Facebook for Business

Social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Linkedin are fast becoming powerful tools for business to showcase their brands and interact with new and existing customers.

Among today's popular social networking sites, Facebook remains the leading tool for social media interaction. According to Nielsen (2010), 75% of Australian users have visited Facebook and about 59% have their very own Facebook profiles. They spend an average of 8:19 hours in a month on the site, 7 hours more than users spend on YouTube.

So what does this mean for your business?

We recommend that you give Facebook a try if your target market is under 35 years old. According to checkfacebook.com (August 2009), the demographics of Facebook users in Australia are composed of 55.6% female and 44% male. Facebook is a generation Y social network; 29.3% are from 25-34 years old while 28.8% are from 18-24 years old. Combined, users who are 18-34 years old occupy more than half of the Australian Facebook population. This represents a significant market of new leads and potential customers for your business.

Step 1 - Setup a Facebook account for your business

Facebook terms of service states that a user profile must correspond to a real person. However rather than using your personal Facebook account, we recommend you setup a new account for yourself using a business email address. It is also advisable to delegate the task of maintaining and monitoring your Facebook account to a particular staff member or employee. This will help create consistency in the posted content and ensure one person is in charge of responding to user comments.

Step 2 - Setup a Facebook fan page or Facebook group

Facebook fan pages and Facebook groups have some significant differences. How do they differ and which one should you choose for your business?

A Facebook fan page is much like a personal user profile. A business, brand or celebrity fan page enables users to sign up as fans, add pictures, and post comments. Unlike friends, fans do not need to be approved. You can communicate to fans through updates that are visible on your fan's news feed, if the fan has enabled this. Fan pages can also have custom applications and tabs. Fan pages are also indexed by search engines external to Facebook, like Google. Moreover, there is no limit to the number of fans a fan page can have, unlike Facebook groups. To create a Facebook fan page, go to: facebook.com/pages/create.php

A Facebook group can be considered as a private club. A group administrator manages the group and decides who can join. Invitations to join may be sent through Facebook mail or e-mail and membership is limited to 5,000 users. Although both pages and groups have the ability to announce events, groups can't host Facebook applications and may only be found using Facebook search. To create a Facebook group, go to: facebook.com/pages/create.php

Given these differences, should you setup a fan page or a Facebook group for your business? In most cases, a Facebook fan page is more appropriate, because they allow the development of custom applications and are not limited to 5,000 members. Fan pages are also searchable via external search engines, giving your fan page visibility outside of Facebook. Groups are recommended for smaller and more personal interactions.

Step 3 - Facebook Advertising

Facebook has an enormous amount of data about their users, enabling delivery of highly targeted ads. Advertisements can be displayed based on user profile, preferences and interests. Highly selective targeting is possible through using a combination of a user's sex, age, birthday, location, likes, interests, education, work, relationship status, and other information Facebook users disclose in their profiles.

For example, if your target consumers are female users in NSW from 18-24 years old who are interested in fashion and travel, Facebook can display your ad to only the users that fit this profile. You can expect Facebook's targeting methods to grow even more sophisticated over time, giving niche businesses the opportunity to reach and convert their specific market.

Create motivation for users to visit your fan page

There are a number of ways to get your fans to return to your Facebook fan page on a regular basis. As for any website, make sure you have interesting and relevant content on your pages. Check out our previous article on creating great online content at http://www.ideabank.com.au/creating-great-online-content-for-your-website.htm, which discusses how great online content on your website is essential to appear on that search engine results for your product and service keywords.!

Many successful Facebook fan pages incorporate applications such as games, raffles or quizzes to keep their fans engaged. Another great strategy is to use your fan page to make special offers, give away prizes or launch new products or services, all only available from your fan page.!

It's also important for you to be part of the conversation between your fans on your page. When your fans comment or post on your page wall, reply as soon as possible. Ongoing Interaction with your fans on Facebook is the key to success. You also have an option to invite fans to a special event via your fan page, which is a great opportunity to reach out to your fan base. Finally, keep your fan page up-to-date!

Some final tips

For consistency, make sure that your Facebook fan page and company website complement each other. This means using a consistent branding and providing matching messages and offers across the two.

You may also want to consider the option of allowing Facebook users to log into your website using their Facebook account, using a special tool from the Facebook Platform. In this way, users can bypass the registration process on your website, while providing you with access to limited Facebook account information. Also, users who are already logged into Facebook are auto-logged in when they visit your website.

Facebook could be a powerful tool for your business and offers a targeted method to reach Generation Y consumers. Regardless of your decision to use Facebook, be sure to reserve a Facebook fan page that corresponds to your company name i.e. www.facebook.com/yourcompany. In some cases, unhappy consumers have setup Facebook fan pages using a company's name, in order to vent their issues online with other users.

Finally, make sure you are aware of the legal and commercial risks your business may face by engaging with users on Facebook. A hacked Facebook account or a hostile online discussion could result in a public relations nightmare.

About the Author

Since 2006, Nick Jerrat has been blazing a trail across the Internet, working with hundreds of clients to build and market their websites online. Nick is the managing director of Publish My Web, an integrated website design and marketing firm. Click here to view more of his articles.