Facebook is THE social networking giant. Having launched in 2004 as a project by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, the site has become not just a dominant force online, but has changed the way we relate to each other forever. Facebook has made our lives more public, more immediate and more connected – and that includes a personal connection as well as the ability to connect people with brands and businesses.
Facebook has kicked much of its competition to the kerb, effectively killing off the likes of Friends Reunited, Friendster and MySpace as it climbs towards worldwide domination. The site now has 600 million active users and has made its founder one of the world’s youngest billionaires.
Why bother using Facebook for business?
Facebook enables you to connect with customers and potential customers in a variety of different ways, broadly split into traditional advertising and creative marketing strategies.
The main benefit is that it helps you to have a conversation with customers. The opportunities to interact and engage with your customers are huge here. Putting your business on Facebook can involve selling to them (i.e. with ads) but it does go over and above this too. You can witness customer conversations and participate in them; this doesn’t just serve as ongoing market research but importantly also acts as a relationship-building exercise.
Web 2.0 has brought the importance of forming a relationship with customers to the fore, and this is where Facebook offers many opportunities.
It’s rare to find a business that is not on Facebook these days. In fact, many TV adverts now feature the Facebook button to indicate that the product page can be found on the site. Customers expect to find businesses on there, so why disappoint them?
How to go about using Facebook for business
The best way to get started is to create a fan page for your business. This is where users connect with you. By pressing the like button, they sign up to be part of your community. You can take out a sidebar ad to advertise your fan page, or you can do some cross-promotion to get people involved: for example, running a competition in your email newsletter to entice people to like your Facebook page.
To see an example of a fabulous fan page, complete with enticing competition check out the Write My Site Facebook page! (Extra prize for anyone who spotted the shameless plug!)
Once you’ve set up a fan page, the trick is to think ‘added value’ rather than bombarding your fans with meaningless messages. Think about what you can offer that your customers would really like. For example, you could do some Facebook-only competitions or discount codes. How about some rich content, like Facebook-only videos?
You can also use the Facebook page to canvas opinions about current or prospective products. Facebook gives you the chance to conduct easy and immediate market research, so don’t be afraid to ask questions of your fans – and take note of what they say!
The important thing about the fan page is that it must appear real, friendly and human. Think about establishing a person-to-person relationship, and not just a faceless-organisation-to-person relationship, and you’ll be on the right track.