There’s a consensus in both the business and online communities that social networks will play an integral role in the future of commerce. As such, it’s important to establish an online presence for your small business now, while the industry is still young and you aren’t too far behind the curve. And as the king of social networks, Facebook should be one of the primary focuses of your online activities.
Although it started as a site purely dedicated to social networking, Facebook is constantly adding new features catered towards businesses, clubs and organizations. If you are just getting started, the fist line of business is to create a fan page. Note that this is different from a personal profile, and it’s an important distinction to make because the two profiles function differently and have different security options. A fan page will also provide you with analytical information that you can use as a gauge for how your strategy is working.
Once you have your page up and running, the question becomes how to use it to effectively build brand loyalty and attract new customers. A new study by Google has shed some light as to why people decide to “like” brands. According to the research, over half of the people using Facebook have “liked” zero brands. This is somewhat surprising, especially with the emphasis business are putting on social networking, but it’s important to remember that the trend is still growing.
Of the people who had “liked” a brand, the most common rationale given was that they wanted to receive discounts and promotions. This highlights one of the main principles of social networking and Web 2.0 marketing in general: Give people a reason to visit you. Providing information is nice, but people respond better to tangible incentives. In fact, just 8 percent of people in Google’s researched cited information as their main motivation for “liking” a brand. Offering coupons and promotions via your Facebook profile will encourage people to visit you often and tell their friends about your page.
While building your customer base is certainly a prime goal of social networking, it’s not the only one. Facebook and other social networks serve as a tool to learn what the public is saying about your products and/or services, information which is invaluable in improving your business in the future. People will be writing things about your business online—both good and bad—and it’s essential to have a means of responding. According to a story from Mashable.com, a new app will be released tomorrow that will make customer service over Facebook easier than ever.
Once the app—known as Parature for Facebook—is installed, your Facebook page will double as an interactive customer service center. This will allow you to respond to FAQs en masse and make customer relations on your page more organized. The four main features are: Find an Answer, Ask a Question, Chat with Live Agent, and Monitor, where you can view flagged wall posts and tickets.
As Facebook continues to rise in popularity, more apps to facilitate communication and relationships between brands and the public are sure to arise. It may be tempting to add every new app to your page, but only utilize the ones that will actually improve your Facebook page and the experience for your customers; sometimes less is more.