by Jenna Lippin
Volume 26/Number 21; March 4/11, 2013
It’s 2013 and we are years into the ever-evolving digital age. Newspapers are going out of circulation thanks to online subscriptions, and the post office will soon stop Saturday delivery as less and less “snail mail” is sent. If you’re a small business owner, you have to be sure to stay on top of the latest technological advances or risk being phased out, too.
The Internet, of course, is the king reigning over all media and technology. And Facebook seems to be its queen. With 1 billion users and 167 million unique visitors per month, Facebook is the top way for businesses to reach customers. However, creating a personal page is much different from maintaining a Facebook account for business. There are a number of different ways to utilize the social media outlet aside from posting a quirky quote every so often and looking at your friends’ pictures.
Because most small businesses work with a specific target audience in an approximate geographic area, it is important to connect with the right people through your page. On Facebook, businesses don’t become friends with people; they have to be “liked” by each individual. Using targeted Facebook ads, leveraging your personal profile and creating a page that engages potential customers are just a few ways to build your local fan base on Facebook.
Unlike a personal Facebook page a business one is controlled by an adminstrator and many people can post to it.
Therefore, once a solid following is gained, updates must be posted wisely; those simply encouraging people to buy are not the most effective. The best businesses make Facebook less about selling and more about interacting with current and potential customers. Engage with your fans (those who have “liked” your page) and listen to what they are saying. Use updates and the general newsfeed (posts you see when you log on to Facebook) to tell fans about specials, events, contests and other topics of interest.
Nick Cinquepalmi, president of Landmark Flooring in Tinley Park, Ill., started using Facebook for his business three years ago, when the site was really starting to boom.
“Once I created the page and knew I had traction with [Facebook] as an advertising platform, I decided to do about one update a day,” Cinquepalmi explained. “Whether it’s a refinish job, a carpet installation, a repair or a promotion, I make sure to post on average once a day, in the morning, and let the post be viewed for 24 hours. Or, if our crew is working on a project, I’ll take pictures on-site and upload them [to Facebook].” Landmark Flooring saw a 25% increase in sales from Facebook alone, including referrals, leads and closed business.
As Cinquepalmi noted, exhibiting current jobs and what a company is capable of doing is one of the top ways Facebook can be beneficial to business. Because pictures can be uploaded directly to a page, immediately if using a smartphone, potential customers can see the exact quality of work that can be provided. “If you’re doing two or three installs and you’re in different areas, it shows how diverse you can be and how ‘all over the place’ you are. I can show what areas I service, what I can do and how broad my work is on any given day.”
Unlike websites, anyone can design a Facebook page. There is no training required, and knowledge of web coding and language is not necessary.
Yet, Erica Clements, vice president of operations at Al’s Carpet Flooring & Design Service in Rockford, Ill., uses her background in communications to help utilize social media to the fullest for the family-run business. This knowledge helped Clements delve further into one of the most important aspects of Facebook for businesses—connecting with customers.
“[In school] we talked about transparency when it comes to social media,” Clements noted. “There is one way to appear on a website, another way on social media and a whole different angle in person. It’s not about being a brand, it’s about being honest to consumers.”
With her knowledge of Facebook and social media, Clements knows how to effectively utilize the company page to gain business but, more importantly, she knows how to connect with customers and develop relationships, which in turn will create more sales.
“When I first started using [Facebook] for the business, I approached it more from a visibility standpoint because I know Facebook is the No. 1 social media outlet and exhibits the most growth. Women, aged 40 to 60, are our target market. Facebook allows us to reach them and beyond, more so than with commercials or radio ads. Facebook gives people a transparent view of who we are. That helps establish some trust and opens the door to relationships.”
Facebook “fans” that give feedback in-person affirms the success of the Facebook site, Clements added. “Customers will come in and say, ‘I saw this on Facebook, I saw that on Facebook.’ They may not necessarily ‘like’ posts or comment, but they’re seeing the pictures and the jobs we’ve done or what’s going on with the company.”
Clements prefers to avoid the term “advertising” as she is not trying to sell customers through Facebook, but instead wants to engage potential buyers and get involved with the Internet audience. For example, the company launched “Where is Al?” as more of a fun activity than a promotion. Al himself drove around the surrounding neighborhood in a brand new vehicle with identifiable lettering. Facebook fans were encouraged to find the car, take a picture of it and then post the photo on the Al’s Carpet page. Those who did this successfully received a free area rug.
Like Al’s Carpet, Dover Rug in Natick, Mass., uses Facebook to form relationships with customers. Brittany Higley, account and social media manager for the store, noted that Facebook “provides a great outlet for us to better connect with our customers. Through Facebook insights alone we can see what our fans like and don’t like, which only improves our understanding of our customer base. It acts as a source of our company information, like that of a website, and it allows two-way engagement, which is crucial to increasing your customer satisfaction.” By connecting with potential buyers and existing customers, businesses are more likely to see those people come back to the store and make future purchases.
Once a business has a Facebook page in place and has gained a following, it is important for those maintaining the site to stay abreast of developments in the Facebook and social media world. Facebook is regularly updated and its features change quite often.
“I actually monitor news articles regarding Facebook,” Cinquepalmi said. “Facebook is ever-changing. I see how it’s evolving and I try to mirror that in our business and what we do for our customers. I ask myself, ‘Where is the next level that I can take the people who are already fans of my page?’”
Higley chooses to use both Facebook’s analytics and updated articles about social media to stay on top of Facebook trends and monitor how well her page works. “Every month we review our Facebook insights (analytics) and take a look at our likes and our Total Reach. Aside from using Facebook’s analytics, we actively follow the social media community on Twitter, or read articles or books to stay on top of Facebook news, updates or trends. We’ve seen the impact social media has made on not only our business but businesses all over the country, so we devote a lot of time and effort to ensure we have a strong social media presence.”
Editor’s note: Visit jobstock.com/ blog/social-media-statistics-2013/ for the latest statistics on the top social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.