Social media, especially Facebook, creates an inexpensive opportunity to reach members of your community, share content, and cultivate sales.

It represents the low-hanging fruit that most small business owners grasp in comparison to heavily technical projects such as building a website, email newsletters, and other forms of online marketing which often become passed off because of the inherent challenge of implementing these platforms into a business.

Whether your small business revolves around affiliate marketing, freelancing, ecommerce or whatever, Facebook can be used to effectively build your brand (and sales) if you stick to the essentials.

Why Facebook Matters for a Small Business

The point of social media is that you have a platform to connect with people; it’s there to build relationships. Along the way, however, social media was hijacked by the business community and touted as the end-all, be-all of marketing because it’s free and easy-to-use.

Now we’re reaching a point where it has become apparent that social media platforms, especially Facebook, aren’t necessarily this silver bullet in online marketing. However, this doesn’t make the platform any less valuable.

Facebook matters for small businesses because it provides a laundry list of features most business owners seek when operating a website including a way to broadcast messages, share events, distribute coupons & giveaways, highlight their community, and post interesting content.

The Facebook advertising platform is generally inexpensive compared to other advertising platforms on the web and comes with additional advantages, in comparison, such as highly targetable parameters.

In all, Facebook for small business is less about selling and more about building a rapport with your community which leads to new, exciting opportunities to expand your brand; this, in turn, creates a larger web presence, kick starts your sales, and creates a team of highly passionate followers willing to share and build your business, for free.

Setting Up a Small Business Presence on Facebook

The use of Facebook for small businesses has evolved since its inception but three main uses are extremely valuable at this time:

  • Personal profiles
  • Fan pages
  • Advertising

Let’s expand on the three …

Personal Profiles. As implied, you keep your contacts on a personal level which can build better, lasting relationships with those within your business community. Though personal, refrain from posting anything that may be too much information as potential business contacts may be digging through your profile. On that note, use your personal profile to get in one-on-one conversations with individuals and use the profile to announce personal projects.

Fan Pages. The best use of Facebook in small business. The fan page becomes a focal point for your social media presence on the Facebook network where you may update your followers with pictures, videos, link, and other forms of multi-media along with operating promotions, contests, and giving your followers a platform to respond to recent updates and their experiences. Get the most from your small business fan page by interlinking it to your business website and reaching out to community members.

Advertising. The Facebook advertising platform may have come under some flack but it’s still a very powerful form of marketing as it gives you inexpensive options for targeting specific users based on their public responses, likes, location, gender, and more. A Facebook ad could be used to drive people to product pages, email lists, your fan page, or whatever campaign you’re currently conducting at a fraction of the cost compared to other advertising networks like Google Adwords.

After creating a personal profile on Facebook, and snagging a personalized URL, make your move to capturing your brand name by building a Facebook fan page. Populate your fan page’s header graphic with an attractive piece of branding, fill out the important information about your company, and begin seeking followers by linking your Facebook ‘like’ button on your website, embedded in emails, and any location where your current followers populate.

Consider depositing $100 (or what fits your budget) into the Facebook advertising platform and begin running small scale tests for building your audience. Use the money to learn the platform through experience; write it off if you don’t necessarily gain a high return on investment – just that you now have a greater understanding of the Facebook advertising methods.

Common Status Updates and Promotions to Utilize

The fan page, as noted above, is where you’ll best capitalize on your social media engagement.

Each post you update on your fan page runs through the Facebook algorithm which, in a nutshell, will either show or omit your posting to your community based on engagement. In essence, more likes, shares, and comments will make your message reach a wider range of your fans.

There are many types of posts that garner high engagement within communities.

Here are a few of the common status updates and promotions you could implement on your fan page:

  • Share a “Name that movie” or “Complete the Sentence” update
  • Mark milestones and events on your timeline (founding, new products, etc)
  • Highlight members of your community
  • Create and share picture testimonials
  • Link to new blog posts from your website
  • Offer a deal or coupon on your products or promotions
  • Write a short review about a product you’re using
  • Give back to a charity and encourage your followers to follow suit
  • Post fun, silly, and thought-provoking media
  • Conduct a small Q&A session for the day

There are classic examples of Facebook being used effectively by small and big business but remember that your community is unique to your business so not every type of posts and update will technically be effective for your marketing.

The best approach to fully utilizing Facebook, as a marketing tool, is:

  • Feedback
  • Viral promotion

Feedback, on the platform, can be found through the direct connections and responses by your community on your status updates but also within the fan page dashboard which will give you insights about which posts are performing well. Take this information and find a way to apply it to your future marketing campaigns, website content, and advertising models.

The second factor is the viral nature of a Facebook like and share. Post something intriguing or engaging and your post will spread throughout the community which builds brand awareness. Couple the increase in Facebook Edgerank (the algorithm) and your next post could be a promotional item which reaches thousands of followers and even more when the post reaches the followers’ feed.

Generating a Sale through Facebook

Facebook and social media, in general, may be touted as an incredible marketing and advertising tool but, as noted in the beginning, it’s social for a reason – people want to interact with one another, sometimes a brand or business, but at the end of the day they just want to have fun.

Overly pushy advertising and marketing campaigns leaves distrust and disdain for a brand because users feel it’s an invasion of their social space. The better way to approach advertising on the network is through subtle, but important, value exchange with the community members.

Generating a sale comes down to using the Facebook platform to alert your followers about a promotion (often elsewhere such as on your website) but doesn’t make the hard sale – it’s more of a “hint, hint” message to encourage their interaction.

Sales Strategies

Whether you’re promoting an affiliate product or selling your personal services – Facebook marketing and generating that sale follows some of the same tried-and-tested methods you’re most likely to have used in your business, already.

  • Coupon codes
  • Promotional downloads
  • Bonuses when followers buy an affiliate product
  • Reviews and case studies
  • Contests
  • Giveaways
  • Check ins

Ecommerce companies can greatly benefit from readily sharing coupon codes on their fan pages all-the-while displaying hot, new products to entice their audience.

Affiliate marketers can utilize their Facebook presence by sharing their reviews, answering questions, and offering bonuses to the community if they purchase through an affiliate link.

Small businesses, especially local brick and mortar types, can gain a great opportunity through check ins, physical giveaways, or photo contests.

There really is no limit to how you utilize the Facebook platform to generate sales especially if you couple traditional marketing campaigns with paid advertising within the network – it all becomes a matter of testing.

Additional Resources for Facebook Marketing

In time, your efforts with Facebook will begin to reach a tipping point as the community expands and your ability to manage and promote your business requires additional management; there are tools for this moment in time and worth you taking a look:

  • WooBoxAn inexpensive Facebook promotional toolset mainly aimed at conducting contests.
  • Wildfire – A powerful piece of software and application that covers every main element of building a great Facebook presence, conducting contests, and analyzing your following.
  • NorthSocial – A complete suite of applications for the Facebook platform to grow and engage your audience.

A small investment into third party apps will remove the hectic, hair-pulling experience that comes with trying to manage a large scale campaign; these tools also have great features to make the most from your promotions and drive additional fans to your page.

It’s time to make a proper investment into your Facebook presence if you feel it’s providing a real return on investment; as your engagement grows, so will your potential profits.

Now that you have this arsenal of Facebook marketing knowledge, strategies, and resources – how do you plan on making the most from the platform within your small business? Share and comment below.