How small businesses can be successful on Facebook


The Internet now, vs. the Internet back in the day

To be successful on Facebook as a small business, you must first understand how people use the Internet today, said Brooke Oberwetter, the Associate Manager of Policy Communications for Facebook (so she should know), at a recent guest lecture series put on by the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Speaking to a crowd of eager small business owners in a large conference room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Oberwetter had us think back to the dial-up days of the 90s, also known as “the age of browsing.” If you can remember, this Internet experience was fairly limited and people simply browsed a specific set of pages available that day.

In the late 2000s, it was the “age of search,” where people had a sense of what they wanted to find and looked for it (or Googled it).

Currently, Oberwetter said, we are experiencing a completely new era of Internet use, “the age of discovery,” that sees people go to Facebook and Twitter to answer the question: ‘What’s happening?’

People want to know what is going on in the world that is important to their friends and family and what they can discover from the people they already know and trust.

Understanding this difference between how people use the Internet today versus how they’ve used it in the past is very important for small business, said Oberwetter.

“Because it means your current customers, the people you’re already engaging with, are some of the most important people out there for you online who can help you spread your message by becoming brand ambassadors, by helping their friends and family discover the great things that they already know about.”

In the early days, users weren’t necessarily excited about businesses on Facebook, but now it’s part of how people curate their own existence, Oberwetter said. “The connections they have to (a) business, the connections they have to products, are very important parts of who they are.”

If someone is a sports team fan, they’re going to identify themselves as that, and make a public declaration about this fact.

Similarly, if there’s a product or a tool that they use regularly in their lives, Oberwetter said they’re going to be really willing to go online and say, ‘I like this. This is something that I support. This is something that I would be willing to put my name next to.’

“Businesses are not just part of the Facebook experience, they’re really essential to it now because it’s part of how our users are helping describe who they are.”

The News Feed is the prime real estate on Facebook when it comes to your business

“Users on Facebook spend most of their time on the News Feed — this is where they actually discover the information.”

Liking a business means stories from that business are eligible to show up in the user’s News Feed for free, just by creating a page.

There are over a billion active users on Facebook and over two billion posts that are liked and commented on daily, said Oberwetter.

People want to shop local

“When they have the option, we’ve learned that two thirds of them, given the same product and the same price, want to buy it from a local business.”

Examples of how you can use Facebook to grow your business:

1. Use whisper codes

A whisper code is an easy and inexpensive way to generate some foot traffic into your store, explained Oberwetter.

For example, using a status update, a business can tell customers on their Facebook page that if they go into any one of their stores and give a certain secret code at the point of purchase, they will receive a discount. This is free to do and easily measurable, because businesses can count exactly how many people used the whisper code.

2. Run targeted campaigns

Thanks to Facebook’s user information, a skate and snowboard company in Portland, for example, can run ad campaigns targeting males between the ages of 18-34 in that specific geographic area.

3. Capitalize on relationship status

“Having been recently married myself,” recalled Oberwetter, “I can tell you that as soon as you change your relationship status on Facebook from ‘single’ to ‘engaged,’ every single one of those ads on that right-hand side of Facebook turns into ‘where to get your hair done, where to buy your dress, where to get your bridesmaids’ dresses, where to get your shoes dyed, who’s the best DJ in town, where to get your flowers — literally every ad for like nine months is all about weddings. It’s very, very effective.”

4. Make people aware of your business

“If you’re a restaurant, make sure you’re posting pictures of your daily specials, make sure you’re reaching people at the time when they’re likely to be hungry.”

5. Turn negatives into positives

Do not get into a shouting match on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or any social media platform when a customer complains about a bad experience. Instead, take this opportunity to turn it into a positive experience. If someone had to wait an hour for their food, tell the customer you are very sorry they’ve had a bad experience and offer them 20% off their next meal.

Coming up next in this series, four steps to small business success on Facebook (straight from the horse's mouth, Facebook) Oberwetter has even more to say and if you're a small business owner, you're going to want to hear it.


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