Using Facebook for Business Purposes
Facebook, the ubiquitous social media network, cannot only be used as a personal social networking tool, but, when carefully used it can help your firm achieve your strategic marketing goals. Though it is only ten years old, Facebook’s meteoric growth and presence in our daily lives make it seem older.
Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerburg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes in 2004. It was originally founded as a social networking site for Harvard students, but quickly expanded to include all Internet users with an “.edu” address (college students, alumni, and employees). Its popularity led the fledgling company to then open the network to everyone. Currently the site has over 1.3 billion users, ten percent of which are estimated to be fake accounts. With such heavy usage worldwide, Facebook is fertile ground not just for personal interaction, but for business activity as well.
In this article, we look at 1) purpose of Facebook, 2) benefits of Facebook, 3) steps for using Facebook for business, 4) terms specific to Facebook, and 5) building customer engagement on Facebook (Sportscenter).
1. PURPOSE OF FACEBOOK
What started out as a social networking website for college students has quickly turned into one of the most powerful tools a business has for advertising and marketing. Due to the sheer number of people on Facebook, it is possible to market your business without spending a lot of money on developing a website and a related marketing campaign. Advertisement on Facebook is also cheaper than traditional methods.
As a firm, you can use Facebook to:
- Build a lasting connection with your consumers
- Increase brand awareness among members of your target market and the public at large
- Burnish your reputation
- Interact with your target market informally
- Gain insights about your product or brand
- Advertise your products or services to your target
- Network with other firms in the same or other markets
2. BENEFITS OF FACEBOOK
Facebook can be a powerful addition to your digital strategy. It can increase the exposure of your firm and overall online presence, effectively reach your target audience, and generate sales leads. Facebook provides firms access to a universe of over 1.3 billion users, which you can segment geo-demographically to ensure that your content reaches the right people. Proper use of Facebook can also foster brand loyalty – engaging your customers on Facebook by offering compelling content and being responsiveness to inquiries and customer service issues can deepen their loyalty to your brand. As an advertising medium, Facebook posts are free and Facebook ads are less costly than print or broadcast ads. Thus, the social network can reduce your advertising expenses, and potentially increase your overall marketing ROI.
Facebook is mobile ready, the importance of which is growing in tandem with the worldwide trend of increasing Internet usage via smartphone. Facebook can also help drive traffic to your website and improve your presence in search engine results. Posts with strong headlines or openings, and links to the remaining content on your webpage, can be an excellent source of new visits to your corporate site or marketing campaign micro site. While it is debatable that Facebook links to your website increases your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), Google’s search engine algorithm, among others, now includes “Social Recognition,” or social presence. So the mere existence of a Facebook can improve your website’s SEO. Further, the mere presence of a Facebook page in search engine results provides another way for people to find your firm.
3. STEPS FOR USING FACEBOOK PAGES FOR BUSINESS
Strategize About The Target Market And Target Group
As you can see, Facebook is a platform that can be harnessed to accomplish concrete marketing goals, when properly utilized as a part of a well-planned marketing campaign. During the planning phase, you should be able to answer the following key questions:
Who is your target market, and are they on Facebook?
These days most people on social media are on Facebook, but certain industries lend themselves better to other social media platforms. Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram for example might lend themselves more to a firm selling visual creative services, simply because those platforms are specifically for the sharing of rich media content. Further, in certain international markets, other social media networks might dominate (such as QZone in China and South Korea). However, Facebook still has the broadest usage of social media platforms in the U.S.
What are you trying to accomplish?
Brand awareness? Direct sales? Market research? Just as with any marketing channel, it is critical that you know the answer to this question before you invest any human capital or financial resources on Facebook. Further, understanding what your ultimate goal is will better help you determine the appropriate strategies and tactics to get there.
How will you measure success?
There are a number of metrics that are available to Facebook users that you can analyze to measure the success or failure of your campaign. It is important to set goals using these metrics beforehand. Not only will it help you assess your results, but it will help you make the case to allocate financial resources to your Facebook campaign.
What is your content strategy?
This is fairly dependent on the answer to the question: what are you trying to accomplish. But it is such a critical component of any Facebook campaign (or indeed any social media campaign), that it deserves as much weight as any of the aforementioned questions.
Setup Your Facebook Page For Your Target Group
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin by setting up a Facebook Page for your firm. While Facebook allows you to set up a number of types of Pages, including Personal Profiles, Fan Pages, Community Pages and Groups, Company Pages lend themselves most readily to business usage. Company Pages allow your firm to advertise, collect insights on Page visitors, create polls, and integrate third-party business apps, among other features. You can create a Facebook Page for your company, and create similar Pages for specific marketing campaigns. Once you’ve set up your Page(s), it’s time to implement your content strategy.
How To Create A Facebook Business Page
Create Compelling Content
When planning to launch a Facebook Company Page, it is best to plan your content in advance. When your Page is live, you may have your hands full either interacting with consumers, or crafting content from company news and/or current events, to consistently plan compelling and original content that engages your target market. Ideally, you should lay out, in broad terms, three-to-six months’ worth of evergreen content, as well as content for a year’s worth of the major holidays.
In broad terms, your content should always be:
- Personal. Your website is the place for your firm’s formal tone. People are not looking for dense, informative content on Facebook. They are seeking connection.
- Compelling. Your content should grab the viewer with a catchy lead or striking visual, and demand their attention. After all, Facebook is full of content competing with yours for their attention.
- Original. Avoid, where possible rehashes of existing news or trends, or rewrites of your own content. If your Facebook content is stale, that impression reflects on your firm’s brand.
- Visual. Research has shown that people engage far more with visual content online than with pure text content. Your visuals should be striking as well, to cut through the clutter of other content.
- Concise. Don’t overload your followers with information. Facebook is not the medium for overly long dense, content and/or technical jargon. Facebook users are looking for the human connection behind your firm. Engage them in a conversational tone, and save product updates and the like for your website.
- Allow for the possibility of two way interaction. Don’t just push information at people. Ask questions. Solicit feedback. Start a conversation, and continue it. The mere act of doing this shows your consumers that their opinions matter to you.
- Integrated. You can add Facebook buttons to your website that allow users to share the content on your other digital assets, such as your websites, easily on their own Facebook Page, thus broadening the reach of your content.
- Frequently updated. There a variety of thoughts on how frequently content should be updated. Some firms achieve optimum engagement through five or more posts a day, others through one every couple of days. There are two keys to understanding how frequently you should be posting: quality of content and data. Compelling, engaging content will always net strong results, and when you start paying attention to the data in Facebook Insights, such as who visits your Page, what types of content they have been responding to, and how they have been responding, you will be able to determine the ideal number of updates per day or week for your firm.
- Varied. Why just have text, links, photo or video? Take advantage of other tried-and-true marketing initiatives, such as contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways. Facebook allows you to easily create polls which can also encourage user participation.
- Have a call to action. Not every post needs one. But you want to mobilize users to help you achieve your goals. Even in a PR Facebook campaign, constant interaction and engagement without mobilization of your followers is usually a waste of resources.
- Adhere to internal guidelines. Your firm should develop formal guidelines for social media content, including style, ideal length, and design specs. There should also be provisions for what content should be legally vetted, and the process for doing so.
- Ideally, contain a mixture of non-paid and paid content.
Share It With The Relevant Audience
Once you have populated your Page with initial content, you want to invite your contacts to your Page. You can do this by importing your email contact list into Facebook. Even if your consumers do not accept your invite or interact with your Page based on your initial email invite, they may begin to do so as you begin to regularly post content and/or run Facebook ads.
Advertising On Facebook
Should you post content or run ads? You can do the former without the latter, but you should not run ads without also posting content. If you do, you undercut the purpose of Facebook, because Facebook is not a pure advertising vehicle, nor was it intended to be. Facebook users will not be able to connect with your brand if all they see on your Page is the same ads they see on television. The answer to this question is also somewhat dependent on your campaign goals.
To create ads, you can click “Promote Page” to create ads. Or you can create ads out of posts you’ve already created. When you’ve created a post, and access the Admin panel for your Page, you’ll see an option to “Boost Post”. Selecting this option will allow you to select a target group of users you would like to see the ad. Once you segment the group by gender, interests, location, and age – according to your target market for the campaign, you can set the length of time for the ad to run. You can also set an amount of money that you would like to spend. When you click “Boost Post” again, the ad will run for the length of time you have set. Facebook will charge you based on the number of impressions your ad garners, and will automatically stop running your ad when the amount you have budgeted for the ad is expended.
Perfecting The Ratio Of Content vs Ads
What’s the ideal mix of content and ads? Again, this depends on your marketing campaign goals and objectives. One key advantage of social media, Facebook included, is the ability to cross-post content across multiple platforms. Using a third-party social media management tool like Hootsuite also allows you to schedule a single message on all social media platforms at the times when each platform has its highest engagement. Suppose you get the highest number of retweets on Twitter when you post in the early morning hours, but the highest number of shares on Facebook for evening hour posts. You can schedule a single message to go live in the morning on Twitter and in the evening on Facebook, using these third party tools. When budgets and time permit, you want to expand the ads you run on Facebook to your other digital assets as well. This can increase Facebook engagement.
4. TERMS SPECIFIC TO FACEBOOK
There are several measures of engagement on Facebook. Of course, which ones you use depends on the goals of your particular campaign. Let’s take a look at the primary measures:
- Likes: A person can “Like” the content you’ve shared. This shows up in a counter on your Page, and as an activity on their own Page (other people can see that a visitor to your Page has liked your content, which may impel them to like it as well). This serves as a signaling device to external audiences about the quality of your content, and can also be used as an internal measure of the quality of your content by your marketing department as well.
- Clicks: If a person is clicking on the links in your content, you’ve created content compelling enough for them to take an action. Remember, you want to ensure that what is at the other end of that link is just as compelling, so as to hopefully result in a sale, or other desired consumer action.
- Shares: You know that your content is compelling, if people are sharing your content with others. They are able to post it on their timeline, or on a Facebook Page or Group that they manage. This is a tacit endorsement of how compelling, informative, useful, or important your content is. When content is “shared” widely with little to no marketing push, the content is set to have gone “viral.” Because there is little to no perceived marketing push behind the content, people usually have a stronger connection with it then other company-created content such as advertisements.
- Reach: This is the number of impressions your content has on a post-by-post basis. Post reach can be boosted when you turn your post into a Facebook ad, but reach alone should not be the only metric you consider when assessing content.
- Comments: People commenting on your Facebook content, whether positively or negatively, is a sure sign that your content has made an impression. of course, you want those comments to be positive, but make sure that if you choose to respond to negative content, you do so in a manner that is positive and furthers your strategic initiatives.
- Brand mentions: These don’t always happen on your site. People can mention your brand on any social platform. You want to take advantage of a media monitoring service to ensure that you know where people are talking about your brand and what they are saying about it.
- Insights: In the Admin panel of your Facebook Page, the tab called Insights aggregates data for not only each of the first four metrics listed here, on a post by post basis, but also demographic information, viral reach of posts, type of device users are using to access your content, and more. With such a surfeit of information, it is critical that you are clear on your metrics for success.
5. BUILDING CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT ON FACEBOOK: SPORTSCENTER
One firm that makes excellent use of Facebook pages is ESPN to engage viewers of its show SportsCenter. Because its revenue model is primarily advertising dollars, ESPN seeks to ensure that its loyal SportsCenter viewers remain loyal and excited, and new visitors are hooked. ESPN’s SportsCenter page makes excellent use of the Facebook Timeline feature by featuring sports history milestones from professional championships dating decades back. The SportsCenter page also regularly poses questions to followers about new developments in sports, inviting its followers to debate and keeping them engaged.
Another way SportsCenter uses Facebook is to hold promotional activities, such as contests. In 2013, SportsCenter asked its Facebook followers to vote on their favorite SportsCenter ad. The finalists were displayed in an hour-long SportsCenter special that counted down the top 50. Fan participation, partially incentivized by Burger King gift cards, was immense. 1.1 million people cast their votes on the Facebook voting app, with visitors to the page staying an average of four minutes. This Facebook contest led to the most engagement the SportsCenter page had enjoyed to date, significant value in impressions and brand mentions, and industry recognition.