Every business needs a presence on social media these days and a small business – even one that’s run more as a hobby than a fully-fledged commercial enterprise – needs it more than most. If you get it right then social media doesn’t only give you free advertising, it also gives you a shot at getting your name on the first page of Google.
Yet, for all its potential benefits, social media can be a bit of a minefield with bear traps aplenty for the unwary. However, with a bit of planning and following a few key rules, anyone can master it!
Here’s our advice for using Facebook for your small business.
Or, if you'd like a practical guide to setting up your small business on Facebook, find out how to open a Facebook business page in eight easy steps...
Decide what you want from Facebook
Define what you want to get from Facebook; is it the total number of fans, or engagement, brand definition, or sales? And how will you measure success? After all, if you can’t measure it then you’ve got no way of knowing whether you’re accomplishing what you set out to achieve.
The old maxim ‘turnover is vanity, profit is sanity’ applies here too. The number of fans you have is an ego stroke but it is the level of their engagement that will lead to more sales.
What’s in it for your fans?
Ask yourself why someone should like and follow your Facebook page; essentially, what is in it for them?
Can you give them exclusive offers or access? A glimpse behind-the-scenes for a vicarious thrill? Too many brands think that posting the odd thinly disguised advert is enough. It isn’t.
Decide on your voice
Define your brand’s ‘voice’ and be consistent. It might help to think of a celebrity who you would like as your voice; this will also help you to stay ‘in character’ and help you to identify how you should respond to your fans.
Of course, the best voice will generally be your own…
Plan your content
You need to plan your posts at least a week in advance and then schedule them to be published automatically; this will give you more time to engage with your fans and monitor your page without having to worry about routine posting.
I’ve found that a content calendar helps enormously. It is simply a sheet of paper or a spreadsheet that allows you to plan and leverage your content more effectively. Mix time-sensitive content with other posts that are more generic – and always have something up your sleeve!
Don’t forget to think of ways you can use breaking news or a topical subject to link to your brand. You don’t have to be the first to share something, but you do have to do it in a way that captures people’s attention. Topicality is more important than speed.
One thing to remember when you’re planning your content is that strong images create engagement, headlines attract clicks.
Check, and then double-check
It’s always worth asking someone to double-check for typos once you’ve scheduled your posts. We all make mistakes, and it’s better to discover them before the world sees them than afterwards. Don’t ask me how I know this…
It’s a long-term relationship
It helps to think of social media as a long-term relationship rather than a one-night stand. It takes time to build a relationship in the real world and in this instance the virtual world is no different.
Engagement is the key to building loyal a loyal fan base, so respond to everyone, no matter how awkward or downright weird they are. And never be defensive: Engage them, talk to them, show them you care and most will respond in a positive way. Some people can be a bit abrupt online initially but almost all of them thaw when you talk to them as you might a friend.
Follow Saga on Facebook
Monitor and measure
Engagement tends to be greater in the evenings on weekdays and lunchtimes and evenings at the weekends, but your feed might differ so it’s worth monitoring it to find out what works for your page.
It’s also worth taking a look at your competitors’ feeds. Don’t be afraid to find inspiration from their ideas but make them your own when you do. NEVER steal their stuff wholesale…
Identify the key influencers in your field and monitor them at least once a day. Linking to other people’s websites and sharing their Facebook posts is a great way to create a mutually supportive network.
Advertising on Facebook
Advertising on Facebook can be worthwhile but I wouldn’t rush into it. My experience is that it might be better to run a competition first before spending hard-earned cash on extending your reach with an advert.
A few things NOT to do
- Don’t take anything personally. The Internet is awash with trolls who exist only to annoy you. Ignore them or, if you really must respond, write a reply in rough. Then leave it on your desk for 24 hours and then see if you still want to reply. Then get someone else to double-check you aren’t being overly defensive, hostile, aggressive, or sarcastic. It is only natural to want to defend yourself, but a humourous, intelligent and well thought-out reply can turn the tide in your favour and create sales and new friends.
- Don’t talk politics. Ever. That is what your personal Facebook page is for. Please don’t confuse the two.
- No funny cat videos. Unless your business is all about funny cat videos, in which case please feel free to post as many as you like.
Dealing with online trolls
Have you used Facebook for your business? If so, have you got any tips to share with our readers? We’d love to hear your thoughts and advice in the comments section below!