Facebook is no billboard

Facebook successAt first Facebook was a toy for students. Now it’s turned into a necessity for business owners, or so it seems anyway. Everywhere you see businesses getting their Facebook pages up, some simple, some elaborate, small one man solopreneurs all the way to multinational corporations.

So if they all do it then it must work, right? Well sorta. The problem is, Facebook for business has reached critical mass and suddenly everyone realizes they need to be on there. So they get on, but then, nothing.

The majority of Facebook pages have very few likes

You’ve set up your page, either yourself taking you hours trying to figure out the simplest things, or you paid good money to someone else doing it for you and so you’re waiting for this great revolution that Facebook is now going to bring to your business. Suddenly everybody will trample down your door and buy from you because you have a Facebook page. Only, that of course is not happening. And we know it won’t before we start, we’re all smart cookies.

But we have something like an unconscious mind and that kicks in with some suboptimal programming like: “Everyone else is having success, only me not.”, “They all say Facebook is great, how so, can’t even get 25 likes together”, “I have a couple of fans but now why don’t they buy from me yet?”, “Where’s the money?”.

And before you know it you’re caught in a spiral inside your mind that’ll get you mad at Facebook for not delivering (and anybody else in the chain) and eventually abandon the whole project. Well this is the same pattern as with everything else that is a success or failure. So how then can you make it work?

How then can Facebook help your business?

First, let’s figure what Facebook is and what it is not. Facebook is a SOCIAL platform for people to interact with each other. Business only entered that party because business, aka marketing, goes wherever people come together. The more the better, and the more users Facebook has, the more you will see business jump on the bandwagon. The thing is, as a marketer you have to understand the platform and how it works in the users minds before you can rake in any success.

The biggest mistake many business owners make with Facebook

I’ve come across a few business owners who make the mistake of seeing a Facebook page like being a billboard. You put it up next to the highway (all those million people), make it really pretty and stand out (get fancy landing pages) and then millions drive past and your sales increase. It doesn’t work like this because it isn’t a billboard you design once, set up and then wait for the business.

A better analogy is seeing Facebook as one big amusement park where people can hang out, play games, chat to each other, catch up, etc. All around that park businesses have been allowed to put up their exhibition stands and display their products. They are not allowed to go over to the people directly and chat them up, but when the people come to their stands, then of course they can engage them and interact with them.

Now the managers of the amusement park were very clever, because they devised a system whereby all people can leave a stamp of approval on those exhibition stands. And every time you walk past one of them you can see how many people where here before and liked it already. Chances are, the more liked it the more you are inclined to like it too.

A Facebook page is like an exhibition standAnd what makes people like an exhibition stand, or the company that mans it?

Well the people behind the stand (ah! what a revelation, people again, no inhuman posters and billboards, an actual human being), the funnier they are, more welcoming, smiling the better the chances for passers-by to stay for a little while. Plus if you get some really good information just for passing by, you might just come by again and again and again. You’d probably also run some sort of a special or maybe a competition. It is a marketers dream, eventually you will be wanting to buy from this company when you’re in the market for their product/service.

Start seeing your Facebook page like that exhibition stand, and constantly ask yourself the question, “why would anyone want to come by, spend some time, like it and come again?” Like creating, perfecting, manning an exhibition stand and keeping it alive it takes time to do that. Luckily it costs far less than any real live exhibition and doesn’t have to be taken down ever.

How do you get people to your stand? (Aka how do I get more Facebook likes?)

  • Step one of course we just discussed, make sure once the people are there they like it. That alone will help to spread.
  • Then you have to get out behind your desk and tell the people all over elsewhere you’re there.
  • You can hang at other stands, just make sure you don’t tread on anybody’s toes. But no harm in meeting people at the stand across the aisle and saying hello. (Sign in as your page on Facebook and comment on other pages).
  • You could put up signs all around, distribute flyers (run an ad on Facebook), tell your audience outside the exhibition that you are in the exhibition at stand soandso, etc.

Get creative, like you would if you had just spent thousands on a weekend exhibition. At a fraction of the cost!

Facebook isn’t going to work for you on its own, you will have to work it, to make it work for you. Luckily that is pretty easy and with just half an hour a day you will get good results – if it fits within your overall strategy.

Update 14 April 2014:

Does every business need a Facebook presence?

No. Years have passed and Facebook has changed a lot. It is an excellent platform for a lot of businesses, particularly local businesses when they do want to use it a bit like a billboard. Isn’t it funny how everything changes? Facebook ads today are very good in reaching a highly targeted audience and if that fits into your overall plan, go for it.

In my point of view it is not a good idea to only build a Facebook page. It doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to Facebook, always remember that. It’s a great outpost to drive traffic back to your site, dialogue with your fans but other than that make sure you’re not building their business instead of yours. If you’d like to do an online presence assessment I’d be happy to chat to you about your own Facebook strategy.

Generating leads with Social Media