To Friend or not to Friend? What Small Business Owners Should Consider

17 Nov

Welcome Guest Blogger Jillian Gile from Pounding the Pavement with some Facebook advice for small business owners.
 
 Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that Facebook is the hottest social media tool for small businesses.  Facebook can be the tool you need to make that personal connection with customers that is so critical.  There are many reasons to use Facebook in your marketing campaigns, but there are also a few pitfalls you should be aware of. 

Pros:

It’s the ultimate word-of-mouth

Facebook is where people go to post what they’re having for dinner, what they think about their favorite TV show, and yes – even where they shop.  Having a Facebook presence means you can be personally involved with getting your name out there.  If one customer “friends” you, all their friends will see your name, even if they don’t actively post about your store. 

Big returns on a small investment

Maintaining and updating a Facebook page does not take up large chunks of time, and Facebook is free, so any return is a huge profit.  You can even sign up to advertise your business on Facebook, and ad packages are affordable for even the tiniest budget – think $5/day or less. 

Facebook – it’s everywhere you want to be

Smart phones are almost ubiquitous – and with these mobile internet connections, Facebook is mobile, too.  Customers running errands may see your well-timed status update and be influenced to stop by your store while they’re out and about. This has happened to me on more than one occasion, when my favorite consignment store posts a photo of a dress or jacket I just have to have, right now.

Become a part of the community

So much time and energy is spent making a business an integral part of a community (think yearbook ads).  Facebook has been accused of replacing face-to-face social interaction, but you can use this substitution to your advantage.  As part of Facebook, your business can gain a prominence that makes people support your business. 

Obviously, Facebook isn’t all sunshine and roses.  We didn’t need the movie The Social Network to show us that Facebook has some disadvantages, too. 

Cons:

There is such a thing as too much exposure

Multiple daily postings about your latest deal, favorite brand, and current giveaway can annoy your Facebook friends and even make them unfriend you.  Try to stick to one post a day (or every other day) and make these announcements count – coupons, funny anecdotes, community announcements. 

Facebook isn’t business friendly

Facebook encourages businesses to create pages and advertise on their site, but they are very strict about protecting their users from fake accounts created solely for a business, and will crack down on anyone who has created multiple accounts for this reason.  Stick to the Facebook page option, and play by the rules. 

You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies

OK, we’re not suggesting you create an advertising war to get to 500 million friends, but creating a vibrant community of fans on your page will definitely take some time and effort.  Do not stalk your customers or force them to provide you with e-mail addresses so you can boost appearances.  Be patient. 

Facebook isn’t for everyone

I worked at a small town real estate office that tried to use its Facebook fan page to draw in customers with photos of homes and announcing mortgage rates.  The problem is, their fans were all clients who had already purchased homes and weren’t in the market anymore.  They had to revamp their Facebook goals, and become more of a source for community news, which made them a resource for clients and clients’ friends.  When you start your own Facebook page, give some serious thoughts to what your customers need, and what will draw them to your page. 

The point is – is Facebook worth the effort for a small business owner?  My answer is a cautious yes.  Think about what your customers need:  Do they need coupons?  A friendly reminder you’re still around?  A place to find out what’s going on in their town?  Establish what your business needs are, and don’t hesitate to poll likeminded business owners to see what’s worked for them.

Jillian Gile is a guest blogger for Pounding the Pavement and a writer on online career training  for the Guide to Career Education.

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