Is Facebook still for small businesses?

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Once upon a time Facebook was the most effective, inexpensive marketing platform for small businesses. Due to its viral newsfeeds, share buttons and tagging features Facebook allowed for pretty much “free” marketing to niche consumers with the only foreseeable challenge being, finding the time to do it.

As most entrepreneurs will tell you, with small businesses comes a mountain of work that brings to mind the saying “the son of a cobbler has no shoes” — sadly most small businesses hardly have time to market themselves, let alone communicate with their fans every day.

So if your small business jumped onto the Facebook wagon a year or two ago you probably have a large fan base by now with slow organic growth. However, if you’re new to Facebook and about to launch with the myriad of Facebook changes and a slew of rules and regulations there are a few things you need to know about.

A few features that have made things a bit tricky:

  • With the ineffective ‘suggest to friends’ buttons, fans are no longer able to share their favourite pages via email with friends. Similarly, admins are no longer able to send fan page requests to their friend base. Fans can still recommend your page but there’s less chance of getting a new fan to “like” your page. You may have the content, but these changes make trying to find fans to share your content with a little tricky.
  • Introducing Facebook Advertising 101! It’ll cost you but, besides driving fans in from third party platforms, there’s no better way to promote your page to a targeted audience.

  • In the old days Fan page features such as the short and sweet ‘info’ blurb on who you are and what you do had a perfect spot right in your line of sight. It has now been replaced by a tab. Although that’s better than nothing, if you don’t have fancy design skills and iframe HTML coding for that matter, it’s pretty hard to let people know what your page is all about… although a descriptive title always helps.
  • The slow introduction of iFramed tabs and building applications are making it harder for small businesses to upload personalised brand elements and imagery. In the past if you new the bare basics of HTML you could brand your page, these days you need a little more, or should I say, a little more moola for that.

Evidently, the “free” platform that was Facebook is slowly becoming more and more unfree as we speak. And although most of these changes benefit large companies with large PPC advertising budgets and fancy competitions, the small businesses may need a little help.

So we’ve put together a few tips for small businesses to stay on top without splashing out.

  • If you only have a small Facebook PPC advertising budget, or no budget for that matter, but need to increase your fanbase, utilise your third party platforms more effectively. Tweet valuable click-throughs to your Facebook page. Add Facebook click- through’s into your website copy, likewise to your LinkedIn statuses or Foursquare uploads. Next challenge will be to get your audience to ‘like’ your page but at least they’re finding it.
  • Drive your Mailer database to your Fan page. Run a mailer competition or add click-throughs in your mailer copy instructing viewers to read more which will send them to your Facebook Fan Page.
  • Only spend budget on Facebook advertising when linked to an incentive, that way you’ll get far more bang for your buck! Standard fan page ads may get you noticed but are unlikely to increase conversion…add an incentive to it…now you’re talking. But remember that although incentive may draw them there to begin with, the trick is feeding them value added content that is relevant so that they don’t leave once the incentive is no longer at play.
  • Use your fanpage to engage with other fanpages or should I say “If the shoes fits wear it”. If another fanpage suits your brand ethos, then engage with them often, add value to their fans…you may be surprised who converts. But never ever try steal other’s fans — only add value for them.
  • Run your own Facebook competition using ready-made applications available on the web. They may not look as flashy as some of the 40k apps being built but they’ll do the job without breaking the rules.
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