Most small businesses are terrible at marketing—online marketing in particular. That’s understandable, because business owners are usually more passionate about their work than promoting themselves.
But with Facebook the place to be for businesses of all sizes, a little marketing know-how can come in handy. I recently spoke to Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at Constant Contact, about how to make Facebook a practical and measurable small-business marketing platform.
“When we look at what platforms our small business customers are using for social media marketing, 94 percent of them are on Facebook,” Schmulen says. However, “Most small businesses are doing Facebook without knowing why they’re doing it.”
This is the herd mentality at work. It’s pretty easy to create a Facebook page, but convincing visitors to click the like button and engage in conversation requires different skills. Forrester Research estimates fewer than 15 percent of people who click a like button ever visit the page again. Getting repeat traffic is the special sauce of Facebook success.
Here are five tips that Schmulen recommends:
1. Know your goals.
This sounds simple, but it really isn’t. Depending on your business, your goals might range from generating orders and attracting subscribers to building thought leadership. Whatever your goal is, you need an offer to match.
Take a look at Archway Cookies and Fortune Cookies. Both companies want customers to try their products. Archway Cookies encourages this with coupons, and Fortune Cookies offers contests. Each company matches its offer to a goal. In these cases, the goal is for customers to try the cookies.
Offers should always include a clear call to action, and you can use rotating FBML (Facebook Markup Language) pages to test different offers. If you lead with your wall, you’ll miss an opportunity.
2. Make your offer shareable.
There’s a Facebook phenomenon called the power of 130. The power of 130 says the fastest way to spread a message is through social sharing. The average Facebook member has 130 friends, and if each of those 130 people share the same thing, the exposure grows exponentially.
Facebook automatically offers members the opportunity to share a like, but the real creativity comes when you can convince people to share your content.
For example, Intrepid Travel invites visitors to play a trivia game and share their results with friends. Players can also sign up to visit the exotic places highlighted in the game. Each answer to the quiz is shareable, as is the final score.
3. Keep the welcome page simple.
Intel’s Facebook welcome page features product promotions, a gateway to its international pages, jobs, discounts, and even a Twitter feed. Intel can get away with all that, but less is more for most small businesses, Schmulen says.
Schmulen favors an approach like that of Fitness magazine, which rewards new fans with “our all-time favorite abs workout!” Fitness has a variety of other offers on its Facebook page, but it leads with the simplest one.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple offers. Just be sure to give each one its own page and rotate them. It’s easier to test results this way, too.
4. Promote your page.
“‘Field of Dreams’ is a horrible movie for people who are learning about marketing,” Schmulen says. “Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will come. When you create a campaign, share it across all your social networks and through email. Use every channel you have.”
5. Measure results.
Surveys, A/B tests, website analytics, and marketing automation are essential tools for professional marketers, but you don’t have to be a statistician to understand whether your campaigns work. Facebook’s built-in analytics give you a pretty good idea of what sparks conversation on your page. Take the 10-minute tour and learn what the numbers mean.
PageLever is one of the first independent Facebook measurement tools, and I expect there will be more. You can also use free services like Bit.ly and Google URL Builder to track the popularity of the links you post on Facebook. Most commercial email services also offer pretty good metrics to show which messages people like.
Schmulen ticks off some factors to consider: “How many people visit the landing page? How many participate in the offer? How many share the offer? If people visit the page but don’t take the offer, it isn’t compelling enough. If they accept the offer but don’t share it, it isn’t distinctive enough. A great campaign gets people to connect, accept your offer and share it with their friends.”
Getting people to like you is just the beginning, of course. An effective Facebook presence is an ongoing conversation with lots of questions, challenges and responses. Look at Constant Contact’s Facebook wall for inspiration. The company constantly seeks input on everything from new product ideas to the band at a celebration party.
Paul Gillin is a technology journalist who advises marketers and business executives on social media and online strategies. He is the author of a B2B social media book, and blogs at PaulGillin.com where this article originally ran.