Facebook - More Than Entertainment

Love it or loathe it Facebook is everywhere. We all know it can be a beguiling way to waste a few hours looking at friends’ holiday snaps or playing online games but can it enhance your business or, even better, draw in more customers?

It all comes down to communication. Most social networking site users already have a great deal of news and updates flooding onto their home page and are adept at ignoring spam. However, if you genuinely have something interesting to say to existing and prospective customers, Facebook can be a valuable tool in your marketing kit box. Starting your own Facebook page is easy, it’s free to set up and simple to add information and photographs, ensuring it’s always up to date and relevant. The difficulty is knowing what to do with your page once you’ve set it up. Is it to provide extra information for existing customers, to attract new ones or to present a fun, human side to your business? These are all valid uses and which one - or more - will work best for you depends on the size and scope of your business.

Businesses which need a large footfall of customers, such as restaurants, bars, shops, museums and hairdressers have several options open to them. By using traditional marketing channels – word of mouth, receipt information and business cards – you can encourage existing customers and their friends to be "fans" by offering printable discount vouchers available once they have clicked onto your Facebook page. Once you start accumulating fans make sure they keep visiting your page by keeping it fun and informative, regularly posting new videos and photos of your latest goods and services, encouraging feedback and offering regular Facebook discounts. Once a customer has become your “fan” you can send regular updates which appear on their homepage - for example in a slow week you can send discount offers valid for that week only, that your customers will receive the next time they log on; 50% of users log on every day.

Businesses can also use Facebook to attract new customers. Facebook social ads offer you the chance to target your audience by city, sex, age and interests – for instance as a 30 something female with a family I regularly get adverts from local hair salons, family photographers and food and furniture retailers. Ads can be paid for per click through ensuring you only pay for valid leads. Entice your potential customers to click onto your pages and become your fans with good offers or some innovative thinking – one national chain of opticians has a Facebook application that allows users to put glasses on a photo of themselves and send it to their friends for feedback – fun and functional.

Asking customers to become fans may work for some businesses but there’s little value for others such as tradesmen and other people who can only work one job at a time or are reliant on call-outs. These businesses can still use Facebook however to promote themselves and to reassure customers that they are trustworthy. Directing prospective customers towards a Facebook page which details your training, experience and has photos of completed jobs complete with positive feedback will give your quote an edge in a competitive market.

Like all forms of marketing Facebook cannot be your only source of customer generation, you still need to reach those customers who are uncomfortable online or with social networking sites. However used smartly and in combination with more traditional means it could just add value to your business. For more information see www.Facebook.com/Marketing.

Email the author: Jessica Thompson