If so, I can relate. I was there. My first attempt at using Facebook for business was a big flop. For the longest time I focused most of my social media marketing efforts on Twitter.
But now my tune has changed. Facebook offers far more opportunities for businesses. I predict that in the near future, businesses of all stripes will soon declare Facebook as their number-one social media target.
In this article I’ll demonstrate why your business needs to invest heavily in Facebook.
My First Facebook Experience: A Waste of My Time
I got my social media start on Twitter, not Facebook. Twitter is an amazing social media tool. In fact, I invested countless hours growing and nurturing my 24,000+ followers. I was pretty convinced I could just use Twitter for business.
Then someone I respected introduced me to Facebook. I recall the email. My friend Ann Handley from MarketingProfs asked me, “Are you on Facebook?”
I thought it was just for college kids. But since Ann was there, I quickly signed up. To my great surprise, many of my personal friends were there. It was cool to connect with old college buddies and get a sneak peek into their lives.
But immediately I ran into a problem. I wanted to use Facebook for business and my personal friends wanted nothing to do with my business. Facebook was fun for personal reasons, but I struggled with the business side of things.
So I set up a Facebook fan page to promote my book. I started rejecting friend requests on my personal profile from strangers and asked them to become fans of my Facebook page I had for my book.
It quickly became a pain to manage a personal profile and a fan page. In fact, some pretty high-profile people (like Darren Rowse) were dumping their Facebook personal accounts because of this very conflict.
I decided to simply feed my Twitter updates into my personal Facebook profile and my fan page. I went back to using Twitter as my primary tool.
I had determined that:
- Facebook is mostly for personal connections: My wife found enormous value sharing pictures of our kids and updates of our whereabouts with friends. But I couldn’t do that because I had a bunch of business peers (and some strangers) as friends.
- Facebook is a time suck: I spent a lot of time on Facebook and frankly accomplished little. At least on Twitter I knew I could strictly talk business.
- Everyone who mattered to me focused primarily on Twitter: I knew it was wise to keep investing my time in Twitter. My growth of followers was steady and my traffic from Twitter was great.
Then I Saw the ‘List’ Light
The strength of Facebook is its amazing breadth of capabilities. The weakness of Facebook is ALSO its amazing breadth of capabilities. There are so many options and settings that most people don’t realize what Facebook can do. Count me among the former clueless.
My turning point came when Mari Smith introduced me to two little features that rocked my world: friend lists and privacy settings.
Facebook allows you to set up an unlimited number of lists. But it gets better. You can decide precisely what people in lists can and cannot see with a few privacy settings.
For example, I set up lists called college, personal, church, business, fans and so on. Then I went into the privacy settings and made sure the ‘fans’ list had no access to photos of my kids, my personal contact details, etc.
Here’s how this works…
You can go under your privacy settings (click on ‘custom settings’) and declare specific personal items only be viewed by certain lists (see below images).
The result is my family is now only seen by people who are on my personal list.
When I get new friend requests, I can classify people to one or more lists (see below).
This was huge. Not only could I restrict what people had access to, I could also selectively share with specific lists. For example, I could let my friends know I was on an airplane to New Jersey crafting this very blog post (with my new iPad), and know with confidence that strangers had no clue I was out of town.
Facebook Page Redux: Getting it Right the Second Time Around
All along I was treating my Facebook page like Twitter. I thought that by simply posting updates I would build a loyal following.
I was wrong.
When we launched the Social Media Examiner Facebook page, I was determined to push the envelope and see what Facebook could do.
This time around, we created a custom landing tab with a welcome video from me. I asked people to become fans in the video and encouraged them to comment on our wall.
We set up a tab introducing our Facebook team. Yes, we have a team managing our Facebook page.
We put together an editorial guide. It included some clear guidelines such as:
- EVERY single wall comment gets a reply.
- Break news or discuss controversial industry changes.
- Delete anything that is self-promotional.
- Post an interesting link to someone else’s article each day.
- Make sure to post a link to our daily articles AFTER our email updates go out (to ensure email folks get the news first).
- Regularly ask interesting (and sometimes fun) poll questions to get our fans engaged.
- And a LOT more.
The response from our readers was immediate and it was incredible. In the first few days we had 1000 fans. After just a few months we exceeded 9000 fans.
And these folks are active. They post questions, support each other, reply to our questions and promote our articles. A vibrant community was building right before my eyes.
Almost overnight, Facebook became the number-one source of traffic on Social Media Examiner.
Why Facebook Over Twitter?
#1: Facebook is communal.
Unlike Twitter, Facebook makes it very easy for group discussions. Twitter is primarily a one-to-one or one-to-everyone tool. With Twitter you can’t easily interact with two or three people at once, for instance. And you certainly can’t easily see what others have had to say about a post.
But Facebook has grown to over 500 million active users for a reason. They make it really easy for people to connect at a human level. And Facebook knows what its fans are interested in.
For example, if you frequent a fan page, Facebook knows you care about that page and shows you popular posts and discussions from that fan page in your live feed, above others. If done right, this is marketing gold!
When your Facebook page shows up in the live feed of your fans, it encourages rapid discussions and a chain reaction. When your fans engage in those discussions, it shows up on their walls. Their friends discover your page and your following grows.
In this regard, Facebook is like blog comments on steroids. When people interact with your brand, you are building community. This moves people from passive observers to advocates. And that’s a powerful marketing weapon.
#2: Facebook pulls people to its site OFTEN.
Part of the brilliance of Facebook is how it taps into some of our innate human desires. Every time someone posts something on your wall, tags you in a picture or tags your wall, you are notified in some way. For most people, this is an email with topic like “Joe Smith commented about a picture of you.” Or it’s a little red number at the top left of the screen when you are in Facebook.
These little mechanisms are intentional ways to get you into Facebook and interacting. It’s almost impossible to ignore these cues. If you’re like me, you’ve been conditioned to check Facebook almost as often as you check email.
Twitter doesn’t have the same systems to pull people back.
This is a huge advantage of Facebook and a primary reason you need to be there. The more people connect with others on Facebook, the more this grows. The upside is huge. This is why Alexa ranks Facebook as the second most frequented destination in the world, just behind Google.
Your customers, prospects and fans are already there A LOT. And when they arrive, they’ll likely see your page updates if you’ve figured out a way to get them to engage with your Facebook page updates.
#3: Facebook reveals powerful social proof.
This one is a brilliant move. If you click the Like button on an article (inside or outside of Facebook), something amazing happens. The next time one of your friends goes to that page, your name is displayed as someone who likes the page.
This is powerful. “If John Doe (whom I respect) likes this page, then maybe I should take another look?” is the thought that might go through the mind of a reader.
But wait, it gets better.
If you use the “Like Box” feature on your website, Facebook displays the pictures of familiar faces that are also fans of a page. For example, if some of your Facebook friends are fans of Social Media Examiner, you’ll see their pictures if you scroll up and look to the right of this page.
This is amazing social proof because it only shows people you know. That increases the likelihood you too will become a fan.
So What’s the Business Advantage?
Now let me connect the dots. With 500 million people on Facebook, chances are more of your customers are active on Facebook than any other network.
Remember the benefits early movers had with Twitter? Think of Comcast, Ford, and Zappos and the early mover advantages they gained.
Now think about Facebook. Businesses are just now figuring out how to use Facebook. This is your chance to connect with your customers and prospects in a totally new way and build powerful advocates.
Investing in Facebook now is the equivalent of purchasing real estate in downtown New York just before all the other businesses move into town.
Facebook is also investing in helping businesses succeed. Beyond their powerful and granular advertising, they’re extending the Facebook experience off of their site with features such as the Like Box and the Like Button. This is just the beginning of what’s to come from Facebook.
So what are you waiting for?
Your Action Plan
Here are a few simple things you should do right now…
- Customize your Facebook page using Static FBML.
- Leverage creative ways to grow your Facebook fan base.
- Work on engaging your fans.
Has Facebook become your new favorite social media site? Are you using it for business? Do you have any tips to share? Do you disagree? Let’s talk. Leave your comment in the box below.