As a result of writing for Forbes I’ve started getting more people following me on Twitter, my blog, and on Facebook. No offense, but I’m not sure I want to share the personal things I’ve gotten used to sharing on Facebook with all of you. With my Twitter profile and my blog that has never been an issue because I generally don’t post things of a personal nature there. But Facebook is different. It’s where I post family photos and my thoughts on economics, politics, religion, and everything else that shouldn’t be discussed around the dinner table.
I’ve had a Facebook page for some time that was connected to my blog, and so it would seem natural to spruce it up and use this page for business while keeping my personal profile private. There are additional benefits to using a Facebook page for business purposes such as unlimited friend count (instead of the limit of 5,000 for my personal profile), the ability to advertise my page (which I can’t do for my personal profile), and access to Facebook Insights, which give you valuable data. It seemed like there is no downside to switching to having a Facebook page for my business purposes, but like anything else worth doing in life, it’s worth doing a little research before investing a lot of time.
upcoming event you’re hosting, you will be lucky if 5% to 10% of your followers see your post.” She adds that many people are reporting response rates much lower. This is confirmed by Elan Dekel, who set up a Facebook page for a client of his, only to find out that 1% to 5% of the 6,000 people who had “liked” the page were seeing updates from that page when they logged into Facebook.
To get some more in-depth perspectives on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of setting up a Facebook page for the business side of my life, I decided to talk directly to three experts. Jay Oatway is the author of the forthcoming book Mastering Story, Community and Influence: How to Use Social Media to Become a Social Leader, and has been named one of the top 50 social media influencers. Joseph Allen is the co-Founder and Chief Homie of Lava Surf, an advertising agency with social swagger providing hard nosed consulting. Michael Michelini is the co-Founder of Social Agent, an Asia-based firm helping companies leverage social media for sales. What follows started out as a bit of Q&A on the topic of Facebook pages for businesses, but in some cases turned into a larger discussion about the proper role of social media for your business. Bear in mind those giving the answers are answering within the context of their own experiences, and they are directly answering my questions–not engaging in a conversation with each other.
Q: Should all businesses have a Facebook page? Why or why not?
Allen: The question should not be whether or not all businesses should have a Facebook page but rather how does it make sense to integrate the Facebook and social experience into the brand. Most businesses look at Facebook in terms of likes, comments, shares and advertising, then assume that this makes them social and their business viral. Dumb.
Many brands play the Facebook/social game based upon their competitors’ moves and not their customers’ interests. If Facebook will help you serve customer needs and interests then you should consider effective strategies to help you capitalize on those opportunities.
Oatway: No. Every social network has its own unique culture. The Facebook culture is still, despite years of trying to professionalize it, very much like that of a college dorm. This may not be a good fit for every business. But every business should look for a social network that suits them. Try looking at Google+ if you have a business with retail shops. Try LinkedIn if you are more B2B. Try Pinterest if you are selling merchandise online.
Michelini: It’s worth the time to establish your presence there. How much you maintain it is another topic altogether.
Q: Jay, I notice you don’t have a Facebook page linked from your website. Why not?
Oatway: I set it up initially to promote my book, but I get better traction from Twitter and G+, so I don’t use it much.
Q: A lot of small businesses lack the cash to spend a lot on advertising to get likes for their Facebook page. How can Facebook page owners get maximum value without breaking the bank?
Allen: My first recommendation is to stop looking at Facebook with a “monkey see monkey do” approach. Just because everyone else appears to be doing it doesn’t necessarily make it worth doing. Who said having a Facebook page is the best and only Facebook strategy? Perhaps a Facebook group or a profile users can subscribe to would be more appropriate for your first stages of social growth. The key is creating natural momentum in the social space.
For example, imagine you have a brick ‘n mortar bicycle shop on main street. You are very passionate about cycling. You know the main influencers in your cycling community and participate in key events that spike enthusiasm and engagement. Perhaps a Facebook group of 2-4k very active voices would be even better than a Facebook page for your first stage of Facebook/social growth. Social becomes powerful when it is a byproduct of mass collaboration. Putting passionate die-hards in close proximity will promote collaboration, dialogue and catalyze user participation. This activity will enhance the business opportunity. From immediate customer feedback, loyalty program integration, notification of news and events to special promotions and sales, all in real time.
Oatway: Content marketing isn’t about spending money, it’s about investing time. If you consistently share valuable information and stories with a community, your value and authority within the community will grow. You don’t want to buy likes, you want to earn them.
Michelini: Insert the Facebook widget in your website and other marketing materials. Assign a “community manager” in the company and create regular workflows for this community manager to post to Facebook. Have this team member also publish regular newsletters and blog posts.
Q: For an entrepreneur with limited time and funds, where should they spent their resources? Facebook page, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest?
Allen: Spend resources where members of your community are most active. Various communities favor different platforms. Invest your time into conversations and connections that recognize you and reciprocate the interaction.
The collaborative environment that we are a part of circulates knowledge, news and insight with such speed that few companies ever learn how to keep up with the conversation or how to channel that power. The entrepreneur who learns how to channel the collaborative space will make serious headway on the market and separate himself from the competition. The sad thing is many businesses think going social means hiring a twenty something and measuring success by likes, follows and pins. #DontBeThatGuy
Social media is the whole company’s responsibility and opportunity! Don’t leave it in the hands of the young, novice, inexperienced twenty year old. Just because someone has 100 apps on their smartphone doesn’t mean he’s a social media expert.
Oatway: If you are starting cold. Go with Google+, you’ll be getting in closer to the ground floor.
Michelini: I know this is an annoying answer, but “it depends.” If you’re a B2B company, I’d strongly suggest Linkedin. If trying to leverage social media to improve your SEO I’d suggest Google+ and Twitter. I generally see Facebook as “its own world”, and more of a younger audience. Pinterest for women and e-commerce shoppers. Knowing your target audience is the first step to a social media strategy.
If there is any concise way to sum up what I learned talking to Allen, Oatway, and Michelini, it can probably best be summed up by Michelini’s answer “it depends.” If you’re considering launching a Facebook page for yourself or your business, hopefully you’ve found something helpful in the various opinions presented.
Use lists to target your Facebook posts to different groups.
Following this Q&A I had a longer chat with Allen. While he is a believer in Facebook pages in the right situation, he felt my specific situation might be better suited by continuing to link to my personal profile and let people follow my comments there, rather than having them follow the Facebook page I set up for business purposes. He pointed out that if privacy and segmentation is what I’m after, I can modify my privacy settings to prevent my profile from being completely wide open, and then use lists to customize who I post to (something I’ve never taken advantage of). And while yes, I am limited to 5,000 friends, there is no limit to the number of people who can follow my updates.
So what will it be? Facebook page, or personal profile with modified settings? What would you do?