circle are using paid promotional services on Facebook. That compares to 70 percent who are now using Facebook’s free features to promote their business.

The good news is that Facebook has upgraded the free tools and information it offers to help you succeed. The Facebook for Business section (www.Facebook.com/business) has helpful how-to tips and guidance on everything from building your page to best practices for engaging users. You’ll also find interesting stories on how other small businesses are using Facebook successfully, and a list of helpful resources.

Success always starts with building an engaging Business Page – the free foundation of your effort to grow with Facebook.  Here’s a quick 10-step cheat sheet on what to do:

1. Your Category

Choose a category and give your page a name that represents your business.

2. Your Photo

Pick a photo or logo to use as your “profile picture.” This is the smaller image associated with your page. In some cases, this might be your photo, a square version of your logo (beware: non-square logos can end up being chopped off), or some other graphic representation of your business.

3. Your Tag Line

Create a “tag line” or short sentence that captures briefly what your business is about – specifically what you do or sell, and the value you offer.

4. Your URL

Create a custom Facebook web address for your business that’s memorable and shareable.  The part you pick is what comes after Facebook.com. For example, Facebook.com/StateBicycle.

5. Your Cover Page

Select a “cover page” photo or other image – preferably something that people would associate with your business. Use a high quality image, as it will be featured prominently on your page. It’s the first thing people will see and should showcase your product, service or brand. Size restrictions are very specific. It’s best to use a horizontal image that’s 851 x 315 pixels. Avoid generic photos. It’s much better to use an image unique to your business, such as a popular menu item for a restaurant, or perhaps a customer using your product or service (with their permission). You might have to experiment with a few different images to see what looks best.  Avoid putting contact information or other business details in your image. Those should go in your “About” section.

6. Your News Feed

The “news feed” is the centerpiece of the Facebook experience. You can easily create different kinds of “news” or “posts” for your feed, including written text updates, photos, videos or questions. People who “like” your page will see your updates in their own news feeds (one reason you’ll want as many “likes” as possible). The news feed is where people spend 40 percent of their time on Facebook. This is where people engage and share ideas and information.

7. Your Posts

Short posts work best – no more than 250 characters (about 50 words). They’ll get 60 percent more likes, comments and shares than longer posts.

8. Your Sharing

The best things to share, however, are photos (including photo albums) and videos. People are twice as likely to engage with these as other types of posts.

9. Your Deails

To add details about your business, click on the Edit Page button in the admin panel. Then choose “Update Info” to change or add what you want.

10. Your Invitations

Invite people to like your page – including your community of friends, family, customers, employees and others who care about your business. The “Build Audience” button on your admin panel will show you some things to try.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

How to Know if Facebook is Right for Your Business

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:

  1. Commit to posting content – a mix of text, pictures and video – every few days. Daily would be better.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.]

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Reasons you need Facebook for Business

When it comes to promoting a local business, professional office or other small firm, Facebook is looming larger than ever. The latest salvo was the test launch of Facebook Deals in five cities (Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco) – a challenge to daily deal juggernauts Groupon and LivingSocial. More cities will soon be added. Basically, Facebook Deals will make coupons more social by letting users grab special discounts on products and services from businesses of all sizes and then automatically sharing their shopping savvy with friends on the site. Users will be able to see what deals their friends have chosen, along with a “deals near you” section.

Is there a Facebook page in your future? Considering the juggernaut that Facebook has become for marketing through social media, the answer is resoundingly yes.  It’s your first step into “F-Commerce.” If your business doesn’t have a Facebook page yet, here are 10 reasons to get off your fanny and fix that problem:

1)      You’ve simply got to keep up:  When it comes to Facebook, your business has already fallen behind the competition if you’re not there.  Consider that Facebook has over 600 million users.

2)      Connecting with customers is more critical than ever:  This is core to social media. Connecting is king – people connecting with each other and to businesses they like.  Customers you connect with on Facebook are some of the internet’s most engaged users. And that translates into lots of good things for your business, including higher satisfaction. It’s also an effective way to communicate news and information about your business.

3)      To promote your brand:  As a place to build your brand, Facebook has few peers.  But it doesn’t happen by itself; you have to be active and post useful, interesting, relevant content that excites people and makes them fans.

4)      To protect your brand:  If you have or are newly building a brand, and have intellectual property such as trademarks and brand names, it’s critical to stake out your Facebook turf by registering pages for your brands.  If you don’t, you risk the possibility that others will. 

5)      It’s a deal you can’t refuse:  Most biz owners like a bargain, and this is a screamer.  Setting up a Facebook page is free.  The biggest investment you’ll have to make is time to learn how it works, build your business page and keep it fresh and active.  More and more small businesses are hiring local firms and social media consultants to help, so for them it’s no longer free.  But the investment may be well worth it down the road. 

6)      It’s fantastic for speedy feedback:  Facebook is a great way to gather customer feedback on your products, services, promotions or plans, or just hear what customers have to say in general.  Consider it a key extension of whatever customer service and support mechanism you now have.  A tool called Facebook Insights can provide detailed info on who’s visiting your page and what they’re looking at while they’re there.

7)      To be a bridge between your online and offline efforts: Your offline advertising and marketing, including direct mail, in-store, outdoor, newspaper, magazine and other can direct customers to your Facebook page.  Once there, they can share experiences, learn about an event, or much more.  You can easily post Facebook status updates or other content in minutes.  

8)      It will help customers find you: Well-built and “optimized” Facebook pages can perform well in search results, leading customers to your page.  What’s more, with millions of Facebook users now use Facebook’s own internal search tool when they are looking for something, so you have a good chance of showing up that way as well.

9)      It can boost your sales: The point of all this connecting and communicating, of course, is to drive sales for your business in some way.  “F-commerce” on Facebook is another potential revenue-producing sales channel to consider.  Facebook Places is a vital location-based marketing service for local business.

10)   Your website may be obsolete:  Some small businesses no longer consider it necessary to have a standalone website and have made Facebook their entire online presence.  And that can make sense, depending on the type of business you have and where your customers come from.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved

6 New Business Tips for Facebook Success

An estimated 42% of small businesses in the U.S. now have a Facebook page.  And about 70% of small businesses overall plan to use social media this year. But beyond that the landscape gets murky.  While having a Facebook page is now “the thing to do,” a decidedly small percentage of businesses have any idea what works on Facebook and what doesn’t.

The painful truth is that while having a Facebook page is a necessary first step to tapping social media marketing, the wrong approach can actually be harmful.   New research just out offers these guidelines for business success on Facebook:

1)      Avoid the “business hours” trap.  Most businesses post content to their Facebook pages during the middle of the day (roughly 10 am to 4 pm).  But that’s not when most people are listening. New research shows that businesses posting content to Facebook either before or after those hours get 20% more responses.  Your goal is to have your posts appear at the top of fan news feeds at a time when they are most likely to be looking.  Services such as HootSuite, TweetDeck and others let you schedule your posts to appear whenever you want.  Don’t post just because it fits your own schedule.

2)      Day of the week matters.  But it’s different for different types of businesses. Saturday is the worst day, followed by Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Most content is posted on Mondays, creating more competition and ”noise” to break through. Research conducted by Facebook shows that people are happier on Thursdays and Fridays (you can probably guess why), so engagement rates on those two days are nearly 20% higher overall.  

3)      Industry matters, too.  Best days to post will also depend on what type of business you have.  For example, weekends are for autos, and peak customer engagement for auto-related businesses is on Sunday, by a wide margin. No other day comes close. But according to Buddy Media, which provides social media services to big brands, few businesses in the auto industry have yet caught on to this.  Here are best days for other industries:  Finance (Wed. and Thurs.); fashion (Thurs.); Restaurants and Bars (Tues., Wed.); Healthcare and Beauty (Thurs.);  Sports (Sun.);  Travel (Thurs., Fri.).

4)      Don’t be bashful about asking people to “Like” your business on Facebook. According to Buddy Media’s research,  the direct approach – come right out and ask for it – works best.  In short, Buddy found that “fans” tend to follow directions well. But the simpler, the better.  If you want people to post comments, for example, ask a direct question and request a response.

5)      Avoid overtly promotional language.  On Facebook, experience shows that for most businesses, a soft sell approach works best.  For example, if you run a contest, using the words “event,” “win” and “winner” rather than “contest” or “promotion” will get better results.  People get excited about winning, while a “sweepstakes” sounds more like you are trying to sell them something.

6)      End with (the right kind of) a question.  According to Buddy Media, Facebook posts that end with a question get 15% more responses.  So if your goal is to generate engagement, end your post with a question.  But don’t ask “why.”  That’s too philosophical.  Instead, questions about when, where, would and should are much more likely to succeed in engaging visitors to your page.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.